Sitting on the hardwood floor, a man closely examines a bright pink lawn flamingo. Polished in a tan leather jacket, he’s surrounded by a mountain of children’s toys and household objects: a wide-eyed blue plastic rocking horse, a bright yellow Big Wheel, a potted houseplant and a modest tea kettle.
This scene is one painting from artist Perin Mahler’s body of work dubbed “Autobiographies.”
Mahler’s painting, titled “Setting on Still Life,” is one of 27 works currently on display at the DeVos Art Museum as part of the “Seven Painters” exhibit.
The exhibit features artists Mary L. Aro, Andy Fletcher, Jim Nawara, Lucille Nawara, Charles W. Palmer, Stanley Rosenthal and Mahler. Five of the seven painters are from Michigan, said John Hubbard, art and design professor and curator of the exhibit.
Hubbard said that as a member of the art department, he is given the opportunity to curate DeVos exhibits every several years.
“Usually it’s quite a few years in between opportunities so you might get a chance every 6, 7, 8 years to do one show. I think this is the sixth show that I’ve done here but I’ve been here a long time.”
“Seven Painters” features a wide range of styles and mediums, from haunting self portraits to realistic oil paintings depicting tranquil scenes from the outdoors. Melissa Matuscak, director and curator of the art museum, said this was Hubbard’s vision while planning the exhibit.
“He was hoping to have painters who represent different styles from very realistic looking representations of still-life or self portraits to loosely painted landscapes,” she said. “[He hoped] that it would be a nice overview of the different ways that people handle paint.”
Matuscak added that everyone, especially NMU students studying art, can gain insight from viewing the painting exhibit.
“I think there are a couple different ways you can approach the exhibit to get something out of it,” she said.
“I think anyone who is studying any kind of art, especially painting, can really learn a lot by studying what these artists are doing. A lot of them are so incredibly technically skilled in what they’re doing and they’ve been painting and showing their work for years.”
Hubbard said the show provides an unusual chance for students to view notable art work, an opportunity that’s rare in the Upper Peninsula.
“It’s the best show in town,” he said. “You don’t get a chance to see paintings of this caliber very often around here. These are professional people and their work is high quality. I always tell the art students to go and see a show to see the original paintings because it’s so much better than looking at reproductions.”
Ed Andrzejewski, a senior art and design major, works at the DeVos Art Museum as part of a work-study program. While he invited students to stop in and view the current display, he said visiting the DeVos museum year-round can be beneficial to a student’s sense of culture.
“I would encourage students to come to any show just to see what is current in the art world,” he said. “It’s food for the soul.”
Matuscak said the “Seven Painters” exhibit was chosen by the previous director and curator of the art museum, Wayne Francis, who retired last year.
“Francis has planned this past year of exhibitions and this is the last one that he had in the works before he retired,” Matuscak said.
After this show, Matuscak said the exhibit decisions will be up to her.
“Seven Painters” runs until April 4.