It's a Material World

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. 

Camel Teapot with Snake Handle, ca. 1745.Credit Chazen Museum of ArtEdit | Remove

In Madison’s Chazen Museum, there is an exhibit of 18th Century Ceramics that was curated by students and the Chipstone Professor in the Department of Art History Ann Smart Martin.

If the only image the word embroidery conjures for you is one of dainty flowers cross stitched onto a tea towel, Melissa Reiss wants you to take another look.

Reiss’ blog states, quite emphatically, that embroidery can be anything. As she tells Lake Effect’s Material culture contributor Gianofer Fields, embroidery doesn’t have to be baby ducks and girls in bonnets doing “women’s work”:

The Kohler Art Library is located on the UW-Madison campus.  The Artists' Book Collection was established in the early 1970s to support the Art Department's courses in letterpress, printmaking, and papermaking.  There are now over 1,000 artists' books in the library.  Some are one-of-a-kind, while others are produced in limited editions.  But Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields wondered, what makes a book an artists' book?

Fields met with Lyn Korenic, the Director of the Kohler Art Library, who says that’s a tough question to answer:

arnoKath / Flickr

Material Culture contributor, Gianofer Fields introduces us to remarkable people – and things – in the project, Radio Chipstone.  This week, she continues a series called "Curator’s Choice," introducing us to Tracy Honn.  Honn is a printer and curator of Silver Buckle Press, a working museum of letterpress history in the Department of Special Collections at the UW Madison Memorial Library.

Chazen Museum of Art

What happens when the material you use to make your art changes its properties over time?