Sunday, October 15, 2017


The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, MMoCA (pronounced Ma-Mo.Ka an anagram sounding like something you could order at Starbucks) holds an event twice a year where artists and artisan venues open their doors to the public. It happens once in the spring and then again in the fall. Last Friday night under the threat of rain my best friend and I armed with umbrellas headed out to see what this year's fall event had to offer.  Past forays into the Madison art scene had been packed events where you squeezed through crowds and then attempted to view the art over the shoulder of guys with ponytails and girls covered in tattoos. This year, maybe because of the rain the crowds were thin but this played to our advantage.
We had started out around six with the intent of covering the eastside area around Schenk's Corners. Growing up on the eastside this was our social hub. My parents banked at what was then Security State Bank, I had an aunt with a beauty parlor a couple of blocks below the Eastwood Theater and another aunt and uncle ran a bar kitty-corner from the bank on Winnebago Street. This was my parents date night destination they'd go to once every other month. We'd stay home waiting with the hopes they'd return with a bag of hamburgers smothered in fried onions from the Nibble Nock, a greasy spoon where the short-order cook flipped his burgers in the window of what is now a part of Texas Tubbs.
Jim and I grabbed dinner at Alchemy before heading out umbrellas still in hand.
Our first stop was right next-door at Nomadic Grill + Home, a shop specializing in Indian vintage signage and cooking paraphernalia. It's surprising what you don't see passing by year after year without looking. This shop was amazing. Huge graphic signs lined the walls while a gorgeous bicycle powered rickshaw was planted center stage.
The windows were laden with cast iron braziers, huge pulleys and a beautiful set of painted doors.
From there it was two blocks down Winnebago to the Winnebago Studios, a collective artist's studio in the waiting room of destruction as it held fast to hear its fate on being torn down to make way for a more profitable residential replacement.
One of my favorite spots in the Madison art scene is housed inside the Studios. The Atwood Atelier is evocative of another world where models lounged in colorful Japanese kimonos on worn chaises covered in faded chenille.
The walls of the Atelier are covered in the portraiture work of artists transporting one to the dingy lofts of Montmartre.
You expect to see Matisse and Picasso in heavy conversation while the smell of oil paint and linseed oil mingle with the circling smoke from ashtrays laden with cigarette stubs.
There are hidden treasures behind every open door in the Winnebago Studios, from printmakers
to political satirists.
Across the street is Studio Paran mostly known for its glasswork.
The glass blowers were at work set in front of the glowing kilns sweating as they demonstrated the artistry of making vases from molten sand.
We put our umbrellas up and headed down Atwood where our upholsterer had an opening to debut his new line of furniture. There were so many pieces to love in his new line and too many to try to showcase here. Matthew Nafranowicz, of the Straight Thread, is a French taught upholstery genius.
His new line combines woodwork, leather and the underbelly of furniture construction in his line of chairs and ottomans. He exposes the webbing and tacking that is usually hidden underneath in a way that makes these elements elegant and unexpected.
Two of my favorite pieces where this wing chair with its walnut embracing side panels and exposed crisscrossed webbed arms
and this perfectly executed stool with its leather top and baseball stitching. We're looking for the right client to persuade that they shouldn't live without them.
We were just about ready to pack it in but the rain was subsiding and there was an area of the Madison art scene we'd never explored. We had to drive to get to this one located further east and in a small industrial pocket I'd never ventured into.
Hidden in a low one-story building was the Baraboo Woodworks. They specialize in live edge wood slabs in different species of wood culled from the Wisconsin area. The wood is absolutely gorgeous and so were their finished products.
I'm guessing the organizers of the event would have hoped for better weather but for us the opportunity to actually see the art and talk to the artists was selfishly much more enjoyable

Georgia O'Keeffe, 1956
Yousuf Karsh, photographer
Represented by Robert Klein Gallery, Boston

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