Friday, December 30, 2016

A residency in Managua, Nicaragua

I've been AWOL for a couple of weeks. But I have a good excuse: I've been out of the country. In Nicaragua to be exact. Over the past ten years my wife, Lynn, has developed a regular working relationship with a non-profit organization in Managua called Cantera. The mission of Cantera is to build a more just, equitable and sustainable society through holistic community development using the methodology of Popular Education. This year Cantera invited me to accompany Lynn in the capacity of artist in residence for a two-week period. We just returned last night.

During my residency I wrote poetry and made photographs that I hope capture a little of the resilient spirit of Nicaragua. On the one hand it is a tropical land with abundant natural beauty and on the other it is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti.) As the residency coincided with Christmas, some of the images reflect the season, which looks very different in Managua than it does in Milwaukee! I'm still editing the poetry but here is one of two initial selections of photos. The other set can be seen on my Urban Wilderness blog.

To see a different selection of photos from my residency go to Urban Wilderness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mending the Earth in Milwaukee: A new book

A photographer friend of mine has a new book called Mending the Earth in Milwaukee. Her name is Ney Tait Fraser. 

The book contains sixteen stories of yards landscaped with native plants to create mini-Edens for wildlife. The yards sustain pollinators such as butterflies, indigenous species of bees, birds 
and critters that feed raptors.

The owners of the sixteen yards featured in the book were members of Wild Ones. They were profoundly influenced by one of its leaders, Lorrie Otto. Otto was a gifted teacher. The heroic saga of Lorrie Otto getting DDT banned in Wisconsin is also included. 

Otto with children at Indian Hill School where she helped to establish native plants.  

This book is crammed with useful information and is illustrated by photographs.

Mending the Earth in Milwaukee is currently available at:

Woodland Pattern Book Center 720 E. Locust Street Milwaukee.

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center on Brown Deer Road.

Wehr Nature Center, 9701 West College Ave., Franklin WI 53132.

Riveredge Nature Center, 4458 County Highway Y, Saukville WI 53080.

The book costs $30 plus tax at all four locations.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Red sky in morning, sailors take warning

For the past two days since the election I have not slept well. I wake up with headaches and a very real sense of disorientation. I look out the window expecting to see a red sky, as if the physical world must have changed along with my interior one.

There have been moments in the past like this one, when I have heard news that I knew at once--in my gut more than my intellect--that nothing would ever be the same again. Yes, the Kennedy assassination. The fall of the Berlin Wall. 9/11. The deaths of my parents.

My gut feeling may be wrong. Perception does alter reality, but that is an internal struggle. I know that approximately half the country may have reacted much as I am reacting now if my candidate, Hillary Clinton, had won. That contributes to my disorientation. I must hope that the fears generated by the campaign are not realized in coming months and years....

The fact that nothing has actually changed and that the sky remains blue this morning is almost as surreal as the image of the red sky my imagination has fabricated. But my mental and digitally altered images has put me in mind of that old sailor's proverb: "red sky in morning, sailors take warning."

Here's hoping that this morning's blue sky means clear sailing ahead.

ps. Hoping is not the same as being optimistic. For a less nuanced reponse to the election I recommend Aaron Sorkin's, written in the form of an open letter to his daughters. Click here.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Day of the Dead displays opening at Latino Arts Gallery

Dia de los Muertos Ofrendas

October 28 – November 18

Latino Arts Gallery

Opening Reception: Friday, November 4 at 5:00 p.m.

Celebrate life with Latino Arts’ annual Day of the Dead exhibition, featuring a dazzling array of ofrendas (altars) prepared by local, regional, and international artists.
Concrete River shrine
Environmental artist Melanie Ariens and I have reprised and reformatted our Concrete River shrine/reliquary and it is on display along with the many more traditional ofrendas at the United Community Center's Latino Arts Gallery
My photographs of the Kinnickinnic River are mounted on panels that represent the concrete channel. Melanie once again has created two assemblages. On one side is a shrine honoring the river, water in general, and the Great Lakes. On the other side is a reliquary composed of detritus removed from the river. In keeping with the spirit of Dia de los Muertos it is meant to symbolize the life, death and rebirth of the KK River.
Concrete River reliquary
I hope you can join us for the opening. If not the exhibit remains on view through Nov. 18. 

The Latino Arts Gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
The United Community Center is located at 1028 South 9th Street in Milwaukee. For more information go to the Latino Arts website.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

FORWARD opens at the Charles Allis Art Museum

Inverse, from the Lynden Sculpture Garden Series
I am honored to announce that two of my images have been included in FORWARD: A survey of Wisconsin Art Now at the Charles Allis Art Museum. The exhibition, which opened this evening, was juried by Susan Barnett and Brent Budsberg. The show includes 58 works in a diverse range of media and is particularly strong on painting and photography.

HL2016-3, from the High Line Series
FORWARD runs through Feb. 19, 2017 so there is plenty of time to see it. The Charles Allis is located at 1801 N. Prospect Ave. in Milwaukee. For more information go to their website.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

China Lights a huge crowd pleaser at Boerner Botanical Gardens

OK, is it art? Not sure, but it's definitely a visual spectacle. And, hey, I'm generous about the definition of art. No borders, after all. 

I went to see China Lights last night and on a Tuesday there was a long line of cars creeping through Whitnall Park towards Boerner Botanical Gardens. After finally parking, the ticket lines were also long. (Buy your tickets in advance, online!) The show, billed as a "lantern festival," opened Oct. 1. I can only imagine what the weekend was like. The only time I've ever seen so many people at a Milwaukee County Park has been at O'Donnell for fireworks displays. 

The show is definitely a crowd pleaser and family-friendly. I wasn't all that interested in the animals and cartoon characters myself, but the multitudes of children who were there--including my granddaughter--definitely were.

The highlight for me was the woodland boardwalk with the overhead lanterns (above and below).

Here are a few more images I managed to catch in the dark.

According to John Dargle, Milwaukee County Parks Director, this is normally the slowest time of the garden season at Boerner Gardens. "With China Lights we now expect it to be the busiest season," he said. There have been an estimated 20,000 visitors to date, with two more weeks to go!

China Lights was organized by The Park People and proceeds will benefit them as well as Boerner Botanical Gardens.

For more information go to the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel or to the China Lights website (where you can buy your tickets, good through Oct. 31.)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Notebaert Nature Museum a great place for art

Canada warbler
I was pleased to discover the photographs of Art Fox at the Notebaert Nature Museum. Lusciously printed full color photographs depicted birds far larger than life-size. The birds were beautiful. They also were dead.

Baltimore oriole
Dark-eyed junco
Fox collected the dead birds from sidewalks around Chicago's skyscrapers. His poignant story is recounted on wall panels:

"Each spring and fall, in the safety of darkness, migratory birds journey for thousands of miles. Many travel astounding distances between Northern Canada and South America. They follow routes called flyways. The Mississippi Flyway follows our waterways and passes right over Chicago. Sadly, every year, in one square mile of downtown Chicago, thousands strike our lighted shiny buildings and die. Across North America billions die."

Installation view
Yellow-shafted flicker
The exhibit, entitled Broken Journey, was just one of several that are currently on view at the Notebaert. While I had been to this lovely gem of a museum in Chicago's Lincoln Park to see art exhibits on previous occasions, I was surprised at how many I found this time. It seemed like every time I turned a corner I found another art display.

I had come to the Notebaert on the recommendation of someone who had seen a particular art exhibit, one that featured chocolate. Unfortunately, I was too late for the chocolate. 

The exhibit had changed. Going up in its place was a series of woodcut prints, also of birds, by Catherine Game.

Her "Red-tailed Hawk" appealed to me in particular for its powerful composition and unusual perspective.

Photographer David Mayhew specializes in chasing extreme weather conditions and his photographs demonstrate the dramatic nature of his pursuits (above and below.)

Fields of Glory
Yet another photographer rounds out the list of current exhibitors at Notebaert. David Shea hails from New York.

Shea's work, called Plume, is decidedly more political than the others. He "traces the journey of coal from mines in West Virginia to power plants in southeastern Ohio." According to the wall text he intends to "record the impact of the power plants on the environment and the people living nearby."

Bill Jones Camping on the Ohio
While you're there to see all the interesting artworks, be sure to also check out the museum's other displays and collections. These include the ever-popular butterflies:

Some dead.

And some still fluttering around.

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.