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Racine Art Museum Showcases Ornamented Vessels by Wisconsin Metalsmith
Kim Cridler, Field Study #1, 2009 (detail). Steel, 22k gold and silver, 12.5 x 13.5 inches. Photo: Jim Escalante.

RACINE, WIS.- The Racine Art Museum commissioned metalsmith and UW-Madison Department of Art Assistant Professor Kim Cridler to create a new exhibition for its Windows on Fifth Gallery. This summer, the museum encourages visitors to embrace adventure, explore new destinations, connect to local culture and uncover cultural influences - all through art. Open July 31, 2011 through July 22, 2012, My Wisconsin Home, Cridler links object making to an examination of place. As she states, "this project and the investigative process at its heart is testimony to my love for and interest in Wisconsin, its sheer physical grandeur and its rich history, its settlements and displacements. I hope this attempt to understand my surroundings through study and research will provide me, a more recent settler, to find a place for myself in the order of things."

Using steel and bronze, as well as organic materials such as beeswax, bone, eggshells, hair and mother-of-pearl, Cridler creates vessel forms that connect her interests in history, craft, ornament and function with an investigation of material and metaphor. Early years spent among treasured and respected objects has imbued Cridler with a desire to understand how and why we give objects meaning-and, not insignificantly, how these meanings change over time. Skeletal vases and urns-built with a systematic grid as a frame and augmented with stylized flora and fauna-evoke historical shapes while denying the uses commonly associated with the objects. The grid itself contributes to the ornamentation of the vessel and Cridler's addition of flowers, bees, fish, birds, mice and plants further enhances a juxtaposition of shape and form while simultaneously offering content.

When she uses flora and fauna, Cridler is referencing a decorative past as well as her own connection to the present natural world. For this Windows at RAM installation, Cridler presents a collection of patterned and ornamented vessels on shelving structures that echo the storage areas of some cultural institutions. The shelves establish a literal and metaphorical framework, allowing for a certain kind of study and examination, as well as a means of collecting and cataloguing. Cridler's careful observation of the environment and natural life around her Wisconsin home provides inspiration for materials, patterns and motifs. As Cridler notes, the ornamentation is "based on sketches and studies made during [a] daily practice of collecting plant material and insect life from the gardens, fields and prairies."

On Saturday, January 14, 2012, Cridler returns to the museum to refresh the exhibition and guide visitors through a behind-the-scenes tour of My Wisconsin Home. This event - Meet the Artist: Kim Cridler - occurs during Downtown Racine Carves its Niche winter ice carving festival. Visitors to the museum will also enjoy free RAM admission 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, along with a free hands-on art event.

Cridler will return to the museum again in early May to modify the exhibition and create another fresh new experience.

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