This week on Inside The Warehouse, artist Bill Reid tells us about the importance of art and nature throughout his life, as well as the inspiration behind his series of Dodo sculptures. Reid's piece, "Dodo in a Darker Bush" was on display in the lobby of The Warehouse as a part of the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition.
Bill Reid, "2020 Dodo Vision." (2020) mixed media
“I was actually born in Buffalo NY and then lived in Ohio until 8th grade. My parents instilled an interest in nature, mom loved birds and was a great watercolor painter. Dad was a lawyer but never liked it and retired early and became a bird carver. Growing up where we were in Ohio was great because there was this big wild forest in our backyard where I could go after school and explore and mess about in. We moved to Racine in the summer of 1968 just in time for the riots and all the other things going on. I first became interested in art at The Prairie School where we could do lost wax casting in aluminum. The aspect of working with my hands and the fire involved entranced me. After going to Lawrence University in Appleton for a year and then their London program, I decided I wanted to go to art school and was lucky enough to go to Kansas City Art Institute for BFA and then Cranbrook Academy of Art for MFA. I did a lot of work there, maybe some of it okay. There were aspects back then of what I do now, but I think that I developed the kind of language I have now with the animals about 15 years after I was out of art school.
The dodo is kind of a poster child for extinction and I hope it will be the first animal to be cloned if they, whoever they are, are able to do it. I had made a few smaller dodos and recently have been making some more. This big one was made in 2007 partly for a show I had at RAM in Racine. The idea was to make it have a big presence but not imposing. It is holding the opposite of a lighter - a darker. It is in a bush of darkness but does not seem to mind.”
Bill Reid with his piece, "Dodo in a Darker Bush," during the install of the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition
This week’s inside look at the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition highlights artist Rafael Francisco Salas and the piece he has featured in the show.
Rafael Francisco Salas is a Wisconsin based painter. He combines landscape, the legacy of portraiture, architecture, Byzantine iconography and country music into artwork that evokes a strange, rural poetry. It reflects a personal journey of mixed race identity, conflict, beauty and devotion played out on the vast landscapes of rural Wisconsin.
His work has been exhibited in New York City, San Diego, Boston, as well as many venues in the Midwest including The Neville Public Museum, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, The John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Dean Jensen gallery, Circa Gallery and Frank Juarez Gallery. His work is represented by Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Salas has also worked as a contributing writer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Newcity Art in Chicago and Urban Milwaukee. Salas is a professor of art at Ripon College in Ripon, WI.
Rafael Francisco Salas, "Sheep Behind a Fence" (2018) ink and acrylic on paper
“My artwork reflects on American tradition and identity. It speaks to an indignant desire for a dream continually just beyond reach. It is a strange, rural poetry of aspiration and poignant reality, a striver’s endeavor of high and low culture, situated between the elevated and the abject. When I look over the landscapes of Wisconsin, I see beauty and tragedy in equal measure.
Animals have always been vehicles for expansive metaphor in art. They stand in for the self, for the spirit, and of course for nature writ large. In this case, a sheep represents all of these ideas, perhaps more.
I look to art history as much as to lived experience in my work. Jan Van Eyck, Byzantine iconography, as well as more modern reflections of the land and our place on it, influence the psychology and moods of my artwork. Together, I am creating a new object that combines the past, the present, autobiography and invention into an ever expanding parable.”
-Rafael Francisco Salas
Our first official post for the Inside the Warehouse blog comes from photographer, author, and environmentalist Eddee Daniel, who reflects on his work “Seiche”, a piece featured in the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibit.
Eddee Daniel. Seiche, from the Menomonee Valley project, 2014
"It was a somewhat gloomy overcast autumn afternoon when I finished a shoot in Three Bridges Park and headed back to my car at 33rd Ct. As I crossed the pedestrian bridge over the Menomonee River I glanced down and was immediately arrested by the odd sight of swirling water. When I looked more closely I could see that mostly yellowish leaves were flowing slowly downstream and oily streaks with a metallic blue-gray sheen were flowing slowly upstream. These two contrasting streams met just below the bridge and swirled around each other. It didn’t seem possible.
I’d walked over this bridge many times. The river had always flowed freely downstream at this point, well above the place where it usually meets the Lake Michigan estuary, near the 27th Street viaduct. But now it appeared that somehow lake water was pushing the river backwards. I didn’t know why at the time; all I knew was that what I was seeing was beautiful and eerie and intriguing. So, I made a series of photographs that eventually became “Seiche.”
Upon researching the phenomenon, I learned that seiche (pronounced “saysh”) refers to a temporary, tide-like oscillation in the water level of a body of water not typically subject to tides, such as Lake Michigan. It is often caused by changes in atmospheric pressure. In this case, the phenomenon became visible due to the coincidence of the natural (leaves) and unnatural (oily slicks) being pushed together and commingling. “Seiche” is not just a metaphor for the human impact on nature but a perfect representation of themes that underpin my work.
It is an honor to have my work, “Seiche,” included in the exhibition, “On the Nature of Wisconsin.” Nature and in particular the relationship between humans and nature have been at the forefront of my artistic practice for a long time. This piece was created during an artist in residency in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley that ran January to December, 2014. The residency was sponsored by Menomonee Valley Partners in association with Zimmerman Architectural Studios. The residency program was intended to stimulate an exchange of ideas about the Valley, its history, its future and its place as a dynamic and vital part of the fabric of Milwaukee. The work created during the residency lives on in a dedicated website: Menomonee Valley.
The Menomonee Valley residency was part of an on-going series of related projects I’ve called Urban Wilderness. The series promotes an awareness of the interrelationship between urban and natural environments. My latest project in this series is called “A Wealth of Nature: Parks and natural areas in Southeastern Wisconsin.” The project is in association with Preserve Our Parks and has its own dedicated website: awealthofnature.org."
Eddee Daniel. "Milwaukee River Greenway"
Welcome to The Warehouse’s new blog Inside the Warehouse. Stay tuned for behind the scenes content of the museum, exhibitions, artists, and more.
The inaugural series of our new Inside the Warehouse blog will feature an in-depth look at our incredibly well-received exhibition On the Nature of Wisconsin. Every week, we will be posting stories by and about artists featured in the exhibition and provide a deeper insight into their practice. The series will offer opportunities to learn more about particular pieces in the show, the people who created them, and artists’ connection to nature and the state of Wisconsin. To stay up to date with Inside the Warehouse subscribe or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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