Bay College Announces Art Exhibition, Forever a Wildnerness


Man and woman are pictured outdoors in wooded setting wearing outdoor gear and carrying a fishing pole.

Bay College announces the reception for the exhibition, Forever a Wilderness, photography by Christine Lenzen. Please join us in the Besse Gallery on Thursday February 13, 2020 at 2 p.m. for the Opening Reception and Artist Talk.

Christine Lenzen (b. 1984 Minneapolis, MN) received her BFA from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and her MFA from the University of Notre Dame in 2012. Lenzen is currently an Associate Professor of Photography at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI. She was recently shortlisted for a Lucie Foundation Fine Art Scholarship, listed in the Top 200 for Photolucida’s Critical Mass, and received honorable mention for the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers. She has exhibited with the Texas Photographic Society, Houston, TX; Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, Asheville, NC; Southeast Center for Photography, Greenville, SC; The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO; and Rayko Photo Center, San Francisco, CA.

The ongoing series Forever a Wilderness was born from my desire to create a visual mythos of the Great Lakes’ north woods culture – particularly for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Often left off maps of the United States, the Upper Peninsula stretches across almost the entire southern shore of Lake Superior and contains almost a third of the land mass in Michigan, but with only three percent of its population. While the Upper Peninsula is geographically in the Midwest, the culture and landscape here is markedly different than the traits that are typically associated with the rest of middle America: instead of mile after mile of flat farmland, we have 8.8 million acres of forest; instead of a tornado season, we have blizzards and effectively seven months of winter; instead of a claim to the world’s largest ball of twine, we have Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

The Upper Peninsula is isolated and remote – the first Governor of Michigan once described the area as a “sterile region… destined by soil and climate to remain forever a wilderness.”  The residents of the U.P. (colloquially called Yoopers) might be described as walking contradictions as they tend toward hearty individualism - nonconformist and self-reliant - but are also fiercely supportive of their communities with an incredibly strong sense of regional pride. It is the sparsity of population combined with the severity of our winters that elicit these characteristics of Yooper culture. Similar to how place can become intrinsically important to understanding the psychologies of characters in great literature, these photographs echo the sensibilities of this region and its people. While this work is perhaps an ode to my love affair with the Upper Peninsula, it is also a portrait of what much of rural America embodies: pride in our wilderness, commitment to our communities, and the ability to endure through tough times.

The exhibition of her work can be viewed in the Besse Gallery from December 18, 2019- February 20, 2020. Reception and Artist Talk, Thursday February 13 at 2 PM.