media release: On View: August 18 to November 4, 2023; Artists’ Reception: Sunday, September 24, 5:30-7:30 pm
MEND: the work of repair is a group exhibition that features textile works by Heidi Parkes (Milwaukee) and sculpture by Glenn Williams (Milwaukee), Siara Berry (Cudahy), Sylvie Rosenthal (Madison), and Jaymee Harvey Willms (Milwaukee), artists whose work touches on diverse aspects of mending and repair. “I hope this exhibition will inspire you to think about the repairs you might make in your own lives and communities, one stitch or one step at a time,” said MEND curator and Watrous Gallery Director Jody Clowes. “There is so much in the wider world that needs repair right now. It can feel impossible to respond in a meaningful way, or even identify the tools and skills that could make a difference. But small, close-to-home efforts do matter. Whether it’s fixing a wheelchair, restoring a wetland, mending pants or mending a heart, the quiet work of repair sends out ripples of hope. It’s a reminder that most often, the way forward starts one small step at a time.”
Heidi Parkes’ wonderfully idiosyncratic hand-sewn quilts are often imbued with the work of emotional or physical healing. She also offers mending for family, friends, and clients, using bold, expressive stitches that transform well-worn clothing into wearable works of art. Williams’ poignant Prosthetic series explores the complexity and the limitations of assistive devices which, while transformative for users, can also present their own challenges. His architectural works reflect the seemingly intractable challenge of housing insecurity with admirable economy, quietly underlining both the injustice and the obvious solution for the unhoused.
Siara Berry also offers a critique of American housing systems, incorporating real estate signs and welcome mats to raise questions about access, affordability, and other barriers to home ownership. Her sculptures of brooms, mops, and dustpans address messy household situations with a more personal lens. With multiple handles and forms or materials that frustrate their function, they conjure both the effort it takes to resolve an unsettled domesticity and the need to work together to repair old conflicts.
Sylvie Rosenthal is grappling with a sculpture of huge wooden hands she made years ago that recently came back to her studio. Its commission was severely complicated by an old, unhealthy relationship, and getting it back unearthed a tangle of feelings. Rather than bury the piece in deep storage, Rosenthal has embraced the opportunity to refurbish and reclaim it. This act of physical and emotional mending is a natural adjunct to her practice: she also teaches classes in repairing and altering old furniture. For Jaymee Willms, a personal tragedy led her to shift from painting to sculpture, breaking and reworking found objects in a conscious project of mending her family’s experience. Willms’ mended lamps are lopsided melanges of bric-a-brac laced with scars, yet they have a peculiar grace; and they work, shining light on the possibility of renewal and repair.
Admission is free and the public is welcome. The James Watrous Gallery is located on the third floor of Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison. These exhibitions are made possible in part by a grant from Madison Arts Commission and Wisconsin Arts Board. The James Watrous Gallery is dedicated to celebrating Wisconsin artists. A program of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, the Watrous Gallery focuses on solo exhibits by contemporary Wisconsin artists and curated shows that reflect the Wisconsin Academy’s interest in drawing connections between art and other disciplines.
Artists’ Reception Sunday, September 24, 2023 – 5:30 – 7:30 pm Artists’ talks begin at 6:00 pm James Watrous Gallery • in Overture Center for the Arts • Madison. Free and open to the public. Light refreshments available.
Other exhibition-related programming will be announced soon. For more information, see wisconsinacademy.org/gallery
The Wisconsin Academy creates opportunities for people to connect, learn, and collaborate to improve life in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Academy showcases contemporary Wisconsin art at the James Watrous Gallery, examines science and culture in Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine, and explores pathways to a sustainable future through the Climate and Energy Initiative. Academy programs and public talks provide opportunities to learn and explore, while making connections with curious and creative people across Wisconsin. The Academy recognizes excellence through the annual Fiction & Poetry Awards and Fellows Awards for leadership in and across disciplines. We also support the Wisconsin Poet Laureate and many other endeavors that help the Academy create a better world by connecting Wisconsin people and ideas. The James Watrous Gallery receives ongoing support from the Great Performance Fund at the Madison Community Foundation and the membership of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Programming is supported in part by grants from the Ruth Foundation for the Arts and the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.