Thursday, September 15, 2016

Black Cat Alley opens Sunday - sneak preview

If you haven't yet heard of Black Cat Alley it is Milwaukee's newest claim to art world fame and in fact a huge step forward towards joining other cities with dynamic public art scenes. The formerly neglected, decrepit alley is across Kenilworth Street from the UWM Kenilworth Studios Building, which is not a coincidence as the name Black Cat refers to the UWM mascot, the Panther.

The transformation that is happening is a well-conceived (and apparently well-funded) program of mural painting. Muralists from all over the world have come to Milwaukee to participate. Some local artists have been invited as well--happy to see that! The artist on the cherry picker above cheerfully introduced herself as Bunnie Reiss from LA.

The most prominent mural is this one, entitled "Glitch Frog," which is actually not in the alley but on the side of the building facing Kenilworth (and not visible from the alley itself--I had to ask someone where it was!) The Black Cat Alley website identifies the painter as "European artist MTO."

There is an official opening for Black Cat Alley this Sunday, Sept. 18 from 10-5 pm, which coincides with Doors Open Milwaukee. There will be a brief ribbon-cutting and presentation at 2 pm.

Although some murals are finished, others are clearly works in progress. I suspect that will still be true on Sunday, although I saw a couple artists hard at work when I stopped by late in the day yesterday. It will be interesting to see the progress being made. I also suspect that mural-making will not cease just because there is an opening day. There is plenty of wall space left to fill!

Some are huge, like Glitch Frog, and others are rather small, like this very detailed one.

I didn't notice any identifying information, or signatures (although I might have missed that detail), so I can't tell you who made these examples.

There's been a decent amount of publicity (appropriately) so I expect a nice crowd on Sunday, especially if the weather is good. I know I'll be there. Hope to see you, too.

Black Cat Alley is in the center of the block between Prospect and Farwell, Kenilworth and Ivanhoe.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wildspace performs with Staab at Villa Terrace

A lush sunset over Lake Michigan created a ravishing backdrop as the performers began to dance in the garden of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum. The audience, seated on the long stone staircase that forms the central axis of the garden, was treated to a divine view of the dancers moving within and around Roy Staab's sculptural installation.

Members of the company performed in a variety of spaces throughout the gardens, such as this trellis. The audience, initially divided into groups and then later freed to wander, traveled about to witness each of the segments.

As the evening progressed the lighting became more dramatic. Using my iPhone I took only these three shots to represent the performance. Not only did I not want to disturb the performance or annoy those around me, but I also wanted to enjoy the dance without the mediation of the camera. It was enchanting.

For the finale, the audience was seated immediately before the Staab sculpture, which now loomed large and glowed with colored lighting. The dancers again interacted with the willows and reeds of the installation in marvelous symbiosis.

I attended opening night, last night. There are three more scheduled performances, Sep. 11, 13 and 14. If you act quickly you might still be able to get tickets from the Wildspace website. I heartily recommend it!

Purchase Award at Wisconsin Photography 2016

I am honored to announce that my image, Inverse (above), received a purchase award from the Racine Art Museum for its Wisconsin Photography 2016 exhibition. Inverse, one of five of my photos juried into the exhibit, was shot at the Lynden Sculpture Garden while I was in residence there in 2015. "Inverse" is also the title of the sculpture by Amy Cropper and Stuart Morris that is depicted in the image.

Another image from the Lynden is this one, entitled Wandering Rock, which again is suggestive of the sculpture that is barely discernible as the reflective surface.

Two of the five photos selected for the exhibit are from my High Line Series, including this one, titled simply HL2016-3. The High Line is a hugely popular park created on an abandoned elevated railway in New York City.

My congratulations also go out to the other seven purchase award winners in the show! 

You can see my other two photos in the show in my original post (scroll down or click here), which also includes more information about Wisconsin Photography 2016. It runs through Nov. 20 so there is plenty of time to see it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Wisconsin Photography 2016 opens Sunday in Racine

The show: Wisconsin Photography 2016

Sneak preview:

I am pleased and honored to report that five of my images were juried into this show. This is one of them. I shot it at the Lynden Sculpture Garden during my residency there last year. It involves no 'trick photography' or photoshop gimmickry. Straight photo. Feel free to ask me how I did it when you see me at the opening (or whenever!)

Awards Ceremony and Reception:
Sunday, August 28, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Awards presentation 3:00 pm

Location: Racine Art Museum's Wustum campus
2519 Northwestern Ave, Racine, Wisconsin

Here is some info about the show from the RAM website:

"Wisconsin Photography is a statewide competition organized by RAM’s Wustum Museum since 1979. Thanks to the support of state photographers, the exhibition continues to introduce the museum’s visitors to a wide range of photographic media and artists’ viewpoints. This year's show features 102 pieces by 38 Wisconsin photographers and video artists.

"The museum received online submissions from all over the state. Of 886 pieces submitted by 91 artists, less than one-third of the artists were accepted into this year's show. The exhibition’s juror Karen Irvine selected the 101 images and one video for Wisconsin Photography 2016. Irvine is Curator and Associate Director at Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois."

Here is another of my images included in the show. This one is from a relatively new (and never before exhibited) series from the High Line in New York.

I hope you'll join me at the opening. Or, if you can't make it that day, check out the show, which will be on display through November 26. 

For more information about Wisconsin Photography 2016, go to the RAM website.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A “peculiar curiosity” lurks in the Lynden Sculpture Garden’s back woods


What if the remains of slave quarters were suddenly discovered hidden in the woods behind the smoothly contoured landscape and monumental artworks of the sculpture park? That’s just one of many questions that might be raised by “Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities,” which can in fact be found in the backwoods of the property.

Because of its semi-hidden location and—from a distance—humble character, the temporary installation by Chicago artist Fo Wilson could easily be missed or even dismissed. That is, until you walk right up to it. That’s when it become totally engaging.

Because I was out of town at the time I missed the opening, which was back in June. I was glad to finally catch up with this new feature of the Garden. The fact that the piece was located “out back” on property is significant. After all, maintaining its “natural” environment for the education of its visitors and patrons is part of the Lynden Sculpture Garden mission.

A circular swath of meadow had to be cleared for the installation. While not unprecedented—David Robbins’ “Open-air Writing Desk” (detail above) also is located in the “wilderness” of the back section—it is sufficiently rare that it adds depth to a sculpture that has no lack of meaning or symbolism.

The cabin is intriguing enough in itself. Sections of wall are opened up to reveal the interior and a ladder to the sky emerges from the roof. The exterior stud walls double as shelving for some of the “curiosities” indicated in the title.

The inside is decorated with many more objects, artifacts and images. They are arranged carefully, with almost obsessive neatness. The references to slave quarters and slavery is overt. But there is so much more than that as well. Here are a few thing that caught my attention.

Make sure you mosey on over to the far corner of the cabin and look down into the pail that sits there, surrounded by turtle shells.

The ceiling is worth a glance upwards.

Don’t miss the tiny figure of Thomas Jefferson being ladled up for our amusement—or derision.

My favorite moment in the cabin was when I noticed this intensely hued caterpillar casually worming its way along a bookshelf. A reminder, if I needed one, that nature is more than a setting for an outdoor sculpture like this one.

A distinct but related body of work by Wilson is on display in the Lynden gallery. Wilson alters postcards that depict stereotypes of the “happy servant” with the stated intention of  “restoring their dignity.”

While I was there I couldn’t help but notice a few changes around the grounds since I was last there. (Disclosure: I was artist-in-residence in 2015.)

The Brementown Musicians have been outfitted with colorful new duds.

It was a pleasure to see Marta Pan’s “Floating Sculpture No. 3” back in the water. It was missing in action the whole year I spent in residence, being restored. It looks beautiful.

The lawns are drier than I’ve seen them. We do need a little rain.

But the flowers are as spectacular as ever.

“Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities” will remain on display at least through October 30, so you still have plenty of time to check it out. There have been several performances at the Garden in association with the installation. One final dance performance is scheduled for September 17. I’m putting it on my calendar. Hope you’ll join me there.

For more information go to the Lynden Sculpture Garden website.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

Where might you expect to find the world’s largest collection of wood type? New York makes sense. Somewhere in Germany. But no, it’s in the small town of Two Rivers, WI at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. Having studied typography and printed hand-made books on a letterpress in my college years, I’ve long been curious about the museum. I’ve passed by it numerous times driving to and from vacations in Door County. Until now, though, I’d never stopped in.

Coincidentally, my curiosity had been peaked on a recent trip to Detroit, of all places. There I happened upon a small working letterpress print shop that had a lovely decorated alphabet broadside (aka hand-printed art poster with text) for sale, which I purchased. It had been printed (as you can see) at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, WI. So, when I went to Door County recently I just had to finally stop there.

Platen printing press
There were maybe a dozen cars lined up against the front of the building, which fronts onto Hwy 42 right on the shore of Lake Michigan. Inside it was quiet, though. The staff was warm and welcoming. “Thank you for stopping,” was a refrain I heard several times with great sincerity. The museum is set up to be self-guided, presumably because it is a working museum and with infrequent visitors the staff has other work to do.

Linotype printer
But the young woman who took my $5 admission fee also graciously and unhurriedly led me through and introduced me to the collection. I asked why the museum is in Two Rivers. The collection originated in what had been the Hamilton Wood Type manufacturing and printing company located there.

Carriage saw and half-round timber to be cut into type
Although I was left to explore the place on my own, the occasional passing staff members were invariably friendly and asked if I had any questions. In addition to innumerable glass-fronted cases of wood type itself, there were displays showing the process of manufacturing wood type, including the machinery required, as well as a variety of printing presses.

For the uninitiated, wood type, along with more common metal type, is individual letterforms made out of wood (or metal) that are used in a printing press made for the purpose. Setting type involves placing each letter in sequence, along with punctuation and spacing —and it’s done backwards! It is a laborious endeavor that once was necessary in order to print any kind of text.

The museum has an entire wall that is a veritable relief sculpture composed of wood type samples of various, mostly enormous, sizes. A small portion of it is all captured in the photo above.

Posted casually on several walls throughout the building are displays of broadsides, artistic prints and posters.

In one corner of the huge building I found a group of students busily concentrating on printing projects. As was emphasized to me several times, this is a working museum. Part of that work is to offer classes and workshops. This group was from the Illinois Institute of Art.

Stephanie Carpenter, Assistant Director of the museum (above, left), paused her mentoring of them to explain to me what they were working on, printing sample alphabets from amongst the vast collection of type available from a wall of type trays.

There is also a more traditional gallery that displays rotating exhibitions of framed work. The current exhibit is from the Silver Buckle Press, which was recently acquired by the Hamilton Museum in an agreement with the University of Wisconsin libraries, its former owner. Silver Buckle Press also was a historical collection of printing equipment and printed materials operated as a working museum by the U. W. libraries in Madison, WI.

The Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10 - 5 pm and Sunday 1 - 5 pm in the summer.  Winter hours and more info on their website. I can testify that they will be happy to receive you if you stop to visit.