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Lace and Death at Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts

Jul. 11, 2017
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Two exhibitions opening on Thursday, July 13, at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts find the folksy art form entangled in uncommonly heavy themes. 

Some might say that quilting itself symbolically defies death. Odds and ends of fabric, otherwise useless, are given a second life as shards in fiber art’s equivalent of stained glass. “In Death” has more than 20 contemporary fiber artists from across the U.S. meditating on the exhibition’s titular theme. Installed in the WMQFA’s repurposed farmstead dating back to the 1850s, “In Death” aspires to make viewers reflect on their own feelings about death.

“Lace: Works of Adornment” marks the public debut of the WMQFA’s Lois Markus Lace Collection. Displaying finely wrought examples of garment lace, the exhibition recalls a time when the labor-intensive fabric was shorthand for socio-economic status, as reflected in the antiquated dichotomy between “lace curtain Irish” and “shanty Irish.” 

“Faces of a Fish Empire”

Milwaukee Public Central Library

814 W. Wisconsin Ave.

When Tom Kutchera died at the end of March 2016, he left behind several albums of portraiture of employees at the Empire Fish Company, where Kutchera worked from the 1960s through 1995. Kutchera’s sons have turned their father’s photos into a book, Faces of a Fish Empire: A Visual History of Empire Fish Company and the Decline of Commercial Fishing in Wisconsin, which, in addition to its arresting images, tells the story of cultural shifts and technological advances that have altered our relationship to Lake Michigan and its culinary bounty. A Kutchera photo display, “Faces of a Fish Empire,” is currently at Milwaukee’s Downtown Central Library through the end of July.

“Midsummer Festival of the Arts”

John Michael Kohler Arts Center

608 New York Ave.

Small wonder that Milwaukee is known as the “City of Festivals.” After seven months of hibernation-inducing winter, the siren song of Sun-softened cheese curds and effervescent beer draw us eagerly outdoors. With Summerfest ended, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s “Midsummer Festival of the Arts” (July 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and July 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.) will help stave off festival withdraw. Expect the standard fare: 135 artists’ booths, live music, art-making activities, food trucks and, as an added attraction, free admission to JMKAC.

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