Tired of winter yet? Wait, it’s February in Wisconsin–that’s probably a silly question. Even if you’ve had enough, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s current display of works on paper from the Collection, Winter in Color, might make you take another look at the season.
One cannot walk through the doors of the Milwaukee Art Museum without taking in a colorful burst of Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork. The Museum’s Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier II (at left) is one of the most popular works in the Museum, located at the entry of the Quadracci Pavilion. Milwaukee’s Suzy B. Ettinger, who was recently featured in a great Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Style article, donated the artwork in 2001 to brighten the Museum’s new white Santiago Calatava-designed addition.
Museum visitors have been posing for photos with it ever since (it even appears snaking behind my own mother in her Facebook profile picture). Chihuly’s universal popularity encourages many museums to place his glass artwork front and center as a cheerful greeting.
In fact, in the almost 50 years since he lived and studied in Wisconsin, no other artist can claim to have brought as much popular attention to American art glass as Dale Chihuly.
This weekend, Wisconsin is celebrating Chihuly’s achievements.
Want to know what energizes an art museum staff, beyond knowing that we share a world-class art collection with almost 400,000 people a year?
Believe it or not, for the Milwaukee Art Museum staff it was a coloring contest.
Of course, it helps when that coloring contest is both inspired by and judged by Wisconsin artist Reginald Baylor. (And also, when the prize involves a free lunch with the artist.)
The year 2012 is considered the 50th anniversary of the American Studio Glass movement. The anniversary is being celebrated with exhibitions and events across the country, organized in large part by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass.
The Milwaukee Art Museum has a terrific collection of studio glass, and we were thrilled to be part of the celebration. Along one wall of the newly-designed Kohl’s Art Generation Studio is a new installation that celebrates using glass as a medium of creative impulse.
The glass sparkles, tells an important art history story, and I hope that its visual beauty inspires young artists as they create their own artwork nearby.
What is the American Studio Glass movement, and what is this anniversary?
Every so often, Museum staff gets an email or learns a story that connects the art in our collection with our community. These might be far-away communities, as in the case of the English ancestors of Miss Frances Lee, or it might be close by here in Milwaukee.
Nana Kennedy is the subject of this painting by Lester Bentley, entitled “Nana” (fitting!). Nana grew up in Two Rivers, WI, and so did artist Lester Bentley. Bentley was good friends with Nana’s parents, and completed this painting as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was a New Deal program to employ millions of workers and artisans during the American Great Depression.
After being separated for many years, Nana recently came to the Milwaukee Art Museum to visit her childhood portrait.
In the interest of immersing myself in the Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century exhibition (and fulfilling my goal of becoming a tourist in my home state), I have been visiting Wright-designed buildings in Wisconsin over the past few months.
First I went to nearby Racine to tour Wright’s 1939 “Wingspread” House built for Herbert Fisk Johnson, Jr. and the 1936 administration building for the S. C. Johnson Company. The Museum’s Chief Curator Brady Roberts pointed out to us on an exhibition tour that Santiago Calatrava visited the Johnson administration building seeking local inspiration when designing the Milwaukee Art Museum expansion—you can see a similar effect of the Johnson building’s cathedral-like glass ceiling interpreted in Windhover Hall. I think that the building model on view in the Museum exhibition beautifully captures the effect of the sky-lighting in the “great workroom” at the Johnson Administration Building. Of course, it was great to be able to verify this personally.