art, culture, travel
There are two unusual art exhibits going on right now in Wisconsin. If you have a bit of extra time off during the holiday season this is a perfect and adventuresome way to spend it. Check out their January closing dates below so you don't miss out!
One of the best art exhibits I've ever seen (and you can guess I'm a veteran of many) is at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, about 2.5 hours from Chicago entitled Sublime Spaces. & Visionary Worlds. The Kohler has made it a special mission to save environmental art. They've salvaged sites that were threatened with demolition and restored others enabling them to remain in place. This wondrous exhibit (you can get an idea from these two photos, courtesy of the Center) takes up the whole museum, located in downtown Sheboygan. You'll see in depth work from quite a few artists including a whole and very unique house belonging to Loy Bowlin, the self-proclaimed Rhinestone Cowboy who lived and dressed the part, even riding around his hometown of McComb MS in his similarly themed Cadillac.
There are woodcarvers represented and a mind-boggling assemblage of "healing machines" (photo at left) fashioned by Emory Blagdon, a reclusive Nebraska farmer. The whole exhibit has the aura of fantasy lands come to life via the massive efforts of chief curator Leslie Umberger and her staff.
If you're lucky, Leslie herself may be giving a tour. Call ahead to find out. However, printed info on each artist is available on site, a user friendly device that I wish were used more frequently in museums.
Another exciting exhibit is on view in Milwaukee at the Santiago Calatrava designed Milwaukee Art Museum. That's the one you've been meaning to visit anyway, the one with the sunscreen that opens at noon daily, emulating the wings of a bird overlooking its' perch on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The current exhibit is of the work of Martin Ramirez; a collection of (mostly) large drawings by this Mexican immigrant to California in the early part of the last century.
Ramirez was recently called "simply one of the greatest artists of the 20th century" by The New York Times. Mr Ramirez spent most of his adult life in a mental institution that became a kind refuge for him to pursue his artistic obsession. A doctor at the hospital recognized his genius and saved some of his drawings. More were recently discovered, causing a small furor in the art world. Now some drawings (photo at left) are in the permanent collections of both the Whitney Museum and The American Museum of Folk Art in New York.
There was a recent exhibit at the latter that has traveled to Milwaukee with some particularly marvelous additions from the collection of Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson, Chicago artists who were early admirers of Ramirez' work.
Warning: The exhibit at the Kohler, www.jmkac.org closes in sections, beginning January 6 and the Ramirez exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, www.mam.org closes January 13. There are plenty of lodging accommodations and good restaurants in both cities. Have fun!