A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Jul 12, 2013
10:15 AM

Joyful Creativity at the Memorial Union

Joyful Creativity at the Memorial Union

The King of Pop wears a read and black jacket with colorful striped sleeves. His sunglasses, gloves and shoes shimmer with glitter, while his environment vibrates with vibrant colors, shapes and symbols.

Meet “Diamond Moonwalk,” a mixed-media portrait of Michael Jackson by Madison artist Romano Johnson. A self-taught artist who was born with a cognitive disability, Johnson showcases his exuberant large-scale paintings in Cloud Singer Moon Walk, a new exhibition at the Memorial Union’s Porter Butts Gallery.

Other subjects include an angel, and eagle, an African wildlife scene, a spaceship and several racecars. A standout is “Sixty One Machine Motorcycle,” a mixed-media work featuring a large cycle in a city setting. Numbers, wheels and windows placed throughout the composition, along with the motorcycle embellished with gold, silver and red glitter, create energy and dynamism. You can practically hear the roar of the bike and the noise of the city streets.

Johnson’s work brims with a vitality that combines expressiveness, creativity, freedom and a sense of joy that carries over to the viewer like a gift.

In the adjacent Class of 1925 Gallery, Aretha Frankenstein is Zachary Lewis’s mesmerizing ode to collage. Even his artist statement is a textual mishmash of pop culture references—from bands to stores to movies to politicians.

His mixed-media pieces are a joy and adventure to explore. A large black and white work combines a variety of textures and patterns with buildings, horses, a train and body parts—heads, arms and legs. Nearby is a composition created entirely with Dr. Seuss imagery, a fun mix of red, white, blue and childhood memories. And is that a dissected Grover in the next collage?

Especially nostalgic is work featuring many images of grass and trees, plus a bird, a huge cat and other animals real and imaginary. It’s like Lewis culled books, cartoons and catalogs from childhood and rearranged them to create a vision that somehow feels less like a surrealistic dream and more like a slightly fuzzy memory.

Also on display at the Memorial Union, in the Lakefront on Langdon Gallery, are tissue paper works of art by Richard Ely. In Landscapes of Wonder, he offers up beautiful and playful settings, from an under-the-sea world to an autumn prairie to a magical island.

A particularly lovely and clever piece is “Jungleland,” a series of colorful hills with flowering plants in the foreground. Some of the hills are made of striped and leopard-print tissue paper.

And “Confetti Tree,” a stylized tree surrounded by a ball of colorful pieces of tissue paper, showcases one creative application of Ely’s unique medium.

All three shows opened yesterday and run through July 23. For more information, visit union.wisc.edu.

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About This Blog

As managing editor at Madison Magazine, I'm also an unabashed arts enthusiast. Paintings, plays, music, movies—I'm intrigued by all forms of creative expression. I enjoy talking with artists and sharing their insights, challenges, inspirations and latest endeavors. Check in regularly for details on events, previews and reviews, artist interviews and more! 

– Katie Vaughn
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiemv

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