This week on Inside The Warehouse, artist Pat Hidson tells us about the inspiration behind “Spirit Bird”, a piece featured in the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition.
Pat Hidson, "Spirit Bird" (2009) watercolor and graphite on paper
“My way of comprehending the world has always involved drawing it. During my challenging and turbulent childhood a piece of paper, a pencil and perhaps some watercolors gave me respite and a way to connect with a deeper and calmer self than the frightened child I really was. Inadvertently my habits of writing and making art have given me strength and uplifted me. This is what I believe my purpose is as an artist: to share the gift that art has given me.
The body of work represented by this painting/drawing was done over a period of several years. I developed this method of creating a work that could incorporate many elements at once by using my sketchbooks. They contain drawings and studies that are more like a bower bird’s nest than anything systematic. Often there is much more writing than drawing in the many books I have filled. This way I have a dialogue between me and my constant reading. This would include my daily excursions into studies that include history, metaphysics, philosophy, art history, and nature. As an avid bookworm all my life I found a way to use books as an indirect resource. As well, outings of any kind offer a bounty of things to see and collect through drawing.
This painting includes a chrysanthemum, which like most flowers has symbolic connotations and stories around it. One interesting one is its association with the Chinese poet Tao Yuanming, who lived about 365-427 and is considered a major poet who is the foremost representative of the school Fields and Gardens poetry. His approach to life, and the way he
found inspiration in his natural surroundings coheres with my own way of working. My gardening practice is grounded in reverence for the natural world and my garden on the river exemplifies a deep feeling of responsibility inherent in the privilege of land 'ownership'. There is an image from the Ahlambra in the painting. Since extensive travel has never been
possible for me I avail myself of my imagination to see in my mind’s eyes places that I dream of going to. Now that we all understand the carbon cost of travel, perhaps this approach is one that conforms with my ecological philosophy.
The spirit bird represents our connection with the divine. Over many eons humans have used the concept of creatures of indeterminate species to convey our connection with spiritual reality, wherein all is sacred.
I hope that this helps the viewer to understand my process and know the work on a deeper level.”
With woodcuts, paper constructions, and colorful etchings all accompanied by poems, Rachel Durfee’s work blurs the line between the visual and literary arts. This week on Inside The Warehouse Rachel Durfee provides insight into her artistic practice, her connection to the natural world, and the inspiration behind her piece “The Four Corners” that was featured in the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition.
“There is an otherworldliness to waking up in a tent to the sounds of wind, waves or rain and smelling the freshness of morning earth. I have been camping since the tender age of five months. My childhood is punctuated by memories of camping and time spent in the woods. Through my work as an artist and poet, I explore our interdependent relationship with nature and call us to care for the earth that sustains us.
A large part of our stewardship of the earth is linked to sustainable design and management of the built environment. Before moving to Wisconsin, I worked for a landscape architecture and land planning firm in the Washington, DC area. Armed with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cornell University, I secured a job making presentation drawings and plans for new residential subdivisions, golf course resorts, commercial buildings and parking lots. This time making presentation drawings influenced my thinking about the social and environmental implications of land use and has had an impact on my later works of art.
A clear example of how my land use design experience has influenced my artwork can be seen in my piece, The Four Corners, in the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibit. In my woodcut print, which is hand-colored with watercolors, the built environment is personalized – with a dash of wit. The land takes on the form of a human body, while the arteries and veins serve as highways and roads stretching across the body. There is an airport in the head, a golf course made of cells and a swamp in the armpit. The heart is a map of Washington, DC, with the Potomac River, the National Mall and the Pentagon. The heart not only represents my time living in the DC area, but also the heart of the land use policy-making mechanisms of this country. In 1991, I moved to Madison, WI to pursue my Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have lived in Madison ever since. Madison, with its beloved and vulnerable chain of lakes, is located in the bladder region of the map.
The Four Corners features a grid of lines which represent latitude and longitude. In a map, the latitudinal and longitudinal lines provide a reference system for the topography. They represent our desire to impose structure and control over the landscape from which to pinpoint existence. However, topography, like the entire natural world, is unrestrained and does not conform to our efforts of defined order.
Every square inch of land in this map is filled. This is indicative of the greed and callousness we extend toward land use. We use and abuse land until we reach the edges or limits of possible development. In this case, the limiting factor is the water. On the personal level, we also use up our resources, our time and our energy until we hit whatever limits are set in our paths. The four cardinal directions on the compass rose are indicated with the letters P, A, I and X, which spell “Peace” in French. Peace has been thrown to the four corners of existence, threatening our well-being and the well-being of the environment.
The Four Corners ultimately begs the question, “What it would it look like to live in a sustainable and satisfying peace with the environment, with ourselves and with each other?”
Art at the nexus of war, the environment, and distress. This week on Inside The Warehouse, artist Jill Sebastian tells us about the inspiration behind “Anchor”, a piece featured in the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition.
Jill Sebastian, "Anchor" (1990) lithograph on paper
“Simply put, Anchor is a valentine to the world. During the Gulf War, I anguished about the war's immediate, severe devastation of our global environment. The heart-shaped (Werner) map projection dates back to the renaissance age of exploration. Commonly used through the 18th century, this diagram promoted a belief that inner emotions can affect the physical world. As I listened daily to the morning news, my world felt abstract as though shifting, splitting apart, rejoining, cloning and disintegrating. Grasping my morning cup of coffee felt intimately more real, solid. Realizing the only way anyone can see the world as a whole is from space, I launched my cup as a satellite. From this vantage point I can ask, what can one person do?”
Xn-trix, the husband and wife team of Tom Rauschke and Kaaren Wiken, are famous for their intricate wood and fiber sculptures inspired by the natural world. This week on Inside The Warehouse, Tom Rauschke provides insight into his and Kaaren Wiken’s connection to Wisconsin and how the State’s natural environment inspired their Tree Goblet series.
“Both Kaaren and I are born and bred Wisconsinites. Kaaren grew up in Muskego, and I in Waukesha. We met at the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1972, where we both worked. We married in 1975. Kaaren has a BS from Stevens Point, and I have a BFA from UWM. We both attribute our love and fascination of the Natural World to being able, from an early age on, to go roaming freely in the wilds of Wisconsin. That sense of Awe and Adventure is what we attempt to convey in our artwork.
The very first Tree Goblet I made was for a "Goblet Show" at the Northwest Gallery of Fine Woodworking in Seattle WA in the 1980's. After that I continued to explore the Tree Goblet theme with different types of trees. Trees with multiple trunks, trees with birds, trees with leaves,...and then a tree with a nest, that has a bird sitting on an embroidery of baby birds hatched underneath it! Also at this time I became aware that every tree flowers in some way, so, tiny little flowers in the branches turned and carved from colorful exotic hardwoods.
The Tree Goblet that is in the Shannon/ Serr Collection, and in the current Exhibit, On the Nature of Wisconsin, at the Warehouse was turned, cut, and carved from the trunk of an Ash tree. You can see the bark, and count the rings. There is some irony in making a tree back into a tree.”
Xn-trix, "Birds in Tree" (1997). Featured in the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition.
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