Thursday, May 20, 2010

MATA Juried Membership Show Preview

Pandora's Garden, by Jean Sobon.

The Milwaukee Area Teachers of Art (MATA) has been promoting art education and the professional and creative growth of its members for approximately 60 years. Its premier event is the annual spring membership show, which currently is on display through June 18 at the 100 East Wisconsin Building (corner of Wisconsin Ave. and Water St.)

The opening reception and awards presentation will be held this Saturday, May 22 from 5:00 – 6:30 pm and is open to the public.

Phil Krejcarek setting up one of his assemblages, made from a variety of toys. At first glance the work seems whimsical, but closer inspection is rewarded with an ironic wit and conceptual integrity.

What I find remarkable about this annual exhibit is not the fact that elementary and secondary as well as college art teachers create art of their own in addition to nurturing that of their students; it is the consistently high quality of the work. If the range of styles, media, and techniques used is often quite broad, it merely serves to enrich the show and demonstrate the value of personal creativity amongst those whose primary vocation is to inspire the creativity of others.

The judges for this year were Bruce Knackert from UWM's Inova Gallery and Richard Knight from the Tory Folliard Gallery. Since the awards will not be announced until Saturday, I cannot report on them. However, I have seen the work and I shall provide a sampling that I hope will get you to come to the opening, or at least to visit. (The building is open 7 am – 6 pm Monday – Friday.)

Full disclosure: I am not a dispassionate observer since I have been a MATA member for about 30 years and I have two works in this show. Consequently I have known some of the other exhibitors for much of my career. However, although there are familiar names under many of the art works, I am frequently surprised by the work that is there to discover. I have come to expect a stimulating experience at the MATA show. Not every annual show lives up to expectations. This year’s is excellent!

Jim Dietz’s two rather different pieces are both entitled “self-portrait.” One is a free standing sculpture that is clearly figurative, but assembled from oddly shaped machined lumber and modeled clay. The other (detail at right) hangs on the wall like a painting but is also more dimensional and incorporates found objects into its dark, sculpted surfaces. This one is subtitled “Ressurection.” I hope the artist feels better soon!

Sheri Van den Boom creates amazingly intricate and lushly tactile hand-made books, no two alike in form and content. That the two in this show necessarily are under glass frustrates my need to touch and read them. The “book” shown in this detail (below) is contained in a carefully crafted frame house with reproductions from William Blake emblazoned on the front. It is displayed open to reveal that each “room” of the house is a tiny colorful, hand-lettered book. The miniature books hide behind covers that resemble the doors of this masterfully conceived house.

For something very different, there is Frank Juarez’s subtle take on minimalism and color field abstraction (right).

I don’t have time or space to do this show justice. I’m missing some of the other gems. You’ll just have to go see it. But I will include one final example. It wouldn’t be a MATA show without stalwart, Chuck Wickler, who has spent a lifetime teaching in an elementary setting and producing a remarkable body of conceptually demanding work. This one (below) is typical, using language and color to create layered meanings. Wickler’s style is immediately recognizable and yet each new piece is fresh and thought provoking.

For more info, click on MATA.

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