Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fairy Queen Fantasy at Lynden Sculpture Garden: Bravissimo!

If you made it to the performance, then you've experienced the magic and I don't have to say a word. Enjoy a few photographic reminiscences.

If you missed Fairy Queen Fantasy, which was performed twice this weekend on the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden, allow me to give you a small taste of earthly and other delights.

The fairies, who could appear from anywhere, were warm and welcoming.

The story, adapted as an opera by Henry Purcell, was based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." While I'm not normally an opera fan, the few that I've seen and found memorable have stretched the genre in creative ways. I will remember this one a very long time.

Over 50 performers led an audience estimated at over 400 (on Friday evening) in two directions around the central pond. Professional members of Danceworks and Milwaukee Opera Theater were supported by a cast ranging in age from seven to seventy-seven (I was told.)

The settings were stunning as musicians and dancers alike took advantage of the monumental sculptures that grace the landscape.

The lighting was spectacular!

The musicians were suitably dignified and occasionally--and appropriately--undignified. They managed to be heard in the outdoor environment, accompanied now and then by sirens on Brown Deer Road and bullfrogs in the pond.

Even the younger fairies were poised and well practiced...

...and when they weren't performing themselves, they were engrossed by those who were.

At the climax, when both groups of performers and their trailing audiences had made a full circuit and returned to the patio, the audience was invited to join in the fun.

In the end, in what seemed to be (from the startled and amused looks on the musicians' faces) an impromptu departure from the script, Oberon swept Titania off her feet.

But wait, there's more. If you'd like to see the complete set of photos from both a rehearsal and the Friday night performance, go to my flickr album.

Full disclosure: I am serving as one of the Lynden's Artists in Residence for 2015.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Danceworks' Fairy Queen Fantasy will enliven the Lynden this weekend

The latest in a series of creative collaborations with arts organizations will unfold throughout the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden on Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20. Danceworks is presenting a tour de force adaptation of a piece by Purcell called Fairy Queen Fantasy. The performance involves 53 dancers aged 7-77, along with a host of musicians.

I went to a rehearsal last night and I was quite captivated by the performance, even in the rough form of a stop and start rehearsal. The action moves throughout the grounds, weaving around and through many of the sculptures (as you can see from the photos.) Here are a small selection of images. To see the complete set go to my flickr album.

For more information about the performances go to the Lynden Sculpture Garden website.

To see additional images from the rehearsal go to my flickr album.

Full disclosure: I am serving as one of the Lynden's Artists in Residence for 2015.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lynden Sculpture Garden celebrates 5 years of art and nature

At the Lynden Sculpture Garden, the place "where art meets nature," sometimes nature gets the upper hand. This happened on Saturday when visitors coming to celebrate the fifth anniversary had to brave blustery, unseasonably cold conditions along with rain showers of varying intensity.

The Lynden opened its doors to the public on May 30, 2010. Seemingly fortuitously, that date fell on a Saturday this year. The event planners accordingly scheduled their 5th anniversary event to coincide with the exact date. But you can't plan for good weather (not here in Wisconsin that is!)

Some stalwarts showed up anyway. Many of the scheduled festivities went on despite the unfestive weather. Children made kites and painted rocks. Former artist-in-residence Paul Druecke joined former writer-in-residence (and birder) Chuck Stebelton for a soggy bird walk. They reported seeing a total of six species, including the resident flock of Canada geese.

A featured one-day exhibition of bonsai trees, beautifully installed on the patio by the Milwaukee Bonsai Society, was undiminished by the rain. The tiny, sculpted trees were in themselves worth the effort to brave the elements. Bonsai, of course, takes the intersection of art and nature to an extreme, making them one and the same.

Sara Caron occupied Brian Nigus's vacant Sightseer installation. She could be found ensconced inside--where it was dry! She had created in there a pop-up welcome center and gift shop.

The shop was stocked with Lynden items, including a special 5th Anniversary t-shirt (a first for the sculpture garden) and Lynden cards by artist Sarah Luther. Caron had added a number of umbrellas for the occasion, appropriated from the Lynden's lost-and-found.

Caron also had creatively packaged up a series of natural items--twigs, pine cones and such--that she had collected the previous day from the grounds.

Speaking of the grounds, the landscape was quite lovely in the wind and rain. The fresh foliage whipped wildly about and gusts continually drew swirls of steam off the pond.

Flowers and lily pads were particularly striking, bejeweled with water droplets.

Linda Wervey Vitamvas installed a temporary assemblage entitled "The Feast" in 2013. Whenever I come to the Lynden I revisit the piece to see what changes time and weather have wrought. I've enjoyed seeing the gradual decay and dissolution of the unglazed ceramic plates and chalices. This time the entire structure of the installation had finally come completely unmoored from the shoreline on the pond where it has been situated for two years.

Lovelier than ever, I thought, the earthenware plates emulated the lily pads, floating among them on their submerged platforms.

Art meets nature.

Next time the Lynden Sculpture Garden has an event planned and you see inclement weather in the forecast, dress appropriately and come anyway. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

To see more images from the Lynden's 5th Anniversary event go to my 5th Anniversary flickr album.

Full disclosure: I am one of the Lynden’s 2015 contingent of Artists in Residence. To see many more images from my residency (so far) go to my Artist in Residence flickr album.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Art City Asks: William Zuback

Art City Asks is a feature of JS Online. My interview with Bill Zuback was posted there on May 27:

Amanda, from the Dress Series
Who are you? How do you feel about yourself? How do you present yourself to the world around you? These and other fundamental, sometimes uncomfortable, often complex, questions of identity drive much of Milwaukee photographer William Zuback's creative output. Zuback may be motivated by newsworthy social issues such as bullying, discrimination and stereotyping. He might as easily find inspiration in a poem or other literary sources.

Like identity, which can be a thick stew of psychological, social, emotional and experiential ingredients, it is hard to categorize Zuback's photography. The work ranges from straightforward, almost classical nude figure studies to bizarrely surreal still-life confections.

Life on the Margin, from a series called “shutters/deadends/lens/pens”
Two things do unify a prodigious and diverse artistic practice. In a field gone digital and overwhelmingly done in color, Zuback chooses traditional studio processes and a time-honored palette of black and white tonalities. And although the force of his subjects' personalities can be powerful, his metaphors are subtly evocative, his compositions nearly always carefully and overtly constructed.

We met at the secluded lot in West Allis where Zuback lives and works. He ushered me into the windowless garage that serves as his studio. I was invited to sit in an old cushioned armchair while he sat on a folding chair. The dimly lighted space was cluttered with a wide variety of objects, including many dolls and manikins in various states of dress and dismemberment. Bill's calm, warm demeanor made it all feel inviting.

--> Jane Doe, from the Identity Series The artist's disarming serenity might explain how he attracts subjects and convinces them to reveal themselves physically and emotionally to his probing camera. After graduating from well-regarded Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, Zuback returned to his West Allis roots where he and his wife raised two now-adult children. He supports his personal practice as the supervisor of the photography studio at Kalmbach Publishing Co.

Zuback is represented by the Frank Juarez Gallery in Sheboygan. His work has been shown at a variety of local venues including the Wustum Museum, the Museum of Wisconsin Art, and the Charles Allis Museum.

Ashley, from the Dress Series
"The Dress Series," Zuback's current body of work, was inspired by a poem called "A Dress of Fire" by Dahlia Ravikovitch. The series will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in September. These images continue his fascination with identity and explore the psychological and social implications of feminine formal attire.

To read Bill's thoughtful responses to the interview questions go to Art City Asks.

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.