WAUSAU, WISCONSIN: Opening day of this year’s 37th annual “Birds in Art” exhibition at the Woodson Art Museum on Saturday, September 8, also marks the debut of an Owen J. Gromme painting collection in the Museum’s new building addition.
Gromme, the celebrated Wisconsin artist (1896-1991) who is considered the “father of ‘Birds in Art,’ ” organized the Woodson Art Museum’s inaugural exhibition in 1976, so the Museum is a fitting permanent home for a collection of his most significant work. The forty-three paintings were commissioned in 1965 by Marshall & Ilsley Bank for its then-new Milwaukee building and given to the Museum in 2011 by BMO Harris Bank. The international reputation of “Birds in Art,” the Museum’s flagship exhibition, was key to BMO Harris Bank’s decision to donate the paintings to the Museum that Gromme helped launch nearly four decades ago.
“Owen J. Gromme: An Enduring Legacy,” comprising the forty-three paintings and a re-creation of his Briggsville, Wisconsin studio, debuts in a new gallery in the Museum’s 9,000-square-foot addition that also includes enhanced visitor amenities such as a large elevator and restrooms, and much-needed storage space. The new gallery more than doubles the Museum’s space to display artwork from its permanent collection, which will allow more Museum treasures to be on view year round.
More than 70 of the 125 “Birds in Art” artists from throughout the world will be at the Museum Saturday morning, September 8, to meet visitors and sign catalogues, and about a dozen artists will demonstrate painting, drawing, and woodcarving during Artists in Action, 9:15 a.m. – Noon, in the sculpture garden. The Museum offers extended hours, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, September 8; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday, September 9, during “Birds in Art” opening weekend, part of Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend.
Among those included in the 2012 exhibition are seven Wisconsin artists, thirty-three international artists from fourteen different countries, nineteen first-time “Birds in Art” artists, and nineteen artists who have been named Master Artists during previous “Birds in Art” exhibitions.
The seven Wisconsin artists, followed by where they reside and the number of years their artwork has been selected for “Birds in Art” (though not necessarily consecutive), are: Kevin Kohlman, LaCrosse, first year; Mike Anderson, Stevens Point, two years; James Kiesow, Port Washington, two years; Gene Reineking, Almond, three years; Clarence Cameron, Madison, ten years; Todd Wohlt, Appleton, eleven years; and Don Rambadt, Trevor, twelve years.
The “Birds in Art” exhibition, which presents original paintings, sculptures, and graphics created within the last two years by artists from the world over, once again celebrates the timeless appeal of birds through fresh artistic interpretations that remain on view through November 11.
What can you expect? Here’s a sampling. The sleek, abstract sophistication of Simon Gudgeon’s bronze swan. Ducks waking to a frostbitten morning in a Lars Jonsson watercolor. Hubert the bright-eyed screech owl in charcoal and ink on paper by Karen Bondarchuk.
An array of avian-themed programs for all ages will animate the nine-week exhibition. “Birds in Art” artist Julie Bender demonstrates how she “paints with heat” and leads pyrography programs during her artist residency, October 16-21.
Each year sixty “Birds in Art” artworks are selected for a subsequent tour to locations throughout the country. The 2012 exhibition travels to: The Wildlife Experience, Parker, Colorado, December 1, 2012 through February 18, 2013; Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, March 9 through May 5, 2013; Frank H. McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, May 25 through August 18, 2013; Rockport Center for the Arts, Rockport, Texas, September 14 through November 16, 2013.
A 132-page, full-color “Birds in Art” catalogue features every work along with artists’ statements; $20. Two distinct posters, $7.50 each, also are available; catalogues and posters can be purchased at the Woodson Art Museum and online at www.lywam.org.
Audio tours for the “Birds in Art” and Gromme exhibitions on new devices, available beginning September 18, introduce artworks and incorporate bird calls, video clips, and artists’ voices.
Owen J. Gromme: An Enduring Legacy
The forty-three paintings in “Owen J. Gromme: An Enduring Legacy” are considered among the best created by Gromme and feature Wisconsin birds, wildlife, flora, and fauna.
Gromme exhibition highlights include Artist’s Studies (1968), a trompe l’oeil still life of feathers, eggs, and sketches; Sandhill Cranes – Central Wisconsin (1967), a composition of two cranes in flight against a brilliant sunset; Wood Ducks – Gall’s Pond (1966), highly colored birds resplendent on branches and in the water; and Cedar Waxwings (1968), depicted in winter on red-berry-laden branches. A linen-bound, full-color volume documents the Gromme exhibition and includes an essay by Tom Davis; $22.50. A poster also is available; $7.50.
The quality of these paintings speaks to Gromme’s importance as an artist, as do his longtime curatorial service at the Milwaukee Public Museum and his seminal volume, Birds of Wisconsin, first published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1963. Gromme is recognized as a pioneer in conservation; he painted the 1945 Federal Duck Stamp and the first Wisconsin Duck Stamp in 1978.
Gromme’s prominent role as the de facto curator in 1976 of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s inaugural exhibition, “Birds of the Lakes, Fields and Forests,” which has since evolved into the annual “Birds in Art,” had its roots in Gromme’s M&I Bank-commissioned artwork. Gromme’s friendship with John E. Forester, who worked closely with M&I Bank, and his wife, Alice Woodson Forester, who founded the Museum with her sisters, Nancy Woodson Spire and Margaret Woodson Fisher, and their families in the early 1970s prompted the Foresters to seek Gromme’s advice about an appropriate inaugural exhibition to celebrate the Museum’s opening.
Gromme offered to “call fellow artists and friends” on behalf of the Museum to organize “Birds of the Lakes, Fields and Forests.” Those who heeded Gromme’s request proved to be highly talented artists, including seven future “Birds in Art” Masters: Guy Coheleach, Don Richard Eckelberry, J. Fenwick Lansdowne, Roger Tory Peterson, Maynard Reece, Arthur B. Singer, and George Miksch Sutton.
More than 8,000 visitors viewed “Birds of the Lakes, Fields and Forests,” exceeding expectations and encouraging the Museum to consider the exhibition’s potential as an annual mainstay. Today, more than 600 artists annually submit their work for consideration for “Birds in Art” and more than 16,000 visitors flock to the Woodson Art Museum each fall.
For more information, visit www.lywam.org, e-mail the Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 715-845-7010.
Woodson Art Museum
Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
First Thursday of each month
and Thursdays during Birds in Art – 9:00 am – 7:30 pm
Saturday – Sunday Noon – 5:00 pm
Closed Monday and holidays, including Labor Day
Admission: Always Free Admission
Location: Franklin and 12th Streets, Wausau, Wisconsin 54403-5007 (700 N. 12th Street)