Bird: An International Language

By: lywam on October 1st, 2008

We often talk about “Bird” being an international language because people in every country on every continent have some knowledge of birds.

At the Woodson Art Museum, we are privileged to have knowledge of both birds and the artists who paint and sculpt them, including many from well beyond America’s borders.

Growing up on a dairy farm in St. Croix County, I never could have imagined the many friendships I someday would make with artists from around the world.

I remember in 1982 watching Lars Jonsson – a Swede who stands about 6’10” tall – literally unfold himself as he emerged from a tiny plane at Central Wisconsin Airport. He was a bachelor then, but soon he brought his wife Ragnhild and then eventually photos of his four children, and one year his mother came to Wausau with him. Ragnhild’s even done her laundry at my house.

When Dutch artists Ulco Glimmerveen and Ewoud de Groot – and many other artists over the years – first came to the Woodson, they could hardly contain their glee at spotting chipmunks on the Museum’s grounds and on a rock wall across 12th Street. They descended like paparazzi on the little critters, almost causing a traffic jam. When director Kathy Foley took a group of travelers to the Netherlands last year, Ewoud took them birding on the island of Texel and treated them to apple cake and cream at a harbor spot he frequented with his grandfather as a young boy. The circle of friendship grew a little larger.

Two people I know really stand out – and that takes some doing considering all the interesting artists who have journeyed to Wausau since my first Birds in Art opening weekend in 1978. Haruki Koizumi and his wife, Junko, bring a little bit of Japan with them every time they visit, six visits total since 1997.

When they were here in 2007, I learned that Haruki likes to make spaghetti so I proposed that IF his artwork was accepted into Birds in Art in 2008 and IF they traveled to Wausau again, I would invite them to my house for Marcia’s doctored-up Kraft Tangy Italian Spaghetti.

Both IFs happened and I made good on my promise. While the Koizumi’s English keeps getting better and better, my husband and I were reminded anew that laughter is also an international language. We only used my paperback Japanese/English dictionary once and Junko’s electronic translator once.

Good friends made thanks to birds – and chipmunks!

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