Rabbit Island residency

Art exhibition underway at DeVos Art Museum

This photograph of Rabbit Island taken by Dutch visual artist Walter van Broekhuizen, among others, is on display at DeVos Art Museum on the Northern Michigan University campus. The work of five artists who were 2016 artists in residence on the Lake Superior island can be seen at the museum through Nov. 12. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — A little bit of the Copper Country has come to DeVos Art Museum.

Northern Michigan University’s sixth annual Rabbit Island Artist in Residence Exhibition will be displayed through Nov. 12 at DeVos.

The exhibition features the work of five artists who spent two to four weeks on Rabbit Island during the summer of 2016 courtesy of the Rabbit Island Foundation.

The event reflects the first time that the artists have had nearly a full year to reflect and create work based on their experiences on the island, which is located east of the Keweenaw Peninsula on Lake Superior.

Rabbit Island is a 91-acre forested island in Lake Superior, according to rabbitisland.org. The island is composed of a native ecosystem standing upon solid bedrock and has never been developed or subdivided. It also provides home for many types of wildlife, with bald eagles and great blue herons nesting in the trees and the surrounding waters being home to lake trout and salmon populations.

Van Broekhuizen visits with the public following his Monday talk at the museum. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

Most of the island is held under a conservation easement granted by the Keweenaw Land Trust to ensure its unique ecosystem will remain healthy in perpetuity and serve as a platform for science, art, preservation and recreation for generations.

Several events are taking place in conjunction with the exhibit, which began with a Monday talk with visual artist Walter van Broekhuizen. A film screening and talk with collaborative group members Jack Forinash, Kelly Gregory and Mary Rothlisberger will be at 6 p.m. today, followed by an opening reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A performative lecture with visual artist Luce Choules will be at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Rabbit Island photographs taken by the artists are displayed along with items like notebooks and sketches laid out on a table for visitors to peruse, albeit carefully. The exhibit also includes a mixed media sound installation entitled “The Island Talks.”

Forinash, Gregory and Rothlisberger make up a collaborative team of artists of varying backgrounds. Forinash is a founding member and principal of the Epicenter, a housing, community development and arts platform in rural Utah. Gregory is a California-based architect and co-founder of Post-Car Press, a micro-publisher that creates guidebooks for outdoor adventure using public transport and bicycles. Rothlisberger was a recent visiting artist at the master of fine arts-interdisciplinary arts program at Sierra Nevada College and the Arts and Rural Environments Field School at the University of Colorado.

Choules is an expedition-based artist, working mostly in the United Kingdom, France and Spain, who is the founder of The Temporal School of Experimental Geography.

A multi-disciplinary artist from the Netherlands who works primarily in sculpture and installations, van Broekhuizen discussed his work during his Monday talk at DeVos, which included visual elements on a screen.

In his artist statement and proposal to be a 2016 Rabbit Island resident, he said: “I feel it’s our duty to listen to that instinctual call, to pay attention, and to ask how we are changing the world. I’d like to use Rabbit Island as a sketchbook — to create and photograph a series of ethereal sketches of the things that make up the island: rocks, pine needles, shadows, driftwood, whatever is naturally at hand — in a celebration of what exists, resisting the human tendency to tear down, build up, and conquer, by exploring the contours of the island’s natural patterns.”

Following his presentation, van Broekhuizen talked further about his experience, noting Rabbit Island is small enough that people can walk around it in a couple of hours.

He had a place to stay; the foundation had built a small cabin — missing one wall.

“So, you’re living outside all the time,” van Broekhuizen said.

He acknowledged he had beautiful weather, but also large storms, which meant having to protect himself from the elements.

That was the idea.

“It’s beyond camping,” van Broekhuizen said. “It’s more like survival.”

And survive he did, fishing for his food, although he brought provisions for his stay as well.

Of course, he also shot photographs as well as other artistic creations.

“You try to make sculpture on the island,” van Broekhuizen said. “You make a photograph of it, so that will survive.”

What did he learn from his Rabbit Island experience?

“That I can be alone,” van Broekhuizen said.

A full-color, fully illustrated catalogue that features work by 2016 resident and writer F. Daniel Rzicznek will be available at the exhibition.

For more information, visit nmu.edu/devos.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.