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RedLine’s ‘Writing in Stone’ Honors Heroes of Wisconsin History

Feb. 7, 2017
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Photo Credit Jeff Redmon

The RedLine Milwaukee gallery is inhabited by a small forest of tall monuments—like stone sentinels reminding us of the wisdom of the past through their inscriptions. Their forms and shapes are somber and even funeral, but their spirit is not dead. The artist, Terese Agnew, working with Diane Dahl and in partnership with the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, have created “Writing in Stone.” It is an exhibition that creates space to contemplatively absorb the meaning and purpose of these monuments and the individuals who inspired them.

The issues that these pieces touch on vary—from environmental activism to labor, voting rights and the abolitionist movement. The text on the monuments varies in length, but succinctly encapsulates visions of truth and justice. The struggles for equality are commemorated by the monument for Lloyd Barbee, whose work as a legislator and attorney supported social issues including gay rights. This is also echoed by the Governor Lee S. Dreyfus Monument in honor of the signing of the first statewide gay rights law in the country. The monument simply reads, “There is nothing more private or intimate than who you live with and who you love.”

Conservation and environmental issues are also a significant part of this exhibition. Walter Bresett’s Speaking Tree, in the Anishinaabe oral tradition, is a dark booth where the viewer is surrounded by large tree forms. A soundscape by Rob Danielson conveys the sounds of nature in rain, animals and the creaking life of the forest. It is immersive and draws us back to a more conscious awareness of the fundamental life of nature. 

This is a significant exhibition for its powerful reminders of how individuals and ideas have shaped our state and our nation. It is the sort of display that one would like to see in even more public spaces. To that end, it is welcome news that the exhibition will be presented in other locations around the state through November 2018. “Writing in Stone” reflects examples of courage and character that we should heed and bring more fully into our present day.

Through March 25 at RedLine Milwaukee, 1422 N. Fourth St. For more information, call 414-491-9088 or visit redlineartmke.org.

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