Gianofer Fields

Material Culturalist

Gianofer Fields is a freelance producer and reporter for NPR, BBC and Madison's WORT Community Radio. She says, “Once you seriously consider the objects you use to fill your emotional and functional needs, you will never see those things the same way ever again. From delightfully intriguing to dangerously obsessive, objects affect our daily lives. They creep into our subconscious. They say volumes about who we are or wish to be, without uttering a single word.”

Gianofer Fields

Spring may be just around the corner but that's little comfort for those who are completely over this winter. Yes, we've spent our share of days cooped up at home waiting for the latest bout of bad weather to pass. At least we have things like radio, television, and shopping online to keep us from pulling out our hair. 

Madison Childrens Museum

As Wisconsinites, we're lucky to have access to some really stellar museums. Our state boasts nationally and internationally recognized institutions like the Milwaukee Art Museum, Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot and Madison's Chazen Museum of Art, while researchers travel far and wide to look at artifacts and materials like the Racine Art Museum's renowned collection of contemporary crafts and the Wisconsin Historical Society's vast Civil War holdings.

Alex Watson / Flickr

Gardening, scrap booking, knitting, wood-working, bird-watching, golf. We've all got hobbies - some we're prouder to admit to than others. But what do these activities - and the supplies required - signify about our lives? What does what we do in our leisure time say about who we are?

Gianofer Fields

Wisconsin is known for many things - cheese, beer, and the Forevertron. Dr. Evermor's Forevetron is the world's largest scrap metal sculpture - at 50 feet high, 120 feet wide and 300 tons, and it's located right in North Freedom, Wisconsin.  It looks like something that's from out of this world - but it's not just space this sculpture transcends.

Some public art is not meant to last – it’s created for temporary enjoyment. But other art and objects are created with more longevity in mind, and are preserved so that we may enjoy them and learn from them well into the future.

Gianofer Fields

It's a special dad who teaches his children life lessons that shape who they are and what they become. Take for example the Howard family of Stoughton, Wisconsin.

William Howard is a Master Goldsmith, and father to master Goldsmith Missy and master Blacksmith Aaron. William's been teaching his children his craft for as long as they can remember, as Missy explains:

"I made my very first ring when I was five years old, because my dad's a jeweler, so he had me come up to the shop and made a little silver ring with a little daisy with it."

Teresa Boardman / Flickr

Buying a home is part of many people's idea of the American dream, and for those who do it's likely the biggest purchase they'll ever make.

Your home is the biggest statement of who you are to the outside world so, how do you go about choosing which home reflects who you are? And when you're selling a home, how much of the "you" that's part of it stays behind?

Gianofer Fields

Many of us have memories of going into a museum on a field trip as a kid, or even visiting a museum as an adult and feeling the stifling pressure of "be quiet and don't touch!"

Art Historian and Director of the Chipstone Foundation, Jon Prown believes that objects need to be explored, touched when able, and most importantly - discussed with others to have a meaningful impact.

Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields met with Prown to discuss the power of objects and the even greater impact of learning and sharing their stories:

Alyson Hurt / Flickr

If we can determine a great deal about our culture by the objects we value, it stands to reason that we can learn a lot about ourselves from the objects we value. Especially when it comes time to move all of them.

Pete Kaesberg is a drummer and a guitar player who has, until recently, lived in Madison all of his life. And before the move he's had the stuff to prove it. But after twenty two years, Pete is moving out of the House of Men, so called because it has a history of having mostly male tenants, to Eau Claire. Over the past few weeks he's been packing up, and getting rid of parts of his life and finding himself box by box. 

He tells Lake Effect's material culture contributor Gianofer Fields what it feels like to make such a change.

"I think being a musician kind of keeps you in a state of arrested development. A musician, especially a rock musician, is kind of a young person's job. So if you keep doing it throughout your life, you tend to always have a fair amount of cohorts that are young...when my [girlfriend] first saw my room she's like, 'you have a room of a twelve year old boy.' My dad always referred to me as the world's oldest teenager, and I think I still am," says Kaesberg. 

Gianofer Fields

If you're a regular listener to Lake Effect Weekend, you know that we regularly feature stories about material culture produced by contributor Gianofer Fields. 

The segment has called It's a Material World - a name Fields says came to her in a dream and for a while it was a perfect fit. The project has been and continues to be funded by the Milwaukee-based Chipstone Foundation and now, like a blushing bride, the series will also take its partner’s name and become Radio Chipstone. 

Wisconsin Historical Society

An exhibit at the Madison History Museum might seem straightforward at first – full of watercolor paintings of Wisconsin landscapes. But look a little deeper into the artist's life...and you'll find there's a history mystery here.

This is what we know: In the late 1800’s German Immigrant Paul Seifert arrived in Wisconsin’s Driftless area and put down roots. He graduated from a Forestry Academy and made his living as a farmer and taxidermist.

Special Collections at Wofford College / Flickr

Lake Effect contributor Gianofer Fields has visited the Wisconsin Veterans Museum several times, and with each trip we learn more about military history and the objects that survived the wars. 

In this edition, we return to the museum and meet up again with Kevin Hampton, the Curator of Research and Public Programs, who talks about some of the other items Civil War soldiers brought with them to stay connected to home:

Boston Bill / Flickr

Our notions of what makes a place “home” are as varied as we are. Photographer Jess Horn is a bit of a tumbleweed – spending a great deal of time on the road. Horn met Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields in Madison's Tenney Park by the duck pond and explained that even though home isn’t confined to one place, that doesn't mean there is a lack of connection.

Wally Argus / Flickr

This is the time of year when people who have things to sell are pulling out all stops to get folks to buy their stuff. So what makes a good ad? How is it possible for a seller to get notice when so many are vying for attention?

Hallie Zillman-Bouche is the lead graphic designer for the Willy Street Co-op in Madison. She's also the daughter of an ad man.  She tells contributor Gianofer Fields that she's been selling things for so long she can't even really remember her first ad:

Untitled (Woman Painting), ca. 1907-1908 Monotype, 4 1/8 x 3 1/8 inCredit American Monotypes from the Baker/Pisano Collection / Chazen Museum of ArtEdit | Remove

Like most artists who have a place in the popular consciousness, Georgia O'Keefe is associated with some very specific images: bleached New Mexican landscapes, a close up of an iris, or even a giant animal skull. However, in this case the O'Keefe is smaller than a breadbox.