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Three artists reunite for show 50 years after high school

Leslie Hamp
Steve Kline, Nancy Adams Nash and Glenn Wolff

At a time when many their age have retired, three northern Michigan artists are reuniting for a multimedia exhibit. They were the stars of the art department at Traverse City Central High School 50 years ago. Now they're getting back together and seeing each other in a whole new light.

It was a long day for Steve Kline, who is churning out steel and aluminum parts for a five-foot sculpture he's making.

Credit Leslie Hamp
Steve Kline in his studio fabricating steel and aluminum sculptures.

"I usually get out to the studio around nine o'clock," Kline says. "Sometimes I'll just keep going until nine or 10 in the evening."

Kline is teaming up with high school friends Nancy Adams Nash and Glenn Wolff for a summer exhibition at the Oliver Art Center in Frankfort. They're all feeling the crunch of the deadline. For Kline, it means working on 10 different sculptures at once.

"It's difficult, hard, sometimes dangerous to have equipment to cut and grind and sand metal, and I'm welding," says Kline. "It's physical labor in a way."

Kline, Nash and Wolff were classmates a half century ago. In the art room, Kline worked with clay, Nash painted and Wolff explored pen and ink. They were already working independently.

As students, Steve Kline and Glenn Wolff were once in a poster competition together. 

"I put in two posters," says Kline. "Glenn put in his poster, and Glenn won the competition."

"But it's interesting because Steve's was the more artful poster. I have to just say that right now, and I'll give you that $25 back, Steve," Wolff says to Kline. 

After graduation the three artists went their separate ways to make a name for themselves - Wolff to New York City, Kline to New Orleans and Nash to Oregon and Washington, D.C. 

But one by one, the artists returned to northern Michigan.

Two years ago, they met up and created a proposal for an art show. They thought their combination of scupture, mixed media and surrealistic painting would blend well together. When their proposal was accepted by Oliver Art Center, they got to work creating new pieces. 

Credit Sarah Wolff
Glenn Wolff working on arched windows in his studio

Glenn Wolff is known for illustration, but for the upcoming show he's creating fine art pieces. On this day, he's experimenting with some old arched windows. 

"A gentlemen came by one day and gave me these beautiful arched windows that look like they came out of an old church," says Wolff. "I think I'm starting out with filling them with these yardstick sections to make a base that a painting will go on."

Wolff says making art isn't always easy, and the possibility of failure is a big part of his process.

"Usually I start a piece and it goes really bad and I think I've totally forgotten everything I've ever learned," says Wolff. "But I just keep at it ... You really deal with that angst everday, with every piece."

On Old Mission Peninsula, Nancy Adams Nash has a studio filled with her primitive, surrealistic paintings.

"This is going in the show ... [it's called] Squid Face," says Nash. "There is no story there. It's an odd-looking face, but it's a great painting because of just how it's shaded, the colors."

Credit Leslie Hamp
Nancy Adams Nash with her painting, 'Squid Face.'

Nash says her process is simple. She starts by painting the background of a canvas or wood panel one color, then she overlays it with another color and uses a tool to etch through the wet paint.

Then it's hours and hours of shading.

"It's fun for me. It's exciting when I get something good," says Nash. 

The three artists have been preparing for the exhibit nearly a year.

"The show itself has been inspirational for me to get back to some important concepts and ideas," says Kline. 

Beyond the show, Steve Kline, Nancy Adams Nash and Glenn Wolff anticipate making art for another 20 years. 

"I might be now in a position to reenter the art world in a more serious way," says Nash.

Although the three have very different styles, they trust their work will hang well together. The show opens at the Oliver Art Center on June 7. 

"I think all of us at this age are thinking about the time left and what do we want to accomplish," says Wolff. "So this is a big goal for me to show this body of work that's just on my own and see where it goes."