August 15–November 17, 2019
Water brings together an exceptional group of contemporary artists whose work is inspired by the expressive possibilities of water. This exhibition, located in a region rich with fresh water, aims to bring attention to this valuable, yet vulnerable, resource through the lens of fiber- and video-based works, sculpture, and installation.
The work in Water addresses issues of conservation and climate change while embracing water’s evocative qualities and formal beauty. Many of the artists created new work for the exhibition and include top nationally recognized fiber artists (three have work in the Smithsonian’s collection), a multimedia artist, and a sculptor.
Our environmental impact on water’s natural landscape is the foundation for the work by Terese Agnew, Susan Falkman, and Nnenna Okore. Agnew’s intricately embroidered quilt, which took years to complete, depicts a pastoral, watery scene of a proposed deep-pit-mine site in rural Wisconsin. Arctic melting and changing water patterns inform Falkman’s marble sculptures. Falkman, who carves stone to portray the softness of fabric and flow of water, created six new sculptures for Water, one of which will be permanently installed on the museum’s grounds. Internationally known for her work concerning environmental devastation, Okore’s richly textured fiber sculpture evokes the form of underwater plant life.
Themes of ecology and reuse run throughout the work of Karyl Sisson and Akiko Ike. Undervalued and discarded items, such as straws and zippers, form the building blocks of Sisson’s intricate sculptures that conjure sea creatures and anemones. Utilizing only recycled fabrics, Ike, an artist from Niigata, Japan, created three new large-scale carp, utilizing a special stitching technique called “chiku-chiku”—an onomatopoeic word for the sound of a stout needle going in and out of the cloth.
Wisconsin artists Heidi Parkes and Nirmal Raja draw us close to home through their sensitive observations of Lake Michigan. Parkes’s contemplative quilts evoke the lake’s deep shades and color palette, and Raja’s video stitches the water’s surface and horizon line. The undulations and abstractions of water also inspire the work of shibori artists Frank Connet and Mary Mendla, paper artist Jennifer Davies, and quilters Sarah Nishiura and Sarah J. Lauzon. While Vicki Reed made a new installation using cyanotype, a photographic process on treated fabric, that interprets water as a metaphor for understanding our maternal history.
The artists featured in the exhibition include Terese Agnew (WI), Frank Connet (IL), Jennifer Davies (CT), Susan Falkman (WI), Akiko Ike (Japan), Nnenna Okore (IL), Karyl Sisson (CA), Sarah J. Lauzon (FL), Mary Mendla (WI), Sarah Nishiura (IL), Heidi Parkes (WI), Nirmal Raja (WI), and Vicki Reed (WI).
This exhibition is supported by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board, Kohler Foundation Inc., and the Cedarburg-Grafton Rotary Club.