Tag Archives: glamping

Drink pink at The Pitch Project in Walker’s Point

The neutral white of The Pitch Project’s main gallery space is bathed in a wash of pink light. A couple of camping tents are pitched in the corners, kitted out with sleeping bags and other sundry outdoor necessities. Off to one side, a pedestal holds a monument of Busch Light beer cans. On the walls, photographs show 20-somethings frolicking outdoors in the summer, guzzling beer and cuddling a scruffy cat. 

Has camp culture gone campy? In this exhibition, called LIT UP, it is humorous and insular, filled with deadpan irony. The artistic duo behind the installation, known as Gurl Don’t Be Dumb, includes Brooklyn-based Jamie Steel and Eileen Mueller, a Milwaukee native now living in Chicago. Establishing GDBD in 2011, the pair has engaged in a variety of curatorial projects, and LIT UP represents a new direction in their collaborative work, but it’s consistent with their established playfulness and humor. 

The inspiration for this exhibition, which was originally presented as a one-night show at Forever & Always Projects in Chicago, goes back to a 2013 residency at ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibition) in rural Steuben, Wisconsin. The end result is a sort of play on stereotypes, particularly dudes who use nature as a drinking venue. As the artists describe in their exhibition notes, “This is your Styrofoam cooler emitting a soft pink glow, this is your moonlight skinny-dip LIT UP.”

A video in the front gallery brings the combination of camaraderie and bravado together. The artists are nonchalant behind sunglasses, sitting in plastic chairs opposite each other in a grassy clearing. They throw plastic darts at each others’ feet, taking three shots at a time, and then a guy clambers in to collect the darts to be thrown again. The point of the lackadaisical dart game becomes apparent when one punctures a can of beer on the ground, shifting gears into a drinking game in which beer is sucked down from the pierced opening. With a stomp and a squash of the nearly empty can, the video ends.

In another gallery, a pop-up shop offers prints, accouterments and “schwag” from earlier exhibitions curated by Gurl Don’t Be Dumb. The humor and self-referential irony are scaled down to more easily portable sizes and price points. 

LIT UP is a playful exhibition, one that absorbs and deflects heavy-handed seriousness. It may suggest questions about frayed stereotypes and gender, but is also about a manner of fun. If there are statements to be made, they come through under the haze of a soft glow rather than direct glare. 

LIT UP: Gurl Don’t Be Dumb continues through Jan. 17 at The Pitch Project, 706 S. Fifth St., Milwaukee. 

Also showing…

The university semester is winding down, making this a great time to visit area campuses to catch exhibitions before they close. Not to worry, these won’t be on the final. 

Vital Technology 

Through Dec. 6

If you’re interested in contemporary art with a digital twist, do not miss this exhibition. Nathaniel Stern and Bryan Cera present solo and collaborative installations that engage the viewer in a variety of sensory experiences, including sound and movement. The underlying question of the exhibition is a meditation on how technology influences our actions. This is a happy collaboration between people and machine. 

At Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s Frederick Layton Gallery, 273 E. Erie St., Milwaukee. 

Visualizing Sovereignty 

Through Dec. 12 

This exhibition opens a discussion about Native American culture in the context of the 21st century, asking how traditional stories and customs are preserved in the rush of modern life and what is the impact of European influence on character and socioeconomic structures. There are a number of striking pieces in this exhibition, particularly the paintings by Bunky Echo-Hawk, who deftly uses pop culture references and aesthetics to open up questions about Native American identity and acceptance.  

At UWM’s Union Art Gallery, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.  

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Outdoor gear expo has luxury for people and dogs

Wilderness gear is going soft, and not just for people. Dogs are getting their own luxury outdoor items.

A trend at the world’s largest outdoor-gear trade show is equipment and apparel that’s also fashionable, easy to use or comfortable — from roomy spoon-shaped sleeping bags and pillow-top air mattresses to espresso makers and camp stoves that do double duty boiling water and charging electronic devices. Other vendors offer rugged leashes, life vests and even energy bars just for dogs.

Barebones Inc., maker of a $2,000 safari-style tent, held a “glamping” festival at last summer’s Outdoor Retailer expo, which featured a wider assortment of luxury gear than the winter show. Glamping stands for glamorous camping, and the Utah company says the 160-pound tent lets people enjoy the outdoors without having to rough it.

With network and cable news anchors sporting jackets by The North Face on camera in the field, manufacturers don’t have to be reminded that backwoods fashion has hit the mainstream.

“We don’t pay for anything like that, but we like it when anyone wears our high-quality products,” said Todd Spaletto, president of The North Face.

Peter Metcalf, CEO of Salt Lake City-based Black Diamond Inc., introduced U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to his company’s “soft” and “sensual” line of jackets and stretch-woven pants as the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market opened. About 22,000 people were in Salt Lake City for the expo.

Jewell was CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., or REI, for more than a decade before joining President Barack Obama’s cabinet last year. She was wearing a fleecy white REI jacket.

The merchandise bazaar for a lifestyle of outdoor adventure brought together 1,000 of the world’s manufacturers and distributors.

Shoppers weren’t allowed inside and no cash sales are conducted. Instead, storekeepers and big retailers placed orders for next year’s inventory. Suppliers range from industry giants Patagonia Inc. and Mountain Hardwear to tiny Ruffwear, which makes performance dog gear in Bend, Ore.

The expo has taken place in Utah since 1996 and pours $40 million into the local economy annually.

A year ago, organizers signed a contract to keep the expo in Salt Lake City through August 2016. The decision suspended a political standoff that had the 4,000-member Outdoor Industry Association threatening to leave over Gov. Gary Herbert’s land use policies.

Herbert, a Republican, responded by pledging to actively support the $5.8 billion economic sector in Utah with the appointment of an industry executive, Brad Petersen, as his outdoor-recreation chief.

Attendance was up 40 percent since 2006, according to the show’s organizer, Nielsen Expo Outdoor Group. The twin show in August brings out a larger crowd and is dominated by water sports.

Registered dogs were welcome even if the public was not. Nearly a dozen vendors at this week’s show were hawking specialized pooch gear, and dog parties are part of the activity on the show floor.

The dog outfitters say they’re going after a $53 billion pet industry and taking spoils from the big chains like PetSmart Inc. and Petco.

Kurgo Dog Products, from Salisbury, Mass., makes a jump seat that can restrain a dog inside a moving car. Also on display are rugged leashes, collars, harnesses and booties.

Competitors bow to Ruffwear Inc., the leader of the pack. Soon after he started making collapsible water and food bowls in 1994, the company’s founder, Patrick Kruse, was selling 8,000 a month to retailer L.L. Bean. Now he sells 47 different dog products, including a life jacket.

“We were the first to give dog products an outdoor perspective,” Kruse said. “We’ve had a lot of offers of investment, but we want to grow organically. We never had to borrow money.”

TurboPUP, run by a former U.S. Air Force C-130 pilot, says it can’t make enough of its doggy energy bars that can stand in for a full meal and come in a foil package that’s easy to carry.

“We started in a kitchen making 3,000 bars a month,” said Kristina Guerrer, TurboPUP’s CEO. “It’s been crazy.”

The main ingredients include olive oil, egg yolk, juice concentrate and chia seeds, and company bakers from La Pine, Ore., swear they’re good enough for people.

The jam-packed expo underscored a thriving corner of the economy. Outdoor-gear sales grew 5 percent annually throughout recent years of recession, analysts said.

The show favored Utah, a place of rugged mountains and canyons and a cottage industry for innovators like Voile Manufacturing, which makes lightweight backcountry skis for $600 a pair. Voile laminates 3,000 skis and snowboards a year at a factory in a Salt Lake City suburb.

The winter show highlighted such leaps in technology as the ski bindings made by Dynafit. The company’s most popular model weighs just 530 grams, or less than 19 ounces.

Dynafit is out with a new $1,000 pair of bindings, the Beast, that performs as well as a heavier alpine binding in absorbing jolts that could knock a skier’s boot loose from a ski. The company also makes exceptionally lightweight skis and boots.

“We’re finally a noun in ski language,” said Eric Henderson, a marketing representative for the company’s North American operations, based in Boulder, Colo. “It’s taken some time — 30 years.”

Dynafit, headquartered in Munich, Germany, was bought by one of Europe’s largest outdoor brands, Bolzano, Italy-based Salewa International, in 2003.