Chazen art installation showcases native Wisconsin plants on massive scale

MADISON, Wis. — It’s not often that you can walk through a field of prairie plants while in the middle of a college campus, but that’s essentially what a brand new installation at the Chazen Museum of Art offers.

Created by Toronto-based textile artist Amanda McCavour, Suspended Landscapes: Thread Drawings features woven depictions of native Wisconsin prairie plants on a massive scale, draped from the ceiling in the Elvehjem building’s Paige Court.

Initially commissioned to mark the building’s and museum’s 50th anniversary in 2020, the project was ultimately delayed because of the pandemic.

“The Elvehjem Building was where our museum began, during a time of great national turmoil,” Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen, said in a press release. “Amanda McCavour’s work has an assumed vulnerability, yet it also possesses great strength. Her work will offer a remarkable transformation of that space and reflection of our collection. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate all that has changed, and all that hasn’t, at the Chazen, during the museum’s first 50 years.”

Over the course of her 13 years working as an artist, McCavour’s work has shifted drastically in size. Her installation at the Chazen is her largest project ever.

In an interview with News 3 Now, McCavour described the opportunity to work on the commissioned piece as her “dream project.”

“With this piece what’s really amazing and special to me is that you can see the piece from the first second and third floor, so you really do get that feeling like you’re inside the work at different heights,” McCavour said.

Comprised of 60 draping curtains, that drift throughout the space, each individual curtain took two to three days to complete using her unique threading process.

Inspired by the space itself and Wisconsin’s rich collection of flora, McCavour visited the Wisconsin State Herbarium to study plants native to the state. She also studied various botanical works from the museum’s collection to before starting work on the project, according to the release.

With countless hours spent preparing, working on and installing the artwork, McCavour said it really came to life once it was up and moving in the space it was designed for.

“I love thinking about how to create atmosphere with textile works in environments that people can feel surrounded by,” McCavour said.

McCavour’s installation will be on view at the Chazen from March 11 through Sept. 11 of this year. Her next art installation is set to open at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina on June 18.