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Posted on Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 5:36 a.m.

Chelsea Center for the Arts exhibit celebrates 40 years of land preservation

By John Carlos Cantu

Elaine Wilson, Soybeans Looking East from Ludwig Farm, oil on board.jpg

“Soybeans Looking East from Ludwig Farm” by Elaine Wilson

Congratulations are in order at “Stand in the Place Where You Live: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Legacy Land Conservancy.”

A joint exhibit co-sponsored by the Chelsea Center for the Arts and the Charles Reinhart Company, the exhibit celebrates Washtenaw County's conservationist conscience since 1971.

“Through these years,” says the CCA’s gallery statement, “the LLC has worked diligently to protect the lands that we now know to be part of our community park systems, including the Osborne Mill Riverlands Preserve, now managed by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, and the City of Ann Arbor’s Bandemer Park, Bird Hills Park, and Black Pond Woods.

“In 1999, the Potawatomi Land Trust merged with the Washtenaw Land Trust, and in 2003, the Waterloo Land Conservancy Trust also joined the organization. Then in 2009, the Washtenaw Land Trust changed its name to Legacy Land Conservancy to reflect its regional scope. Nationally recognized for conservation excellence, the Conservancy is among the first conservancies nationwide to be awarded accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.”

And as Cathy Barry, Chelsea Center for the Arts trustee, further says of the exhibit itself, “Each artist was assigned a particular site that is not open to the public, but is within 30 miles of Ann Arbor. Through their works, these artists bring insight into our relationship with the landscape, and how we inhabit and change the natural environments in which we live.”

Co-curators of the exhibition are Barry (a superb landscape artist in her own right) and Barry Lonik, land protection consultant. Regional talents involved in the display are Barbara Bushey, Deborah Campbell, Nancy Feldkamp, Steve Gilzow, Birgit Hutteman-Holz, Angelis Jackowski, Janet Kohler, John Lloyd, Nancy McKay, Brenda Miller, Susan Moran, Lynn Quick, Anne Rubin, Cathy VanVoorhis, Nora Venturelli, and Elaine Wilson.

A display of this nature is bound to run hill and dale over the range of representational and abstract arts—and "Stand in the Place Where You Live" certainly does this. Arranged salon-style in the CCA’s intimate second-story library, the exhibit reflects an extraordinary range of artistic manners, dispositions, and techniques.

What ties the artworks together is a singular regard for nature in its many moods.


“Braun’s Farm—Early Corn” by Nora Venturelli

For example, local college art instructors Norma Venturelli and Elaine Wilson show us representational landscape at its most serene. Venturelli’s “Braun’s Farm—Early Corn” and Wilson’s “Soybeans, Looking East from Ludwig Farm” feature local habitats whose appearance is characteristic of Michigan.

Both Venturelli and Wilson—each in her subtle manner—infuse the world with their integrity. The results are two artworks that are richly meditative, faithful impressions of our region. And each says as much about artistic temperament as it does about representation itself.


“Dutchman’s Breeches” by Nancy McKay

Working within the sphere of tactile presence is Nancy McKay’s digital silk with quilting and embroidery “Dutchman’s Breeches.” This outstanding, diminutive knitted work of an unfolding Midwest flower is vibrant in a low-key way as McKay prints her composition on silk and then supplements the work with transparent dyes.

Carefully modulating her embroidery, as her stitch repetitively works its way diagonally across her working surface; McKay’s superbly detailed “Breeches” shimmers through its surface articulation as well as its timeless natural design.

But perhaps the final word in timeliness must go to local fiber artist Deborah Campbell. Her silk, linen, nylon tulle, and crochet “Pastoral” ties all the themes of this celebration together in a work so translucent, it appears and disappears before our eyes.

“Pastoral’s” multi-dimensional interlacing creatively intermingles itself. Four distinct visual planes create a diaphanous field whose tangled confluences of silk and linen create internal and external tension. Campbell thus sets into motion a play of cascading colors that creates a countryside touching the border of imagination. As her “Pastoral” fibers silently tell us: Preserving nature is as much an aesthetic necessity as a laudatory civic effort.

“Stand in the Place Where You Live: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Legacy Land Conservancy” will continue through Feb. 29 at the Chelsea Center for the Arts, 400 Congdon St., Chelsea. Gallery hours are noon-2 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday; and 3-6 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 734-433-2787.