Delights from the Driftless

By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on January 5th, 2022

Happy New Year! I hope Woodson Wanderings readers celebrated the holidays with loved ones and cheer. I enjoyed a quiet Christmas with my parents and boyfriend in the picturesque Driftless town of Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

Guest artist S.V. (Sue) Medaris, who shares relief-printing insights during programs this week, often incorporates themes from her farm in southwestern Wisconsin in her artwork.

In November 2014, my parents moved from my childhood home in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood to Mineral Point, a small town in the southwestern corner of the state, an area known as the “Driftless” region. The 24,000 square miles of the Driftless landscape are known for the distinct topography of steep rock, valleys, springs, caves, and rock deposits. Glaciers spared these ancient land features during the last ice age, meaning no glacial deposits or sediment and large rocks – also known as “drift” – can be found in these areas.

Settled in 1827, Mineral Point is the state’s third oldest city. The area’s lead deposits had been mined by Native Americans since the 1600s and in the 1820s, miners from Cornwall, England, immigrated to southwestern Wisconsin bringing with them deep-mining skills. Miners used local limestone to build small cottages in the Cornish style, a handful of which remain standing as charming, quintessential landmarks in the community. The historic English architecture and bucolic vistas no doubt appealed to my mother, a “certified Anglophile,” when she and my father considered locations for their retirement.

In addition to architectural gems like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin (designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in September, 2021), the Driftless is home to dozens of galleries and artist studios, a result of the region’s shifts toward the arts, preservation, and agriculture in the twentieth century. Drawn to the scenic rolling hills, affordable land, and historic limestone buildings, artists and preservationists of the 1960s and 70s moved to the area and helped make places like Mineral Point hubs for craft and a creative economy.

The Driftless’ union of arts and agriculture is beautifully reflected in the work of Mount Horeb artist S.V. (Sue) Medaris. Her woodcut print, Taliesin Goose, featured in the 2014 Birds in Art exhibition and currently on view in Making the Cut, depicts a confrontational Canada goose the artist encountered during an artist program at the Taliesin estate. Can you spot Wright’s prairie-style masterpiece in the landscape?

S.V. Medaris, Taliesin Goose (3/8), 2013, reduction woodcut on Arches cover, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum collection

Join Sue, onsite and online*, over the next several days during her residency, which includes opportunities to learn about the woodcut printing process, observe the artist at work, and even try your hand at making a relief print during a two-day weekend workshop.

*Sue’s guest artist talk scheduled for 5:30-6:30 pm tomorrow, Thursday, January 6, is now a free, fully virtual program. Follow this link to sign up for this free virtual program.


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