MARQUETTE - Angela Wesselman-Pierce is proud to be part of a current show at the DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.
After become widely known for her part in the Facebook-centered documentary, "Catfish," Pierce is grateful to have been chosen to be part of the show "North of the 45th Parallel 2011," featuring artists who reside about that latitude.
Pierce had been commissioned for a great deal of work after "Catfish," but has found real satisfaction in her acceptance in the local art community.
At left, “Dress Second Nature” by Marilyn Annin. Above, art by various artists. Right, Chet DeFonso of Marquette looks at an acrylic painting entitled “Ancient Coats” by Michael Letts. All scenes are from the North of the 45th Parallel Juried Art Exhibition at the Devos Art Museum in Marquette. (Journal photos by Danielle Pemble)
Her painting "Nikolai" is on display at the DeVos through July 24 as part of the exhibit. And the DeVos is where she met with The Mining Journal for her first local newspaper interview.
"I had always wanted to enter (to try to get into the exhibit)," Pierce said. "Last year, I wanted to enter a couple of pieces but I really couldn't have entered before now."
Last year, Pierce was wondering what would happen when "Catfish" was released. Would the documentary be a quiet fizzle or a talked-about sizzle?
North of the 45th
Annual Upper Midwest
Juried Art Exhibition
Open to all artists in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin living North of the 45th parallel. Juried by Lisa Stone, curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Artists in the exhibit, which continues until July 24, include:
Neil Ahrens (Harbor Springs)
Roberta Allen (Minneapolis)
Philip Anderson (Brooklyn Center, Minn.)
Marilyn Annin (Land O' Lakes, Wis.)
Steve Bardolph (Duluth, Minn.)
Catherine Benda (Atlantic Mine)
Clay Booth (Ishpeming)
Ritch Branstrom (Rapid River)
Gregg Bruff (Munising)
Edwin Carter (Marquette)
Elizabeth Danko (Marquette)
Brent Erickson (Duluth, Minn.)
Zach Gayk (Marquette)
Paul Goodrich (Marquette)
Carla Holmquist (Taylors Falls, Minn.)
Andrew Jensen (Marquette)
Susanne Kilpela (Hancock)
Bonnie Kreger (Marquette)
Michael Letts (Negaunee)
David Luke (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Adam McCauley (Duluth, Minn.)
Darrin Moir (Marquette)
Tamara Lee Niemi (Ishpeming)
Steven J. Read (Duluth, Minn.)
Nicole Roberts Hoiland (St. Peter, Minn.)
Ellen Fitzgerald Skoro (Minneapolis)
Patty Smith (Interlochen)
Joe Sobel (Iron Mountain)
Hope Thier (Moorhead, Minn.)
Jeanne Tubman (Sault Ste. Marie)
Steve Wahlstrom (Marquette)
Tracy Wascom (Marquette)
Angela Wesselman-Pierce (Ishpeming)
It turned out to be the latter. In fact, Pierce's art ended up on display in a sold-out exhibit in New York City after the documentary made its debut. And she was commissioned to do paintings by people across the globe.
But she longed to be part of the local art community.
"This year, I wanted to do it (enter) so I did," she said. "And I was selected. That thrilled me."
Other than grocery shopping or medical appointments, Pierce had stayed close to home in the months since the film's release. So attending the exhibit's opening reception June 3 was a big step for her.
"I was anxious," she said. "It was the first time I'd come out, really, since 'Catfish.' But I came here and everyone was friendly to me. There were no questions about the movie. It was nice to have people here mingling, talking artist to artist. It was really nice, actually."
Part of her anxiety was in not knowing if the media was covering the exhibit. After all, she'd been approached by everyone from TMZ to People magazine when the documentary was first released.
"I will admit I was afraid journalists would show up after having people on my doorstep like that," she said. "This experience has turned out to be wonderful and I am so glad I did it."
In years past, Pierce participated in online artists forums.
"Now, I am getting a lot of feedback I hadn't gotten before, helpful feedback," she said. "Before, online, the feedback I had gotten was awful. I discovered it was a lot like a car crash."
And working on her own mental health issues since the "Catfish" release has freed her as artist.
"I am painting from my own imagination for the first time," she said. "I had based my work on photographs before."
While the "Catfish" spotlight netted her some well-known clients, who commissioned work through her website, Pierce said now is a much more satisfying period in her art career.
"(After 'Catfish') I went from a nobody to someone with an extraordinary clientele. I missed the base experiences. This has been absolutely wonderful for me, to be part of this exhibit."
While it was reported this spring that "Catfish" was being made into a reality show, perhaps on MTV, Pierce wants nothing to do with that.
"I thought it would be over," she said of the phenomenal response to the film. "But it's not, I guess."
Although a writer for a California newspaper cast doubt on Pierce's existence, the painter assures people she's a real person, although no longer the person featured in the documentary.
"It was overwhelming at times. I wasn't prepared for what 'Catfish' would do to my life, to my family's life," she said. "I am doing well now. I had some issues but have been getting help. I am on meds that I will probably be on for the rest of my life.
"I feel more in control now. I feel less apt to go off the deep end," Pierce said. "I have learned to redirect my imagination to the canvas. And to writing, too.
"I am keeping my creativity where it belongs," she said. "I am comfortable where I am now. I am honored when people want my art work. Truly."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.