Legendary Grand Rapids artwork finds resting place at GV

Shelby Pendowski

The West Wall Gallery in Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center is one of the most recent places to host works by native Grand Rapids artist Armand Merizon.

After he died in 2010, Merizon’s work started to appear in galleries around the Grand Rapids area. His latest exhibit, “Armand Merizon: Gifts and Works on Loan from Bette and Bernon Young,” is currently being displayed at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Calvin College and GVSU.

The works, selected from the Young’s personal collection, highlight the depression-era oil painting style that Merizon is known for.

“Armand Merizon was an important painter to Michigan…many people know his work in West Michigan, Bette and Bernon Young collected his work for many years and generously gave them to the school,” said Henry Matthews, GVSU director of galleries and collections.

Merizon’s daughter, Chantal Van Heest, runs the Merizon Studio in Caledonia, Mich., a custom framing shop, which features her father’s work.

Van Heest wants to stress the importance of youth experiencing Merizon’s artwork.

“I think that because there are so many artists today that it is easy for young people not to know about, or be interested in artists that came before their time,” Van Heest said.

Unlike many artists, Merizon did not have a reoccurring signature in his work but Van Heesst said “he chose to paint what is good in this world rather than concentrate on the dark side.”
Even in the more difficult time periods, Merizon showed off Michigan’s beauty.

She said that Merizon’s work is so relatable because he “was very aware of the weaknesses of the human race.”

Van Heest said her father would want his work seen and remembered as often as possible and the GVSU location is an open area where students and visitors can quickly enjoy the paintings, or spend more time with them to fully absorb all of his talents.

“As he began to lose his eyesight, his work became more abstract, colorful and intuitive,” Van Heest said. “He didn’t give up, and painted until he died.”

Although Merizon received criticism for shifting painting techniques, Van Heest thinks that is what made him so influential.

“He believed in his work and his gift, and wanted to share it with others,” she said. “He always expected the best from himself and others. He believed in the beautiful.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public and will run through Dec. 7. After that, several of the paintings will be relocated throughout GVSU’s campus, including the new Mary Idema Pew Library that will be completed this spring.
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