This year marks the 45th year the Milwaukee Art Museum has hosted the Scholastic Art Awards: Wisconsin Exhibition, celebrating the artistic talent of students in grades 7–12 from across our state. Unlike in years past, the exhibition is entirely virtual, with more than two hundred works available for viewing through March 21, 2021.
Selecting the works to include in the annual Scholastic exhibition is a challenge in normal times. When twenty-nine arts professionals from across Milwaukee’s creative community gathered online in early January to judge the over 1,800 art submissions, they all agreed this exhibition of next-generation art felt more essential than ever.
The works by Degas, van Gogh, Bonnard, Modigliani, and others on view in the Modern Visionexhibition are from The Phillips Collection and reflect the lifelong collecting efforts of Duncan Phillips, who developed an interest in art at an early age. A five-part podcast on collectors and collecting produced in conjunction with the exhibition reveals that Phillips worked in concert with his wife, Marjorie, herself an artist, whom he met shortly before he opened his museum. She became the deputy director of the museum and, after Duncan’s death, went on to become its director.
Before the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, books were handwritten. Imagine… every time a copy of a text needed to be made, someone had to do it painstakingly by hand. In our world of quick reproductions and the ease of hitting “print”, this can be hard to believe!
The exhibition The Art of Devotion: Illuminated Manuscripts from Local Collections, on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum through June 16, 2019, aims to provide an introduction to these handwritten texts–called manuscripts–that were made in the middle ages and early Renaissance. A good number of those manuscripts are also illuminated, or decorated with gold, silver, and bright colors that make them literally look like they shine from within.
Ornamenting the Christian Bible and related texts reflected their holiness, as revealing the teachings of God. Monks and nuns would make the books in a scriptorium—or copying room—as a type of religious devotion. By the fourteenth century, commercial scriptoriums fulfilled the demand for books made by the aristocrats and nobles who commissioned them not only to use in private devotion but also to display their great wealth. As you can imagine, this leads to amazing and beautiful books!
In the early 1950s, designers Charles and Ray Eames painstakingly arranged penny cars, pencils, pills, and papers to photograph for their House of Cards construction set. They probably never imagined that decades later, thousands of children and adults in the Milwaukee region would meticulously decorate their own House of Cards, let alone that these cards would be installed together in a towering spiral at the Milwaukee Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America.
Ho-Chunk presence and their arts contributed to the development of Wisconsin Dells tourism—and to the material and aesthetic culture of the state. While Ho-Chunk representation is not always considered by tourists beyond stereotypical art for the trade, there is still a long and well-documented history of Ho-Chunk material life in the Wisconsin Dells area. The Ho-Chunk objects currently on exhibition in Mrs. M.—–’s Cabinet, are not the expected souvenirs of the Wisconsin Dells trade, but give a glimpse into the unfamiliar Ho-Chunk objects made and used in the Dells in the late 19th century.
In the exhibition Photographing Nature’s Cathedrals: Carleton E. Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and H.H. Bennett, an image by Henry Hamilton Bennett illustrates the acknowledgement of the unseen Native American presence within the Wisconsin Dells landscape. Looking out from Black Hawk’s Cave is one example of Bennett labeling his photographs with fictional place names and after real historical figures. Bennett used the Sauk Chief’s name in an effort to sell a romanticized American Indian legend to tourists.