All of the photographs in Susan Johnston’s upcoming exhibit were taken within a 50-mile radius of her home in Stevensville. (Photo by Susan Johnston)
All of the photographs in Susan Johnston’s upcoming exhibit were taken within a 50-mile radius of her home in Stevensville. (Photo by Susan Johnston)

Archived Story

Showcasing Berrien’s Beauty and Bounty

Published 9:48am Thursday, June 26, 2014

Susan Johnston to paint Tabula Rasa with “Nature’s Palette”

BARODA — Situated deep in the heart of wine country, there seems to be no more natural place than Tabula Rasa Gallery for a photography exhibit that celebrates the beauty and the bounty of Berrien County.

As gallery owner Great Hurst noted, “There are 12 wineries, 2 breweries and a distillery within a 15-mile radius of Baroda. As the only gallery in wine country, it’s sort of a mandate to showcase the beauty of the area.”

That is something the boutique gallery has been doing for nearly three years now.

“Greta and Bill Hurst are true supporters of local agriculture and boosters of Baroda,” said photographer Susan K. Johnston.

For that reason, Tabula Rasa will soon be showcasing Johnston’s photographs of fruit, vegetables, flowers and Lake Michigan in a show entitled “Nature’s Palette.”

Photographs by Bill Hurst and art glass creations by Greta Hurst will also be on display, and Tabula Rasa’s unique selection of local and artisanal foods will also be available for visitors to purchase.

With the show opening on July 4 and running through July 27, Johnston’s photographs will be on display at the same time that the earth’s vibrant colors will be on exhibit in surrounding farmers’ fields and markets.

“I wanted to do the exhibit in July because that’s when everything is busting out,” Johnston said. “It focuses on the bodacious colors, all of the vibrant Crayola crayon colors—from the peppers you can get here, to the green beans. It’s eye-popping!”

Having lived in Detroit for many years, serving as the director of process engineering at General Motors, Johnston has an appreciative eye for the beauty of the landscape here, and she still wonders at the ease with which fresh farm produce can be purchased in southwest Michigan.

“Living in Detroit, you can’t get fresh strawberries on the side of the road,” Johnston pointed out.

Now residing in the Grand Mere Dunes, Johnston need not travel far to capture the beauty that she seeks.

“All of the photos were taken within a 50-mile radius of my house in Stevensville. This is an incredible region!” Johnston said. “I wanted to show off the gorgeous flowers that grow here, the food that grows here, and how can you ignore Lake Michigan?”

Besides creating bright, beautiful photographs, another of Johnston’s passions is sharing those photographs.

“To me, it’s all about sharing,” Johnston said. “If you like what I do, I want to create something you can afford.”

For that reason, Johnston’s exhibit will provide the majority of art-lovers with the opportunity to own a piece of work by an award-winning photographer.

“Susan’s price point is very affordable,” Hurst said. “The top end is $225, and many of her prints are priced in the $60 range. She will also have her 2015 calendars available.”

Those calendars provide art-lovers with the opportunity to own 12 pieces of local art at a price that’s hard to beat.

“All of the photographs in the desk-sized calendar are local pictures, representing what’s typical of that month,” Johnston said. “There’s always a place for a pretty picture.”

An artist’s reception is scheduled for July 19 from 3 to 5 p.m.

“It’s a unique opportunity to visit wine country, visit a vineyard and taste some wine, stop by one of the 30-some local farms listed in our agri-tourism guide and come by the gallery,” Hurst said. “We’ll be serving local wines and hors d’oeuvres. We’ll be putting out food from local farms and some samples of the artisanal foods we sell.”

Located at 8918 First St., Tabula Rasa’s regular hours are 12 to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday, and appointments can also be made by calling (269) 422-2642. More information can be found on their website at

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