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MIAD, Harley-Davidson Team Up for ‘Helmet Project’

Art Review

Oct. 28, 2009
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The Harley-Davidson Museum transformed its Garage exhibition space in a mere eight weeks for the opening of its first feature exhibit, “The Helmet Project,” on Oct. 23. Curatorial Director Jim Fricke partnered with students from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) to produce stunning results in this multidisciplinary exhibit that challenges the concept of the helmet.

The exhibit explores the helmet’s historical context in ancient cultures, its evolution as a defensive mechanism by various living species and its application as armor for war, as well as the controversy around wearing helmets in modern sports. However, the exhibition’s premise begins with the idea that humans need to protect their heads to prevent “cracking open the most crucial part of the functioning body.”

The juried artworks, all by MIAD students, explore these ideas in industrial design drawings, installations and fine art sculptures integrated with artifacts from the museum’s archives. Actual cloth and leather motorcycle headgear from the 1920s to the present day illustrates clothing represented in the museum’s vintage photographs.

Two woodcarvings display intricate detail in an unusual medium. Sarah Meadors’ entry, titled Backbone, fabricated from basswood and steel, creates a functional headdress that sits on the forehead while antler-like forms secure it over the front of the shoulders. Similar to a tail that stretches down the back, the attached, precisely carved replica of vertebrae physically protects the fragile spinal cord housed inside. Claire Smith’s elegant Juliet cap interprets a petite feminine helmet exemplifying the frailty of nature and the human body. Her piece, Keepsake, portrays delicate rose petals carved from cherry wood and stitched together with thread and hemp to create wearable art.

MIAD Interior Architecture Design students also showcase their impressive talents. The winning entry for the concept in planning the Garage space exhibition features the work of Amanda Koch, Brad Ritter and Jennifer Castillo, who successfully conceived, constructed and managed the massive project from the time MIAD’s semester began Sept. 2. Communication Design major Adrian Gilling used a razor blade to etch the details in three murals while Kt Schramm’s exhibition icon highlights the entrance and printed publications.

As this exhibit demonstrates, MIAD produces gifted students who positively impact Milwaukee’s culture and business environment. A successful collaboration between education and community, “The Helmet Project” culminates an eight-week vision that integrates art and commerce, imagination and reality.

“The Helmet Project” continues until Nov. 8.


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