Back to nature

John Lemker, S.M., “Dancing Waters (Michigan),” John Lemker, S.M., “Dancing Waters (Michigan),”
John Lemker, S.M., “Spring Wildflowers (Texas Hill County),” John Lemker, S.M., “Spring Wildflowers (Texas Hill County),”

Show at Gallery Saint John by Brother Lemker gives “Pause to Ponder”

By Jud Yalkut

John Lemker, S.M., “Spring Wildflowers (Texas Hill County),”

With the grounds of Bergamo-Mount Saint John in Dayton providing so much natural beauty with its rolling hills and woods, it is a natural fulcrum from which its Brother artist members radiate out into the larger world. John Lemker, S.M. has refined his digital photography techniques to such a fine point that his landscapes and focuses on the cycles of nature bring alive any region which he visits.

A Marianist Brother since 1951, Lemker has spent many years teaching physics, mathematics and scripture. His intense interest in nature photography developed during the 1970s, being further enabled by his employment through a stock picture agency, resulting in the publication of his images in the U.S. and abroad.

Lemker has conducted photography workshops at Bergamo Center and at the University of Dayton Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He has completed workshops with professional nature photographers such as John Shaw and shows regularly at the Gallery Saint John and at Spitler Works of Art in Ann Arbor and in the Kalamazoo area of Michigan.

Lemker’s current “Pause to Ponder” show at Gallery Saint John, through February 13, features a magnificent display of Michigan autumn scenes and some amazing floral scenes from Texas, especially the jewel-like Hill Country. The vibrant cascades over rocky levels of his “Dancing Waters” in Michigan becomes an iconic momento of natural energy, which becomes resolved into levels of perception in “Autumn Fog at Lake’s Edge” in the upper peninsula of Michigan as well as the unearthly smoky white horizontal division of “Autumn’s Fog at Lake Edge,” or the soft muted colors of “Autumn Leaves in Fog.”

A fallen “Birch Log in Autumn” creates a diagonal fringed in peeled whiteness and multi-colored leaves, a “Multicolored Maple with Snow” crosses the seasons with snow-draped brilliant colors, and a large spray of red “Maple Branches Among Branches” becomes the dynamic emphasis against yellow leaves and white-barked diagonals. The snow-laden branches of trees with still vibrant yellow leaves remark on the theme of “Seasons Meet” in Michigan, and an “Autumn Sunset” in the Upper Peninsula has striking red, purple and golden tonalities that transcend perceptions.

Colors become even more transcendental in Lemker’s studies of blossoming landscapes in the hills of Texas. “Paintbrush Blossoms” have subtle but glowing shades of pink, magenta, yellow and white against active shady green stems, and the “Texas Spring” is sprinkled with a profusion of bright tones on both sides of a fence extending into faraway hills. Lavender and yellow blossoms encircle clustered cacti in one “Spring Wildflowers” and another version is a Klimt-like tapestry of yellow and pink verticals intermixed with lacy blues. A white blooming burst of “Yucca and Cactus on Cliff” are precariously anchored on rocky shelves in a stark minimalist composition, to be contrasted by the brilliant vertical shoots of “Wildflowers of Spring” reaching for the sky.

Also recent from the past season is a series of landscapes from Tennessee. The billowy golden spread of golden clouds ascending into a crowning effloresce sparks a “Smoky Mountain Sunrise,” while the evolving colored tones of sky are seen through the fine etchings of bare branches in “Morning Fog Layers, Smoky Mountains.” The passages of water over rock levels are dramatized in “Bald River Rapids” and “Smoky Mountain Cascade,” one with descending showers and the other with rolling and leaping waves over rocks.

Lemker discovers his own hidden worlds on the campus of Bergamo, from the smallest living detail to the primal prairie which still survives in this Midwest climate.

John Lemker, S.M., “Dancing Waters (Michigan),”

The blue “Spiderwort Blossoms” glisten with their covering raindrops and specks of golden yellow, and the “Little Frog Admiring Large Lily” rests in the center of a large pad, one of several surrounding the white-yellow lotus-like bloom. A “Prairie Sunset” is golden rust-red and purple-brown over tall grasses, and three trees of yellow, green and conical red are signs of “Autumn” at Mount Saint John.

Like a celestial pond surrounded by autumnal trees and floating fallen leaves is “Autumn Thornton Lake” on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the “Toketee Falls” in Oregon falls into the shelf of a pond that empties in high cascades through various stages of cave structures. Meanwhile, back on Mount Saint John, Lemker finds a red “Knockout Rose” with its accompanying buds and tiny thorns, a close-up of a “Purple Cone Flower” abstracts its petals into streaks of pink-purple against green, and the magnification of a “Sunflower” displays a ring of golden beads around the internal helices of spiraling seed heads. There is much to discover by being quiet in the natural realms through which Brother Lemker roams with his camera.

The Gallery Saint John is located at Bergamo-Mount Saint John at 440 Shakertown Road in Beavercreek. Gallery hours are noon – 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday or by appointment, (937) 320-5405.

Reach DCP freelance writer Jud Yalkut at

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