The Intrigue of “The Dreamer,” on Exhibit at Sturgeon Bay’s Miller Art Museum

Of the 45 works of art on display at the Miller Art Museum’s 35th Juried Annual exhibition, the three jurors together chose three works to receive “Special Merit Awards,” and then each selected a work they found individually worthy of note. Of all the photographs, the pastels, the oils, the etchings, the acrylics, the watercolors hanging on the walls, I wonder, what is it that draws a particular person to a particular piece of art? Is it the seeming familiarity a piece may have for a person, is it personal tastes for color and/or lighting, or is it merely dependent on a viewer’s current mood?

Despite the lack of a technical education in visual art, I decided to play juror one morning, meandering in the gallery and focusing immediately on “The Dreamer,” an oil on linen painting by Janet T. Comstock.

There she was, this young girl in folds of white, radiating innocence while her expression held the seriousness of deep thought – a melancholy, in fact, which is not often associated with children.

Her seriousness is almost uncomfortable to me, who usually thinks of children in polarizing extremes – either bursting with happiness and smiles or crumbling apart with exhaustion or tears. This child rises above those cliches in a lovely, haunting way. Without artistic training, or even a psychology degree, I can only guess that my intrigue with the painting comes from particular emotions and memories the piece provokes in myself.

I can, on one hand, place myself in the image and recall the swirling confusion and disappointment childhood involves; on the other hand, I want to understand exactly what she is thinking and make it “all better,” as the saying goes.

But that is just one of 45 pieces of art on display until Dec. 28, all depicting unique subject matter in a variety of mediums.

“This year’s exhibit is so exciting,” said Bonnie Hartmann, director of the MAM. “We don’t have a theme this year, so we have a lot of different pieces. And every year we select three different jurors – so it’s a fresh interpretation.”

This year’s jurors include Emmett Johns, Bonnita Budysz, and Shelby Keefe, who wrote in her Juror Statement, “Because of the great diversity in media, subjects, creative approaches, this was an amazing challenge [to judge].”

To learn more about each piece, join artist, teacher, and artistic director of the Kewaunee Academy of Fine Art, Craig Blietz as he critiques the show on Thursday, Dec. 9 at 10:30 am.

Also, the exhibit features a Holiday Gift Shop. The shop includes a variety of crafts, cards, and more – many created by local artists. Proceeds from the shop will benefit the museum.

The Miller Art Museum, open Monday from 10 am – 8 pm and Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm, is located at 107 S 4th Ave in Sturgeon Bay.

To learn more about Comstock and/or view her work, visit