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Audubon Mystique


by Kelli Kolakowski |

F YOU HAVEN’T YET ventured to the Grand Rapids Art Museum to view Birds of America: Audubon Prints from Shelburne Museum, Aug. 14 is the final day of the exhibition. Featuring 30 prints from John James Audubon’s Birds of America publication — a collection of 435 hand-colored engravings

made from 1827 to 1838 — the GRAM display takes visitors along a captivating ornithological exploration. The prints are a direct representation of Audubon’s quest across

eastern North America to discover and record bird species and visitors will see what Audubon himself saw as he documented and sketched during the 1800s. “The birds are life-size… this was one of the reasons Audubon was

catapulted to fame,” said GRAM Senior Curator Richard Axsom. “He brings the birds right up close; they aren’t in the background. There is an element of immediacy and confrontation. If they weren’t so close up they would lose presence, they would lose scale.” Part of that confrontation allows viewers to see minute details in

color, texture and line. Feathers such as those of The Bird of Washington (1822) appear incredibly lifelike, as if the sense of touch is not needed to experience their silken texture. “Many people are struck by the ex-

BIRDS OF AMERICA Grand Rapids Art Museum Through Aug. 14 $5-$8, (616) 831-1000

traordinary beauty of these prints; the vivid colors,” Axsom said. “These prints have great luminosity because of the materials used. I think people are mesmerized by their detail and by presence.” Making use of the finest materials of his

time, Audubon worked in partnership with London publisher Robert Havell and his

son, Robert Havell Jr. to produce the Havell Edition of Birds of America. After Audubon‘s death, other editions were made using different tech- niques, such as the Octavo Edition of hand-colored lithographs (1844) and the Bien Edition of color-printed lithographs (1858-60), though it is the Havell edition that is recognized by art historians and naturalists as the greatest natural history publication of all time. GRAM also offers a complimentary exhibition, Understanding

Audubon: “Birds of America” in Context, which allows visitors the opportunity to learn more about Audubon and his work and to see prints from the Octavo and Bien editions. Visitors can learn the complex process for making an etching, read about Audubon and see 400 digital studies that the artist used to create the Havell edition, along with the opportunity to color an Audubon copy. “Aside from Birds of America being one of the most moving

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON (1785–1851): Snowy Owl (Plate CXXI), Hand- colored engraving with etching and aquatint, by R. Havell, c. 1829

exhibitions in the world, there is an Audubon mystique that extends beyond Birds of America,” Axsom said. “Very few artists can extend their mystique beyond their work, but Audubon did.” n

Rick Beerhorst | by Maureen DiVirgilio

WHEN LOCAL PAINTER AND musician Rick Beerhorst was booking shows for an Eastown coffee shop in the ‘90s, there was local college band that he found himself asking back repeat- edly. One of the members was Sufjan Stevens. Fast forward to 2005. That band was bro-

ken up, and Beerhorst was readying to relocate to Brooklyn. It was there that Beerhorst saw the latest Rolling Stone, where he saw the album of his old Grand Rapids acquaintance was listed among the top releases of the year. And in Grand Rapids, there are many artists

not unlike Stevens. Beerhorst — who has since moved back — describes the cultural climate as a “hotbed,” and compares it to Portland, Seattle and Paris in the ‘20s. His own art — which has been shown lo-

cally and in Chicago and New York galleries — is inspired by a range of Middle Ages iconography and folk artists, which he describes as “outsider artists … folks with no formal training, who have the inclination to do something and just do it.” Beerhorst works to balance the whimsi-

cal with the practical and has opened up his home as a gallery, a practice that might seem unorthodox. “Home is not neutral, it’s very specific.” Inviting people into one’s home “heightens

everything” and gives viewers a sense of what it might like to have the art in their own home. When you take art back with you and put it up on your own walls, there is, he describes, “a charge to it, something reverberating from it.”

Other Art Events | by Meaghan Igel

Plein Air Painting Workshop Saugatuck Center for the Arts Aug. 8-9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $250 for two-day session;, (269) 857-2399 Light and shadow are essential to an outdoor painting, but quickly changing light can be a challenge to capture with oil paint. Plein air instructor Karen Blackwood will lead this two-day session for the beginning to intermediate land- scape artists in order to point out essential techniques and elements. The option of studio painting will be provided

should the notorious Michigan weather act up. Pre-mixed local colors will be provided, but personal palettes are welcome to those comfortable with their own colors.

Horse Power: Images of Horses from

the Permanent Collection Muskegon Art Museum Through Aug. 28 Adults $5; Children 17 & under, students, members: FREE, (231) 720-2570

From the ancient cave drawings of Calais through ancient Greek art to contemporary prints, sculptures and paintings, the horse as an artistic subject has captivated the minds of artists for centuries. Through September, the Muskegon Museum of Art has compiled an exhibit drawing from its permanent collection comprised entirely of artistic render- ings of horses in their roles in transportation, sport, war, labor and more.



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