Monday, April 25, 2016

Nothing Kills A River Like Concrete: Exhibit invitation

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Concrete River: 
Memorial and Promise on the Kinnickinnic River

Photography by Eddee Daniel
Collaborative shrine and installation with Melanie Ariens

Alfons Gallery
1501 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee, WI

Opening reception: May 22, 1 - 3 pm. 
Artist's remarks: 2 pm.


I hope you'll join me and Melanie for this event. This will not be an ordinary photo exhibit. We plan an installation that will make the gallery feel like the concrete channel.

Exhibit runs through July 31

Gallery hours:
Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun 12 - 3 pm
and by appointment.

For more information: Alfons Gallery website.

Artist's Statement:

Nothing kills a river like concrete. How we treat rivers is suggestive of how we relate to the natural world in general.

Historically, rivers have been central to the growth of human civilization. This was as true at the founding of Milwaukee as it was in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates. Somehow, though, in the late twentieth century, our modern society lost sight of this vital truth. Milwaukee’s three rivers suffered many abuses, including habitat loss, pollution and dams.

But there’s nothing like pouring concrete into it, essentially transforming it into a drainage ditch, to signal the destruction of a river. Sections of other rivers and creeks in the Milwaukee River watershed were subject to this debasement, but the Kinnickinnic River suffered the most.

In the 1960s the KK, as it is still affectionately known, was straightened and lined with concrete in order to mitigate flooding problems in the surrounding neighborhood. Although at the time this dramatic action did provide some relief from the risk of flooding, it also compromised the river in significant ways. The concrete channel destroyed aquatic and riparian habitats, degraded water quality, and increased the risk of drowning during high water flows. Ironically, today even the original intent of the channelization has become outdated and ineffective for flood control.

Fortunately, for the river and for the community, attitudes have once again shifted. Caring for and revitalizing rivers has captured the public imagination. On the KK the current solution is a project to remove the concrete channel and restore the river to a more natural condition. When I was invited by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to document the project area I jumped at the opportunity. It’s exactly the kind of subject to which I am drawn.
 
The KK River Project, officially known as the Kinnickinnic River Corridor Neighborhood Plan, is a joint endeavor by the MMSD and the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center. The project area is located between 6th Street and 27th Street. (An earlier phase of the project, completed in 2012, removed the concrete channel downstream from 6th St.) The 50-ft. wide concrete channel is to be removed and a 200 ft.-wide rock-lined river channel created. This has necessitated the acquisition and deconstruction of 83 homes in order to accommodate the wider river. Although most of those houses had already been removed, I witnessed and documented the deconstruction of several of the few remaining.

Because the project is in its early phases, most of the images in this exhibit depict the river’s current state as a concrete channel. Furthermore, the installation itself is intended to reinforce the claustrophobic and treacherous conditions that exist. In order to represent the more hopeful future of the KK, I have invited environmental artist Melanie Ariens to collaborate with me on a water shrine to signify the restored vitality that is envisioned in the KK River Project.

See more of my KK River photos in my Flickr album




Monday, April 18, 2016

Bayou's State: dancing into oblivion

Andrea Burkholder wants you to know she's a cajun. She cooks a cajun dinner for the audience cum guests who arrive to participate in her creation, called Bayou's State. A spirit of collegiality and community ensues. After dinner everyone decamps to the theater to witness Burkholder as she performs a dance that is equal parts personal history, contemporary abstract movement, and theatrical treatment of a dramatic and tragic slow-motion environmental disaster. The environmental story relates the destruction of coastal wetlands in the Mississippi delta.

Afterwards, the people in the theater, who have taken on several collective identities during the evening, including dinner guests, audience, and witness, have become compatriots. They are invited back into the dining room for dessert, drinks and deconstruction of the evening's experiences.

I was privileged to collaborate with Andrea. My photographs of the KK River graced the dining area as well as the stage, and her set decoration was inspired by my series of fence images from the Little Menomonee River Superfund clean up site. I am kicking myself mightily for neglecting to take installation shots of the display, but here are a few that represent the performance (shot beforehand.)






Bayou's State took place at Danceworks over the weekend. I look forward to seeing what Burkholder has in store for future performance events!


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Milwaukee Arts Barge makes a splash at the North End

Gallery night was characteristically fertile last night. I enjoyed a variety of exhibits, including William Zuback's moody figure studies at the Iron Horse Hotel, Pamela Anderson, Richard Taylor and Terrance Coffman at the Pfister, and too many folks to name at the Marshall Building.


The most surprising find for me last night was not at an established gallery but at the North End apartments. I'd been to their pop up gallery before and on a whim decided to check it out before heading to the usual places downtown.

The exhibit is titled Mobility Matters. According to the wall text panel, it explores "links between mobility, agency and value in Milwaukee." OK, so moving beyond the academic lingo, what really intrigued me was the 3-D map of Milwaukee and the idea of moving an "arts barge" around the community using its waterways. I'm all for "activating" the waterways, as they put it.


The map is a wonderfully graphic depiction of not only Milwaukee's lakefront and river system, but also its parks and open green spaces, which are represented in raised relief.

There is a Milwaukee Arts Barge website, which describes the project this way:

"Two of Milwaukee’s unique assets, the confluence of public waterways and its performing arts communities converge and newly engage the social fabric of the city through the construction of a floating performance space, the Milwaukee Arts Barge (MAB). The project utilizes Milwaukee‘s most underutilized public space, its network of rivers and lake, as a means to transform the city’s social, political, and cultural boundaries through the performing arts.

"MAB establishes a premiere public venue for the performing arts communities to heighten its exchanges with the city and its residents. It offers unique opportunities for both emergent and established arts communities to further propel the city as a space of civic engagement, exchange and creative place-making.

"The Milwaukee Arts Barge (MAB) develops new forms of agency for the performing arts communities to choose locations that have both creative and social impact. MAB allows these communities greater access to reimage the future of the city."


I look forward to hearing more about this project as it unfolds and hope to see a gallery of public art works floating up the Milwaukee River before long.

The Milwaukee Arts Barge is a project of the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning. The North End is at 1551 No. Water Street. The display will be on view through June 30, 2016.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bayou's State: Dinner, dance and ecology


Bayou's State is a dance program about the Louisiana coastal wetlands that also includes a cajun dinner and--I'm pleased to announce--my photography!

Pictured above is Andrea Burkholder, dancer, choreographer and cajun chef extraordinaire. She has roots in Louisiana and has brought her exciting program to share with the Milwaukee community. For while one of the themes of the program is the sinking Mississippi delta another is building community and finding common ground.

Two dinner/dance programs: 
April 16, 6:00 pm and April 17, 5:00

Location: Danceworks, 1661 N. Water Street, Milwaukee

Buy tickets: Danceworks

Reservations required! 
(It is a dinner, not only a dance, after all. Gotta know how much to cook.)

Here is Burkholder's description of the program:
Choreographer and performer Andrea Chastant Burkholder explores her Cajun heritage as she travels through the declining Louisiana coastline, and it’s swamps and marshlands via an aerial net, bungee cords, and trapeze. Bayou’s State, an original aerial dance/theater piece reflecting on Louisiana’s coastal land loss as it relates to the local culture and environment.

With a focus on the creation of community and finding places of common ground, Andrea begins the evening by offering everyone a traditional Southern Louisiana dinner of homemade gumbo, red beans and rice, greens, and cornbread. Ingredients are provided by Springdale Farm, Rolling Meadows Sorghum Mill, and other local farmers and gardeners. Andrea and her Cajun father, Lafayette, LA native, Lloyd Chastant, will prepare the dinner and serve it at Danceworks, just steps from the Milwaukee River.


The dinner will be followed by a 50-minute performance event that will include storytelling, aerial work, dance, theater, and photographs as set design by Eddee Daniel. Inspired by her own family history, bayou travels, and readings, Andrea navigates the issues of rising coastal waters, disappearing marshland and barrier islands, man versus nature, and increasing water salinity. She uses Louisiana’s experience as a metaphor for the many places where waters define a way of life, but are being threatened.

I was delighted when Andrea approached me to collaborate on this remarkable program. Her set designs were inspired by my construction fence series of photographs (above right). In order to make a connection between Louisiana and Milwaukee, she has asked me to display prints from my Kinnickinnic River project series during the dinner portion of the event. She also has asked me to participate in the audience talk back after the show each night.

I hope you'll join me and Andrea for this dynamic presentation.

For more information, go to Andrea's website.

Sneak preview:
Kinnickinnic River Channel, 2015


Sunday, March 27, 2016

It Takes One: A feature by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

I've had the honor to be featured on The Cultural Landscape Foundation's website. I recently went to Houston to attend a TCLF conference called "Leading with Landscape: The Transformation of Houston." In getting to know a few of the TCLF members there I shared a little about my work and what's going on in Milwaukee. They were interested enough to interview me for their feature, "It Takes One." I'm reprinting it below. If you want to read the original on their website, click here.

It Takes One: Eddee Daniel

I am a photographer and writer specializing in urban ecologies and cultural landscapes. My practice is multidimensional. I tell stories about particular places. I also examine how we perceive and construct understandings of nature in the contexts of culture and the built environment. I have long characterized my work with the paradoxical term ‘Urban Wilderness,’ which symbolizes the complexity of my subject matter as well as its inherent tensions.

I have degrees in art education with an emphasis on photography. After more than 30 years of teaching art, photography, and architecture in secondary- and higher-educational settings, for the past six years I have pursued my current practice full time. I also have a long record of environmental advocacy, having served on the boards of several local non-profit organizations. I love all of the arts. Currently, I am collaborating with two choreographers, who are incorporating my imagery into environmental-themed dance programs. My interest in cultural landscapes is less a conscious choice than a thoroughly ingrained personal temperament.

Menomonee River reconstruction, Milwaukee, WI
How do you define a cultural landscape?
A cultural landscape is a place, whether natural, built, or otherwise designed, that has felt the impact of the human imprint. These places may be interpreted broadly or very particularly. Today, at the beginning of what some are calling the Anthropocene Epoch—when human influence has begun to affect ecology on a planetary scale—an argument can be made that all landscapes have a cultural aspect. For the purposes of my artistic practice, I generally choose to examine landscapes where the human and natural elements are inextricably interconnected: Either there has been a deliberate effort to modify a place or the features of a place have motivated humans to adapt to it. To me, cultural landscapes are places that live in the imagination as well as exist as earthy terrain: They have stories worth telling.

What is the Urban Wilderness Project?
The Urban Wilderness Project began as a voyage of discovery as well as a means to advocate for conservation and restoration of natural habitats within my local urban and suburban setting. It was also about how to perceive a watershed while living in a city. I set out to explore and document the existing conditions within the Menomonee River watershed, which begins in an exurban area of farms and encroaching suburbs and runs through the heart of industrial Milwaukee. I spent six years exploring the physical features of the region and, in particular, its rivers and riparian parks. The project dealt with issues of land use, flood management, economic development, recreational opportunities, pollution, wildlife diversity, and habitat restoration. The outcome was a book entitled Urban Wilderness: Exploring a Metropolitan Watershed, published by the Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago.

Beyond that specific project, I have used the term ‘Urban Wilderness’ more generally to symbolize the complexity of my experiences as well as my creative responses to the tensions and themes symbolized by this idea. The term, which for me is rich with hope as well as contradiction, has provided the conceptual underpinning for various bodies of work I have undertaken in the past 20 years. Although these bodies of work are loosely unified by the overarching ‘Urban Wilderness’ concept, they vary in focus and style from documentary realism to abstract formalism. Throughout, I try to emphasize an experience of the world that is relational and conditional rather than singular and fixed.

St. Louis Art Museum, Forest Park, St. Louis
How do you choose your projects?
In a world that seems to have become an endless series of ecological catastrophes, I have made a determined effort to choose projects that tell a more hopeful story. I admire the efforts of others to raise awareness about a wide variety of important and pressing environmental concerns; that is essential. However, I seek places where I see positive transformation either underway or being planned. In 2014, I served as the inaugural artist-in-residence in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, a blighted post-industrial landscape that is in the midst of economic and environmental revitalization. In 2015, I worked with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to document its Kinnickinnic River Project, which will eventually remove several miles of concrete channel and recreate a more naturalized river.

Is your work primarily documentary, or does it strive to do something else?
My work can be difficult to categorize. Much of what I do is documentary. My writing can be described as creative non-fiction. My photography veers between straightforward documentary and the fine art formalism that was the basis of my artistic education. I am unquestionably an advocate for many things: the creation and enjoyment of urban parklands, sustainable development, river revitalization, instilling a love of nature in children, just and equitable access to nature, etc. My artistic work often reflects this. Sometimes it is more abstract or symbolic, like the long-running personal project I call Synecdoche: the fragment that represents the whole. Uncharacteristically, but importantly, that project is not devoted to a specific place. Instead, it suggests a more universal experience of nature as fragmentary and that what remains must stand in for what has been lost.

I would like to think that I observe the world with a childlike sense of wonder. Occasionally I believe I achieve that valuable goal. But in truth, there is nearly always a defining conceptual basis to the work I do, whether symbolic, as in Synecdoche, or pragmatic, as in the restoration of a damaged river.

Curtain Wall, from Synecdoche: the fragment that represents the whole
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the medium of photography in capturing the essence of a place?
Photography has nearly universal appeal due to its accessibility and democratic character. People generally believe what they see and photography can lend credence to the subject it represents. That can be an asset for a documentary project. It enables viewers to visualize a place and helps drive a narrative. However, to turn the old saw on its head, a photograph often requires a thousand words to put it into context. Without contextual support, a single image can easily be misunderstood. To remedy this potential pitfall, I rarely depend upon a single image and I include written narratives to support my theses.

Alienation from nature is a frequent theme in your work. Are parks and maintained natural areas a true remedy to such alienation?
While I am sensitive to the issue of alienation from nature, I don’t consider that a starting point. It is my fundamental belief that the human/nature divide is a false one. If I have a starting point for my practice it is the idea of the interdependency of all life and the interconnection between nature and the built environment symbolized by the theme of 'Urban Wilderness.' Having said that, in an increasingly urbanized world we do have to deal with alienation from traditional experiences of nature. I believe that urban parks and natural areas are indeed a vital component in combatting what author Richard Louv refers to as “nature deficit disorder.” In my experience, the well-documented health and spiritual benefits of exposure to the natural world accrue to time spent in urban natural areas as readily as elsewhere.

Urban Wilderness, from the Urban Wilderness Project
What message would you like to give our readers that may inspire them to make a difference?
Like most people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, a huge percentage of my youth was spent outdoors and unsupervised. That kind of upbringing is so rare today that children fortunate enough (from my perspective) to have that experience are dubbed “free-range kids.” If children are not provided with daily opportunities to run free in nature, the consequences will not only affect their own development, potentially leading to an increase in physical disabilities, decreased mental acuity and spiritual poverty, it will also create a society that no longer values nature enough to protect what remains.

As more and more of the global population lives in urban settings, sensitively designed public parks and natural areas become increasingly vital to everyone’s future. We cannot reset the clock to 1955, but we can create a future that enables people of all ages to see and touch nature within their own communities.

Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Creating an Artist's Book: A workshop with Max Yela and Eddee Daniel, Session 2

Developing the Artist's Book: Concept and Practice
Part II: The Return

A book design and self-publishing workshop at the Lynden Sculpture Garden

You do not need to have attended Session 1 to participate in Session 2. 

April 2, 2016 - 1:00 - 4:00 pm. 




Book design has been an increasingly important aspect of my artistic practice. In the past eight years I have created 15 self-published books using online services Blurb and MagCloud. In this workshop I will share my experience and help you create your own book.

I am delighted to be joined by Max Yela, head of the UWM Special Collections Library. Max has an impressive knowledge of all kinds of books, bookmaking processes and book design ideas. His contributions will complement my own and provide a deeper understanding about how to create your own artist's book.

Session one of this workshop was held on Feb. 20 with a lively and engaged group of 9 participants. While many of them are planning to return for the second session, others are welcome to join in as there is room for more.

Here is what we covered in session 1:

Photographer and book artist Eddee Daniel and book-arts theorist Max Yela offered an introduction to the practical and theoretical approaches to working with the book form as art medium. Participants were introduced to concepts and approaches for developing an artist's book project. Skills and techniques were discussed, including the basics of self-publishing a digital, print-on-demand book.  

Using hands-on exercises and examples of artist's books from Special Collections at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries and Eddee Daniel’s personal book samples, we discussed basic book-arts concepts, including movement, pacing, and rhythm in book design; image editing for narrative sequence; form as meaning ("function follows form"); 2D and 3D composition in book design; "time" as a design element; the function of text as a visual component of design; color transformations; and the role of materials in conveying meaning and expression.


Session 2: The Return
There will be a brief review of concepts and themes introduced in Session 1. 

The main thrust of this session is for attendees to bring ideas, images, mock-ups, etc. to discuss and critique as possible book projects. Images may be brought either in print or digital formats. Each participant in this session will present their concepts and materials for review and critique by the group within the context of the ideas and approaches explored in Session 1.

Fee: $50/$45 members. 

To register, go to the Lynden Sculpture Garden website.

To see a complete listing of my photo books, go to my website.


Link to book description

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Part 3, permanent collection

As art museums go, Crystal Bridges is a neophyte, founded a mere 5 years ago. However, the founder was and is Alice Walton, of Wal-Mart fame, and who is ranked the 16th wealthiest person on the planet. With a $200 million endowment and Walton's support, the museum is making up for lost time. The permanent collection is very comprehensive. One of the things that made it interesting for me was the fact that, with a couple of notable exceptions, the works on display by the many familiar artists are not the familiar ones.

I'll make this brief. Just a small sampling of the huge collection. A few things that caught my eye.


I'll start with a couple of the exceptions. This isn't just any old painting of GW. If I'm not mistaken this one by Gilbert Stuart is the single most famous one.


This is Kindred Spirits, by Asher B. Durand, possibly the single most iconic painting of the Hudson River School. (See my recent review of the Hudson River School exhibit at Milwaukee Art Museum.) The acquisition of this painting was controversial but the controversy adheres primarily to the New York Public Library for selling it rather than to Crystal Bridges for buying it.

Valley of the Catawissa in Autumn, Thomas Moran, 1862
 The Hudson River School is well represented.

The Song, William Merritt Chase, 1907
How do you capture music in a painting?

Excavation at Night, George Bellows, 1908
Not a typical Bellows. I've never seen one quite like it and I love it.

Blackwell's Island, Edward Hopper, 1928
Although this is fairly typical Hopper, it was new to me.


This one's just plain fun, don't you think? Did you guess who painted it? Look at the round balls of trees and curve of the hill. Grant Wood. But, although it's a portrait of a real, specific person (a banker named Campbell in the wall label), he's titled it "The American Golfer."

The Tree, Helen Lundeberg, 1938
 Someone I've never heard of. A bit of allegory.

Big Red Lens, Frederick Eversley, 1985
Cleverly located, too.


Gallery view featuring a David Smith sculpture and paintings by Norman Rockwell and Gottlieb, among others. Eclectic mix.

Quarantania, Louise Bourgeois, 1953
I had to include this as I'd seen two very similar versions of it at MoMA and the Whitney in January.


Another artist I'm not familiar with, Evan Penny. Huge, superrealistic sculpture with a catchy title: "Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be. Variation #2." Begs at least two questions for me at least: Does he expect to die first? And, how many other variations of what he doesn't expect to become are there?

Venice Installation, Jenny Holzer, 1990

Holzer gets a whole courtyard built right into the museum to herself. Nice.

Landscape, Mark Tansey, 1994
This was a blast from the past. Having forgotten about him completely, upon seeing this (quite gigantic) painting I was immediately reminded of an exhibit of his paintings at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Probably in the 1990s.

Enassamishhinjijweian, Tom Uttech, 2009
OK, this was the biggest surprise at the museum, in more ways than one. First, although very similar to many I've seen, it's literally the biggest Uttech painting I've ever encountered--almost as big as the Tansey on the adjacent wall. It also takes pride of place at the culmination of the entire collection, on a wall of its own in the final gallery. I never expected to see the work of a professor of mine at UWM hanging in such a prestigious setting.

For the sake of brevity I've left out quite a few gems. If you're going anywhere near the northwest corner of Arkansas, I recommend a swing in the direction of Bentonville to see this museum. I bet it's even more stunning after the trees have leafed out.


I leave you with a "Hanging Heart" by Jeff Koons, which literally hangs in the cafeteria's grand hall at the heart of the museum complex, one of the "crystal bridges" that span the impounded waters of the creek running through the ravine.

This is part 3 in a trio of posts about Crystal Bridges. If you missed the first two and want to start at the beginning, click here. Part 1 is about the outdoor art and part two is about the photography exhibit called "The Open Road."