The bright spring green building on M-119 that houses Hramiec Hoffman was formerly an upholstery shop back in the 1960s - a closer look inside showcases the original red paint and the drain on the concrete floor that the duo exposed on purpose for their historical and visual interest.
After its stint working with sofas and chairs, the shop began its second life as a hair salon, “coiffing the heads of many a local and resorter,“ as Mary Hramiec Hoffman puts it laughingly - and now, the cheerful shop welcomes visitors in to see Hramiec Hoffman‘s work, which she became interested in even before high school.
“I was always drawing and painting as a child,“ Hramiec Hoffman explains. “My mom was an art teacher, and my dad was a college professor who taught architectural engineering. I was lucky to have both of them realize my interest in art and find resources to cultivate it at an early age.“
ON THE ROAD
Hramiec Hoffman would express her young artistic sensibilities in a variety of ways, whether she was simply at home or traveling the United States with her family in her father‘s homemade motorhome, which was constructed out of an old GM delivery truck. During the warmer months, she‘d dig clay up from her yard to create little clay figurines, drying them in the sun; she also made tiny wooden figures and decorated them with miniature clothes, as well as with hair clipped from the family dog.
“The dog didn‘t mind,“ she laughs, “and I was pleased with my sales; but my mother was aghast!“ She also routinely dressed the family pets - a flock of chickens and 16 rabbits - in handmade velour shirts. By the time she was nine years old, she was enrolled in children‘s art classes at North Central Michigan College and at the Crooked Tree Arts Center.
Once she got to college as a college aged student - where, she says she had “some of the best art professors in the country“ - she found her eyes soon becoming, as she explains it, “accustomed to seeing colors where the average person can‘t.“
Obtaining her degrees in fine art from St. Thomas Aquinas College and Kendall College of Art and Design, she followed up her college career by holding the position of creative director at an advertising agency, and continued to work in oils to realize her own works of art.
Not one to be intimidated by a blank canvas, she finds everything inspiring, and believes that color is a key element to this philosophy. “Creating art encourages people to reflect and express themselves,“ she emphasizes, “it is a vehicle not only for expression but also for the preservation of ideas.“
So how does Hramiec Hoffman interpret her own ideas? Well, she works in a more traditional, impressionistic style much of the time, but she also has a particular interest in the Fauve movement. Les Fauves - French for “wild beasts“ - were a late 1800s to early 1900s short-lived grouping of early Modern artists whose works favored bright, deep colors, simplified lines, and exaggerated perspectives, and preferred spontaneity over finish.
A few recognizable Fauve-influenced artists include Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, and Kees van Dongen.
“I have always been fond of the Fauve movement because of their departure from convention. I like playful, colorful imagery, and their artwork that comes from within. I admire their interpretations of what they see. My true passion is my whimsical ‘Happy Series‘ of oil paintings with polka dot skies, inspired by the work of the Fauves.“
Her “Happy Series“ are already some of the most popular artworks at Hramiec Hoffman, and are only exhibited in Northern Michigan.
And what of Mark Hoffman? Well, Mary may not have as much freedom to work so hard on her art if it weren‘t for her devoted and talented husband. A self-styled “numbers hooligan,“ who majored in finance and received his degree from Michigan State University, the male half of this partnership is reportedly “a very savvy businessman,“ and takes on all of the public relations and marketing responsibilities for the gallery and studio full time, year ‘round. He‘s the one you‘ll communicate with if you‘re interested in one of Mary‘s paintings. Not to mention he also takes on half of the load of raising the couple‘s four young children. He might be behind the scenes, but he‘s just as important a part of the Hramiec Hoffman equation.
Both Mary and Mark also utilize their art sales to assist charity programs. The motto of their Hramiec Hoffman Studio and Gallery is “every purchase is a gift,“ because a portion of all proceeds is donated to charity.
They are going to be hosting a major benefit for the Harbor Springs Historical Society in June, to assist with the refurbishment of the old City Hall building in Harbor Springs, which is going to be turned into a museum. “Because of who we are and the way that we were both raised, charity was never an issue for us,“ Mary Hramiec Hoffman says, “it is inherent, to care for others and give. I am lucky to have been given a talent, and it is very gratifying to be able to give back and help others.“
*Hramiec Hoffman Studio and Gallery is open only by appointment in the winter/spring. Summer hours run 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday - in July and August, they are also open on Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm. Check them out online at www.hramiechoffman.com - and visit their exhibition at the annual 4th of July Art Show in downtown Harbor Springs‘ Zorn Park.*