Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Year in the Menomonee Valley on exhibit at WPCA

You're invited!

Please join me for

Eddee Daniel: A Year in the Valley
Witnessing Menomonee Valley Revitalization

May 29 - July 11

Opening reception: Friday, May 29, 5-9 pm.

Walker's Point Center for the Arts
839 South 5th Street
Milwaukee, WI

The exhibition will feature photography and stories from my 2014 tenure as the Menomonee Valley Partners' inaugural Artist in Residence.

The Menomonee Valley, once blighted and shunned, is in the midst of a dramatic and well-orchestrated transformation and has become a nationally renowned model for sustainable urban redevelopment. It was an honor and a joy to have had the opportunity to observe and document part of that transformation. I hope you'll come to see the results.

In addition to the opening reception, there will be a panel discussion on Thursday, June 18, 6–9 pm. Representatives from Menomonee Valley Partners, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Urban Ecology
Center, Sixteenth Street Community Health Center and the Harbor District will join me to discuss Menomonee Valley revitalization – its history, ongoing development and future plans.

For more information about the exhibit go to WPCA.

For a lot more information about my year in the Menomonee Valley, including photographs, essays, and stories, go to the website that I created for the purpose.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Horicon Marsh: A poetic and photographic odyssey

The marsh was burning. I’ve known for some time about changing forest management practices. I knew that controlled burning is now widely accepted as a method to control invasive species as well as to prevent uncontrolled, destructive wildfires. But it hadn’t occurred to me that a wetland would burn.

I was in Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge with my friend Charlie. We happened upon a crew in the midst of a controlled burn authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Traveling around the marsh we noted many areas that had been visibly burned, some quite recently, others during the past year. Evidence of burning became one of my photographic themes during our odyssey.

Charlie is a poet. We share similar values, including a reverence for nature, and we like to get away together now and then to soak up some of it. We usually choose a place within a couple of hours drive that is near a park or natural area. Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the U.S. and less than an hour from Milwaukee, easily fits the bill. 

We dawdled for two days, walking trails in several parts of the marsh. As will become clear when you read Charlie’s poetic contribution below, I did more walking than he did. We stopped at both the federal and state visitor’s centers. Yes, there are two contiguous sanctuaries, the State Wildlife Area as well as the National Wildlife Refuge. Not that you can tell by looking at the topography (although we humans couldn’t leave well enough alone—a dike roughly coincides with the boundary.)

By the second day we had circumnavigated the entire marsh, both state-owned and federal. We even discovered Nitschke Mounds County Park filled with dozens of ancient, but un-photogenic, Indian mounds (above). Unlike the wildlife refuges, which were popular, we had the mounds to ourselves—and the thousand-year-old spirits of Late Woodland Culture effigy mound builders.

People often visit Horicon to see the birds and we certainly saw plenty, although migration was far from peak. We saw mostly the ubiquitous Canada geese and a variety of ducks. I also tallied a flock of Sandhill Cranes (above), a couple flocks of swans, a deuce each of prairie chickens and wild turkeys, bluebirds and some kind of swift. Plus numerous unidentifiable (by me) other birds.

And 16 turtles. You won’t see many birds in the photos. Gotta admit I’ve never been patient enough to be a wildlife photographer. Turtles are sitting ducks, so to speak, so I caught a few of them. Mostly I focused on my customary and oppositional themes: revealing the enchantment of nature near my urban haunts and finding traces of humanity’s presence in natural landscapes. The burns were an enthralling bonus.

Charlie wrote the following poem. I took photos. More selections below.


Goose honk and bird chirp,
the blue-brown landscape
of marsh grass and water,
a few dead trees scratch the sky.
This is a place for birding,
but I’m here for loafing.
I’m good at it, lying here
with my head on a rock.
The afternoon sun, warm
on my face and jeans,
blue bird atop the blue bird house,
turkey vulture overhead.
Times like this I realize
if you stay still and wait long enough,
nature comes to you.

Charlie Rossiter, April, 2015

To see more photos go to my flickr album.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Who is C. Matthew Luther and why does he like Superfund sites?

Path of Least Resistance
I interviewed C. Matthew Luther for JSOnline's Art City recently. He spends time in places around Wisconsin that have been so polluted that they are designated Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. Then he makes art.

Read my interview at Art City Asks C. Matthew Luther.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Still Life" takes dramatic twist in Lynden Sculpture Garden show

When I say "still life" what comes to mind? Carefully arranged tableware, flowers, bowls of fruit, probably. Dead animals, maybe. The operative word is "still." Or put another way, inert.

Bach's Organ
Robin Jebavy's still life paintings, on glorious view in the Lynden Sculpture Garden gallery, are anything but inert. True, they are composed of carefully arranged tableware, mostly glass or other transparent, shiny and reflective objects. Janet Fish's paintings might, appropriately, come to mind. But what sets Jebavy's work apart is the tensions she creates between pairs of opposing principles. Transparency vies with opacity. Shape and color fight for dominance. Frenetic movement resolves towards calm. Complexity is contained by an organizing symmetry that suggests the form of a mandala without ever arriving at such specificity.

A mesmerizing amount of detail invites close scrutiny while the large scale of the overall compositions rewards a step back to take it all in, to ponder intensely.

Robin Jebavy: Recent Paintings is on view through May 31.

Lynden Sculpture Garden is at 2145 W. Brown Deer Road. More information on its website.

Full disclosure: I am currently one of the artists in residence at the Lynden Sculpture Garden.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Sense of Place at Wisconsin Lutheran College

Eddee Daniel
I am honored to be included in an exhibit at Wisconsin Lutheran College entitled "A Sense of Place." The other artists in the show are Leon Travanti, James Smessaert and Elizabeth Carr Whitmore.

The opening reception is Friday, Feb 27 from 6 - 8 pm.

Kristin Gjerdset, who heads the college's Art Department, was the curator. Here is her statement describing the show:

Wisconsin artists present their perspective on place, whether a geographical location or in the mind. Travanti’s paintings reflect his travels to Asia, inspired by “the rhythms, patterns and colors of exotically decorated people, animals and architecture.” Smessaert’s wood constructions connect with early recollections of tree and forest and “the free play of childhood that still lives within him.” Whitmore’s series of “felted wool landscapes detail her exploration through unfamiliar landscapes of Eastern Europe and South America.” Daniel’s photographs “explore the intersection of nature and humanity.”  Together the artists are represented in various art collections locally, nationally and internationally, and have years of experience in exhibitions and artist residencies.

Wisconsin Lutheran College's Schlueter Art Gallery is located at 8815 W. Wisconsin Avenue in Wauwatosa. The gallery is free and open to the public. Hours: Mon-Sat 9-9, Sun 1-9.

If you've never been to this gallery, it is beautiful and is inside the dramatic Center for Arts & Performance. I hope you'll join me for the opening.

Here are samples of each of the artists' work. Except for my own, these are details of larger works and, in my opinion, don't do them justice. When I delivered my work today I saw the others' pieces for the first time. It's a great show! I'm glad to be part of it.

Leon Travanti
James Smessaert
Elizabeth Carr Whitmore
Eddee Daniel

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Winter Carnival animates the Lynden Sculpture Garden

Giggles, belly laughs and expressions of amazement emanated from the gigantic, colorful inflated sculpture. Powered by a dozen delighted people hidden inside, the bulbous, floppy form lurched around the snowy grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The enormous interactive “sculptural event” was created, choreographed and guided by Chicago artist Claire Ashley.

Claire Ashley
Entitled “My Little Pony,” Ashley said it was loosely inspired by the famous Trojan horse. With its resemblance to circus tents and hot air balloons it was the perfect centerpiece for the Lynden’s daylong Winter Carnival on Saturday.

 A beautiful, sunny day brought out crowds of people, including many families with children of all ages. A full complement of staff and volunteers had prepared a diverse array of activities to keep everyone engaged. There were art-making projects outdoors and in the studio, face-painting, guided tree-walks, bird watching, and even a mediated cloud watching experience. People came with show shoes and cross-country skis to enjoy the grounds. In addition to Ashley, other guest artists also had been invited to create installations for the day.

Here is a photographic tour of some of the festivities and participants.

courtesy Rachel Lokken
Performance artist and current artist-in-residence Pegi Christiansen used logs, dried weeds, pinecones and other natural materials to create what she called Winter Forest.

All of the materials had been collected on the Lynden grounds earlier in the fall.

The trailer, appropriated by Christiansen for the occasion, was itself a performative sculpture called Sightseer by Brian Nigus.

Although unable to be present in person, environmental artist Roy Staab, who has participated in past Winter Carnivals, contributed a conceptual scheme for a colorful snow city.

Under the direction of Lynden volunteers, it was executed by visitors, who added snow forms onto it and joyfully colored it with powdered pigments throughout the course of the day.

Robbie, a junior at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, could be found reclining in a chaise longue overlooking the frozen pond. Passersby were invited to join him for the conceptual performance piece.

A large hand-painted representation of grocery store shelves served as an informal portrait studio as subjects posed with cut out shapes of vegetables.

 Some folks, like Todd and Aayla, took time to admire the permanent collection of sculptures. There was a “scavenger hunt” to help motivate young and old to identify the artists. This is “Pin Oak I” by John Henry.

Periodically, the huge “Trojan Horse” was tipped on its side so that a new group of game volunteers could squeeze into it through 12 openings in the bottom.

Then off they would go in a lumbering dance to music playing through loudspeakers. Ashley directed the action from the outside by pressing up against the fabric and calling out moves to those on the inside. Hilarity generally ensued. Disembodied voices were heard coming through the fabric along with laughter. “I had the craziest dream last night,” a man’s voice said, “and it turned out to be completely accurate!”

courtesy Rachel Lokken
Despite the resemblance, it was clearly more than a circus-like attraction. Enchantment led to thoughtful reflection for more than a few participants. “Talk about an immersive art experience!” exclaimed Kelly as she emerged after her stint on the inside.

Caroline, when her daughter Luca poked her head out and then squeezed back through the puckered fabric opening, said “It’s like being born again.”

After photographing the action several times I decided to holster my camera and climb inside to see it for myself. The looks on people’s faces once inside ranged from gleeful to awestruck. The fabric that had seemed opaque from the outside glowed like stained glass. Movement was tricky, requiring coordination with 11 other people and faith in those on the outside to guide our blind progress.

courtesy Rachel Lokken
In addition to “My Little Pony,” Ashley had brought along two similar but smaller, pillow-like sculptures. Meant for two individuals who would dance around or bump into each other, these were called “Double Disco.”

We ended the day by gathering around a bonfire. But, like most of the activities at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, the fire had an artistic purpose as well as a social one. Pegi Christiansen invited people to help her disassemble the “Winter Forest,” remove the branches, weeds and other natural materials from their little shelter and bring them to the fire.  

Pegi Christiansen (left)
After having been thoughtfully collected from the natural surroundings and carefully arranged into a sculpture, the collective burning had the air of ritualistic celebration.

Winter Carnival happens once a year, but the Lynden Sculpture Garden is open 6 days a week and has programming throughout the year. Check the website for more information. Full disclosure: I am one of the Lynden’s 2015 contingent of Artists in Residence. I would also like to thank Rachel Lokken, a senior at MIAD, for her assistance at this event. As indicated, some of the photos are hers.

For more images of the Winter Carnival go to my flickr album.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sneak preview: Distressed Structures – The Weathering of Ecology opens Friday at Jazz Gallery

The Riverwest Artists Association presents an exhibit called Distressed Structures - The Weathering of Ecology at its Jazz Gallery with an opening on Friday, January 23.

This group exhibit has been curated by C. Matthew Luther, MIAD instructor and newly appointed president of the Riverwest Artists Association. I have the honor of being among the five featured artists. My work includes this portrait of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Cheryl Nenn, who will also be giving a presentation at the gallery (see below).

Here is his description of the show:

Distressed Structures is a transient glimpse at Milwaukee artists who use ecology as a literal or conceptual theme in their work. Artists around the world produce art that questions our consumer culture and ideas of the landscape. This exhibition takes a look at local artists that use nature as a form of dialogue about the human relationship to the physical, temporal, and ephemeral affects of ecology.
            On the one hand, there is certainly no shortage of picturesque landscape paintings and photographs to adorn the walls of country homes. On the other hand,  there is a continual evolution in our understanding of how we view the landscape through the lens of art and what pictures mean. We need to examine the history of nature and the history of the painted, photographed, and sculpted landscape, along with current ecological theory as one continuum. The two have become intertwined. The pictorial landscape must now position itself within not only the history of art and painting, but history itself, land use, the rise of environmentalism, sustainability, and the social value of nature.

Featured artists: Melanie Ariens, Eddee Daniel, Matthew Lee, Nathaniel Stern, Corbett Toomsen. Scroll down to see samples of each artist's work.

The exhibit runs January 23rd to Febrary 15th.

Opening Reception January 23rd, 6-9 pm.

Three community programs will be presented in conjunction with the exhibit:
Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Cheryl Nenn, Presentation Thursday January 29th at 6:30pm
Artist Panel Thursday February 5th at 6:30pm
Milwaukee Water Commons Presentation Thursday February 12th at 6:30pm

All are free and open to the public.

Untitled, Melanie Ariens
Diligent Truth, Matthew Warren Lee

Syncopated, Nathaniel Stern

Yosemite, Corbett Toomsen

Jazz Gallery is at 926 East Center Street in Milwaukee.
Gallery hours: Tue. 6 - 9 and Sat. 12 - 5.
More info at RAA.