Sturgeon Bay, Wis. (May 31, 2021)—The Miller Art Museum, located in downtown Sturgeon Bay one block east of the Steele Bridge Creative District, is set to unveil Factory Made: Artists Explore the Industrial Scar on Saturday, June 5. With a focus on industry’s impact on the environment as well as the ordinary citizen’s role in changes to our environment, Factory Made presents work from five distinctly different artists—Brendan Baylor, the late James Cagle, Holli Jacobson, Melissa Resch, and Katie Ries—for exploration of the complex landscape with man’s relationship to nature. The exhibition is set to run through Monday, July 19, 2021.
In the Museum’s main galleries, 17 works by printmaker Brendan Baylor of Norfolk, VA present industrial maps as they are engineered over the landscapes they effect, revealing how the landscape is used and altered by industry from both artistic and scientific points of view. In addition to the lumber industry, the production of ethanol and greenhouse gasses, as well as coal and fossil fuel emissions, are included in Baylor’s explorations.
The artist’s large-scale woodblock print assemblage, 50 Million Acres, is an indomitable portrayal of a forest from the Great Lakes region decimated by the clear-cutting techniques of highly mechanized and efficient lumber industry. Layered over the prints is the first manuscript page from the 1842 Treaty of La Pointe, one of several treaties that forced the Chippewa to rescind millions of acres along with timber and mineral rights to frontier capitalism in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan. Also included are the silhouettes of 12 species of plant that are currently disappearing from the Northwoods related to deforestation. These three elements together examine the way the 1842 historical event still reverberates on the present landscape culturally, economically, and ecologically.
“By making the dual traumas of colonization and capitalism physically present for the viewer, the piece allows for an emotional experience of the great loss that underpins the Northwoods,” writes the artist.
Painter Holli Jacobson of Eau Claire, WI was living in Japan at the time of the Fukishima catastrophe. As a reaction, she permeates her idyllic landscapes with the radiant colors of nuclear and industrial chemicals. Familiar and typically calming landscapes are infused with a sense of unmitigated chaos as Jacobson’s paintings connect viewers to an environment that is vibrant and acidic with dynamic motion and flow.
Interdisciplinary artist, cultivator and Associate Professor of Art at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Katie Ries assigns guardianship of the natural world to the individual by drawing awareness to our interconnectedness and agency as ordinary citizens.
Ries’s interactive installation What You’ve Got features handmade clay seedballs that invites the viewer to take and toss a seedball in exchange for some small object they have in their possession; the interaction makes the viewer a conscious and active participant in propagation.
On Thursday, July 11 Ries presents as part of the Museum’s Second Thursday Program Series, where she will conduct a Land Scouts Exploratory Walk around the perimeter of the museum. Ries and participants will discuss the basics of land scouting and create maps based on the group’s findings. All materials for the free program will be supplied and no previous experience is required. All ages are welcome, but minors are required to be accompanied by an adult; all participants should be able to cross the street unassisted. No advance registration is required.
A portfolio of photographs that reside in the Museum’s permanent collection by former Professor Emeritus of Fine Art at St. Norbert College James Cagle (1938 – 2020) will also be featured. Cagle was a Wisconsin-based artist residing in Sturgeon Bay who drew on the formalist language of modernist photography to transform familiar objects and overlooked spaces into elegant compositions. The imagery selected for exhibition in Factory Made presents both pristine and functional factory zones, as well as derelict and abandoned industrial wastelands.
“Cagle’s opposing looks at industrial structures remind us that we view “the factory” as iconic symbols of civilization and success. While industrial environments indicate fortitude, ingenuity and progress while they churn, there is the eventuality of obsolete industrial ruins. When not removed or repurposed, those structures can become habitat, landscape and potentially part of the fossil record of our age,” says Helen del Guidice, Curator of Exhibits at the Miller Art Museum.
In continuation of Cagle’s perspective, artist Melissa Resch of Sturgeon Bay explores how an obsolete industrial structure known as the gasometer once helped her to assimilate to the town of Launceston, Tasmania. She discovers that the remnant structure of the town’s gasometer, a gas storage system that was doomed to malfunction and poisoned communities worldwide, had become an icon of the community and a beloved part of the local identity in spite of its deadly history.
On the second floor Ruth Morton Miller Mezzanine the conversation continues, where a contrasting perspective has been presented with the addition of four artists, industry removed, and a focus on the relationship between man, animals, and wilderness.
New acquisitions to the permanent collection gifted by artist Ed Fenendael of Baileys Harbor feature pastoral landscapes in watercolor created during his countless travels, featuring the perspective of man and animals co-existing in an idyllic, natural and harmonic state.
Guest artist Marco Romantini of Milwaukee presents 12 miniature wall-mounted sculptures, combining human and animal figures engaged in operatic, existential storytelling. The charming scenes use the symbolism of the animal world as it collides with the human world in urban and household settings.
Permanent collection works by Theodore Czebotar (1915 – 1996), gifted by the Kohler Foundation, Inc. in 2019, give the viewer the sense of the foreboding power nature possesses. Czebotar was driven by the ambition to depict the harshest environments, including the rugged coastline of the Olympic Peninsula of New York and the desert regions of the American Southwest, in search of the aboriginal and primordial revelation, while acknowledging nature’s unceasing ability to tell its own story.
Fine Art Photographer Brett Kosmider of Fish Creek provides stunning visuals for the viewer with epic horizons and aerial perspectives of the Door Peninsula’s shoreline and forest landscapes, which presents the wilderness as a living, breathing and ever-changing entity.
“Factory Made offers challenging content from a variety of perspectives pertaining to man’s complex relationship with our planet, and while some of the works may be thought-provoking and leave the viewer thinking, others give us a sense of hope and comfort that we can have a positive impact on our environment as individuals,” says del Guidice.
Museum Operations Update
Per the County lifting its masking advisory due to CDC guidance last week, new masking guidelines for the Door County Libraries and Miller Art Museum took effect on Monday, May 24. The change in masking protocol comes before the expansion of museum’s hours. The Miller Art Museum is expected to re-open in full capacity starting on Monday, June 14, 2021; it has been operating in a limited capacity since March 8, 2021. Existing cleaning protocol will remain, social distancing will continue to be encouraged, masks are available for those who wish one from the library circulation desk, and hand sanitizer will still be available.
Limited operating hours of Mon: 12 – 7pm, Thur – Fri: 10am – 5pm and Sat 10am – 1pm will remain in place through Saturday, June 12. New operating hours as of June 14 are: Mon: 10am – 8pm and Tues – Saturday 10am – 5pm.
The museum is located at 107 S. 4th Avenue inside the Door County Library in downtown Sturgeon Bay. Admission is free of charge but freewill donations are encouraged. The museum is fully accessible; an elevator is available to access galleries on the Ruth Morton Miller Mezzanine. For more information about current exhibitions or the museum, call (920) 746-0707 or visit www.millerartmuseum.org.