Fresh Paint
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Yes, Art in Wausau
Hugely eventful day, starting with this:

Green Bay won.

Life stops in Wisconsin when the Packers play. We canvass during church hours on Sundays but stop from noon till the end of the game. I am known to be a football jinx, so I didn't even go near a TV. I spent the dead time in the middle of the day at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, a stunning estate converted to galleries and a wonderful exploratory center for children called an Art Park, where they can rearrange or put the birds and people back in paintings, easily put themselves in a picture with a video camera and costumes, explore texture, color, etc. etc. Really superb, wonderful docents, and fun for the grownups as well.

And they had their 29th annual exhibit of bird art still on display before it travels to the Bell in Minneapolis, then Tuscon, then on to Maine. Very thorough, though heavy on the watercolors and realist art. One of the "noted wildlife artists," Chris Bacon, had a display from his (or possibly her -- I don't know this artist) sketchbooks, deft, quick pencil and wash drawings of birds in action, including a few he (or she) had done of birds from age 3-4. I liked all of these far better than the finished works.

Others I liked were:

Mary Ulm Mayhew's tiny painting, "Departure" -- Oil on comp board, sun on the back of a chicken, quick, minimal perfectly placed no-nonsense strokes.

John Seerey-Lester had a wonderful, frightening painting in shades of black called "Harpy Eagle", which seemed to me to be quite timely, though perhaps he didn't intend it. Checking around the web I note that his other work seems technically fine but banal. This painting, though, is quite good, subdued evil, in which the dark bird looks out from a dark ground into darkness.

Franna Lusson, "Blackbird in Flight" -- oil pastel and graphite on paper. Casual black scrawls, the slight sheen of the oil pastel mimicking the sheen of a blackbird's wing, all a bit smudged as the bird takes flight. After all the watercolors, seemed fresh and direct.

Finally, William Shippley's "Domestic Chicken" -- red beaks in hard focus, exact bluish tailfeathers, the rest a blur of feathers, but not in a lame way.

There were others of interest, of course, but these caught my eye.

But the biggest treat was the Patrick Dougherty installation, called "Putting Two and Two Together." Here he took a stand of blue spruce and mimicked them with twisted willow, building a passage through the living trees similar to the formal paths in the gardens surrounding the museum. I took a lot of shots of this installation (which are in my camera down in the car) I will post later. Many of you art fans will recall the wonderful installation at the Evanston Art Center for nearly two years. We all loved that one, and I don't think they've had an exhibit on the lawn since that's come close. I like the installation in Wausau even better, since it mixes the living and the not living, and has a lot of other complex things going on. I think he really got into the spirit of the Wausau site quite well with this piece.

Oh, and of course I canvassed morning and late -- competing with the Halloween trick-or-treaters (a weird, weird experience -- canvass buddy Regina wore a cape!).

But more of that later. Needed to look at, write about art tonight. And will post some picures of the museum tomorrow.

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