Remembering Newaygo County
Story by Donna Iverson
February is a tough month for flower lovers, as few options are available. Of course, there are houseplants like African violets that bloom in winter. And seed catalogs arrive with photos of new offerings and old favorites. Then there are the local art museums where you can hunt down flower paintings. Most recently, I discovered flower paintings of Newaygo county born artist, Annabel Livermore.
A native of West Michigan, Livermore’s flower paintings depict the fauna and flora in parks like Branstrom Park in Fremont, the road north from Newaygo to White Cloud, and Pickerel Lake. Her paintings have been described as dreamlike, otherworldly depictions of the natural world.
And now for a plot twist. Annabel Livermore was born James Robert Magee in 1946 in Fremont. He attended Fremont schools and graduated from Albion College. After college, he hiked through West Africa then earned a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania (1971) Since then, he has lived most of his life in El Paso, Texas. He is both a sculptor and poet.
In 1976, he suffered severe depression and his doctor suggested he take up painting. He chose watercolors and oils as his medium. During a trip back to Newaygo County, he began painting the flowers of his boyhood environment. It was about this time that Annabel Livermore was born.
“With an emotional swelling in her transgender breast, Annabel came into being,” Magee is quoted as saying in a book, titled Remembering Newaygo County, the Symbolist Paintings of Annabel Livermore.” The book, published in 2010, accompanied an exhibit at the museum sponsored by the Fremont Area Community Foundation.
Magee continues to paint as Livermore and calls her his “close companion.” Livermore is a pain-staking artist, often taking years to complete a work. Today, she paints from memories of the West Michigan landscape.
Livermore’s paintings are presently in storage at the Muskegon Museum of Art. The museum is in the process of building an addition and may choose once again to exhibit this West Michigan local artist’s watercolors. For more pictures of Livermore’s art, visit http://www.kirkhopperfineart.com/livermore.html.
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