Dewey Blocksma: Art With Soul

He began doing solo shows – at Sans Regret in Boston, Outside-in Gallery in West Hollywood, and the (now defunct) Xochipilli Gallery in Birmingham, Michigan. Emerging as an artist in the 1980s was wild, says Dewey. "People showed up for the openings – some in dog collars and some in tails, all of them into art. I’d sell half my pieces in one night – it was such a rush." Still, that was 90-percent pay cut from his doctor days. "I ended up learning how to live all over again," he says.

Today dozens of homemade windmills whir gently at the top of the hill where Blocksma’s rough-hewn wood home sticks out of the Benzie County wilderness. He walks right up on the roof of his studio and gives a twirl to one made out of plastic martini glasses, explaining that the cone is the perfect shape for a wind machine because it acts as its own brake. Because of the delicate physics involved, Blocksma’s machines can withstand winds of 60 miles per hour.

The house is a compact series of additions that Blocksma built himself on the original dilapidated cabin that used to belong to a Manitou Islands forest ranger, who spared even the trees that were living a hand’s reach through the windows. Giant ash and birch trees grow right outside his door – a maple rises through the middle of his porch and out the roof. The old trees and rolling hills make the homestead look a little like Appalachia, which feels right to a man so closely aligned with folk art.

Blocksma lives here with the love of his life, Sandra Hulst, whom he met in Holland in the Friends of Art artists group. Blocksma only went to one meeting. "I guess I found what I was looking for," he says. Without marrying, Blocksma and Hulst linked their futures, left Holland, which they found stifling, and went North to live as artists.

"It’s helped us to live in a place where there are people who are serious artists," says Hulst. "But to make things work we’ve had to come up with alternative ways to get by." Hulst runs their antique businesses in Beulah and Frankfort and sells the furniture and collectibles on eBay in the leaner winter months. "I couldn’t do this without her," Blocksma says of Hulst. "She’s full of life. She believes in art and she believes in what I’m doing. And she’s not a B.S. kind of person. She keeps me from faking it."

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