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Reflections on a Divided Nation at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Feb. 7, 2017
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At the height of his fame, Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) was dubbed “The American Rembrandt.” Like the Dutch Old Master who painted kitchen maids as well as saints and royalty, Johnson found inspiration in both famous and common subjects. Although eminent individuals including Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne sat for portraits, Johnson remains best known for his scenes of everyday life.

“Eastman Johnson and a Nation Divided,” at the Milwaukee Art Museum from Feb. 10 through May 21, centers around two of Johnson’s uncontested masterpieces. Negro Life at the South debuted in 1859 to rave reviews, paradoxically from both abolitionists and supporters of slavery, whereas The Old Stagecoach was unveiled in 1871 while the nation was in the process of rebuilding after the Civil War. The exhibition situates Johnson’s work in its historical and social context giving viewers an insight into the divided nation from which the work emerged and providing fodder for thinking about the divisions that continue to plague our nation.

“Modern Vejigantes”

Inspiration Studios

1500 S. 73rd St.

Vejigantes trace their origin to Medieval Spain. Derived from the tradition of blowing up and painting cow bladders, vejigantes—from the Spanish terms “vejiga” (bladder) and “gigante” (giant)—were incorporated into demon costumes as part of an annual celebration that eventually made its way to Puerto Rico and figured into the childhood of artist Jose T. Pischke-Maxwell. As a commentary on the waste of consumerist society, Pischke-Maxwell crafts his ceremonial masks entirely from recycled aluminum cans. Pischke-Maxwell’s upcycled creations can be seen at Inspiration Studios from 4-6 p.m. on Feb. 14, 21 and 28. 

“ART x MUSIC x BRONZEVILLE: Fundraiser for Jazale’s Art Studio”

Jazale’s Art Studio

2201 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

An eventful night of art activity takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 15 from 7-10 p.m. as a fundraiser for Jazale’s Art Studio, which offers after-school and summer arts programming as well as educational support and mentorship for young adults in Bronzeville. Milwaukee artist Vedale Hill will exhibit art inspired by the virtues and defects of the hip-hop culture that he calls his own. Painter, illustrator, filmmaker and musician Mikal Floyd-Pruitt excels in a wide range of media. Through his eyes, boom boxes weep colors and vinyl records are transformed into donuts. In addition to the art exhibition, Turtle Sooup will spin tunes and spoken word artist Bobby Drake will perform “Never Say Die,” an hour-long show about a man struggling with his ambitions. For tickets, visit eventbrite.com

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