Last month John and I took a road trip to West Bend, Wisconsin. Why? To see Antifragile, the exhibit of contemporary glass, and to visit the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA). MOWA recently built a new building which is striking, especially inside. I was taken by the clean lines on the first floor… they look lovely in color, but the way the sun streamed through the windows created a drama that just begged to be seen in black and white.
At the end of the hallway, in what is basically the stair well, we found this display of colored glass globes suspended in a triangle with glass on two sides. The stairs led to the second floor and the exhibits…
MOWA specializes in art from Wisconsin artists and the history of art in Wisconsin. It runs from classic work to contemporary. By going up the back stairs we started our tour with the earliest piece, a red and white quilt. We worked our way towards the exhibit we came to see… Antifragile. When almost to Antifragile we passed a contemporary work by Mary Nohl. Mary is a Wisconsin artist whose work I am familiar with from my childhood just outside of Milwaukee, WI. My friends and I would often visit the beach in front of her house and swim with her sculptures standing guard.
Along our journey though Wisconsin’s art history we passed this piece of a 19th century panorama. I learned that Milwaukee and Chicago were the epicenter of an American panorama painting industry. They created enormous canvases that could be up to five stories high and were displayed in a circle. Visitors would enter the circle through an underground tunnel. When they emerged from the tunnel they would find themselves in the center of a 360-degree experience. Often props were set around the base of the canvas to increase the experience and add to the realistic feeling. I find myself captivated by this idea and think it would be fantastic to create such an experience.
Several of Carl von Marr‘s paintings are on display in the museum. Carl was a Milwaukee-born painter who trained and spent most of his life in Germany painting. One of his most important works was The Flagellants. It was completed between 1885 and 1889 and measures 14’x23′. The Flagellants won an awards in Germany and was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
We ended our trip through Wisconsin art history with Antifragile: Contemporary Glass and a talk by two of the artists.
Audry Handler talked about her work and her experiences as one of the few women in the early studio glass movement rooted in Madison, WI. She talked about life in the all-boys club and how her experiences influence her work.
Lisa Koch talked about her work during the second half of the presentation. While Audrey’s work is a bit more traditional, Lisa’s work tends towards mixed media. She has hand-blown glass shapes paired with wood, paper, and more glass. You can see her design training and illustration skills in her pieces. Within the piece with the blue water droplet you can see several lovely illustrations on the wood.
I learned a lot on the walk through Wisconsin’s history of art. The experience was concluded with the entertaining and interesting talk given by both Audrey and Lisa about their artwork.
The Antifragile exhibition continues through July 28, 2013.