The Art of Deconstruction

By: Amy Beck, marketing and communications manager on May 8th, 2019

We have a new puppy in our household – Hawkeye, a 3-month-old Brittany. Although he hasn’t begun teething in earnest, it won’t be long.

For now, he’s small enough to curl up in a basket where we toss magazines and papers bound for the recycle bin. Seeing his preview of coming attractions – more like gnawing destruction – we’re stocking up on chew toys and relocating shoes and other tantalizing morsels out of reach.

A puppy, deconstructing paper and more, has something in common with the artists whose meticulously cut artworks are featured in the Cut Up/Cut Out exhibition, on view at the Woodson Art Museum through June 2. Surprising materials. Hawkeye chews acorn caps, wood chips, and rocks. In addition to vintage maps, books, and leaves, Cut Up/Cut Out artists intricately cut a saw blade, tire, and an oil barrel – transforming these items into lacey, intriguing wonders infused with thought-provoking themes.

Artist Mark Wagner, a Marathon County native with two artworks on view in Cut Up/Cut Out and who led programs May 4-5 during his Museum residency, slices dollar bills to create collages made from currency, playfully prodding concepts of American identity and worth.

After recent vet visits and pet-supply stock ups, we’re getting plenty of practice shredding money, too.

Visitors to the Woodson Art Museum, though, need not spend a dime; admission is always free. Those who’ve experienced Cut Up/Cut Out are raving about the intricacy of the artwork and their encounters in the galleries. Comments relayed from greeters convey visitors’ enthusiasm and also confirm successful efforts to entice art enthusiasts, cultural travelers, and families to plan “a cut above” spring break and weekend getaway excursions to the Museum.
• “Visitors from Milwaukee, Green Bay, and California. A person who was here yesterday brought back a friend today.”
• “Many out-of-towners here for the first time.”
• “A group of six made a spring break trip from Minneapolis after seeing a Facebook post about Cut Up/Cut Out. They stayed several hours in the morning, went out for lunch, and returned to ‘spend as much time as we can!’ ”
• “This is great – one of the best exhibits I’ve seen in a long time.”
• “Lots of visitors from Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, Rhinelander, Neenah, Iowa, Missouri, southern Wisconsin, a Texas business traveler, parents and grandparents bringing children for spring break trips.”
• “Thumbs up – very cool.”

Facebook comments reveal that targeted social media introductions to Cut Up/Cut Out prompted interest, travel, and then such excitement about their experiences that they took the time to post comments encouraging others to visit throughout the year, too. Here’s a sampling of this progression:
• “I want to see this exhibit!”
• “I’m starting to think road trip.”
• “Hoping to see this show!”
• “We should go and take Addie.
• “Love that place. We went for a day last fall.”
• “Wow! I guess I will be visiting Wausau soon!”
• “We were there today and it is really worth the trip!”
• “This is eclectically beautiful!”
• “This was magnificent! Took my granddaughter, Addi! She is 7 and studied every one thoroughly and wanted more.”
• “This was awesome!!!”
• “This exhibit is definitely on the cutting edge! Great show!!
• “Went to see the cut-above art today… amazing!! The nine and six year old grandkids loved it!”
• “Cool, fun museum”
• “We love that museum, and a great town!
• “Great show; saw it last Tuesday.”
• “I went on Tuesday to see the amazing paper cutting exhibition.”
• “Wow!
• “An amazing exhibit.” OMG – the detailing!
• “Fantastic show!”
• “This was so beautiful.”

Mark Wagner, Americans in Paris, 2015, currency collage on panel

Throughout the thirteen-week Cut Up/Cut Out exhibition, the Museum offers multiple programs for all ages, attracting art lovers and new audiences, too. A Milwaukee coin-collecting club, for example, planned a trip to see the exhibition and meet a featured artist who slices money to create his collages. Cut Up/Cut Out publicity caught the eye of the president of the Milwaukee Numismatic Society and, on March 11, he arranged to bring five members of his coin-collecting club for May 5 public programs led by currency-collage artist Mark Wagner during his Museum artist residency. “I am very happy to see that Mark Wagner has a role to play in the current Cut Up/Cut Out exhibition, and I am looking forward to making a visit to view it in its entirety.”

Visitors are inspired to share their enthusiasm on TripAdvisor, too.
• “Fantastic World of Cut Outs: Took teenage grandkids to this museum to view their exhibit on birds. They had never been, and were only mildly interested in pleasing us by going. Within 15 minutes they were drawn into the wide variety of art. Staff helped us identify a painting in their collection by Fredrick Somers, an artist they had met. Then we discovered the temporary exhibit on cut outs. Whimsical and stunning. The stayed fascinated for 90 minutes with no reverting to cell phones until we were back in the car. Congratulations to the museum and its docents.”
• “Must Visit – We love this museum! It has something for everyone. Kid friendly and really neat stuff outside too. Changes often so you rarely see the same things twice.”

Visit soon and often through June 2 to view Cut Up/Cut Out and – apart from teething puppies – to experience how charming and thoroughly delightful deconstruction can be.

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