A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
May 19, 2010
12:47 PM
Spotlight

Treasure Hunting

Treasure Hunting

In the opening lines of her artist’s statement, Milwaukee photographer Ellen Pizer describes the first time she looked through the viewfinder of a 35mm camera.

“Everything else seemed to fade into the background except what existed within that rectangle frame,” she writes. “I began to see lines and shapes I had never noticed before.”

Pizer focuses on architecture, structures, materials and objects that many people would consider blight. But through her framing, these elements become abstracted and beautiful.

Roughly thirty of Pizer’s works are on display at the Steenbock Gallery in Driven to Abstraction, an exhibition that opened May 10 and runs through June 18.

The show, presented by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the Center for Photography at Madison, illustrates Pizer’s breadth: large and small works, series and individual pieces, and images presented in frames, on canvas and on pieces of cloth share wall space in the University Avenue gallery.

What ties the works together are their bold colors, incredible textures and the patterns formed through distilling scenes and objects down to abstractions.

The viewer can’t always tell exactly what he or she is looking at in an image. Sometimes it’s sleek architecture photographed in black and white or close-ups of bright red building structures. Other times, it’s an expanse of rusted and weathered metal revealed in vibrant blues, reds, whites and golds. Often the most stunning works are the nearly impossible to identify, given the degree to which they’re abstracted.

A fun touch to the exhibition is a collection of five framed magnetic boards. In these “Graffiti Creations” stations, visitors can choose colorful magnet squares to mix and match (or purchase for $5) on the boards to create their own compositions. All of the squares are photos of graffiti-embellished railroad cars that sit abandoned on tracks near Pizer’s studio.

At a later point in her artist’s statement, Pizer explains the “joy of discovery” in finding an image to capture with her camera. “I call this process a visual treasure hunt,” she states.

Fortunately, through seeing and having hands-on experiences with Pizer’s work at this exhibition, it’s a hunt visitors can happily join her on.

Driven to Abstraction runs through June 18 at the Steenbock Gallery, 1922 University Ave. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit wisconsinacademy.org.

Photos courtesy of the Steenbock Gallery.

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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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