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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Second Life

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  Beginning May 28 at the Charles Allis Art Museum, George Ray McCormick Sr. juxtaposes his two visions of life in the retrospective “Journey from the Secular to the Spiritual: Works by George McCormick Sr.” The approximately 35 pieces include imaginative, finely crafted carvings, assemblages and sculptures that illustrate McCormick’s artistic transformation.

  McCormick, born in Vicksburg, Miss., in 1944, moved to Milwaukee in 1950. A series of unfortunate events caused his early life to unravel. McCormick says he experienced a spiritual metamorphosis in 1991 that led him to renounce material and physical pleasures and turn toward life’s spiritual dimensions. The ensuing artwork resulted in McCormick winning several national art awards and exhibiting at the Smithsonian Institution’s 1998 Folklife Festival.

  Carved dolls with hand-sewn costumes marked his creative beginnings, but McCormick soon moved to relief woodcarving with paint overlays. Metalsmith challenges attracted his developing talents next, and he used bent metal, found objects and vintage hardware to create striking constructions that revealed his personal thoughts. Over the years, McCormick has incorporated more text into his artwork, as a means of narrating his spiritual beliefs. McCormick’s inventive pieces display precise techniques while also relating African mythology, biblical iconography and historical references.

  Two pieces from the exhibit exemplify his ingenious spirit. One of McCormick’s earlier works, Sankofa, demonstrates his technical skill in an exquisite 4-foot-high steel bird that recalls African culture. The rough texture of welded metal showcases this elegantly designed, flamingo-like creature with spread wings, its head stretching backward to suggest that it’s reflecting on lives left behind. The4-by-8-foot plywood relief Last Supper Club Dinner features a skyline depicting buildings named for heavenly virtues, while humanity walks the street below.

  The exhibit officially opens Wednesday, May 28, with an artist’s reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. And on June 8, at 2 p.m., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor Dr. Jeffrey Hayes gives a gallery talk about McCormick’s journey.

  Enjoying its own second life, the restored Ten Chimneys estate in Genesee Depot opens its 2008 exhibition “Fashion Forward: The Gowns and Garments of Lynn Fontanne.” This exclusive collection of clothing, shown in collaboration with MountMaryCollege’s Historic Costume Collection, displays the sophisticated art of couture. Celebrate with Ten Chimneys on Friday, May 23, at 8:30 a.m., with a reception—offering coffee, champagne and cake—that honors the Lunt wedding anniversary, the first public opening, its dedication as a National Historic Landmark and the official Wisconsin “Ten Chimneys Day.”