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Art Behind the Scenes Education Museum Store

Milwaukee Studio Visit: Author and Illustrator Lois Ehlert

Stack of books. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography
Stack of books. Photo by Megan Yanz Photography

Our senses were first enticed by the lovely scent of fresh, natural flowers as we approached Lois Ehlert’s apartment in a beautiful old downtown building on an otherwise blustery day.

Ehlert welcomed me and Megan Yanz so Megan could photograph her remarkable collection of folk art while I learned more about Ehlert’s newest publication for children, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (a limited quantity of copies signed by the author are available to buy online). With the feature exhibition Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art now on view at the Art Museum, the timing was perfect to visit Ehlert’s cozy, artful and welcoming home.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Possum Trot

Calvin Black (American, 1903-1972) and Ruby Black (American, 1913-1980). Possum Trot Midget Doll Theatre.  ca. 1950-1972.  Wood, wood paneling, laminated Masonite, nails, bolts, paint, electrical components, and carved and painted wooden dolls.  The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art M1989.325.
Calvin Black (American, 1903-1972) and Ruby Black (American, 1913-1980). Possum Trot Midget Doll Theatre, ca. 1950-1972. Wood, wood paneling, laminated Masonite, nails, bolts, paint, electrical components, and carved and painted wooden dolls. Milwaukee Art Museum, The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art M1989.325.

It’s back!

After being off view for nearly ten years, the Museum’s popular Possum Trot is back!  And it’s kicking, spinning, and singing up a storm.  Not to mention riding a bike.

Possum Trot was one of the most famous, extensive environments of self-taught art ever made.

Between about 1950 and 1972, transplanted Southerners Calvin and Ruby Black created what they hoped would be a tourist trap in the California desert.  Visitors could get a cold drink, buy bait or souvenirs—and, most importantly, witness a show featuring a cast of performing wooden dolls.

Now part of this tremendous work of art lives at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–The Newsboy

American (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), The Newsboy, 1888. Carved, assembled and painted wood with folded tin. Milwaukee Art Museum, The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art. Photo by John Nienhuis.

The Museum often uses The Newsboy as a poster child for our spectacular Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art. The education department includes it on our Family Audio Tour, and the energetic boy has a place of honor on view in the Museum’s Folk & Self-Taught Galleries on the Upper Level. However, I personally didn’t know a thing about this wonderful….er.. sculpture? Statue? Sign? I didn’t even know what to call him!

For this “From the Collection” I thought it was time for me to learn more about this Museum treasure.

The Newsboy is a trade sign. An artful sculpture, certainly, but also an object that was made with a pragmatic purpose in mind. In 1888 Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where this trade sign was made by an unknown artist, a larger percentage of the population would have been illiterate. Merchants relied on eye-catching storefront signs like this one to grab the attention of passers-by without the need for words.