GTPulse: Lose Yourself Exploring This Art-Filled Nature Walk

I’m always interested in going for a walk. With a persistent vitamin d deficiency, aversion to any kind of intense cardio, and current lack of any social life, walks have become the best answer to all of those problems and more. An unseasonably warm November has blessed me with the ability to wander and daydream, and with all of the beautiful trails in the area, I don’t have to do either of them aimlessly. Yesterday was the perfect Sunday sunny afternoon for a first visit to Michigan Legacy Art Park, where two new art installations were put up.

Walking has been such a wonderful way for me to hold on to any scrapings of happiness or sanity throughout the year. It’s tough not being able to hang out with your pals and family so much, and for me, getting out of the house has been important for maintaining a sense of happiness, especially doing so in nature.

Sure it feels good, but even underneath those quick-hitting pangs of dopamine and serotonin, there are long-term benefits associated with regular walks. Walking in the woods is directly correlated to some other benefits, like decreased blood pressure, improved memory, and increased creativity. The Japanese even use walking and spending time in nature as a preventive tool for cancer with ‘shinrin-yoku’ or ‘forest bathing.’

Forest bathing isn’t about pushing yourself or doing any kind of high-intensity hike necessarily, it’s about being close to nature through your senses and mindfulness. Oftentimes, I find any kind of stressful fixations that have accumulated through the week will surrender themselves to the saturated beauty of Northern Michigan’s natural environment. The addition of beautiful sculptures to this natural setting is one that is easy to be taken with. 

Art, nature, and Michigan’s history connect at Michigan Legacy Art Park, a 25-year-old nonprofit sculpture park located within Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan. My first visit was intended to be a quick walk to grab some vitamin D and a couple of photos too. Two hours later felt like 20 minutes. 

Sculptures that depict different points in Michigan’s history are spread out across the 30-acre park, each with a quick description of the artist and the work’s meaning. This is a place for folks of all ages to get lost in nature and inspired by it too. Two miles of hiking trails display all of the thought-provoking sculptures, including the two newest additions.

New artwork from Amy Reckley and Kara James supported by the Charles McGee Art Fund has been placed at the Art Park for all to enjoy. The initiative is to showcase artwork from emerging artists downstate. Both of the new sculptures are on loan as a part of an invitational show. You’ll be able to view these works and a few others throughout the next two years.

‘Handmade Revolution’ was created by Kara James. She was inspired by the ‘handmade movement’ that is indicative by organic, wabi-sabi qualities and subtle but welcome imperfection. Her homage to makers is a figure made of scrap aluminum, holding up their disproportionately large hands in front of their face. It’s funny because when I first saw it I connected with it over feelings of wanting to hide or the hands somehow representing insecurity.

“The Arts and Crafts Movement was born as a rebellion against the Industrial Revolution and countervailing thoughts about mass production and the consumption of culture. These ideas find their fullest expression in The Factory projects of Andy Warhol. To some artists working in the new millennium, the pendulum has swung again towards the idea that the craftsperson’s hand is integral in the creation of meaningful art. Kara James’ sculpture is a celebratory embodiment of that notion,” said Art Park Conservator Brian Ferriby, who curated the invitational.

The second installation, ‘Slip.Shift’ is by Amy Reckley and is an installation of paintings that will rotate with each season until next Fall. The paintings are meant to connect to the environment if the Art Park. Draped between tree branches, the ‘shifts’ in paintings will shift with the colors of the season.

“Reckley playfully challenges traditional artistic practices and approaches to both sculpture and painting. In the 1960s and ’70s, the rising Land Art movement began to blur the distinctions between objects and environments. A seminal example of this is ‘Spiral Jetty’ by Robert Smithson, located on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. In Reckley’s pieces, the painted canvases create an immersive experience both delighting and confounding the viewer, as it breaks down real and perceived barriers,” Ferriby added.

Admission to the park is $5 which goes towards the preservation, care, and advancement of the Art Park and its programs. Kids get in for free and a labyrinth that could be mistaken for a tree fort is sure to be a favorite. Look for the next sunny or unseasonably warm northern Michigan afternoon and treat yourself to some forest bathing at Michigan Legacy Art Park.

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Categories: GTPulse