By Glen Young
Gail DeMeyere could not be more excited about her upcoming exhibition.
DeMeyere, curator at Petoskeys Crooked Tree Arts Center, has
put together Stopping by Woods on a
Snowy Evening, a mixed media presen-tation that takes the Robert Frost
poem of the same name as its unifying theme, combining the literature with
the art work of 16 Northern Michigan artists.
Published in 1923, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is one of
Frosts most recognized poems. Told by a nameless narrator, the poem
radiates from a brief moment stopped with his horse near a neighbors
woodlot as night is falling. Frost, who wrote the poem in June,
considered it one of his best compositions.
Collaborating on the project are Northern Michigan artists including
Elizabeth Pollie, Doug Melvin, Penny Kristo, and others. The exhibition
will highlight different media, including painting, stained glass, even
I have a great love of poetry, DeMeyere says. I have had all my life.
As such, she says shes always on the lookout for inspiration. My job
here as curator is to come up with ideas and execute them.
DeMeyere says she didnt want to give the artists too many directives. She
was adamant about the size of each work, however. I did say it had to be
at least 30 by 40 (inches) or larger in size. The interesting part for me
is how all these artists are interpreting it.
The exhibition is by invitation. DeMeyere contacted the 16 artists last
summer, and says they were all enthusiastic about signing on. It wasnt a
problem finding artists. The challenge was to get the mixed media.
IN THE DRIVERS SEAT
Petoskey painter Doug Melvin, also a retired professor of art at North
Central Michigan College, jumped at the chance to participate in the
exhibition. I thought it was a great idea. Melvin, who has the line,
To ask if there is some mistake, says he had an idea immediately, but
soon fixed on something more convincing.
We dont know exactly who he is, Melvin says of the poems narrator.
But we have Robert Frost in mind. So since its narrated by the driver I
wanted the point of view to be from the drivers seat.
Melvin, who says he doesnt ordinarily paint such large canvasses, called
on his rural neighbors for assistance. Using a sleigh the neighbors have
in their barn, and their horse Pepper, Melvin took several photos last
summer for reference. He says he typically paints on location, but says
for this he had to use photos, It wasnt practical any other way.
Melvins perspective angles across the back of the driver. Mines from
the drivers head; you see his gloves and feet as if you were looking from
your own eyes, toward the horse.
Melvin is excited to see the work of the other fifteen artists. I have no
idea what other people are doing, which is going to be part of the
excitement of the show.
These are artists who would not normally show together, DeMeyere says of
the eclectic collection of artists.
A POEM IN GLASS
Penny Kristo, who has worked in stained glass for 35 years, says when she
got the call, I just started thinking about what a snowy wood in Vermont
would look like in the early part of the (20th) century.
Kristo, who says she once completed a similar project creating stained
glass windows based on favorite religious hymns, says for this project, I
tried to use as many elements of the craft as possible. She incorporated
natural agates, Petoskey stones, and fractured streamer glass into her 30
inch by 40-inch design. Her design has nearly 500 individual pieces. I
enjoyed making the piece that size. It gave me more freedom, almost, she
Kristo wasted no time after receiving the invitation. I made it this
summer, as soon as I got the assignment. She says the work took her most
of a month to complete. I just threw myself into the idea and enjoyed
Harbor Springs painter Elizabeth Pollie, working with the line, My little
horse must think it queer, is familiar with using text together with
artwork. I was a freelance illustrator for a number of years so I am
quite familiar with connecting image with text.
Pollie says, The most difficult part of my process as a painter is
transcribing my internal image to the canvas. She says, The underlying
mood is solitude bordering on isolation.
As for the large size, Pollie, who once composed a series on the horses of
Mackinac Island, says, I tend to spend a great deal of time applying the
paint and stepping back at least 20 feet. It is impossible to read the
piece well unless you have a good deal of distance between you and the
DeMeyere admits her objective for the exhibition is multi-faceted. I hope
to educate, to influence, and to engage people. I hope people understand
how important the written word is.
She says that while the artists saw only their own work while completing
the project, In my head, I see the whole thing.
In hopes of engaging area students, DeMeyere has scheduled a poetry slam
for February 20, to augment the Frost exhibition. Its a raw idea right
now, she says. Her hope is to use the Frost display to inspire area young
people to turn to poetry for inspiration.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening opens January 16, and runs through
April 8. For more information about the show or other events at Crooked
Tree, contact the arts center at 231-347-4337, or visit the website at