Eclectic perspectives in local art

Art exhibitions explore history, environmental...
Eclectic perspectives in local art

What’s going on in local art? A gloriously diverse answer to that question can be found in the Art Department Faculty Quadrennial Exhibition, a new show at the Chazen Museum of Art that highlights recent work by nearly thirty current and former members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department.

The exhibition includes prints, paintings, sculpture, installations, photography and more, and much of it carries a conceptual edge.

In the soaring main gallery, an expansive painting of a red outlined form on a vibrant blue backdrop brings the imagery of Derrick Buisch into a scale larger than is often seen. Meanwhile, Fred Stonehouse’s works on paper feature elements of humans, animals, wings and skulls, including “Search for a Cure,” a work in which a bird-headed man holds leashes to beasts bearing the words “Can’t,” “Won’t,” “Don’t” and “Shouldn’t.” And Nancy Mladenoff showcases twenty works from her series exploring the lives of women, from scientists to cowgirls, athletes to girl bands.

Nearby, Gail Simpson offers a bonfire made of cardboard. Brown paper logs form the heaping base, while flames are fashioned out of colorful boxes–you’ll glimpse familiar flashes of Cheerios, Pepsi and LaCroix logos.

Aristotle Georgiades and Tom Loeser, in contrast, work with actual wood. Georgiades displays several works, including a weathered wood ladder that morphs into branches up top; Loeser’s wood benches and table featuring shovel handles correspond to sixteen works on paper that play with the handle shape and chair form.

Emily Arthur explores conservation genetics and human impact on the environment through a series of works in which natural elements–imagery of butterflies, birds and plants–is layered over documents.

In the smaller adjacent gallery, highlights include several installations of stoneware figures by Gerit Grimm, portraits of a Native American woman and young man surrounded in white beaded floral borders and a large, colorful arrangement of works on paper by John Hitchcock that extends over two walls. Deer, wolves, owls, horses and the word “Savage” make appearances throughout the collection that feels wild and free.

And on the second floor galleries, find memory cloths by Leslee Nelson, beautifully hued abstract gouache works by Richard Lazzaro and a series of twelve drawings by Lynda Barry that include coffee stains and explore pareidolia, or “the tendency to find creatures and faces, meaning, and even monsters in clouds, shadows and stains.” And a powerful work by Faisal Abdu’Allah features text on a chalkboard recounting horrific incidents that led to a race riot in Tulsa in 1921.

The exhibition opens Thursday evening and continues through April 17, with fifteen gallery talks taking place February through April.

Two unique perspectives on the past fill the James Watrous Gallery.

In Recollections, Debbie Kupinsky uses everyday objects as a launchpad for contemplating memory and identity. Bells, tea cups and utensils, human forms and abstracted shapes made from clay are grouped on tables or hung together, sometimes alongside pencil drawings, to encourage the viewer to consider the ways objects and materials “influence the way narratives are read.” In an exhibition statement, Kupinsky continues: “Each viewer brings their own experience and relationship to these objects to their interpretation of the works.”

And In Meet Allison, an American Girl, Allison Welch delves into a personal piece of her past. She was eight years old when Molly, the American Girl doll with stories and accessories set in 1940s Indiana, became part of her life. In this exhibition, Welch immerses herself into the narrative of Josefina, an American Girl living in New Mexico in the 1820s. “I recreate the wardrobes, accessories and stories of American Girl dolls and use self-portraiture to re-immerse myself in my childhood world–their world.” The exhibition features Welch’s portraits and clothes, along with American Girl dolls, accessories and books, raising questions about history, culture, race and femininity.

Both exhibitions run through March 6.

The Edgewood College Gallery offers an interesting juxtaposition with Katherine Wall, OP: Charcoal Portraits and Isabel Rafferty OP: Animation. While both are Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa and committed to making work relevant to their time, the artists embody vastly different eras.

Wall’s charcoal portraits are reflections of her time training in Europe between 1895 and 1910. Rafferty, meanwhile, is a current faculty member at Edgewood College who teaches web design and animation. When Edgewood hosted the St. John’s Bible, Rafferty created animations of the illuminations that accompanied a musical performance in November.

In the center of the gallery, with Wall’s portraits surrounding, you may sit on a bench and have a multisensory experience. Headphones allow you to hear music from the November concert while you watch Rafferty’s animations bring pages of the St. John’s Bible to life on a television in front of you. The beautiful, rich and layered sound is a perfect complement to the dynamic and varied imagery that plays across the screen.

The shows continue through February 21.

Fresh Perspective is an apt title for the latest showcase at the Playhouse Gallery at Overture Center. Featuring paintings, illustrations, quilts and pottery, the show comes from the Fresh Perspective Art Collective, a group that united to “present a fresh male African American perspective.” The collective strives to use the work of emerging and established artists to change the negative portrayal of African American men, expand creative opportunities for them and eliminate barriers to their success.

Featuring work by Gabriel Thomas, Romano Johnson, William Nolen, Aaron Gilmore, Jamin Mahan, Comfort Wasikhongo and others, the exhibition’s topics range from vivid portraits to fantastical scenes.

The show runs through February 28.

Brad Baranowski brings his own unique lens to Between Two Lakes, Presented Between Two Colors, an exhibition of twenty black and white photographs on the second floor of the Madison Public Library’s central branch.

A doctoral student in history at UW-Madison, Baranowski turned his camera to the city’s isthmus to “explore both the openness and closed-ness of everyday life in this part of the city.” He states: “Depicting people as they not only engage with, but also contribute to, the meaning of the isthmus, the photos focus on the ambiguities found in this space.”

Scenes of young people hanging out, men on benches, artwork and items abandoned on the curb, a parent and child bundled up in parkas, a person on a bus and an ice fisher reveal extraordinary sides to ordinary occurrences.

The show is up through February.

Also at the Central Library, on the third floor in the Diane Endres Ballweg Gallery, is Luck of the Draw. A survey show of seventy-five contemporary drawings made by artists from across the country showcases the exciting possibilities of an often under-appreciated form of art.

Image lists identify not only the titles and media of each work, but also the artists’ names and their hometowns. A good number of local artist are represented, including Trent Miller, Angela Richardson, Derrick Buisch, Rachel Bruya, TetraPAKMAN, Michael Velliquette, T.L. Solien, David Wells, Andy Rubin, Lesley Numbers, Ray Easley, Jason Ruhl, Scott Pauli, Scott Espeseth, Bernadette Witzack, Dale Malner, Aaron Steffes, Barb Landes, Gwen Avant, Amy Newell and Jeremy Wineberg.

And a fun twist: At the end of the show, which is up through February 26, each participating artist will receive a work from a different artist, instead of their own drawing back.

While at the library, be sure to stop by the Bubbler to check out what artist-in-residence Angela Richardson is up to. Recently, she was showcasing drawings and doodles made by locals; check the Bubbler’s website for upcoming drawings events for adults and families.

A former Bubbler artist-in-residence has a new exhibition at Gallery 211 at Madison College’s downtown site. The Point of No Return is a colorful, creative and thought-provoking show highlighting the talents of TetraPAKMAN.

Using bottle tops, milk crates, tin cans and plastic toys, the artist, who’s also known as Victor Castro, creates graphic wall hangings, installations and vignettes. While the works’ beauty belie their humble materials, the show, which runs through March 4, make a powerful statement about the need to conserve, recycle and rethink our habits.

An annual celebration of trash turned to treasure–and a reminder of the limitlessness of possibilities and the power of creativity–is the EcoSquared Art Show at Hatch Art House.

Up through the end of January, the juried show features artwork that’s between four and twelve inches square and incorporates upcycled materials. Those are the merely the starting points for some seriously interesting, eclectic and fun art.

Tin can lids, paint chips, tulle, cardboard, wood, newspaper, even scraps of saris become elements of artwork depicting musicians, Union Terrace chairs, animals, the shape of Wisconsin, dinosaurs, landscapes and more.

And for one final perspective that’s especially welcome in January, check out Moments Impressed at Gallery Marzen.

Ingrid Dohm and Tina Duemler draw inspiration from the changing seasons of the Midwest to create lush, beautiful still life scenes and landscapes. Their color choices and brushstrokes nod to the impressionistic tradition, yet these artists carry it on with a modern touch.

The show runs through March 4.

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