Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Art · Winging It
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Winging It

Six years ago, a trained potter dropped everything and flocked to a different sort of artistic expression.

Al Parker - August 18th, 2014  


Now, Leelanau County artist Van Wilson has truly gone to the birds. Over the past six or seven years, Wilson has created dozens of multi-media pieces featuring crows, magpies, and ravens.

Many are whimsical, but all reflect his wit, wisdom and love of the American Southwest.


In one example, Wilson created a carved, Native American-inspired doll series featuring crows. In 2014, he published a colorful calendar highlighting a different crow piece for each month.

Wilson and his wife Susan operate Sleeping Bear Bed and Breakfast, six miles east of Empire. Susan is a chef trained in the French tradition; Wilson is the artful handyman.

Ten years ago, the Chicago-area couple ditched the big city life. “We needed to make a lifestyle change,” Van Wilson said. “We … looked in Wisconsin and in southwest Michigan, in the St. Joseph area. But we ended up here in Empire and we love it.”

The five-bedroom house was built in 1890 and showcases an array of art, much of it Wilson’s. Many pieces reflect the culture of the American Southwest. “I’m a lifetime collector of art,” said Van Wilson. “I’ve always viewed art as an essential element of life.”

HOW I GOT STARTED

I always drew as a child, but didn’t really take art classes in high school. Then in college I started taking classes and loved it. I wanted to be an art professor at a university. After graduating from the University of Texas – Arlington, I taught art for six years in Texas, first in an elementary school, then the last three in a high school and junior college. I taught ceramics then. But I was never a utilitarian potter, I was always intrigued, always interested in shapes.

When the school program lost funding, I quit the job. I had a friend who was an architect and builder and went to work with him.

Segue to a nearly 30-year career as a carpenter and construction manager. The first six years inspired me to make art; the next 30 sharpened my woodworking skills.

THE STORY BEHIND MY ART, MY INSPIRATION

It goes back to growing up in Amarillo, Texas, surrounded by Native American art and culture, much of which is based on myth and spirit.

I am intrigued by ravens and crows and their reputation for intelligence. Their image has always appealed to me. The first two crows I made were much cruder, much different than the crows I make now.

I named them Heckle and Jeckle, after the brash magpies who were popular cartoon characters from the 1950s. After that the crow thing just kind of grew over the years.

WORK I’M MOST PROUD OF

A piece named Saint Crowstina, Patron Saint of Roadkill. It features a crow driving a car along M-22. She’s crushed a snake and is heading toward a porcupine.

YOU WON’T BELIEVE

It’s been 37 years since my hands touched clay. Maybe it’s time again. I’ve been thinking of ways to bring clay back into my work.

Also, during my time in construction, I had the opportunity to work on three different Frank Lloyd Wright houses and lots of other historical houses in the Chicago area. Some of those Frank Lloyd Wright houses were the worst built houses. He built for aesthetics, not functionality.

MY FAVORITE ARTIST

John Nieto, Native American painter and Dewey Blocksma, Northern Michigan sculptor and occasional painter.

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS

Do what makes you happy and keep busy doing it. You will go much further if you do what you love, rather than what is marketable.

MY WORK CAN BE SEEN/PURCHASED

At the Ruth Conklin Gallery in Glen Arbor and Cog’s Creek Gallery in Traverse City.

 
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