Dutch artist finds inspiration in Michigan's great outdoors

Jun 13, 2013

Doet Boersma's print of an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake
Credit Lorraine Caron

The Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings has a mission to “promote environmental education, research, preservation and appreciation.” It sits in Barry County on 661 acres of wetlands, prairies and woodlands.

“We work mainly with undergrad students providing them the opportunity to study and learn hands-on environmental education," says Executive Director Michelle Skedgell. "We run a summer program and the students live out here.”

Most activities at Pierce Cedar Creek take place outdoors, and the visitor center itself, built into an earth berm, is wide-open with windows that bring the outdoors inside.

For the first time ever, the institute has an artist-in-residence. Doet Boersma of the Netherlands is spending the summer here, living in a small cabin on-site. Her work includes prints she has made of one of her neighbors on the property, the rare Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

Her seclusion on the property gives her time to focus on creating new work. But she is also leading workshops and sharing information about her home in the Netherlands and the influence of Dutch art.

“Rembrandt did it on copper plates," says Boersma talking about etching. "But, now we use pieces of plastic.”

Boersma runs her etchings through a printing press. She describes the process:

“I make the pressure very hard and I press inked plates through it. The plates are first scratched with little scratches and the scratches form an image.”

For this residency, Boersma is spending time away from her husband and family. She says there are times when she misses them terribly.

“I know, with a certain loneliness, that I reflect more," she says. "And then I’m looking with new eyes to what I am doing. I get energy from that.”

Boersma’s prints at the institute feature images from nature and words that she finds in poetry. She reads from one example:

“’Words like feathers fly in the wind.’ You can tell everyone everything, but words don’t stay. What will stay are other things, a feeling or connection. But, I want to tell you something personal. This is a young hickory tree with the leaves coming out. And, I printed this very cheerful…yellow and blue, and it says ‘Spring is here, I jump and cheer.’ But, I told you about my phone call with my husband and I missed him very much. And, then I found a poem. It’s very sentimental, but to me it means a lot. ‘I love you like the green leaves of spring.’ It’s all about growth, with the greens and the browns and here the leaves jump out of the background, so it’s a different print and a different meaning.”

Doet Boersma is artist-in-residence at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. On June 26th the institute will host a Family Science Night and Ice Cream Social.