Manitou Winds continually finds inspiration in the stories of the composers who write the music we enjoy sharing. We also seek fresh inspiration in the vibrant arts scene in Northern Michigan — selecting a new Collaborating Artist each year.
We’re often asked what it means to “collaborate” with an artist — especially when we obviously work in two completely different mediums. My favorite answer: each collaboration means something different! No two composers speak through music in quite the same way, and no two artists infuse the canvas with the same verve and personality, and so each collaboration means a new discovery.
Throughout each year-long collaboration — through conversation about our unique art forms, and putting together joint concerts and exhibits — artist and musician alike often discover new aspects of their art and take our audience along for the ride. Not knowing where exactly that ride will go is part of the fun and makes it nothing at all like an assignment… and fun is pretty well our 2017 artist’s specialty!
I first met Margie Guyot in an unexpected way — during a fateful Encore Winds rehearsal. When someone aims a saxophone at you, you tend to take notice! It wasn’t too long after that rehearsal when I happened to be browsing on Facebook and read an interview where Margie casually mentioned oil painting was a hobby of hers. Later that summer, while browsing in North Seas Gallery in Charlevoix, MI, a lovely landscape painting caught my attention. I did a double-take: Margie Guyot was the artist. “She’s no ‘hobby’ artist!” I thought.
Originally from Iowa, Margie grew up in love with both art and music — a penchant for expressing herself, you might say. Her family’s basement was always loaded with art materials, and she attended weekend art classes at the Davenport Art Museum. Art was fun – until high school, at least. That’s when her art teacher found out she also played saxophone and told her she couldn’t be in band and art. And so, Margie dropped art and majored in music — out of spite.
“Spite” led Margie down the single-track road of music for a while. After receiving her bachelor’s degree with highest honors in music education, Margie made another critical decision in choosing not to teach. Instead, she took to the highway, playing saxophone in a road band touring the Midwest, dressed to the 9’s whilst living off mac and cheese.
When the “glamorous” life of a touring musician had spun its tale, Margie found her way to the Detroit area where she worked the graveyard shift at Ford Motor Company. It was 30 years of hard work and a steady paycheck, but not exactly the life she’d always dreamed of.
During these years on the line with her nose to the grindstone, art slowly began to make its way back into Margie’s life. She was inspired by Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain — a book she says changed her life. She religiously performed every exercise in the book, gradually opening her eyes to really see.
As her renewed interest in art grew stronger, she traveled across the country (and continents) on extended vacations to study with famous mentors. In that time she studied with Robert Bateman, Clyde Aspevig, and Janet Fish — each artist contributing to her unique and colorful perspective.
Once she was finally able to retire from the assembly line, Margie moved to Northern Michigan and now paints whatever she likes every day — all from her Possum Hollow Studio in Ellsworth, MI.
Possum Hollow hosts a stunning array of Margie’s paintings. Surrounded on all four sides by their brilliance, you can see first-hand her favored painting styles vary wildly in color and content. We were able to make a trip up to Possum Hollow in early March — a chance to talk about her art and see her latest pieces.
Margie always creates her landscapes en plein air, painting on location all over Northern Michigan where she finds little bits of beauty and heartfelt scenes that the more casual passersby might miss in their hurry from one place to the next.
In times when she’s grown tired of more predictable landscapes and their endless variations of blues and greens, she turns to creating still life paintings where she can work in a limitless palette of saturated colors and complex patterns — juxtaposing linens, glassware, and produce with elements that might surprise (taxidermy, masks, vintage toys, and other unexpected “characters”).
Finding visual inspiration among Margie’s work for our 2017 spring concert program, Music Speaks, was not at all difficult. Narrowing down all the choices proved to be the challenge that took much back-and-forth, however.
Music Speaks is a concert depicting many moods and characters, so it was hard to find a single image that would immediately, authentically stand along with the theme on a poster. Finally, after brainstorming and searching through the paintings a bit more, I realized the symbol of a road — a path connecting two places or two ideas — was a central part of our theme.
One of Margie’s recent landscapes, Rogers Road (2016), stood out immediately. The painting depicts a particular hideaway near East Jordan — a location Margie says she’s painted several times in all seasons. On a particular day in midsummer, she was inspired to paint on the roadside in the shade of a kindly tree who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The colors, the warmth of the sun, the wind in the grass, the sense of adventure of the open road… suddenly it was all making sense!
Since our visit was in early March — just as the robins had begun to make their gradual reappearance and a thin layer of snow was still on the ground — we weren’t able to have a grand tour of Margie’s extensive Possum Hollow Gardens. We’re certainly looking forward to a tour later this summer to see all the potential art in full bloom.
As part of our year-long collaboration, you’ll get a grand sampling of Margie’s work in a special exhibit at the concert venue. We also plan to have Margie and her saxophone on stage with us for our September concert. Stay tuned for more details!
Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm
Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken