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Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009

Wisconsin’s Rising Talent

Four promising artists

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By speaking through their work, artists can engage audiences in unique visual dialogues. Four promising Wisconsin artists, Beth Lipman, Valerie Zimany, Colin Matthes and Emily Siegel Belknap, use their award-winning creations to express imaginative and evocative ideas.

Beth Lipman

Beth Lipman, an international artist who calls Sheboygan Falls home, oversees the Industry Residency Program at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Lipman's glass sculptures and still-life constructions translate her fragile works into exquisite fine art with widespread appeal. Currently, her delicate translucent compositions and tablescapes grace New York's Museum of Arts and Design and the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Lipman says the still life is "an overlooked art form heavily symbolic of who we are as people." Her contemporary still-life installation "After You're Gone," showing at the Rhode Island School of Design's Museum of Art, metaphorically displays humanity's desires for and subsequent consequences of wealth and status. This monumental all-glass vignette features topiaries modeled after 18th-century French banquet designs and a settee surrounded by crystal wallpaper. The room considers the formal Victorian parlor while addressing domestic culture historically, economically and spiritually.

When "After You're Gone" concludes, the dining table from the installation will travel to the Milwaukee Art Museum for the exhibition "Remains: Contemporary Artists and the Material Past." Additional shows are scheduled for Madison and the state of Virginia.

Valerie Zimany

Appletonartist Valerie Zimany finds inspiration in the flora she discovered in Japan while completing her Fulbright Program in ceramics and art history. While wandering this foreign landscape, Zimany says she awoke to the terrain's "growing, spurting and sprouting, and their gesture of energy."

Through her slip-cast and press-molded ceramic artwork, often wall installations instead of conventional containers, Zimany says she desires to "create artifacts and memories, the essence of these places and plants that can't be replaced." Using unglazed bone china inscribed with fine details or colored clay appliquéd with vintage designs, she converses between positive and negative space on pieces suggestive of sexual tension. Her artwork also confronts the audience with a dilemma: Is this a functional object or art?

This year Zimany exhibits at the highly competitive and prestigious World Ceramic Biennale Korea before finishing a teaching and postdoctoral fellowship at Wisconsin's Lawrence University. Zimany says that her inventive china will continue "to speak the language of familiar vessels but commemorate the tradition of ceramics."

Colin Matthes

Milwaukee's Colin Matthes, a former winner of the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship, has seen his printmaking reach cities worldwide with ideas that, he says, "start and end in drawing, a traditional art, but lead to posters, graphic prints, public art and publishing."

Matthes belongs to a collective of artists from across America, Justseeds Cooperative. The co-op's Web site, justseeds.org, sells artwork and allows artists to connect internationally through insightful dialogues. The group also sponsors exhibitions, benefits and installations throughout the United States. As Matthes says, "Making art becomes reaching out to engage with social movements, sharing information along with selling work."

Matthes exhibits later this winter at the University of Texas-Pan American in "Credit is Alright," a solo installation conveying economic uncertainty. Marquette University's Haggerty Museum of Art will feature his oversized wall drawing in "Current Tendencies." Matthes, who currently teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), creates "inexpensive art that will go out into the world," he says.

Emily Siegel Belknap

Upon graduating from MIAD in 2006, Emily Siegel Belknap joined Milwaukee's White Whale Collective, a gallery on National Avenue, to realize her goal of producing art. She is currently preparing for a May solo exhibition at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Belknap's innovative watercolors and bronze sculptures explore the theme of landscapes inhabited by animal communities. Her watercolors involve cutting, scratching and pasting, but they still read as pictures focused on the horizon line. She defines space in relation to culture, seen through herds, flocks or groups of animals, communicating perceptions about personal space versus communal space and what becomes necessary for the survival of people, animals or plants.

Pondering the future of how to make a living while creating art, Belknap says, "I am still very young¾the knowledge will come eventually. But that's the struggle of being an artist."

It's a struggle contemplated by each of these gifted Wisconsin artists. As Lipman says, "Art is a dialogue that considers what makes us human, a form of communication that continually elevates our humanity."

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