UP Focus Art Exhibit Opens Jan. 18 at NMU

(From left): Catherine Benda, "Interior Concepts," 2023, acrylic; and Carrie Flaspohler VanderVeen, "Profusion," 2023, gouache on paper

Northern Michigan University's DeVos Art Museum will soon unveil the 2024 installment of its UP Focus exhibition, which highlights artists living and working in, or inspired by, the Upper Peninsula. This year's featured artists are connected to the Copper Country: Catherine Benda and Carrie Flaspohler VanderVeen. An opening reception with artist talks is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18. The event is free and open to the public.

Benda is a multimedia artist working in paint, thread and paper. She lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and has spent more than 40 years residing on the shores of Lake Superior. Benda grew up in Detroit and received her bachelor of fine arts degree, with a focus on painting and drawing, from Central Michigan University. Her paintings and textile projects have been on display both regionally and nationally.

VanderVeen received her bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Michigan and her master of fine arts in painting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the curator/director of Finlandia Art Gallery in Hancock.  

“It is common knowledge but a difficult practice that one should leave behind the chatter of the critic, the outside eye, even one's own judgements when embarking on the creative process,” Benda wrote in her artist's statement. “However, once the work is finished, it is, at its best, returned to everybody. I am happy to say that without too much chatter-fueled obstruction, I have chosen colors, symbols, shapes and textures and have infinitely repeated them. … The incessant activity transfers energy from my hands, my shoulder blades, my back. It is the physical process of all of these works that unites them; for thread is just thread and paint is just paint, paper is just paper until you add yourself.”

“I use nature as a metaphor for life, visualizing life in all its sensual and emotional complexity, eliciting reflection, wonder, curiosity and a sense of hope,” VanderVeen wrote in describing her creative process. “I have recently struggled with the feeling that I had lost the ability to feel wonder, a feeling that was so easily accessible to me in my youth. With the pandemic creating so much suffering, the political climate so disheartening and the environmental crisis so demoralizing, I, like many, had lost a sense of peace. I dedicated more time to paint in my studio, willing beauty into my art and into my daily experience. … I have tried to manifest a state of wonder through my art practice and, surprisingly to me, it helped me to feel it again.”

The exhibit will be on view through March 30. Museum hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and noon-8 p.m. Thursday.

Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director