Thursday, August 19, 2010

Downtown Racine Art Day

I finally found the time to take my mom out for a day of art.  We decided to check out the Racine Art Museum (RAM).  There are several great exhibits there all centered around the theme of insects.  RAM is a craft museum, housing a great collection of ceramics, jewelry, sculpture and other craft-based media.  I have wanted to get there for a long time and finally did so today.  It was such an easy trip down there.  Parking in the all day ramp just east of the Museum was great, only $2.50 for the day.  The best part of course was the art. 

My favorite had to be Eccentric Insects which is on display through October 17, 2010.  This exhibit featured several really beautifully crafted large, whimsical insect installations.  One of the most beautiful combined fiber, painted paper and knitted or crocheted wings by Andrea V. Uravitch.  These were stunning in their creative use of materials.  The larger than life size caused one not to be overwhelmed or scared, but rather to be fascinated, as if the insects were being viewed under extreme magnification. 

There were several other standouts in the Eccentric Insects exhibition.  The beaded creatures housed in the collaborative installations by Betsy Youngquist and R. Scott Long were whimsical in their use of space and material.  I felt as if I was looking into a secret garden, yet to be discovered.  The bead work was especially lovely and reminded me of the works of Liza Lou although on a smaller scale.  This part of the exhibit also featured the work of Roberta and David Williamson.  I liked the feeling that I was staring into an old Victorian drawing room looking as somebody's lost collection. 

I also enjoyed the JoAnna Poehlmann exhibit, Insectopedia.  She is a Milwaukee-based artist whose finely drawn tiny studies of insects is just the beginning of the enjoyment her work brings.  She has also experimented with hand-made artist style books to display many of her drawings, prints and paintings.  Her wit and enjoyment of visual puns is also something to be admired.  I have loved her work for a long time and so it was wonderful to see it collected here. Jennifer Angus' Patterns of Life exhibit features real insects pinned to the wall in installations that are reminiscent of wall paper patterns, but that isn't the only thing included here.  She also creates entire environments with doll houses that house the insects.  There is a great deal of bees wax used as well.  It is a beautiful, but eerie exhibit and if you can get over the weirdness that these are real insects it is quite engrossing.  You are the guest in this house and the insects have invited you!

There were other insect-themed exhibits at the Museum.  One I must confess I found a bit disturbing and actually had to rush through and walk out of.  I actually don't mind insects and don't have the phobia that some people have, but the artist Catherine Chambers' exhibit American Cockroach pushed the envelope for me.  I did have a cockroach infested apartment when I first moved to Los Angeles.  It was disgusting to walk into the kitchen and hear them crawling before you turned the lights on.  We tried to get rid of them, but to no avail, so maybe this exhibit just was a bit to scary a reminder of that first apartment.  There were video installations, large color photographs and collaged roach parts creating delicate line drawings.  While these were creative and innovative I found them to be disturbing. 

After RAM we headed to lunch at the Red Onion in the Johnson Wax Administrative building, which was a work of art in it's own right.  There were many intriguing public art pieces in the building including what looked like a Chihuly glass sculpture.  Lunch was tasty and air conditioned!  Refreshed and reinvigorated we headed back out onto Main Street to explore some of the many shops.  As we walked along the street we were entertained by the many public art clock pieces displayed.  They were really cute and enjoyable.  There were many shops to stop in and galleries too. 

We loved INSIDE-OUT, which featured many colorful, eclectic gifts, clothes  home decor items from around the world.  There were gorgeous hand dyed silk scarves, bags mad from recycled materials, lovely linen shirts and much more.  I bought a couple of green apple candles and a small ceramic sea horse.  Next stop was a great gallery, whose name I didn't catch.  The work there in wasn't my favorite, just ok, but the thing that caught our eye was a collaborative piece that was a large square mosaic made up of 6 inch square canvases all designed around the theme of food by Racine Artists.  The collaborative art called Art Squared was sponsored by the Racine Artist's Guild.   We loved the variety of styles featured in the work. 

After this stop we were onto Funky Hannah's, which is a bead and jewelry shop, but before going in we found Sheepish, a wellness store that featured teas, books, drums and lots more in the pursuit of wellness.  I was most impressed and pleased as I asked about a certain red chai tea and how it smelled.  Instead of getting just a sniff the shop keeper actually brewed me a cup and let me taste.  Very nice touch!  Finally we got to Funky Hannah's, which I'd wanted to visit for  awhile.  What a delightful shop with so many sparkling beads and infinite amounts of creative inspiration.  They offer classes and also sell already made jewelry pieces designed by local artists and some by their own shop workers.  I don't really consider myself a beader or jewelry artist, but I got so many ideas just walking through.  Very fun!  It was getting late and hot so this was our last shop. 

We didn't make it to the Wustum Museum, which is the old site of the Art Museum.  There is a great collection of works there as well, but my mom was exhausted after all the wandering around at shops so we will have to save the Wustum for another trip.  On the way out of Racine we did drive up Main Street to the lakefront along the drive by all the old historic Victorian homes.  I can't wait to return with my camera and more time on my hands.  Maybe this fall when the air is crisp and the light less hazy with heat.  If you haven't check out Racine, you should!  Really great, creative inspiring day!