Tag Archives: art

Riverwest FemFest 2017 – In their words

By Joey Grihalva

Wisconsin has some incredibly talented female artists. That is not an “alternative fact.” 

But you might not know it if you went to any random concert, art gallery or comedy club. In an effort to address this gender imbalance, multiple venues in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood played host to a parade of female and female-identifying creatives for five days last week — from teenage rockers to soprano singers, visual artists to spoken word poets.

What was originally intended simply to be a basement party thank you to the inspiring women in Olivia Doyle’s life three years ago, has blossomed into Riverwest FemFest, possibly the state’s largest female-focused arts festival.

The third installment of FemFest took place amid an international outpouring of support for women and disapproval of President Trump. It also served as a fundraiser for the Milwaukee Coalition for Justice and the Milwaukee Women’s Center.

Rather than recap the festival, I interviewed over a dozen organizers and performers, allowing them to describe the significance of FemFest in their voice.

[All photos by Jessi Paetzke.]

Olivia Doyle, founder

I started it because I was feeling empowered by the women around me, to the point where it really changed my life. I went back to school. I started wanting more of myself because they reminded me that I deserve it. It was a truly powerful experience for me to meet all these women in Riverwest, so the first fest was really just a thank you. It was never meant to be what it is now. 

Why is the diversity of arts at the festival important?

Because women and femmes are creative in other ways that aren’t just music. And we want to showcase as much of their creativity as we can.

Have there been any growing pains with the festival over the years?

This year especially has been a real learning process for us, with the expansion of everything that we’re including and also with how big we’re getting. We’re reaching a lot more people. So it’s really like a community event and there’s lots of different people in this community, so learning to be as inclusive as possible is a process. 

What are some of the things you’re most proud of in terms of the festival?

As a whole, watching all these people perform that I love and I’m inspired by. I’m very proud to have created this platform. In terms of a specific moment, Jenna Knapp did spoken word, she’s a childhood friend of mine. Being able to introduce her and tell the audience why she’s so inspiring to me and then have her read her poetry, which people loved, it made me feel like a proud mom. It’s really wonderful to see all these people that I love and care about do what they love and care about.

Jenna Knapp [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Ellie Jackson, organizer and musician (Scape)

I’ve been involved in music and radio from an early age. I joined a community radio station when I was in college. When I got involved with music I realized there was like a 20-to-1 ratio between the bands I was playing that were male and the bands that were female. Not because I wanted to, but those were the numbers. I asked the station manager if I could do an all-female focused show and they told me that that was sexist. I said, “It doesn’t feel sexist though. The music industry is sexist!”

So for me FemFest is an opportunity to celebrate those female artists that I wasn’t given permission to celebrate before. Now we’re taking the permission. Riverwest is also where I live so the community here is very important to me. But certainly supporting creatives everywhere is also very important to me.

Why is it important to have a diversity of arts at the festival?

I think that we as a culture underestimate other arts. Like a great example is that here we are in this venue (Company Brewing) where you can come and buy a beer and watch music almost any night of the week, which is a beautiful thing. But there isn’t really that culture around 2D art, there isn’t exactly that culture around the Milwaukee Art Museum and other performance arts. They’re not quite as celebrated as musical art. We have a culture with bar venues and theater venues that make it easier to celebrate musical art, but we’re really excited to have a variety night with comedians and other performance art. There was a burlesque performance, we have an art gallery and we have a Maker’s Fair upstairs, so we’re trying to sort of spread out all the creativity.

Were you a part of the festival last year?

No, I just came to it. I came to it on Saturday, one year ago today, and I remember walking into this space and just being so impressed with all the performances and I guess just feeling like, “Duh. Of course we should celebrate this, these people are amazing!” And the fact that the ratio is still not even.

It’s a no-brainer that this festival needs to happen and people need to come and experience the talent that these female performers have. And then to be in a room with people that are genuinely interested in celebrating femme creativity and supporting Milwaukee organizations, because it’s all a fundraiser. Also actively working on not being sexist and being allies for that cause. It felt great, so as soon as it happened last year I was like, “Who do I talk to? How do I get involved in this?”

Britney Freeman-Farr, musician (B~Free, Foreign Goods)

I got involved with FemFest last year when I was a part of another show with one of FemFest’s organizers, Johanna Rose. We were in Prince Uncovered together and we just connected musically.  She said, “You and Cree Myles have to be a part of FemFest!” So we called Jay Anderson, and I wasn’t even in Foreign Goods at the time, but we were all friends because my husband is in the band. They backed us and the experience was so incredibly invigorating. Not only performing, but also watching all of these women command the stage and the audiences.

There was one group in particular, Mary Allen and the Perculators, and I was just blown away. I couldn’t believe that we have this much power! And then when I saw that the festival was coming back around and I was more developed with my own solo stuff at this time, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to recreate the same magic that I experienced. I’m very happy to have the opportunity.

What does it mean for you to be a part of female focused gatherings?

It makes me feel like what I’m doing is purposeful. As we mentioned in the show this evening, ‘It’s really hard out here for a pimp.’ (laughs) It’s hard being a woman in this industry, let alone in this world. And to be able to be a thriving example of someone who not only has a craft but also makes a livelihood with it, that sets the tone for all the generations to come. I feel really good about letting the young ones know that no matter your background, or gender or creed, you can do whatever makes you happy. Forget everybody else’s standards that they place on you. I really feel like that’s the spirit behind FemFest. Celebrating that we’re not going to let you think of us as the lesser gender or anything, we’re equally as talented and important.

B~Free [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Gabriella Kartz, music organizer and performer (Faux Fiction)

It’s about supporting each other and celebrating people who add a lot to the Milwaukee scene in general through their various art forms. I think we’re really trying to make sure that we’re inclusive of all groups. People who are women or identify as women, we’re really trying to embrace all of that diversity. It’s what makes the fest a wonderful thing.

For me, last year was just a really positive experience. We got great feedback about our music and it was a really comfortable space to be able to express yourself. I think that’s what I really liked about it and why I wanted to be more involved this year.

Faux Fiction [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Kelsey Moses, comedian (Goodlanders)

This was the first time we’ve done anything outside of ComedySportz. , so it was a great opportunity to share what we do with people who might not come to ComedySportz.  How could you not enjoy a giant collaboration of beautiful, strong, powerful women being funny, being creative, being artistic, being musical? Women coming together to celebrate women, I love it.

Goodlanders [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Ashley Altadonna, filmmaker and musician (The Glacial Speed)

One of the great things about FemFest is that it is so inclusive. I know that they’ve had other transgender performers besides me at the festival and I think that’s great. I also had two films in the film showcase, plus all the workshops and community organizing they’re doing is fantastic. There’s just so much to see and do.

The Glacial Speed [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Jessi Paetzke, photographer

I attended last year because a friend invited me and it was really inspiring for me, so I wanted to get involved and photography is what I do. It’s really encouraging to see a bunch of diverse and talented women doing what they’re supposed to be doing and living out their passions. And also hearing about other people’s struggles, those of us who aren’t white men, what we face in society, how people might try to make us feel small or not welcome, and knowing that we’re not the only ones who feel that way.

Mary Joy, organizer and musician (Fox Face)

I didn’t have a strong female role model growing up and I had a lot of self-esteem issues. For me, music became that outlet of expression and that confidence builder. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 16 and that’s really where my female role models emerged. Music has been such an essential part of my identity and I realize that my story, my feminism, can relate and intersect with other people’s feminism. Our stories can come together and change a community. Our stories can help us find that self-esteem and whatever is missing in our lives.

It’s been a very empowering experience for me to have my own journey, but also to bring together other people’s journeys, wherever they’re at. And I hope they find something at FemFest, find something that they’re looking for, find a new relationship, find meaning somewhere.

Fox Face [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

D Kirschling, volunteer (Ladies Rock)

This year the fest has really expanded and added all types of artists. I’ve known about women in the arts and music scenes for a long time and it’s great to see everybody getting together to spread the word and get to know each other and share. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. I’m hearing bands I’ve known and loved and I’m hearing new bands I haven’t been exposed to before.

Anskar Thorlac, performance artist (Maplewood Gardens – Chicago)

We’re really interested in intersectionality in our audiences. Our rituals are meant to be public and shared by large groups of people. It’s really exciting to find different communities and especially a femme identifying community, being femme identifying artists ourselves. It’s exciting to have an entry point into that community in a different city. It’s also sort of liberating doing a shared ritual for people you don’t know. Plus all of the femme organizers have been so generous and supportive and responsive.

Anskar Thorlac (Maplewood Gardens) [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Katie Lyne, musician (New Boyz Club, Ruth B8r Ginsburg, The Grasping at Straws)

It shows that if we have to put on a whole entire festival of female or female-fronted acts, there’s obviously something missing. We have to do this to put it at the forefront. It’s not a female-dominated scene, but it’s going to be one. The dynamic is changing. And it’s just such an awesome festival, having safe places for women like Company Brewing, places that include everyone and bring the power back to where it belongs.

I love hearing the poetry too. Hearing females tell their stories of sexual abuse or whatever it may be, especially friends of mine who I see everyday. Everyone has a struggle as a woman and to have that on stage alongside these awesome bands, it’s such a great place for women to collaborate and remember that we’re all in this together.

Rachel Clark, gallery team

FemFest is an opportunity to bring a lot of people together to talk about females and female-identifying folks. Like when we did the interviews for gallery artists, we had meetings at our houses just so people could meet and have conversations. So not only is the festival important to me because of what it stands for, but also it’s an opportunity for people to get to know each other and build community.

Groovy Dog Gallery [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Alexandre Maxine Hill, musician (LUXI)

FemFest means a lot to me. In the past it was harder for me to book shows as a female artist. I’m not sure people really took me seriously. So I think it’s really important that we have a place where we can have a voice and express ourselves in whatever way we want and just be the awesome women that we are.

Gabriela Riveros, gallery and Maker’s Fair artist

I think these kinds of fests are needed, especially for all the creatives that exist in Milwaukee. We need a space for other women creatives to come out of their own neighborhoods and communities and be a part of a larger project. I love the fest. There’s so much going on.

Jovan [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

Casey O’Brien, festival-goer

I feel that women tend to have a somewhat secretive supportive role that isn’t always publicized. It sort of feels like the foundation that supports something else. And this festival puts a spotlight on people who don’t normally get a spotlight.

I think it’s easier for a woman or femme-identifying person to get up on this stage versus being on an everyday Milwaukee lineup, when too often girls are judged based on how they look or people say stuff like, “Oh she’s good for a girl.” Here no one is looking at the stage and saying, “Look they have a girl in that band!” It feels more comfortable.

Katie Lafond, musician (Siren)

I want female-focused gatherings to be unnecessary. We shouldn’t need to have an all-girl thing for people to start putting more girls on shows. I think it’s more important for the guys because it gives them something to look at and be like, “Oh, this has been in our city this whole time and I just never knew it.”

But it’s also good for younger girls to see there are women out there who are doing what they might want to do. So I think it’s good to educate men and to show kids there are better opportunities and that we’re able to do these things on stage. It’s kind of like a teaching moment where we’re saying, “You can do this too, you’re not alone.”

See more of Jessi Paetzke’s photos from Riverwest FemFest 2017 by clicking the links below.

Day 1 (Wednesday @ Art Bar)

Day 2 (Thursday @ Groovy Dog Gallery & Riverwest Public House Cooperative)

Day 3 (Friday @ Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts and Company Brewing)

Day 4 & 5 (Saturday & Sunday @ Company Brewing)

Devin Settle [Photo by Jessi Paetzke]

A new role for Frank Lloyd Wright home that survived Sandy

A Frank Lloyd Wright house that was flooded by Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey is high and dry in Arkansas. And it’s getting thousands of visitors as part of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The Bachman-Wilson House, originally located in Millstone, New Jersey, was one of Wright’s famed Usonian homes. The architect created these small, simple structures for middle-class Americans, and about 60 were built.

The Crystal Bridges Museum had the home moved to Bentonville, Arkansas, where it was aligned on the same axis Wright used when laying out the building in 1954.

More than 80,000 people have toured the Bachman-Wilson House in the past year. The home is presented as a retreat — a place to get away from it all without having to get away.

“You’re completely immersed in your natural environment,” said Dylan Turk, a curatorial assistant at Crystal Bridges. “Wright’s using materials that are American and comfortable — woods and natural materials — because he feels that is more connectible than steel, which is what other architects were using at that time.”

Wright desired an American identity among everyday homes and labeled his style “Usonian,” for the “United States of North America.” He wanted them to be affordable, and charged just $400 for the plans for the Bachman-Wilson House. The house cost about $30,000 to build.

Wright actually never visited a Usonian home, Turk said. He was busy working on the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, when the Bachman-Wilson House was built.

“Wright valued everything he designed, but he was also working on, at the time, The Guggenheim, which he thought would be his shining moment as an architect. He may have been a little preoccupied,” Turk said.

While it wasn’t part of the Crystal Bridges’ initial plan, the Wright-designed home fits in with the museum’s concentration on art, architecture and nature, Turk said. Crystal Bridges architect Moshe Safdie sited the museum above Town Branch Creek. The Bachman-Wilson House overlooks Crystal Spring, a tributary well out of the flood plain.

Students from the University of Arkansas’ school of architecture, which is named after Wright protege Fay Jones, designed a welcome pavilion nearby. Wright, Jones and Safdie each won the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal.

“I wish I could have said I initiated the action to get the house, but I didn’t,” Safdie said. While he hasn’t yet seen the Bachman-Wilson House in Arkansas, he said he was thrilled to hear about the acquisition and noted that he, Jones and Wright each now have an influence on the museum’s grounds.

“The trilogy has pleased me,” he said.

Before the house opened on a recent chilly morning, Turk sat down on the living room’s low-slung bench, which abuts a cinder block wall designed as a barrier for the world outside. Across the room is a wall of glass, broken up by mahogany door frames and window frames cut in the shape of a maple tree’s winged seed pod. The room faces southwest to catch the afternoon sun.

“He wanted you to be as close to the ground as you possibly could be because he thought that grounded you,” Turk said. “You’re looking up. You can see the tops of the trees through the clerestory windows.”

A rust-colored floor, heated from beneath, extends beyond the glass.

“He pioneered radiant heat in the United States. If you are outside on a cool night, you can feel your house,” Turk said. “He wanted you to feel your house in as many ways as you possibly could.”

The Bachman-Wilson House flooded a number of times in New Jersey, most recently when Sandy hit in 2012. When its owners considered moving it to preserve it, Crystal Bridges said it would fit in with its mission.

“Art is not just a painting that hangs on the wall,” Turk said. “If you want to be creative, it doesn’t have to be limited to a canvas.

“This is familiar. It’s a house,” he said. “Most people live in a house, so it allows us to open up this space for people to come in and go, ‘Huh, my house doesn’t look like this. Why?’ or ‘I have this in my house. Why do I have this in my house?””

If You Go…

CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART: Located in Bentonville, Arkansas. Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Monday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Free general admission includes Wright house.


From fashion to film, gift-worthy coffee table books abound

Come holiday time, there’s never a shortage of splashy coffee table books to please just about any aficionado.

Some suggestions:


“Fashion Made Fair,” by Magdalena Schaffrin and Ellen Kohrer, Prestel, $49.95. Know someone deeply committed to sustainability in fashion? Taking a truly world view, this book dives deeply into companies that do it well. In Zurich, for instance, look to the brothers Freitag, Daniel and Markus. They’re bag makers who launched F-abric, a line of compostable workwear.

“Reigning Men, Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015,” by Sharon Sadako Takeda, Kaye Durland Spilker and Clarissa M. Esguerra, DelMonico Books, $55. Going back to the 18th century, this tome celebrates all aspects of men’s dressing, from the French court to Speedo. Among contemporary high points: An intricately bleached denim suit by Vivienne Westwood and a futuristic ruffle suit by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons.

“Francois Nars,” by Francois Nars, Rizzoli International, $85. With some of the most famous faces in fashion represented, the visionary behind NARS Cosmetics tells his story in beautiful close-up color, with snippets of remembrances and inspirations. He includes the communion looks of both his parents and makes it clear beauty begins with beautiful skin.



“The Lyrics: 1961-2012,” by Bob Dylan, Simon & Schuster, $60. The Nobel Prize-winning man of the hour, and of oh-so-many hours, has released 36 studio albums that have sold more than 120 million copies. This book includes lyrics from his first album to “Tempest,” released in 2012. Dylan has edited dozens of songs for the book, to reflect the words he uses as he performs them now.

“The Rolling Stones: All the Songs, the Story Behind Every Track,” by Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon, Black Dog & Leventhal, $50. The book covers 50 years and 340 songs, beginning with the band’s 1963 debut album. More than 500 photos are included, along with details like what instruments were used in the studio.

“David Bowie Play Book,” by Matteo Guarnaccia and Giulia Pivetta, ACC Art Books, $29.95. What better way to honor the icon who died in January than with a color, cut and play set. Includes paper dolls and his favorite footwear spanning his ever-changing look and a coloring page of the people who inspired him, from Dylan to Marlene Dietrich.



“Hollywood Icons,” by Robert Dance, ACC Editions, $65. Stunning studio portraits of film icons from the 1930s through the ‘60s from the collection of the John Kobal Foundation. Kobal was a film journalist and historian who amassed a huge collection of Hollywood portraits and set images. Look for Bette Davis, shot by George Hurrell for Warner Bros. in 1939.

“My Elizabeth,” by Firooz Zahedi, Glitterati, $75. Friend and acclaimed photographer Zahedi offers a private peek into Taylor’s life from 44 into her 70s. Includes the Washington, D.C., years, jaunts in Montauk, New York with Halston and Andy Warhol and intimate photos of her children and stepchildren. There’s Taylor making fried chicken, on a boat in Venice, on a trip to Iran.

“The Malkovich Sessions,” by Sandro Miller, Glitterati, $95. “Being John Malkovich” is so 1999. In this book, rather than on film, John Malkovich gets to be himself, in all his goofy, creepy glory. And he gets to recreate some of the world’s most iconic portraits, with the help of photographer Miller, in a book that offers both pathos and whimsy.



“Young Frankenstein, The Story of the Making of the Film,” by Mel Brooks, Black Dog & Leventhal, $29.99. Whether you’re a first-generation “Young Frankenstein” fan or trying to nudge along the next, nobody does this 1974 classic better than Brooks himself. With a foreword by Judd Apatow (“Even Gene Hackman is funny in it”) and behind-the-scenes photos, a great to hear the now 90-year-old Brooks in his own voice.

“Shop Cats of New York,” by Tamar Arslanian, photos by Andrew Marttila, Harper Design, $21.99. To heck with that Yelp reviewer who dissed the bodega cat. This book shows that shop life can work for felines, with a warning that not all may be treated like kings and queens. Dwelling in wine shops, bookstores, dry cleaners and yes, The Algonquin Hotel, think “Humans of New York,” only cats.

“Dream a World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America,” by National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Books, $40. As much a primer on the slave trade and racial discrimination as a celebration of early black entrepreneurs, musicians, writers, activists and athletes in a nuanced, global context. Marks the opening of the new museum in Washington, D.C., great for tweens and teens.


The scariest haunted house this election year? ‘Doomocracy’

Artist Pedro Reyes thinks American politics are pretty darn terrifying, especially this election year, and he wants to scare the wits out of you with his “Doomocracy” exhibition.

Alternately called “The Haunted House of Political Horrors,” the satirical, performance-based installation that opened this month has visitors navigate a series of rooms that deal with scary things like gun violence, climate change and painkillers addiction.

“When I think of Frankenstein, I think of genetic engineering and the food industry,” said the artist, whose primary home is in Mexico City. “When I think of vampires, I think of banks and the financial sector, or if you think of zombies, you can think of how people are addicted to prescription drugs.”

Spread over three floors of the sprawling Brooklyn Army Terminal, it’s timed for both Halloween and the general elections — “a perfect recipe to do something with a haunted house with the most scary things you can find today, which is politics,” he said. “Monsters are fantasy, but the scary things we’re dealing with for this project are real.”

As Reyes began considering how “these metaphors of scary things” could be staged, he appropriated the haunted house format — walking through a maze of horrors — for an “intense theatrical experience” in which groups of 12 people walk from room to room encountering short skits performed by actors and audience members cast in roles.

The experience starts in front of a monumental effigy Reyes created of the Statue of Liberty as a Trojan Horse, representing “this idea of how war has been normalized … in the name of freedom.”

Visitors are then whisked in a minivan to another building to begin a tour of 14 darkened rooms.

One room is a commentary on the diabetes epidemic and the food industry. It simulates a funeral parlor dominated by a coffin in the shape of a pink-frosted Twinkie while a man plays junk-food jingles on an electric organ. The undertaker explains to prospective customers — the audience — the new trend in fashioning coffins in the shape of people’s favorite sugary foods.

In another room, the setting is a corporate boardroom where a bailout unfolds; the audience votes on whether to get a big bonus or save the company.

The project provides a “space for catharsis for all the things that you fear every day,” Reyes said.

Katie Hollander, executive director of Creative Time, which is presenting the project, explained how it came about.

“As the political climate continues to heat up and became in some ways more and more absurd we felt it was a project that needed to be realized,” she said. “People are really struggling to understand the complexities and absurdities of this particular election and feel that our candidates and elected officials aren’t necessarily tackling the big issues of our time.”

In a fake polling place, audience members fill out referendum ballots. In the next room, they’re in for a bit of a shock (which won’t be disclosed here). In fact, during a press preview, some rooms were off-limits in the interest of creating an aura of mystery. When asked if any skits involved actors in the role of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Reyes would say only that visitors were in for a surprise at the end.

“Doomocracy” runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 6 p.m. to midnight through Nov. 6. Advance ticket purchase is necessary for the two-hour experience.

Obama tries to recreate SXSW at White House’s SXSL

President Barack Obama liked his March trip to Austin’s South by Southwest festival of technology and music so much that he decided to try to re-create the SXSW vibe from Texas on the South Lawn. On Oct. 3, he rolled out “South by South Lawn,” or SXSL, bringing together artists, innovators, musicians and entrepreneurs for the equivalent of a giant White House block party for tech nerds.

The president made a midday visit to the South Lawn to check out booths and vendors promoting everything from virtual reality technology to fake tattoos. He spoke to the crowd about climate change later in the day in a joint appearance with actor Leonardo DiCaprio and climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.

In an email promoting the event, Obama wrote that SXSL was “at its heart, a call to action. The folks out on the lawn today are artists, creators, entrepreneurs, and innovators who will share how they’ve used their unique skills to engage their communities in making the change they want to see — whether it’s curing cancer, fighting poverty, empowering women, and so much more.”

DiCaprio’s documentary film on climate change, Before the Flood, got its domestic premier on the lawn later in the day.

Tech blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash said the South Lawn event was a way to connect the dots between SXSW, with its ideas for changing the world, and the people who are “doing the actual work” to use technology to improve worker rights, civil rights and more. Panel discussions included topics such as “feeding the future” and “fixing real problems.”

The White House tech fest also featured a student film festival, a wall of art made of Post-Its, Lego statues, demonstrations on the science of food and using technology to help the disabled and lots of music. Among those performing: the Lumineers, Gallant, Black Alley, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and DJ Bev Bond.


‘Scary Lucy’ no more: New Lucille Ball statue installed

A new statue of Lucille Ball was unveiled in the late actress’ hometown of Celoron, New York, to replace one that was so hated it was dubbed “Scary Lucy.”

Hundreds of fans chanting “Lucy! Lucy!” gathered over the weekend in Lucille Ball Memorial Park in the western New York village of Celoron to watch as the tarp was removed from the statue made by sculptor Carolyn Palmer.

An unflattering version by another artist was banished after detractors started a Facebook campaign named, “We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue.”

The earlier statue’s creator, Dave Poulin, has said that he received death threats over the likeness. He apologized, calling his sculpture “unsettling,” but his offer to redo it for free was declined.

“Well, it’s been quite a ride,” Celeron Mayor Scott Schrecengost said as he kicked off the unveiling ceremony. “A little over a year ago, we got beat up pretty good.”

Schrecengost said that after the controversy over the earlier statue the town was “bombarded with all kinds of artists that would like to redo the statue.” He said Palmer was “the best sculptor we could have ended up with.”

Palmer thanked the “salt-of-the-earth” people of Celeron.

The crowd applauded as Palmer and Schrecengost unveiled the bronze statue, which shows Ball in a polka-dot dress.

Schrecengost said “Scary Lucy” remains an attraction and will be given another spot in the park.

The new statue was unveiled on what would have been Ball’s 105th birthday. The beloved star’s birthday is celebrated every year with the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in nearby Jamestown.

This year’s festival started Friday. Headliners include comics Trevor Noah, Lewis Black and Brian Regan.

Philadelphia freedom: Going to the Democratic convention

The nation will focus on Philadelphia this month, as the city hosts the Democratic National Convention.

Some 6,000-plus delegates — including 96 from Wisconsin — will assemble there for the convention, which opens July 25. Counting media, technicians, dignitaries, politicians and candidates, as many as 50,000 will attend.

And when the crowds arrive in the birthplace of America, Philadelphia is ready to welcome them as they have eight times before: the Democrats in 1936 and 1948, and the Republicans six times, most recently in 2000.

Many special events are planned for convention-goers, with parties scheduled before, during and after the convention, which takes place at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.

Philadelphia provides an abundance of sightseeing opportunities for convention-goers. It’s home to the Liberty Bell, of course, as well as Independence Hall, located just across the street. Independence Hall has been restored to look as it did during the constitutional convention and includes the chair in which George Washington presided over Congress. Another historical site is the house in which Betsy Ross supposedly sewed the first American flag.

But there’s much, much more.

Visiting a penitentiary

Though some might not think of a prison as a tourist attraction, one could spend days exploring the fascinating Eastern State Penitentiary. The now-crumbling prison was built in the 1820s as an alternative to the large, dirty rooms that housed the criminally insane, as well as the general prison population. A Quaker-inspired group that included Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Benjamin Rush believed prisons should be places of penitence. Under what came to be known as the “Pennsylvania System,” Eastern State prisoners were placed in single cells. They were given only one book — a Bible — and encouraged to regret their misdeeds as they spent their days in solitude.

When constructed, Eastern State Penitentiary was the largest and most expensive public structure in the country. It also was one of the most advanced — it had central heating before the White House, as well as flush toilets.

Today, the prison is a National Historic Landmark and open to visitors. Audio guides are available that include the “voices” of long-gone inmates and guards.

Philadelphia arts 

Five blocks from the Eastern State Penitentiary is the Philadelphia Museum of Art — a complex that includes the Rodin Museum — and the Barnes Foundation.

The late Albert Barnes grew up “poor and tough” in working-class Philadelphia at the turn of the last century. He held a number of degrees, including one in pharmacology. Working as a chemist in his own lab, Barnes created a medicine to prevent eye infections and blindness in newborns. He bought out a partner and then sold the company months before the crash of 1929. Those resources underwrote his lifelong passion for collecting art. He built his collection with the idea that teaching people to “see” art would advance the cause of democracy. The Barnes Foundation collection includes the largest number of Renoirs in one place  (181 paintings), as well as paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso.

Not to be outdone by the Barnes is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Everything from African art to textile art is featured, along with workshops on film, photography and music.

Philly theater ranges from Shakespeare and Broadway hits to experimental avant-garde. The Walnut Street Theatre, the nation’s oldest continually operating theater, is where Milwaukee Repertory Theater artistic director Mark Clements first opened a production he directed of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The show then transferred to Milwaukee for the 2014–15 season.

The list of actors who’ve appeared at the Walnut includes Wisconsin-born Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, the theater royalty of their day. The couple spent their summers at Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot. The Walnut comprises 1,100 seats on two levels. With 50,000 subscribers, the theater tops the nation in terms of annual subscribers.

Food and drink

It would be impossible to point out all the trendy, eclectic restaurants within walking distance or a short cab ride from the convention hall.

One surefire hit is the 1960s-inspired Continental Mid-Town, one in a collection of popular restaurants operated by Starr Restaurants — and a visual feast. Downstairs includes a cluster of old-style banquettes, complete with channeled backs. Upstairs, the vibe is slightly less frantic. Duos can dine while sitting in bamboo hanging chairs, bathed in the colors of aqua lights.

Start with one of the handcrafted cocktails — listed as “retro” or “pop.” Among the “retro” offerings is one near-and-dear to Wisconsinites: the old-fashioned. A number of special martinis are offered, including the delicious Grace Kelly. The city’s most famous sandwich, the cheesesteak, is represented here in a cheesesteak egg roll. There’s a taste of comfort food in the lobster macaroni and cheese, and another good choice for an entrée is the Chicken Tikki Masala, featuring Punjab-style chicken and curry. Prices are reasonable and reservations are recommended for this popular spot.

Finally, the convention hall is just a couple of blocks from one of the city’s must-see attractions, Reading Terminal Market. Dating back more than a century, the market is colorful, noisy and filled with an abundance of delicious smells. It is about five times the size of Milwaukee’s Public Market and holds 80 vendors.

For a Southern-style breakfast, check out the eggs and grits at Pearl’s Oyster Bar. Stroll past other oddly named places such as the Flying Monkey (a bakery), The Head Nut, and Beck’s Cajun Café. Although jambalaya and gumbo aren’t served at Pearl’s, you can get it here. At Beiler’s Pennsylvania Dutch Bakery, women dressed in Amish outfits twirl loops of dough and fashion them into delicious doughnuts. Or watch them make large, flavorful pretzels at Miller’s Twisted Pretzels. All of the baking is on-site.

And, yes, you can get a cheese-steak here, as well as a roast pork sandwich (rumored to be more popular with Philadelphians).

On July 28, when she makes her speech accepting the party’s nomination, all eyes will be on Hillary Clinton.

But before and after — between their caucus meetings, platform debates and protest actions — convention-goers can turn their attention instead to George Washington, Betsy Ross, Claude Monet and cheesesteaks.

If you go …

• Historic Philadelphia: Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market Streets (historicphiladelphia.org).

• Democratic National Convention Updates. The convention is at Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. (visitphilly.com and phldnc.com).

• Eastern State Penitentiary. 2027 Fairmount Ave. Five blocks from Philadelphia Museum of Art. Open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Admission charged. (easternstate.org).

• Philadelphia Museum of Art and Rodin Museum. Advance admission can be purchased by calling 215-235-7469. Pay-what-you-can admission is offered on the first Sunday of every month and every Wednesday night. The Main Building, 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is closed Mondays, and the Rodin Museum is closed Tuesdays (visit philamuseum.org). The Barnes Foundation is at 20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway (barnesfoundation.org). Admission charged.

• Walnut Street Theatre. 825 Walnut St. (walnutstreettheatre.org).

• Continental Mid-Town Restaurant. 1801 Chestnut St. 215-567-1800.

• Reading Terminal Market. A foodie paradise, opened in 1892, at 12th and Arch Streets. (readingterminalmarket.org).

— A.S.

Photo: B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia Benjamin Franklin (played by Ralph Archbold) arrived in Philadelphia as a runaway apprentice from Boston. He’s pictured at Elfreth’s Alley.
Photo: B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia
Benjamin Franklin (played by Ralph Archbold) arrived in Philadelphia as a runaway apprentice from Boston. He’s pictured at Elfreth’s Alley.

Art from the heart of the Driftless at Watrous

The Driftless region in southwestern Wisconsin, with its towering bluffs and deeply carved river valleys, exerts an influence over its residents. The region comprises more than 16,000 square miles of land that avoided being scoured flat by the last glacier to pass through the state half a million years ago.

Now, The James Watrous Gallery is showcasing the work of two of the region’s resident artists in exhibits that may help outsiders better understand the Driftless influence.

The gallery, part of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters and located in Madison’s Overture Center, is offering side-by-side exhibitions by John Craig and Valerie Mangion that open July 15.

Craig’s “Equivalences” and “Lost Treasures from the Heart of the Driftless” and Mangion’s “Night Vision” take very different approaches to exploring and interpreting the region’s influences.

John Craig

Pittsburgh native Craig spent 40 years as an illustrator and graphic designer and he’s perhaps best known for his collage illustrations for the 1995 Smashing Pumpkins album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Since retiring, his work has focused less on pleasing clients and more on satisfying his inner muse.

Craig’s experiences in collage art and the trove of paper images he’s collected led to the creation of “Equivalences,” an exhibit that focuses on vintage postcards he paired to create unique narratives.

“In one way, I see these prints as a study in perception, using pairs of found images that relate to each other, either in some graphic form, such as reversed perspectives and positive-versus-negative influences, or just as a kind of visual illusion/allusion, or a deja-vu experience,” Craig says. “I have many more cards awaiting their visual companions.”

Craig’s postcard theme continues in “Lost Treasures from the Heart of the Driftless.” The artist employed imagery from historical photographic cards that he began collecting when he moved to the region in 1973. He created prints from the postcard photos and added text underneath each to further explain and enhance the experience the viewer is supposed to gain from the print.

“Many local artists in the Driftless area capture their surroundings in paintings and photographs or work with materials found in their natural environment,” Craig says. “This gave me the urge to participate too, so I decided to relate some of the things that have been lost in the heart of the Driftless — and I tried a little writing for the first time, too.”

Craig remains modest about the text that accompanies his images, seeming more comfortable to let the prints speak for themselves.

“I’m not a writer, so I can’t call them poems,” he says. “Nor do I know what to call the captions.”

Valerie Mangion

Mangion is a magic realist originally from Illinois who specializes in animal imagery.

Her “Night Vision” is a series of paintings based on animal pictures captured on small trail cameras placed on a family farm — an approach designed to capture animals’ images without the influence of human exposure.

“The animals are not frozen in fear, as they often are when photographed by people during the day,” Mangion says. “They are relaxed, they have interesting postures and they are able to be photographed just being themselves.”

Infrared technology helps to create the reflective “night eyes” we often see when spotting animals at night. The effect is captured in each of Mangion’s “Night Vision” canvases.

The subject matter speaks to her abiding love for animals.

“The aesthetic value of any painting can be separated from the subject matter, and depends on the artist’s mastery of all the so-called ‘plastic elements’ of art, such as the design, color, texture, pattern, value, movement and other aspects,” Mangion says. “Animals themselves are inherently interesting, and my ‘Night Vision’ series is likely to appeal to a very diverse audience because of its subject matter.”

As to the appeal of the Driftless region, Mangion cites the landscape, the abundant wildlife and the quality of life.

Changes occur, she says, but the region still brings her joy.

Craig agrees. “We have lived in the heart of the Driftless for 40-plus years, after buying a piece of land the same day we looked at it. It was the best thing we ever did,” he says. “Other than that, describing what is special (about the region) would take an essay.”

On exhibit

Work by James Craig and Valerie Mangion is on display July 15–Aug. 28 at The James Watrous Gallery in Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., Madison. The artists will discuss their works at 2 p.m. July 23 at the gallery. The reception and the exhibit are free and open to the public.

PHOTO BELOW: John Craig From the “Lost Treasures of the Driftless” series.
From the “Lost Treasures of the Driftless” series.

Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit opens at London’s Tate Modern

Georgia O’Keeffe has come to London, like a bracing American desert wind rippling the River Thames.

An exhibition of more than 100 works opening this week at Tate Modern is the American art icon’s biggest-ever show outside the United States.

Curators hope it will surprise visitors who know the artist mainly for her giant flowers and sun-bleached animal skulls. The exhibition also offers O’Keeffe the pioneering abstract artist, O’Keeffe the surrealist and O’Keeffe who painted New York as well as New Mexico.

Cody Hartley, director of curatorial affairs at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, says the Tate show is “the most important O’Keeffe exhibition in a generation.”

“The exhibition has gathered the most important works from O’Keeffe’s career and covers the whole breadth of her creativity,” he said at a preview on Monday.

O’Keeffe, who had her first major exhibition a century ago and died in 1986 aged 98, had an exceptionally long career. It took her from her native Wisconsin to bohemian New York and to desert New Mexico, whose fiery landscapes inspired her later work.

But she is best known – through images that adorn countless posters and postcards – for giant flowers and sinuous, curved abstracts that were often given an erotic interpretation by both male critics and feminist writers.

O’Keeffe was unimpressed by the analysis.

“When people read erotic symbols in my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs,” she said.

Flowers are certainly prominent in Tate’s exhibition, which has borrowed extensively from the O’Keeffe Museum and other North American collections. (It’s a sign of a trans-Atlantic divide that no public British museum or gallery owns an O’Keeffe).

The exhibition includes the large floral study “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1,” which sold at auction in 2014 for $44 million. That’s a record for a female artist, though the label is not one O’Keeffe liked.

“She didn’t like boxes,” Hartley said. “She didn’t like it when the men tried to put her in a box. She didn’t like it when the women tried to put her in a box.”

The thread that runs through her career – from the stark abstract charcoals at the start of the exhibition to the aerial images of clouds from above at the end – is a fascination with the American landscape in all its variety.

As a young teacher in Texas, O’Keeffe depicted the state’s “wide empty country”; in New York she painted angular skyscrapers and the busy East River. For years she spent summers on Lake George in upstate New York, painting in a blue-green palette in contrast to the burnt tones of New Mexico.

She visited the southwestern state in 1929, and it was love at first sight.

“When she reached New Mexico, she felt at home,” exhibition curator Tanya Barson said. “She said, ‘Once I got there, that was mine.’ She felt this sense of belonging in New Mexico that she hadn’t felt in the east.”

In New Mexico, images of flowers were replaced by animal skulls, which O’Keeffe rendered beautiful rather than macabre. One of the exhibition’s star works is “From the Faraway, Nearby,” a lavishly antlered skull in a mountainous landscape tinged blue, pink and orange.

It’s an exotic image for Europeans, but Hartley said that despite her “thoroughly American” subject matter, O’Keeffe is an artist of the world.

“Abstraction and a sort of distillation of the essence of any given place or any given subject are at the heart of what she does,” he said. “She gives us a sense of seeing our world in a new way.”

On the Web

The exhibition runs to Oct. 30. It moves to Bank Austria Kunstforum in Vienna from Dec. 7 to March 26, and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto from April to June 2017.