Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seeing portraits at the Museum of Wisconsin Art

The woman slouched in the corner of the gallery would be odd enough, wearing the mask as she is. That she’s a sculpture and not a woman makes the effect even eerier. If I hadn’t already been familiar with Marc Sijan’s super-realistic sculptures, however, I might have been turned back even before getting into the gallery. An intimidatingly stern-faced policeman greets visitors at the door. One could easily decide that you’d come into the wrong place by mistake, until you pull your gaze away from his disturbingly motionless stare and glance around to see the rest of the main gallery at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. Yes, OK: this is art.

To See Ourselves as Others See Us: Contemporary Wisconsin Portraits closes today, so if you haven’t already been there I’m sorry to be the one to tell you how great a show you missed. A dozen artists working in a variety of media—photography, painting, drawing, sculpture—have one thing in common: they train their creative energies on the study of individuals. I didn’t make there until yesterday, but I’m glad I got the chance. Of course, portraiture is a venerable genre in art, but I think it takes an unusual talent to make portraits that have an audience beyond the subjects themselves. With little else to tie them all together, the works in this show manage to cohere because they succeed so well at this. Such a small sampling of Wisconsin artists can hardly be considered comprehensive, but it’s a fascinating sample.

Besides Sijan, I found other familiar favorites, especially David Lentz and Katie Musolf - predictable choices, but always satisfying. I particularly liked the inclusion of Musolf's preparatory drawings along with her finished paintings. That was a highlight of the show for me. The others were less familiar but no less satisfying. Thank you, MWA!

No comments:

Post a Comment