Press Articles

November 2004 | Volume 11 | Number 4


The Pope receives his first Wooden Gallery picture

The Pope receives his first Wooden Gallery picture

Artist’s painting finds way to the Pope

By Kimber Bilby

TRAVERSE CITY – You never know when divine inspiration will strike.  For artist Casey Truelove, it happened one evening while praying at church and led to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  While praying at St. Mary’s Parish in Lake Leelanau two years ago, Truelove was struck by a beam of light shining down on a statue of Christ’s Crucifixion.

trueloveGod just threw inspiration at me,” said the 25-year-old graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids and a Traverse City native.  Within five months, Truelove put the finishing touches on his painting.  “Crucifixion,” a rendition of what he saw that evening at church.  About the same time, Casey was getting ready to attend World Youth Day in Toronto, an event started by and attended by Pope John Paul II.  As a token of his appreciation, Truelove wanted to present the Pope with a framed print of his work.

Enter Wooden Gallery on Front Street in Traverse City.  Owner Mike Desforges is one of Casey’s biggest fans.  They met years ago when Casey was a student at St. Francis and would wander through the gallery, admiring Desforges’ work.  “I’ve always enjoyed Mike’s style,” the young artist said. “It’s very distinctive; you can always tell a Wooden Gallery piece.”  What makes Desforges’ work distinctive is what he doesn’t use—-glass.  Instead of a traditional framed print with glass overlay, Desforges’ presents the artwork alone, centered on a beautifully-crafted wood frame. 

As one of Casey’s biggest supporters, Desforges covered the costs of the print to be given to the Pope.  But a miscommunication nearly prevented the Pope from receiving it.  A message wasn’t passed along that the print was to be given to the Pope in Toronto and was returned to Casey in Traverse City.  As luck would have it, or perhaps divine intervention, s Seminarian visiting Gaylord heard of the mix up and took the painting back to Vatican, where local Bishop Patrick Cooney presented it to the Pope on behalf of Casey and all area Catholics. 

Truelove said the experience was “indescribable” and certainly inspirational. He has since started another painting titled, “Madonna and Child.”  “Getting the Pope a piece of art work doesn’t happen everyday, but he pulled it off,” Mike said.  “It just goes to show you a lot of faith and persistence gets the job done.” BN


The Record-Eagle
September 29, 2004


Record-Eagle/Douglas Tesner
Michael Desforges, owner of The Wooden Gallery, sits inside his store at 116 E. Front St.  The store specializes in a process that allows a print or photo to be frames without glass.

Special process gives store an edge

Business ready to expand

By Heather Johnson Durocher
Special to the Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY – Michael Desforges constantly mulls new ideas to run his business more efficiently or to create something not yet seen in the marketplace.  “I do what I do by genetic predisposition,” said Desforges, whose research chemist father was an inventor.  Desforges, 57, is owner of The Wooden Gallery in Traverse City.  The business is more than a store downtown; it encompasses a trademarked process – “The Wooden Gallery Process” – he created.  With this process, prints are saturated and mounted using an acrylic emulsion.  The final coats are hand-applied and textured.  “This process allows the print or photo to be framed without glass,” said Desforges, who has operated the business at 116 E. Front St. for 22 years.  “Consequently, there is no glare, reflection or breakage.”  About 12 galleries carry the product and there are at least a half-dozen Wooden Gallery stores pending across the country.  Desforges said only recently has he been ready to expand operations beyond his small two-story space at the back of a hallway shared with Sundance Soccer and The Camera Shop. 

Born just outside Paris, Desforges learned about acrylic emulsions as a young man while teaching French at the University of Toledo.  During his summer break he worked for a business that used an emulsion process for decals.  “I became so fascinated,” said Desforges, who during a nine-month break from teaching developed the emulsion that led to his present product.  He began experimenting with acrylic emulsions as a way to preserve prints and photos.  The whole concept was to create a product where the image and not the framing was the point of focus, presenting in the highest esteem what the artist or photographer created,” he said. 

The business sells thousands of its products each year.  Customers may purchase finished prints at the shop or bring photographs or prints to be custom.  Several nationally known artists have their limited edition prints finished with the process for their customers.  Kathy and Mike potter have about 20 Wooden Gallery prints in their home and their two Potter’s Bakery shops in Traverse City.  Kathy Potter was impressed with how Desforges transformed aging photographs of the bakery’s earliest days into beautiful images.  “What he did for us was take these old pictures of ours that were ripped and tattered,” she said.  “But now you wouldn’t know it.”


March 11, 2005 | Volume 15 | Issue 16


Susan Barnowski with some of the images she’s captured of Lake Missaukee sunsets. Through a special process at The Wooden Gallery in Traverse City the photos have been made to look as if they were painted. (photo by Lynn Elliott)

Sunsets inspire Lake City photographer

By Lynn Elliott

LAKE CITY–During the summer months, and even all occasional winter day, Lake City photographer Susan Barnowski can be found waiting anxiously for the twinges of color heralding the coming Sunset. Camera at the ready, Barnowski takes full advantage of the view afforded her and husband John by their waterfront property on the shores of Lake Missaukee to capture images of brilliant, flaming sunsets.

“I basically shoot anything, but sunsets are my main interest right now,” Barnowski said. ” Lake Missaukee has the most beautiful sunsets.”

The Barnowskis visited Lake City for several years, John since the age of five when his uncle built a cabin in the area. They have been married for 38 years and both hail from Royal Oak . But, after living in Troy for 35 years, the couple finally moved permanently to the home they had made on the beach and visited for 15 years.

The breathtaking sunsets they were frequently treated to combined with Susan’s life-long love of photography to inspire her. Barnowski traces her interest in photography back to when she was just five or six years old, when her parents gave her a camera and turned her loose.

“I tortured my family and my poor little kitty, taking pictures all the time,” she recalls. “I always liked taking pictures. Then in 2002 my children gave me a digital camera and I started taking pictures all the time, especially once we moved up here permanently to live on the beach.”

Some of the images Barnowski has captured include swirling skies full of vibrant, flaming colors over a placid, dark-blue Lake Missaukee; to an interesting shot taken when the ice was beginning to recede. In that particular photo, she was able to show the setting sun still suspended brightly in the winter gray sky as well as reflected an the thinning ice and an expanse of water opened and ready for Spring.

“My family and friends started complimenting me a lot and encouraging me all the time, so I decided to try my hand at being a professional at something I loved doing so much,” said Barnowski.

As a result, Barnowski has accumulated an impressive collection of Lake Missaukee sunsets, some of which have since been converted through a special process at The Wooden Gallery in Traverse City to look as if they were painted rather than photographed.

Further encouragement, and some helpful criticism at times, came from the owner of The Wooden Gallery. Some of Barnowski’s work will soon be available at The Wooden Gallery, while other pieces can be seen and purchased at the Marina Restaurant in Cadillac and the Lakeview Motel and Gift Shop in Lake City. But, whether the photographs sell or not, Barnowski has found her eye to appreciate beauty and the satisfaction that comes through artistic expression. Using a camera instead a brush, Barnowski appears to have found her medium.

“There are nights I have to ask ‘Are you ever coming in?'” – John added.

“It’s wonderful to look out at the beautiful lake and see a sunset like those we get here,” the photographic artist explained. “Every night is a new picture.”