Across our nation, streets tagged “Main” are in dismal decay. Downtown Racine is no exception, as the county has been hit hard by the recession. That said, 441 Main St. in Racine shines like a beacon on the shores of Lake Michigan as the home of the Racine Art Museum (RAM). Until July 22, the museum’s southfacing Fifth Gallery windows shelter the splendid work of metalsmith Kim Cridler in the exhibition “My Wisconsin Home.” Yes, Cridler currently lives in our state. She is associate professor of art at UW-Madison, near where her work is included in the Chazen Museum of Art’s collection.
Cridler dreams big, and uses her overblown vessels and urns as skeletal receptacles for memories of her Michigan childhood in which objects were directly connected to their users. While I studied the work (viewing it from both inside and outside of the RAM), I realized I was in a once-lively town, now a mere skeleton of its former self. Witness the boarded-up and bare shops on Main Street, filled with items that have no connection to what the town once was.
A public art project for a new building at UW-Oshkosh is in the works.
Cridler’s bronze vessel, set in a courtyard, will serve as a “home” for a beech tree that will hopefully survive and eventually embrace the metal structure. Do not over-think her earthy message—you do not need an elaborate back story in order to fully enjoy this exhibition. I always take Highway 32 south to Racine, along the way passing funky ’50s motels named The Bluebird and The Pine Cone. On the day of my trek, the hearty osiers were showing their red heads, a hopeful sign.
(clockwise from top) Outside view of ‘My Wisconsin Home’ exhibition; Kim Cridler, Field Study #1, steel, 22k gold & silver, 2009; Kim Cridler, Field Study #2 (detail), steel, sterling silver, copper & 22k gold, 2010