Award-winning photographer and Gallery 200 member artist Mike Smith offers a glimpse into the grandeur of America's National Parks, including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Badlands and others. His exhibit, "Our National Parks," will be on display from November 1 -- 24, 2013 at Gallery 200, 200 Main Street, West Chicago.
Smith had fond memories of a family vacation to Yellowstone in the early 1970s with his parents. His wife, however, had never visited the park. After discussing vacation options and realizing that an overseas trip did not fit into the family budget, Smith and his wife did what many Americans have done -- they packed the car and drove over a thousand miles to visit several of this country's most famous National Parks in July 2012.
There were many interesting adventures along the way, including an impromptu visit to a ghost town in South Dakota after following errant GPS directions to a hotel. Smith took advantage of every opportunity to use his photography skills. "During our visit to Mount Rushmore, clouds began rolling over the top of the mountain. One by one, the Presidents were disappearing in front of me and I just kept pressing the button," said Smith.
During the trip, conversations with local residents made it clear that the best time to view wildlife in and around Yellowstone was during September, as the change in temperatures drives wildlife into the valleys for the approaching winter. Two months later, Smith once again drove across the country in September 2012 to capture additional wildlife images. He used his skills as an amateur radio operator to listen to the ranger frequencies to learn of animal sightings within driving distance of his location. Each day, he was on the road before sunrise and often traversed the park after dark to return to his hotel.
On the return trip to Illinois, he detoured through Colorado to attend a workshop for a dye sublimation process developed by a chemical engineer and artist. The process allows for the transfer of a photographic image from a sheet of plastic onto a substrate such as wood or tile. What Smith likes most about the process is that the texture of the base item shows through the image. "I had noticed at flea markets that people were selling repurposed furniture with decoupage images. So, I decided to use my photographs with the dye sublimation transfer process, which leaves a smooth surface and allows the wood grain to show through the image," he said.
In addition to the photography exhibit, Smith will have framed prints available along with several pieces of repurposed furniture items, each embellished with images of regional lighthouses or Yellowstone scenery. The one-of-a-kind pieces have been treated with a protective coating and all are for sale.
Professionally, Smith operates Photographic Services International in Aurora, Illinois. His images have appeared in magazines, greeting cards, books and educational training programs. His photography studio offers portraits on archival papers and traditional canvas prints. For additional information, contact his studio at (630) 330-3595.
A free Opening Reception of art at Gallery 200 on Friday, November 1, 2013 from 6:00 -- 9:00 p.m. will include refreshments and entertainment by singers from Verismo Opera Theater in Oak Park, Illinois. Concurrent with the artist's reception, the West Chicago City Museum, 132 Main Street, hosts Late Night at the Museum. Artist Rachel Weaver Rivera works with guests in making their contributions to the Day of the Dead altar exhibit.
Gallery 200 is a cultural initiative supported by the City of West Chicago and the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission, and is one more reason West Chicago was named an Illinois Arts Friendly Community in 2007. Gallery 200 is open Thursday and Friday from 12:00 - 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. For more information, including a complete list of current art classes, call (630) 293-9550 or visit www.gallery200.org.