Margie Guyot lives and paints with guts and gusto in northern Michigan

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One of Margie Guyot’s paintings.

At the end of a grassy lane, in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by blue bottle trees, abundant gardens, 4 cats and a stuffed possum, lives a buoyant, funny, take no prisoners gal. One of the spunkiest people I’ve met. And by the way, a talented artist.

Margie Guyot with her hand-painted outhouse(1)

Margie has shaped every detail of Possom Hollow, including this artistically rendered out house.

Margie Guyot (rhymes with riot), 64, grew up in Iowa. Her dad was 50 when she was born. Her mom died when she was 11. After, her grandmother stamped her foot and screamed, “You killed her!” Relatives told Margie and her sister, “You girls are spoiled brats.” So Margie is entitled to some eccentricities.

In high school, she enjoyed art and band. Her art teacher made her choose. She chose the sax and played in the band. Her skill won her a music scholarship to Morehead State U. in KY.

“Right before college, I overheard one of my evil aunts tell my father, ‘Don’t feel bad if Margie flunks out.’ So I studied my ass off and graduated with highest honors. Spite is a powerful motivator.”

After graduating, Margie had a job in a road band. “Our manager got us the worst gigs. Country & Western bars with drunks fighting.” Unfortunately, the band knew only one Country & Western number.

Margie Guyot gazebo her favorite spot for tea and building in background is her studio

Margie Guyot’s gazebo is her favorite spot for tea. The building in background is her studio.

When all her friends began getting married, Margie ended up marrying the sound guy. “He looked like he had deep thoughts. Turned out he didn’t have a thought in his head.” Her husband “wasn’t very motivated.” He worked about half the time. They lived in a rundown trailer park.

Margie got a job at Ford Wixom assembly plant, putting together automotive cushions. “The first night I thought I’d drop dead or quit. But the money and the benefits were great.” Not so, the hours. 5:30 pm to 4:00 am.

Her husband asked how she could work in a factory. She said, “I like to make rent payments.” It was grueling work. “I’d get cut or bruised every night. Those machines could kill people who stepped in the wrong place at the wrong time. One guy was sucked into the giant machine that welded pans together. Another time a foreman discovered the body of a new hire, crushed repeatedly by a moving car. He’d gone to see what caused the line to jam.”

Outdoor shower at Margie Guyot Possom Hollow

The outdoor shower decorated with more blue bottles at Margie Guyot’s Possom Hollow.

At about 30, Margie discovered the work of well-known western landscape painter Clyde Aspevig. She promised herself she’d study with him if she had the chance and later found a workshop at Scottsdale Artists School. About a week before class, she paused while installing a gas filler pipe in a Lincoln Town Car. “I thought: Who do you think you are? You’ll be the worst one there. You haven’t even bought paints yet.” But she’d already paid tuition and bought an airline ticket. “And yes, I was the worst. But I took good notes and worked hard.” She learned atmospheric perspective, composition basics, and how to paint the darkest darks first, then the medium tones, then the lighter.

She took a class with wildlife artist Robert Bateman in Montana. And another with renowned watercolorist Janet Fish on the French Riviera. Daniel Gerhartz and Scott Christensen were also among her favorite teachers. Studying this way was expensive, but thanks to Ford Motor, Margie could afford it.

In Detroit, days were a matter of “work 10 hours, sleep for 4, go to a community college for an art class and do it all over again the next day.” Relations with her husband continued to deteriorate. “I’d suggest he get a job. He’d say, ‘Don’t bother me. Leave me alone or I’ll kill myself.’”

After 16 years, she saw a shrink. 2 visits later, she found the courage to seek a divorce. A friend warned her: “Have the keys in your pocket and the suitcase in the car. Hide the guns.” She said to her husband, “’We’re not happy, are we?’ He paused for about 2 seconds and said, ‘No.’” The UAW provided divorce papers. “I told my husband if we both filled out the forms and signed, it would be $42.” They both signed.

It was summer of 1993. That same summer her sister died a “horrible cancer death.” Her father moved to a nursing home. Margie bought a “nice” sleeping bag and a tent she could set up in 5 minutes. She visited a different campground every night. “I made my own decisions for the first time in my life. The first time I cooked chicken after my divorce, I smiled and thought Hah! Now I get the white meat.”

8 18 13 Caladiums 36x36 72dpiShe heard about plein air program at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey and decided to attend. It was the first time she’d been in northern Michigan. She was considering moving to New Zealand. But struck by the beauty of Northern MI, she told a realtor friend: “If you can find a mailbox and driveway and you figure a house must be back there somewhere, that’s what I want.”

The realtor found just the place, south of Charlevoix. Margie named her new home Possum Hollow, rented a 17 foot van and moved herself. She since added a spacious studio, outdoor shower and a free-standing screened porch she calls her “swamp house.” Whenever she sells a painting, she makes an improvement.

In 1994, Margie underwent a lumpectomy. After, reading about health issues and shamanism, she met a Peruvian shaman at the Omega Institute in New York. The woman handed her a brochure about trips to Machu Picchu.

“Instant goosebumps. I had to go.”

Margie went on a 3-week trek along the Inca Trail in Peru, blowing conch shells, participating in shaman ceremonies. She bathed in streams, slept in a tent on a glacier mountain, shopped in shamans’ markets. “It was glorious!”

On the last day of her third trip to Peru, her bus group attended a shaman ceremony at a famous ruins outside Lima. A shaman came down the aisle of the bus doling out San Pedro, a bitter hallucinogenic cactus drink. They sat in meditation at the ruins, led in a healing ceremony by the shaman.

After, the group were to dine at a “ritzy” restaurant in Lima. “The maître d’ was waiting for a bunch of rich gringos. Instead, all these spaced out people slithered off the bus, smiling and amazed at everything. Thank God the meal was pre-ordered. The psychologist sitting next to me was slowly cutting grains of rice into tiny bits with her fork. I drank my Pisco sour, laughing, mesmerized by my hand raising the froth to my mouth.”

After more lumpectomies, she said to her doctor, “Lop ’em off. I’m not doin’ this again.”

These days, she doesn’t think about her mortality, but rather about art. She paints still lifes in her studio and spends many more hours doing plein air paintings out of doors, even during brutal winters. She enters and often wins painting competitions. Her work is shown at the Charlevoix Circle of the Arts (CCA).

Margie Guyot and Charlevoix Circle of the Arts Director Gail DeMeyere

Margie Guyot with Charlevoix Circle of the Arts Director Gail DeMeyere outside Margie’s home near her blue bottle trees.

CCA Director Gail DeMeyere says Margie is “never formulaic, always pushing. She doesn’t define the value of her work by its commercial prospects. If she wants to paint the bones of an animal against a hand blown piece of glass on top of a tapestry, she will. Life has taught her the hard way to be true to herself.”

Margie loves her quiet, rural setting. She prefers being alone “because there are no crazy people to deal with.” Bobcats were a problem. She no longer tempts them by raising chickens and rabbits. Her rooster and guinea hens were always fighting. The rooster made such a racket that she chased him away. When he returned, she got out her hatchet and he ran. She yelled, “All the way to Mancelona if you’re smart!”

Last spring, Margie stopped playing sax in different bands. “I got tired of gigs where you drive for an hour, play for 3, and maybe take home $10.” She’s happy to spend her days with feline friends Picasso, Miss America, Mr. Wonderful and Bernie Sanders, and painting and gardening. And baking what’s said to be world class blueberry pie.

The country life sure beats the trailer park where “the maintenance man hated me. He knew I got to bed around 5 in the morning. He always started mowing just outside my trailer at 7am.”

After 3 trips to Peru, Margie had an epiphany. “I realized I prefer my own backyard. I don’t have to go anywhere to be happy.”

My Horsie GOOD Horsie 30x40 9 24 11

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12 thoughts on “Margie Guyot lives and paints with guts and gusto in northern Michigan

  1. Diane Victor

    Thank you Suzy for this inspiring article featuring Margie’s brave spirit. Overcoming adversity and finding oneself is an art in itself and alone deserves applause. Add Margie’s talent and magic happens. Bravo Margie!

  2. suzy farbman

    As emailed from Gail DeMeyere
    Bravo Suzy! What a wonderful column! And Bravo Margie! I have the article on my FB page.

    1. suzy farbman

      Thanks, Gail, for arranging such a super fun afternoon and fascinating intro. Keep up the good work at the CCA.

  3. suzy farbman

    as emailed from Gail De Meyere
    Bravo Suzy! What a wonderful column! And Bravo Margie!

  4. suzy farbman

    As emailed from Ken Winter
    One of the best columns you’ve written. You helped me understand the inner strength we possess to move forward. Thank you.

    1. suzy farbman

      Thanks, Ken. I’m grateful for your comment, your journalistic talent, and your friendship.

  5. Kerin Friden

    I so admire Margie’s free spirit and fearlessness! I was reminded of Michael Meade’s words from his book Fate and Destiny – The two Agreements of the Soul, “The divine asks at the end of each life’s unique adventure: In the midst of all the confusion in the great marketplace of life, did you live the life seeded in your soul to begin with? In the twists of fate that entangled you in the troubles of the world, did you find the thread of destiny intended for you? And in the end, did you become weird enough and finally wise enough to become yourself?” I have no doubt Margie will be able to respond in the affirmative!!

    1. suzy farbman

      Wow, Kerin! Great quote! What a thoughtful and intelligent comment. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Bonnie Staffel

    Marge is one of Northern Michigan’s treasures. Hope to meet you one of these days. We have some comminality in our lives as artists reaching goals. Cancer is one, another starting out in a rustic cabin at a lake in Indiana. Our lives have been quite a journey.
    Glad you have found your refuge and a rewarding way of life.

  7. Kurt Wietzke

    A terrific profile of a very talented artist written by an outstanding writer. Thanks to you both.

    1. suzy farbman

      Thanks so much, Kurt. I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. Not to mention your astute analysis. LOL

  8. Alan maciag

    This was a beautifully written article about a wonderful painter, friend and artist. Actually , one of the best that I have read.
    Margie and I paint together every time I’m UPNORTH. She finds Beauty in the simplest road or object along the way.

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