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Landscapes and Lyrics in Three New Exhibitions at MOWA

Jan. 24, 2017
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During the depths of the Great Depression, the federal government founded the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The program combatted rampant unemployment by commissioning public works projects such as the construction of new schools, roads and bridges. Remarkably, artists of all stripes were also put to work staging plays, writing guidebooks and establishing musical ensembles. Milwaukee painter Charles Thwaites (1904-2002) was one such beneficiary whose U.S. Post Office murals can still be seen in Chilton and Plymouth, Wis. “Charles Thwaites: An American Journey,” on exhibit Jan. 28 through March 12 at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA), introduces viewers to a lamentably overlooked painter equally at ease in realism and abstraction. 

The Thwaites exhibition will be accompanied by “Shane McAdams: The Accidental Landscape,” a collection of nontraditional works by a contemporary artist who divides his time between Brooklyn, N.Y. and Cedarburg and favors materials such as ballpoint pens, resin and Elmer’s glue. Like Thwaites’s work, McAdams’s enchanted landscapes shift from representational to abstract but are united by a command of color that recalls the Aurora Borealis. 

A third exhibition, “Shakespeare’s In the Alley: A Tribute to Bob Dylan,” celebrates the 2016 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature with an immersive installation that guides viewers through 44 large banners bearing Dylan’s lyrics. 


“The Art and Craft of Rug Hooking” and “Painting the Winter Muse: Rix and Ruschman”

Cedarburg Art Museum

W63 N675 Washington Ave.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you six months of winter, paint the winter muse. Such is the course of Pamela Ruschman and Lynn Rix whose snow-laden landscapes are testaments of winter’s beauty and the dedication required to capture them en plein air. “Painting the Winter Muse: Rix and Ruschman” collects more than 55 works painted during the last five years. “The Art and Craft of Rug Hooking” displays work by the Thrum Chums, a group of eight rug hooking enthusiasts who have gathered monthly for years. Viewers will see works that hew to the medium’s traditional folk art origins as well as more adventurous works that explore rug hooking’s self-expressive capacities.


U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition

Riviera Park

Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva 

Hippocrates certainly wasn’t thinking of snow sculpture when he wrote the lines ars longa, vita brevis (“art is long, life is short”). Nevertheless, each year, intrepid architects visit Lake Geneva and build intricate snow sculptures, disregarding the work’s finitude and global warming more generally. Teams receive 8-foot-wide by 9-foot-tall snow blocks and more than 20 hours to dazzle us with their productions. Voting begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 4, with the works remaining on display presumably until Mother Nature reclaims her material. 


7th Annual Winter Carnival

Lynden Sculpture Garden

2145 W. Brown Deer Road 

In the mood for more outdoor arts activities? Check out Lynden Sculpture Garden’s Winter Carnival. Curated by MIAD graduate Reece Ousey, it promises to be a “highly participatory, artist-driven” event with performances, craft-making workshops and “an artist’s version of an outdoor mini-golf course.” If the temperature remains above the norm, the golf course might be more popular than the promise of ice skating and snowshoeing on the grounds of the garden. The decidedly unwintry Little Havana Express food truck will provide food and beverages. The Winter Carnival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28.

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