In Search of Wisconsin Taverns (in Seattle)

While on vacation in Washington state last month, I learned of an exhibition worth adding to an ambitious Seattle itinerary — Hudson-based photographer Carl Corey’s series Wisconsin Tavern League, on view at a gallery near my hotel.

I had seen Corey’s large-scale photographs before, though none from this particular series. Photos in his Habitat series get consistent praise for their sharp-eyed take on American scenes. People say when Corey aims his camera at mostly unmemorable things — like picnic tables and overpasses — his deft use of color and light makes the ordinary seem otherworldly. I would only add that his photos nearly glow.

"2982--Jamos, Milwaukee," by Carl Corey. Posted with the artist's permission.

Of his Wisconsin Taverns series, Corey has said that taverns are “very much a part of Wisconsin history and community, and they’re going away. These people [the owners] are struggling. I thought it was important to document that” (see “MMoCA’s Wisconsin Triennial is all over the place, to its credit,” by Jennifer Smith).

Enjoying the Tavern show for the first time in another state appealed to me somehow, and so I went looking for Wisconsin Taverns in Seattle.

I won’t describe the mishaps that prevented me from finding the Seattle show, except to say that I (twice!) fruitlessly climbed and wandered the city’s First Hill. After my failed quest, I talked by phone to a woman representing the gallery, who explained where I went astray. She praised the Tavern series effusively, and told me Seattle residents–many of whom are transplanted Wisconsinites, she said–have loved it, too.

"2664--Marty, Chippewa Club, Durand" by Carl Corey. Posted with the artist's permission.

Of course, there’s no need to go to Washington to see Carl Corey’s work; in fact, there’s no need to leave your chair. After searching Seattle for Wisconsin Taverns, I came home to find Corey’s photos nearly everywhere I looked, which is perhaps, as it should be.

A Portal Wisconsin online gallery artist, Corey just added ten new images to his section of our site. The photos represent newer work both from his Habitat series and from the Wisconsin Tavern series. Many, many more are posted at his well-designed personal site, carlcorey.com.

You can also pick up a copy of the Wisconsin People & Ideas summer issue at your local library or bookstore. Included in this issue’s Galleria is a beauteous ten-page spread of some of the Tavern series, striking images of out-of-the-way pubs that ooze personality.  Featured taverns are sometimes fantastical, surprisingly pristine and, though I’m not exactly a roadhouse regular, oddly familiar. Fans of photography will find the magazine well worth its $5 cover price.

And finally, for a very limited time, three photos from Corey’s Tavern series are on exhibit at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art‘s Wisconsin Triennial show, and a portion of his Habitat series is featured in a side-by-side solo exhibition (with glass artist Lisa Koch) at the James Watrous Gallery. You’ll find both the Museum and the Gallery at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, incidentally just a ten-minute walk from the Portal Wisconsin headquarters.

Call me, if you need directions.

–Tammy Kempfert

P.S. Happen to be going to Portland, Ore., in September? Carl Corey tells me the Tavern Series will be at Blue Sky Gallery there, for a show of 25 large prints. I would love to hear from anyone who finds Wisconsin Taverns in Oregon.

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2 Responses to In Search of Wisconsin Taverns (in Seattle)

  1. […] may remember my previous post on Hudson photographer Carl Corey’s Wisconsin Tavern League series. This month Corey sent an […]

  2. […] I leave the state, it seems I take a little Wisconsin with me–and a brief trip to San Francisco last month was no […]

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