The Lasting Impression of Artworks

By: Elaina Johann, administrative manager on April 14th, 2021

Staff at the Woodson Art Museum serve as keepers of exhibitions past. You know the feeling; your memory holds onto a small detail, but you can’t remember the full description. If that detail is of a past artwork exhibited in our galleries, we’re here to help.

With decades of experience, several staff members can recall and identify from memory artworks that were on view or are in the collection. A descriptive snippet might be anything from the type of bird, arrangement of the foliage, to a spec of a certain color. I’ve heard it accomplished first-hand. Newer staff members like Hayley, at Visitor Services, and I can turn to the Museum website’s online collection search and an archive of printed annual Birds in Art catalogues.

Through welcomed inquiries, we’ve become detectives tracking down memorable artworks from the past.

A frequent Woodson Art Museum visitor and teacher from Green Bay wrote to us about a painting she wanted to use as a learning tool for her students.

Her description provided these clues:

I have been trying to recall the title of a beautiful, small painting I viewed in the gallery some years ago. It was roughly a 5×7 painting of a tiny yellow warbler or similarly tiny bird, on its back with its legs up, dead. It is such an emotional piece.

When shared with staff, two almost-immediate replies hypothesized about the same artwork: Jan Wessels, No More Singing, 2015. They were correct. The teacher shared the image with her seniors who had just read the novel Siddhartha, which includes powerful symbolism surrounding a dead songbird.

Jan Wessels, No More Singing, 2015, oil on panel, Birds in Art 2016 catalogue page 128

Another inquiry came from someone who visited the Museum in the early 1990s while he was a grade-school student, asking about an artwork in Birds in Art during that time.

The message included these clues:

The print or painting I’m trying to find is of a woodcock set in autumn leaves on the ground. 

This time, the artwork couldn’t be recalled by seasoned staff, so Hayley went on the search through ‘90s Birds in Art catalogues. She found two possible paintings of woodcocks in the 1991 catalogue that fit the description. The grown-up, former grade-school student was pleased to be reconnected with the artwork by Ray “Paco” Young, Timberdoodle, 1991, that left an appreciation of art.

Ray “Paco” Young, Timberdoodle, 1991, oil on canvas, Birds in Art 1991 catalogue page 135

Woodson Art Museum staff are at the ready to assist with your investigations or just to hear what artwork or exhibition made a lasting impression. To do your own research, our collections search is always available online and past Birds in Art catalogues can be purchased at the Museum or online.

Attention artists: submit artwork by the April 22 deadline to be considered for Birds in Art 2021 – an opportunity for your artwork to make an impact on visitors perhaps for years to come.

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