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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Curating Ho-Chunk Objects in Mrs. M.—–’s Cabinet at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Egg basket (circa 1900).
Egg basket (circa 1900).

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. 

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World, a New Installation: Part 2

View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.
View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is currently featuring an installation that was developed by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students enrolled in the course “Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World.” The project resulted in the display of seven acquisitions by the Chipstone Foundation. The exhibition opened to the public on Sunday, December 18th and will run throughout the spring.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is one of five galleries, located in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Wing, that are curated by the Chipstone Foundation. In the fall of 2016, Chipstone Curator and Director of Research Dr. Sarah Anne Carter taught a graduate seminar in museum studies in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Art History Department. The seven creative and up-and-coming student curators in this course researched and developed the innovative installations found in this exhibition in order to expand and enhance Mrs. M.––––– ’s mysterious story.

Each student was assigned an object to research and install in the cabinet as part of the museum studies course. Their challenge was to create an installation that fit in with the theme of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet: her desire to create a nuanced and complete history of America and its material cultures.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World, a New Installation: Part 1

View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.
View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is currently featuring an installation that was developed by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students enrolled in the course “Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World.” The project resulted in the display of seven acquisitions by the Chipstone Foundation. The exhibition opened to the public on Sunday, December 18th and will run throughout the spring.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is one of five galleries, located in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Wing, that are curated by the Chipstone Foundation. In the fall of 2016, Chipstone Curator and Director of Research Dr. Sarah Anne Carter taught a graduate seminar in museum studies in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Art History Department. The seven creative and up-and-coming student curators in this course researched and developed the innovative installations found in this exhibition in order to expand and enhance Mrs. M.––––– ’s mysterious story.

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Art Curatorial

Highlights of the Chipstone Foundation in the Lower Level

View of Hidden Dimensions installation. Photo by Jim Wildeman
View of Hidden Dimensions installation. Photo by Jim Wildeman

As part of the first stages of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s re-installation, the Lower Level of the Collection is going through some changes. If you haven’t yet done so, go see curator Mel Buchanan and librarian Heather Winter’s 125th anniversary exhibition, which ends with a beautiful rendition of what the Milwaukee Art Museum will look like in the future. Read on for highlights of Chipstone’s collections in the Museum.

Chipstone’s galleries will be de-installed starting on September 17. For those of you that love the Chair Park and the Dave the Potter pot, these will stay up until the end of 2013. So, what does this all mean for you? It means that you should go take a walk through Chipstone’s Cabinet of Curiosities, the Hidden Dimensions Gallery, as well as sit in our round video room before September 17!

View of Loca Miraculi installation by Martha Glowacki. Photo by Jim Wildeman
View of Loca Miraculi installation by Martha Glowacki. Photo by Jim Wildeman

You can experience the three kingdoms in Martha Glowacki’s Loca Miraculi. Try to guess what the connection between the graphite covered taxidermied animals and the Newport high chest is. Spend some time in the ceramics room, opening drawers. Can you find the little babbling grotto? Do you know how agate ware is made (hint: there is a drawer that contains a video of Michelle Erickson explaining the process)? What are some extinct ceramic objects?

View of Hidden Dimensions installation. Photo by Jim Wildeman
View of Hidden Dimensions installation. Photo by Jim Wildeman

Next, go into Hidden Dimensions. Ask yourself questions such as: What did a tea table allow the sitters to do (yes, drink tea, but also something naughtier)? Why would an early 19th century banker have a table with Griffins in his home? Why do some 17th century chairs look like gravestones?

Finally, take a break in the round video room and watch Randy O’Donnell carve wood, Michelle Erickson throw clay, and Steve Farrell turn and make a face jug.

Thank you all for spending time in our galleries, and communicating your thoughts about objects and exhibitions with us! Come visit us at the Chipstone Foundation in Fox Point (open by appointment) or at two exhibitions we are curating at Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum of Art, which will open on January 22.

Claudia Mooney works for Chipstone, the Milwaukee-based foundation dedicated to promoting American decorative arts scholarship. She researches objects and creates relevant programming for Chipstone’s exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum and in the community.

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Behind the Scenes Events

Dave’s Pot and Healthy Words: Fondé Bridges

Healthy Words Mural by Tippecanoe School. Photo courtesy of Fondé Bridges
Healthy Words Mural by Tippecanoe School. Photo courtesy of Fondé Bridges

As is evident from other blog posts, as well as our partnership with the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Chipstone Foundation strongly believes in collaboration. Chipstone’s latest collaboration is with artist, teacher and native Milwaukeean Fondé Bridges.

Bridges has been an artist in residence in Milwaukee Public Schools, community centers and churches for the past 18 years. Fondé, who’s named after Milwaukee’s Fond Du Lac Avenue, has also created public art projects with students at Fond Du Lac and North, as well as Mitchell Airport.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Layton Art Collection: 1888-2013, Part 3

When we last left off, Charlotte Partridge was the curator of the Layton Art Gallery, which was located on the northeast corner of North Jefferson street and Mason street. In 1957 the Layton Art Collection joined the Milwaukee Art Institute in the new War Memorial building. Three figures are key to the Layton Art Collection during this third period: Edward Dwight, Tracy Atkinson and Frederick Vogel III.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

The Layton Art Collection—1888-2013, Part 2

Charlotte Partridge and Miriam Frink. Filed February 17, 1954. Journal Sentinel Archives
Charlotte Partridge and Miriam Frink. Filed February 17, 1954. Journal Sentinel Archives

Last month, I wrote about the first part of the exhibition The Layton Art Collection: 1888-2013. I introduced the great Milwaukee businessman and art patron Frederick Layton, and touched upon the founding of the Layton Art Gallery. The first section ends with the death of Frederick Layton.

The second section, which is my favorite part in the exhibit, starts with Charlotte Partridge.

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Art Curatorial

From the Chipstone Collection–Presentation Jug

Jug, Staffordshire, England, ca. 1850, Chipstone Foundation Collection. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.
Jug, Staffordshire, England, ca. 1850, Chipstone Foundation Collection. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Among the Chipstone Foundation’s fine collection of early English pottery stands an startlingly oversized curiosity: what appears to be a 30-inch ironstone tall milk jug, or pitcher.

Adorned with rich copper lustre ornamentation and hand-painted flowers, this monumentally scaled object also features an unusual inscription that gives some insights into the jug’s origins. The gilt lettering reads, “Presented by Alfred Meakin, Tunstall England to Sohn, Ricker and Weisenhom Quincy Ills U.S.A.” Who exactly are these people? And how did this huge jug make its way to the U.S. from England? Read on to find out.

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Art Curatorial

Musical Furniture

Veneered high chest of drawers. Attributed to Christopher Townsend or Job Townsend, 1735-1745. Newport, Rhode Island. Chipstone Foundation. Photo courtesy of Gavin Ashworth.
Veneered high chest of drawers. Attributed to Christopher Townsend or Job Townsend, 1735-1745. Newport, Rhode Island. Chipstone Foundation. Photo courtesy of Gavin Ashworth.

Based on my title for this blog post you might expect this to be about music boxes, or perhaps creative studio art pieces that sing when you sit on them, or even some sort of game derived from musical chairs. As interesting as any of those possibilities may sound, I’m going to discuss not an object, but an intriguing practice: that of using music to aide in the viewing and interpretation of furniture.

In 2008, Chipstone curator Ethan Lasser met with Dr. Christian Elser, a composer, in the furniture gallery on the Lower Level of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Ethan noticed that the vocabulary he used when describing furniture was very similar to the terms Dr. Elser used when descrbing music–for example, they both used words such as “baroque” or “gothic.” This spurred Ethan to ask Dr. Elser: “If you could pair each piece in this gallery with one piece of music, what would that be?”

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Art Curatorial

From the Chipstone Collection—Fecundity Dish

Dish, England, 1681. (Chipstone Foundation; Photo Gavin Ashworth)
Dish, England, 1681. (Chipstone Foundation; Photo Gavin Ashworth)

On the Museum’s Lower Level in the Hidden Dimensions gallery, there is a section on Myth, showcasing objects, such as card tables, that portray mythical figures. There are also several dishes mounted on the wall. A charger featuring the erotic seductress Venus is the subject of this blog post.

The dish in question dates to 1681 and is made of tin-glazed earthenware (also called Delftware). It features a reclining female nude with a child standing on her lap and four more children, or putti, playing behind her. The dish’s border depicts arrangements of fruit, cherries, flowers, masks in relief, and the inscription S/ WM/ 1681. Chargers with this scene are called fecundity dishes and were made in London between 1633 and 1697.