RACINE — The work of four local artists — two from Racine and two from Kenosha — is featured in a first-time exhibition at the Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, 2519 Northwestern Ave.
Actually a series of four solo exhibits, the RAM Artist Fellowship Inaugural Exhibition features the creations of Racine artists Doug DeVinny and Jerrold (Jerry) Belland, as well as those of Kenosha artists Kathleen Laybourn and Kimberly Greene.
Together, they represent the culmination of a year and a half of work done by the artists that was supported by Racine Art Museum fellowships, sponsored by a grant from the Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation. Launched in 2011, the RAM Artist Fellowship Program is designed to showcase the diversity and vitality of the Racine/Kenosha visual arts community by supporting the professional development of its artists. Its goal, according to RAM, is to distinguish the region as a place that values the arts, and enhance the area’s desirability as a place for artists to work and live.
“It underscores the fact that there are really creative things happening in this area,” said Lena Vigna, RAM curator of exhibitions.
The first four fellowship recipients were announced in early 2012, having been chosen from a pool of 47 applicants by a panel of RAM staff, representatives of the Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation, and an outside juror — Barbara Brown Lee, chief educator at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each artist was then able to choose how to use the $2,500 stipend they received to support their work through the next 18 months.
No stipulations were made on how the fellowship funds could be spent, because the museum realized that different artists would have different needs, Vigna said. While one artist may need funds to purchase a specific tool or other supplies, another might want to use the money for childcare, allowing them more time to work in their studio, she explained.
In selecting the recipients, the panel not only considered the quality of the work presented, but things such as the stage of each artist’s career and the media and subject matter represented, as they strove to present a diversity of artists, Vigna said. And during the fellowship period, museum personnel stayed in touch with participants, interviewing them about their work and offering any additional support possible.
The resulting artwork can be seen in Wustum’s galleries, which are filled with an interesting variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional work, ranging from cartoon-inspired paintings to hand-crafted garments that represent female figures throughout history — and much more. The inaugural exhibit is the first of what RAM hopes will be many Artist Fellowship shows, offered on a biennial basis.
“We have been so pleased with the process and the result,” said Vigna. “RAM has been really excited about moving forward with this opportunity and we hope that we will be able to offer the fellowship for many years to come.”
Here’s a little taste of what RAM’s inaugural fellowship artists offer (a better view of each can be found in Wustum’s galleries):
A long-time public school art teacher, Belland now works out of a studio in the Racine Business Center creating colorful paintings that tell stories — with characters and subject matter ranging from serious and sad to clever and absurd.
During a recent presentation about his exhibit, Belland said his RAM fellowship period took him back to his early cartooning roots, and allowed him to “develop an uncanny partnership” between his old and young self. That partnership is expressed on gallery walls filled with cartoon-like images and panels, presented in a journal-like fashion that gives the viewer insight into the artist’s thought process.
Look closely, and you’ll also see the artist’s images of himself — someone he says “is part of a tradition of storytellers that ranges from Giotto to Max Beckmann.”
The inner personalities of icons such as Princess Diana and Joan of Arc are explored in the two- and three-dimensional work of Laybourn, which incorporates techniques and materials as diverse as intricately crocheted mason’s line and encaustic painting on wood.
The artist’s interest in women’s history led her to explore the lives of several women who — while considered iconic because of their social status or desirability — often led very different lives than those perceived by the public. Through a combination of sculpture, painting and more, she delves into what each of the women “really were about.”
Originally a painter, Laybourn said she’d been doing 3-D work for several years before the fellowship, but had not yet made the connection between her sculpture and gallery walls. “This really helped solidify my whole way of working,” she said.
An assistant professor of art at Carthage College, Greene said she feels honored to be among the artists chosen for the inaugural exhibition.
Her fellowship work includes both continued exploration of abstract ceramic forms, which she describes as a “re-visioning of space and architecture,” and sculpture created in a somewhat new medium for the artist — cardboard. While cardboard is normally part of her modeling process when working in ceramics, this show features some of her first cardboard sculptures, which are stitched together to allow for re-configuring.
Greene said she enjoyed working in the new medium because it is “so much more immediate” than ceramics, and because of its industrial-like quality. “I think it will be a great direction for me.” The artist — who makes her own clay and glazes — said she is also moving in a new direction with her ceramic work, using a different, jewel-toned palette.
Bits of Racine and Milwaukee can be found throughout the images made by DeVinny, a printmaker and professor emeritus in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
Using a combination of traditional and digital media, he created a body of fragmented and stylized urban images reflecting city life. And while some of it focuses on subject matter the artist worked with 30-plus years ago when he first came to Racine, the new artwork is “much, much different,” DeVinny said.
The fellowship encouraged DeVinny — whose art has been featured in more than a dozen solo shows through the years — to work harder, and gave him the opportunity to “follow the trail and see where it leads,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting, especially if you deviate from the trail.”
Overall, it was a wonderful experience, DeVinny said, adding: “I think it’s a brilliant way to encourage this kind of productivity in artists.”
If You Go
WHAT: RAM Artist Fellowship Inaugural Exhibition
WHERE: Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, 2519 Northwestern Ave.
WHEN: Through Nov. 30. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (closed on federal holidays).
COST: Admission is free.
INFO: Go to www.ramart.org or call (262) 636-9177.
Artist Fellowship Lecture
Meet artist Doug DeVinny and learn how an old-school printmaker became a digital printmaker at his Nov. 7 presentation at Wustum Museum, 2519 Northwestern Ave.
The program will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m., and advance registration is requested. Cost is $8 ($5 for RAM members). Go to www.ramart.org or call (262) 636-9177.
2014 Artist Fellowships
Applications are now being accepted for the next round of RAM Artist Fellowships, to be awarded in 2014. The deadline is 4 p.m. Jan. 15. Applicants must apply online at www.ramart.org.
Visual artists at all stages of their careers who reside in the Racine/Kenosha urban corridor east of I-94 are eligible (working in any media). Applicants must be older than 21 and not currently enrolled in a degree program. For submission requirements go to www.ramart.org.
Four $2,500 fellowships will be awarded. Winners will be selected based on the quality of artwork submitted, and will represent a range of styles and media.
Recipients will be featured in solo exhibitions presented concurrently at RAM’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Aug. 29-Nov. 28, 2015.
Questions can be directed to Dave Zaleski at (262) 619-3541 or email@example.com.