In Search of Wisconsin Taverns (in Seattle)

August 2, 2010

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,

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.


The Art of [not] Getting Things Done

April 5, 2010
Man, I fail spectacularly.

I keep trying, and trying and trying to come up with a way to keep myself organized and on track and getting the things done that I need to get done.

But I just suck at it.

I’ve been a bad blogger for Portal Wisconsin, I haven’t posted a thing since December. (I’m really sorry Tammy!)

I’ve also failed to follow through (up to this point at least) on the ideas I laid out here on the blog for my website and attempts to drum up some income from my artwork. (I do still plan to implement these ideas, it’s just going to take longer than anybody probably expected!)

I am good at a couple of things, I’m good at tweeting, I’m damn good at tweeting!

I’m also good at two projects that I set out for myself. The first is my daily self-portrait project, which I started November 16th, 2009 and have faithfully and dutifully and gleefully held to for 138 days and counting.

I started a daily drawing January 4th 2010, and have also faithfully and joyfullly held to for 77 days and counting.

One of the main reasons I’ve been so successful at the daily portraits and drawings, has been the support and encouragement of my friends and the community on twitter. That gives me the kernel of an idea of something that might help keep me more on track than I have been in the past.

It also lets me know that this cause, this idea of me accomplishing things predictably, consistently and effectively isn’t an (entirely) lost cause.

I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. I keep trying, and I’m going to try yet again, starting today.

Here’s hoping I can craft a system that I can stick to!

(Here are the links if you are interested in either of my daily projects: Self Portraits, Daily Drawing)

Spyros Heniadis

Visual artists from the 7Rivers Region have a new place to show their art

March 8, 2010

Wisconsin residents are increasingly looking for affordable art outside traditional museum or gallery settings.

At the same time emerging artists are looking for alternative spaces to show their art.  They display their works at open house events, co-op galleries, libraries,  university galleries, churches, coffee shops, bookstores, beauty salons, hospitals, airports, tourist centers, clubs, convention centers, parks,  market places, during art walks and art fairs,  etc.  It seems that crafts and arts have been offered at many places.

La Crosse area artists have been showing their works at nearly every locally available conventional and unconventional location.  Recently, they discovered a new alternative space.

Myrick Hixon EcoPark, a non-profit organization in La Crosse, whose vision is to achieve community understanding of, and respect for nature, and to protect the environment for future generations became a new meeting ground for environmentalists, artists and art enthusiast.  The organization will feature a new artist every month.

Lee Harwell, local photographer is the EcoPark’s first Artist of the Month.  His photographs truly reflect the vision and mission of the EcoPark.   Lee’s framed and unframed nature inspired photographs will be displayed in the EcoPark’s gift shop during March and will be one of many points of interest for visitors eager to explore the Park’s vast array of educational programs, events, volunteering opportunities, etc.   I had an opportunity to meet Lee in November of 2009 when he won with his photo “Seed Nesting,” the Second Annual Benefit Art Show hosted by Gallery La Crosse.

Lee Harwel's Photo

The Artist of the Month reception will be held on Saturday, March 13 from 11:30-1pm and will be free for general public.

The EcoPark is now accepting exhibition proposals for the Artist of the Month Program!  If you would like to apply and  be considered during the next jury session, contact Michelle Nelson at 608-784-0303 ext. 221 or by email at  For more information check out EcoPark’s  website at


Art Events Help Fight Winter Blues

February 8, 2010

I love Wisconsin during spring, summer and fall. Not so much during winter. Winter blues get the best of me. I have low energy when it is cold and it has been a struggle for me even to paint during last few weeks. In order to wake up from this winter apathy I decided to attend as many art-related events in La Crosse as possible. As soon as I surround myself with art and creative people, I feel better.

La Crosse offers a vibrant art scene. During last two weeks there were 6 different art opening receptions. Several new plays are showing in local theaters. Cold weather did not prevent art patrons and friends to attend these events. All events have been attended by a lot of art enthusiasts. I was particularly impressed by James Gill’s “Back in the World: Portraits of Wisconsin Vietnam War Veterans. ” This photographic exhibit runs at the Pump House regional Arts Center at 119 King Street, in La Crosse from January 27 through March 13, 2010. Especially touching are the short stories each veteran said about his/her experience. Those stories are mounted next to each photograph. It is hard to hold back tears when you read these words and then look at the photographed eyes.

If you can not plan a trip to La Crosse to see this wonderful exhibit be sure to check the following link: You may watch the interviews with the featured Veterans recorded for the Wisconsin Public Television documentary Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories. The documentary will be released in May.

In the conjunction with the exhibition, the Pump House has produced 5,000 Pounds: Seven Soldiers’ Stories, a new play detailing the lives and toils of seven soldiers in Vietnam in 1968. I plan to see it on Thursday, February 11. For more information please check:

–Martina Skobic

Rare Taliesin Images

February 3, 2010

When I was a boy I traveled often with my family to Spring Green to visit my great aunts. They lived in town and earned income from the family farm a bit north of the village. Not too far south of Spring Green — across the Wisconsin River in Iowa County — is Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and one of the most important works of art in Wisconsin. What we see today on the brow of the hill is merely the last and latest incarnation of Wright’s home and retreat. It has suffered from fire, harsh Wisconsin winters and, a few years ago, an oak tree that fell on part of the building. Taliesin was an ongoing experiment for Wright as he expanded and altered spaces up until his death in 1959.

Wright first built at Taliesin in 1911 and it was this structure that was so damaged in the murderous fire of 1914 that is recounted in Nancy’s Horan’s popular novel, “Loving Frank.” Sadly, few images of the original building exist.

In 2005 a rare album of photos appeared on eBay that Wisconsin historian Jack Holzhueter called “a Rosetta stone for the building.” In a matter of days, he helped pull together the money that allowed the Wisconsin Historical Society to purchase the album. You can read about that adventure here.

Through March 13, you can view images from the album at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square in Madison. Presented as framed reproductions in the first floor gallery, they are a wonderful collection including interiors, exteriors and landscapes. If you care about Wright, Wisconsin, history or art, it is well worth a visit.

–Michael Bridgeman