"Art of the Sleeping Bear Dunes" (Leelanau Press, $40) is a beautiful, well-designed hardback that's full of exceptionally strong images of the picturesque northern Michigan area.
Edited by Linda M. Young, it's subtitled "Transforming Nature into Art".
The majority of the book is devoted to 108 two-dimensional pieces by contemporary artists. This artwork was selected from over 250 submissions to a project designed to showcase the beauty of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
These paintings were part of a recent exhibition at the Dennos Museum Center at the Northwestern Michigan College campus in Traverse City.
Highly respected art professors Mary McNichols and E. W. Ross were the jurors in the competition. Each provide a brief statement reflecting the challenges and criteria of choosing which artworks would be displayed and included in this book.
Young provides a historical overview of different artists who painted in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area. It includes over two dozen images of art completed during different decades. She also offers biographical information about the artists, their work and what drew them to the area.
A short essay by Jerry Dennis focuses on diverse ways of seeing Sleeping Bear. Kathleen Stocking also contributes an essay relating fond memories of growing up in the area. Two pages are devoted to assorted artist-in-residence programs.
The book is divided into three sections, with more than half understandably devoted to images of lakes, dunes and beaches.
Beautiful drawings abound, with many carefully-crafted renderings of the ever-changing landscape of the lakeshore. The different artistic styles are quite amazing, mostly capturing the area's serenity.
Traverse City artist Mike Cotter's contribution, created as a collage, with ink and charcoal, is a bit different. Titled "We Didn't Know Better, 1956 Dunesmobile" showcases the bright, striking image of an Oldsmobile on the grassy dunes under the glaring sun. His apologetic comments in the book's biographical section offer an intriguing retrospective.
Other sections of the book are devoted to forests, meadows and buildings as well as rivers, creeks and ponds.
This is a volume that should be enjoyed and savored, not swallowed in one gulp. You're likely to start making plans now to enjoy one of Michigan's beautiful historic areas.
More information can be found at leelanaupress.com .
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.
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This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on April 20, 2014.