Monday, February 29, 2016

[art] i fact

La Crosse's Pump House was packed for their opening Gala night for ARTifact, a collaborative effort with the Pump House Regional Arts Center, La Crosse County Historical Society, and the Public and Policy History Department at UW-L. City historical pieces were interpreted by area artists.  
Interested artists  presented portfolios applying for the opportunity to interpret an historical artifact and once chosen the 15 were assigned an artifact with a 3-month completion time. Their results were nothing less than "AWSM."

Starting at the opposite side of the gallery room working backwards like a salmon swimming upstream, I moved amidst the people and works, reading descriptions until the crowd bottle necked. I have to admit I was willing to endure the bumping into folks to hear reactions to the artifacts and their artists' interpretations. 

Cigar box inspires Black Rose by Sarah Pederson
Each artifact had a description accompanied with the contemporary piece and its new title. Some pieces even had headsets with recorded explanations. A return trip before April 17th will be a must to study the pieces more in detail.

Included in the show was a mosaic 'Harvesting the River' by mosaic artist Ingvild Herfindahl reminding us of the area's important button trade. 

Kathleen Hawkes's 'Heartbeat' inkjet print imitated the rhythmic beats and repetition of a Ho Chunk drum while 3-D paper artist Martha Shwem created a paper mobile timeline of the paper fastener.

Sometimes it's the unplanned like lighting that enhances one's handiwork. The shadows cast on Jonathan Eimer's la crosse sticks (far left); one forged and the other carved from wood were exquisite.  Jonathan's work received an honorable mention. BTW Eimer is a fine arts degree grad and works as a locomotive engineer with BNSF Railway.

 Jill Rippe's A Visual Journey,
 A Look into  My Eyes
An Imperial #6 camera inspired an oversized mosaic bust by food scientist Jill Rippe. A sign encouraged the viewer to look into the bust's visor which was a kaleidoscope with a myriad of mirror pieces refracting as does the camera's lens.

Prestan Lawing's wood cut of the blacksmith emphasizes the numerous blows and action it must have taken for the metal forging of the knife pictured to the right.  Tong Khai pictured here (l) demonstrates this age old forging tradition at the Hmong Cultural Center.

La Crosse entrepreneur Giles  Montague also started La Crosse Cracker and Candy Factory in 1894. Printmaker Ben Alberti translated the booming industry of its time in his woodcut "Abundance." 
Abundance woodcut by Ben Alberti, printmaker

The fur muff had a lot more intimacy and Freudian connotation than I realized as when a woman had her hands inside it, it meant she was unavailable. Who knew? Brad Nichols, UW-L Professor of Metalsmithing created a 'status' jewelry piece yet it also represented the bonding and inequality of the sexes "just as the fur traders trapped the animals to make the muff." 
Pictured below Gussie's wedding dress, its contemporary counterpart was a fabric collage interpreted by public school (elementary-university) art teacher Marcia Thompson. I apologize for darkening the photo to enable seeing the intricacies of both pieces as Thompson's piece is much lighter and more delicate. Sorry.


Kim Vaughter's,  La Crosse painter and fabric artist, had the antique trunk being opened in a different time with whimsical creatures investigating its contents. Titled  The Ones Who Could Not Resist Will Be the Prettiest of All.  This trunk originally made by George Herken who ended up  manufacturing trunks and patenting a luggage label in the 1930's in La Crosse. 

Community, Family and Faith
Many church ladies participated in creating quilts as fundraisers. Such was the case in this 'signature' quilt by the Norwegian Evangelical Church where members paid 10 cents to have their names included on the quilt. Fiber sculptor, Kate Vinson, created the fabric church as the connecting thread to the community of these Norwegian families. 

The bottles to the left of the print are from the late 1800's to mid 1900's bottled within were soda waters, not beer. Surprise. Roger Boulay, Gallery and Art Collections Coordinator at Winona State uses photography to represent the bottles with an inkjet print.

Unmentionables by Misha Bolstad, UW-L graphic design prof
Leona's 3 in 1 undergarment, was light weight and easily washable. The open crotch suggested femininity and actually afforded its wearer modesty when needing to use the facilities. Hmmm. Modern colorful crotchless lingerie perhaps gives the viewer a different perspective. 

Lisa Lenarz's  "Cloth of International Friendship"was the overall 'winning' interpretation of traditional Hmong hemp pleated ceremonial skirt. 

A formal narrative painting recreates the area's socio cultural  1980's Friendship Program. Actually one of  my Show and Tell group  regifted his parents's ceremonial garb from the Hmong community to the La Crosse Historic society. Kewl indeed.
Ariel polishing her remarks

Somebody had to initiate and implement this ingeneous collaborative effort and it was the brainchild of UW-L's Canadian Ariel Beaujot. With the help of students, her colleagues and our community this exhibit came to fruition.  Kudos to you all and Thank you for showing the importance remembering a community's history through art.
* Additional 2016 presentations THE PUMP HOUSE REGIONAL ARTS Behind (art)i fact will take    place Sundays at 2pm :
 March 6, April 3 and 10th , and 17th

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