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Bay College announces fall semester art exhibit

“Big Foot’s Big Toe,” by artist Mary Sundstrom is among the artwork that can be viewed at the Safer at Home art installation in the Besse Gallery in Escanaba.

ESCANABA — Bay College has announced the Safer at Home art installation in the Besse Gallery on the main campus of Bay College will remain open until Wednesday, Sept. 30. The installation was created by Mary Sundstrom, a West Michigan artist, illustrator and art instructor, along with Susan Reniewicki, an artist from Waupaca, Wis.

Sundstrom said she is greatly influenced by the natural beauty of her region. As a naturalist, she is influenced by the creatures, botanicals and minerals residing among the bayous and shorelines that surround the Great Lakes where she lives. Her usually playful artwork represents what she sees in nature.

When she is not painting or mushroom hunting in the woods, she is the exhibitions director at the Holland Area Arts Council where she designs exhibits and manages public art projects. Sundstrom has been at the Arts Council for 13 years and is married, with a 20-year-old daughter who is also an artist. Her work can be viewed on her website at www.marysundstrom.com.

Early this year during the deepest time of quarantine in Michigan, Sundstrom began creating a series of scientific study style watercolor illustrations of objects she found walking in the woods. This was a change from her large Magical Realism approach to painting. During the early months of the Covid-19 Pandemic she simply focused on taking walks, picking up beach pebbles or knots from rotted wood logs and examining them by drawing and painting. This routine was a soothing balm as she absorbed the ideas and implications surrounding the pandemic along with the political fallout that came with it. In another shift, Sundstrom continues and expands on this method and style of working with an exploration of Northern mythical figures, a theme she has always been interested in. With a lighter heart, she illustrates an isolated but important feature of an imagined mythical creature adding her own interpretation to the stories told around the campfires of the Northern woods.

For Reniewicki, natural science has always been a pursuit and inspiration, and most family vacations involve camping. The best of times can be had on the trail, hunting plants, bugs and other critters. Her gardens feature a host of native plants, reflecting these interests. She has been a Waupaca resident for 14 years, where she lives with her family. She enjoys evening conversations on the patio, complaining about weeds, urban deer and politics.

Reniewicki created a living room suite of Northern mythical creatures. The once fear-inspiring, mysterious creatures are now relegated to the indoors, where they face reinventing themselves and their tamer, safer lives. The living room represents a place most people have been familiar with, and influenced by in 2020 as the public experienced quarantine. Reniewicki uses found and thrifted materials reworked to conjure her sculptures. During the pandemic, with most stores closed, she felt the added challenge of using what she had on hand.

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