The ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu generously gave the Milwaukee Art Museum ten of her fine art vessels in 2006.
Today I was nonchalantly compiling information on her life in preparation for a potential display of those vessels, when I was suddenly saddened to read of her recent death on March 9, 2011. In Toshiko Takaezu’s obituary in the New York Times, she is credited with helping “to elevate ceramics from the production of functional vessels to a fine art.”
As one often does when encountered with the loss of either someone close or someone distant but admired (like an artist), I ran through my bank of fond memories.
I was recently at a party and upon mentioning where I work, I was asked: How do you pick exhibitions and how do you decide on the programming? I realized that this part of the process is probably a mystery to many (including me before I started doing it myself). Exhibitions can be curated in-house, in which case the curator researches a subject he/she is interested in, comes up with a thesis or story for the show, and selects objects (usually a combination of pieces the museum owns and pieces loaned by other museums and collectors) that tell the story.
Sometimes museums exhibit traveling shows that have been curated at another institution. If this is the case, how do you learn about the shows in the first place? Chipstone’s current exhibition, The New Materiality: Digital Dialogues at the Boundaries of Contemporary Craft, was first shown at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts. It was curated by University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee professor Fo Wilson. We learned about the exhibition through Fo, who sent us the catalog for us to see what she had been working on. The exhibition instantly appealed to us. It was edgy, interesting and thought provoking.
I recently had the opportunity to represent the Milwaukee Art Museum at the Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Show held at The Garage at the Harley-Davidson Museum. First of all—what a great venue! If you haven’t yet been to the Harley-Davidson Museum, the cool industrial architecture is definitely worth checking out. Also, the Show was a perfectly timed experience for me, with the European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century exhibition open at the same time at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Our exhibition explores notions of design as either primarily for function, or for a more conceptual idea. I was able to see more examples of how craft and design intersect at the Fine Furnishings Show. Apart from one prototype plastic chair, the objects there demonstrate a beautiful melding of function and handcrafted one-of-kind design.