Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

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