Digging Out of the Polar Vortex

Out of the Polar Vortex: Group Exhibition
LaFontsee Galleries
March 7 – April 11, 2014
833 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
lafontsee.us, (616) 451-9820

Winter in Michigan, especially the one we just experienced, leaves quite an impression. While beautiful outside, it tends to encourage a bit of hibernation in us as well, a yin to summer's yang. It influences who we are and what we do, creating a particular rhythm in the Midwestern way of life, a common bond among us. LaFontsee Galleries took note and decided to organize an exhibition around this very theme.

"Out of the Polar Vortex" opens Friday, March 7 with a reception from 5-8 p.m. It's a casual event and admission is free. Guests can meet the artists and view a selection of works created over the winter season.

According to gallery owner Scott LaFontsee, the title of the show has multiple meanings, something they wanted to have a little fun with.

"As Michigan residents, we are coming out of the winter season and ready to get out and socialize, and the gallery spaces offer a great place to do just that," he said. "But winter is also a time that many artists spend hours inside working on new pieces. The exhibition features artwork that comes out of that process."

LaFontsee said while the artists featured in this group exhibition are extremely varied in the use of technique, materials and other aspects, it is interesting to see that making art during the months of January and February, as they have common theme: a yearning for the coming spring.

With such a diverse group of artists, this no doubt manifests itself in very different ways, from abstract to landscape, pastel to sculpture and more; yet we all seem to understand and connect with the mid-winter tendency to visualize warmer days ahead. While some of the work may certainly reflect the brutal beauty of the polar vortex we got to know a little too well this year, the crux of the exhibition and opening night reception is designed to celebrate an emergence from it.

Aside from the fun play on meteorological terms inspiring this exhibition, LaFontsee added he regularly meets gallery visitors throughout the winter months who are seeking to surround themselves with a little warmth and brightness. They say the vibrancy of the art helps add light and color to the winter palette, and they linger a little longer than usual appreciating the work, enjoying the comfortable resting areas, and sometimes taking a piece of art home with them to extend the experience.

LaFontsee Galleries has been a part of the arts community in Grand Rapids for more than 25 years. They are a member of the Grand Rapids Gallery Association (GRGA.org), which includes a variety of retail and non-profit galleries as well as art organizations and museums. Gallery owners will tell you that "just looking" is perfectly fine, as getting to know art by browsing among the many options is part of the overall process. So next time the long winter months leave you feeling a little too monotone, remember there's a bright warm invitation waiting for you.


The Sculpture of Stephen De Staebler: Elegies in Clay
Muskegon Museum of Arts
Through April 27, 2014
muskegonartmuseum.org, (231) 720-2570

Stephen De Staebler (1933-2011) is an internationally recognized sculptor best known for works in clay that combine a figurative element with forms reminiscent of fragments of an ancient, yet familiar, culture. Each work examines, through the fragile yet resilient medium of fired clay and pigment, the transience of individual lives against the remarkable endurance of humankind.

28th Annual West Michigan Regional Art Competition
Lowell Arts! 149 S. Hudson St., Lowell
Through April 10, 2014
lowellartsmi.org, (616) 897-8545

Henry Matthews, director of galleries and collections at Grand Valley State University and former director of the Muskegon Museum of Art, juries the 28th annual regional art competition this year. On exhibit is a selection of works by artists representing the counties of Barry, Berrien, Cass, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Mecosta, Muskegon, Montcalm, Newaygo, Oceana, Ottawa, Saint Joseph and Van Buren.

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
Through April 27, 2014
uica.org, (616) 454-7000

Artist and metalsmith Caroline Gore investigates how grief and loss manifest in society. Research into historical jewelry, Roman myth, materials and objects inform this exploration. The memorialization process of tragic events leaves objects that give form to the absence we experience in our lives. An object's history is often murky and laden with meaning. Physically altering these objects changes the way one experiences them in a space, as well as how we relate to the personal meaning.