Saturday, October 15, 2016

Artist Bonnie Peterson's new work is on exhibit at Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

Detail: On the Nature of Fire, 65″ H x 85″ W. Embroidery on silk, velvet, by Bonnie Peterson. This is a detail of one of her textile embroideries now on exhibit at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland, Wis. (Photos courtesy Bonnie Peterson)

ASHLAND, Wis. -- The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is hosting Michigan-based artist Bonnie Peterson’s handcrafted textile embroideries and story quilt exhibit through Dec. 12, 2016.

Peterson’s Stitching Explorations Through Time and Place exhibition consists of 12 textile embroideries and two maps that illustrate paddling, skiing and hiking trips to Lake Superior locations which include Isle Royale National Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Pukashwa National Park and the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The maps, photos and stories from her journeys are transferred on to silks and satins with embroidery on velvets and brocades. The results are collages capturing Peterson's own journeys and the  expeditions of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula by Marquette and Joliet in 1673. Peterson also explores the 1880s journeys of former Raspberry Island Lighthouse Keeper Francis Jacker, who was Peterson’s great-great grand uncle.

Keweenaw, 50" H x 48" W. Heat transfers and embroidery on satin, silk, velvet and brocade, by Bonnie Peterson.

Peterson describes here the work titled "Keweenaw," which means the crossing place, or the place where we traverse a point of land on foot:

"Keweenaw waterway charts and topo maps are surrounded by red sandstone buildings and mining ruins I photographed in Houghton and Hancock, the twin cities at the bridge to the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Francis Jacker, my great great grand uncle, described Portage Lake in 1862 as he sailed from his home near Jacobsville to Raspberry Island in the Apostles where he was the lighthouse keeper."

Jacker's description makes up the text of embroidery on the border of this work: "After rounding Pilgrim's Point and skirting Dollar Bay, where Shelden's sawmill was situated, the lake narrowed rapidly and the shores rose to a greater height. Two mining towns spring into view. A medley of small houses... jumbled about as if broadcast and struggling for a foothold on the rocks. Besides the two stamp mills with their smoke-begrimed chimneys, there is not a single building of prominence or construction other than wood. The forest encroached upon the outskirts of the town in every direction." Francis Jacker, 1862.

Detail: Keweenaw, 50" H x 48" W. Heat transfers and embroidery on satin, silk, velvet and brocade, by Bonnie Peterson.

"I use embroidery to investigate cultural and environmental issues," Peterson writes in her artist's statement. "Mixing a variety of source materials such as scientific data and early explorer’s journals, I stitch words and phrases on velvet and silk fabrics to make large narrative wall hangings. My recent projects examine geophysical climate issues. Instigated by a series of collaborations with scientists, I began to look for simple explanations for some of the important principles in climate and environmental science to use in my projects. The artist/scientist interactions are invaluable for interpreting and extracting key concepts and clarifying their context and relevance."

Bonnie Peterson is pictured here with her current exhibit at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland, Wis.

Peterson’s wilderness experiences can be seen in her works, too. Lengthy trips are woven into displays which show impacts of wilderness, contemporary society and historical context.

Peterson was an artist-in-residence at Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Isle Royale and Crater Lake National Parks. Her work is in the collection of the New York City Museum of Art and Design and in private collections.

Detail: Chicago Portage, 65 H x 68 W. Embroidery and heat transfers on satin, velvet and brocade, stitched, by Bonnie Peterson. The story of Marquette and Joliet's historic 1673 exploration of Wisconsin and Illinois, is embroidered and surrounds early Lake Michigan maps. The French explorers used a faster way for the return part of their journey to the northern part of Lake Michigan. They carried the canoes across a portage from the Des Plaines River to the Chicago River and returned via Lake Michigan, instead of paddling up the Mississippi to the Wisconsin River, and portaging to the Fox. The outer embroidery is from Joliet's journal.

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is located two miles west of Ashland, Wis., on U.S. Highway 2. The Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This collection can be seen in the visitor center’s gallery. It is free and open to the public.

For more information about this exhibition, please contact Linda Mittlestadt or Susan Nelson at (715) 685-9983.

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and operated through partnership with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Historical Society, University of Wisconsin-Extension and Friends of the Center Alliance Ltd. It is open to the public at no charge with opportunities for visitors to experience human and natural history of the Chequamegon Bay region in the building and on the 180-acre grounds.

Editor's Note: See more of Bonnie Peterson's work on her Web site.

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