Nishi bowl

“Lace Cage Bowl” by Etsuko Nishi is made of glass.

RACINE — The Racine Art Museum, 441 Main St., announces the opening of two new exhibits to be shown through June 10.

“Beasts: Wild Animals in RAM’s Collection” takes a look at creatures that are wild, dangerous, large or somehow less familiar.

“Japanese Studio Craft at RAM” is an exploration of small-scale craft — art jewelry, ceramics, baskets, fiber, glass and wood — from artists of Japanese heritage with a focus on how tradition can impact contemporary artists.

Beasts

The lives of animals and humans are interwoven in many ways. The natural world, in all its variety, has long been a favorite topic for artists who marvel at its complexity, diversity and beauty. They may also use it as a way to explore larger issues about the environment, humanity, society or culture. The artists whose works are featured in this exhibition are drawn to depicting animals that are, perhaps, a little more removed from the daily lives of most — those that might be considered “beasts.”

While it can be used to describe certain types of people or brutish activity, the word beast is generally associated with four-footed animals that are wild, dangerous or large. Those animals could be familiar, such as horses and cows; known, but not domesticated, such as elephants, rhinos and bears; or unfamiliar and fantastical, such as dragons and imaginary creatures. Artists render them realistically, sweetly, abstractly or symbolically, depending on the focus of their interests.

The ceramic sculptures, fiber works, paintings, photographs and prints that are included in “Beasts” are all drawn from RAM’s collection. Whether beasts are the primary focus of the work or characters involved in a broader story, their presence reflects the consistent human desire to make sense of the larger world.

Japanese studio craft

What is Japanese studio craft? Studio craft is most simply distinguished from the traditional version by intention. Where craft has historically been used for necessity or ceremony, studio craft has emphasized artistic investigation or aesthetic contemplation. Significantly, studio craft may or may not be functional or intended for practical use.

Since the later 20th century, Japan — steeped in strong historical traditions that include woodworking, metalworking, fibers, lacquer ware and more — has seen a greater focus on craft-oriented studio practices that emphasize the artist’s interests rather than function. This has come in part from Japanese artists studying abroad who have been impacted by theories of craft-making that have developed in places like the United States and Western Europe.

Contemporary artists — such as Kyohei Fujita who crafted patterned glass boxes, Keizuke Mizuno who creates ceramic sculpture, and Hisako Sekijima, a self-described basket maker — have aspects of their work that can be traced to their connections to Japan. In addition, they expand on time-honored concepts by experimenting with materials, challenging form and scale, or investigating theoretical issues.

The Racine Art Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, and $5 for youth ages 12-18, full-time students and seniors 62 and older. There is no charge for children ages 11 and younger. For more information, call 262-638-8300 or go to www.ramart.org.

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Community Coordinator

Loreen Mohr is the community coordinator for The Journal Times.

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