Exhibition Includes Badger State Metalworkers

Metalsmiths from through Wisconsin will show their work in an upcoming UW-La Crosse art exhibition.

“Wisconsin Metal NOW” opens with a reception from 4-6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, in the University Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts, 333 16th St. N. An artist talk begins at XX  in 116 Center for the Arts. Both events are free.

Wisconsin Metal NOW” will showcase the range and creativity of metalsmiths and makers teaching on UW campuses and across the state. The field of metalworking covers a diverse range of processes, materials and ideas. The exhibition brings together the work of 12 Wisconsin artists who work with metals and metalsmithing to showcase what is currently being created.

The works reveal that current metalworkers are connected to centuries of tradition, skill and age-old manipulation of materials. The exhibition also shows that contemporary artists explore changing technologies, materials, processes and ideas. The results include sculpture, objects to wear, and undefined new categories that echo the past, address present issues, and reach into the future.

From precious metals to reused plastic bags, the materials used in contemporary metalworking push the definitions of familiar objects, tradition and skill. The results are intriguing, surprising and driven by new ideas and technologies. Together they ask viewers to ponder the ongoing story of how humans and technologies forge the complex world we use, create and share.

David Barnhill, of Green Bay, hopes to “inspire the viewer’s imagination of what might be possible using old, new and invented techniques for metal problems associated with but not limited to: fusing and forming.” Barnhill often begins a project by asking, “Is this possible?” Viewers may find themselves asking the same question of all the art in the exhibition as they explore its range and imagination.

In her work, Whitewater’s Teresa Faris examines how superstition is called upon when fear of the unknown is present. She addresses animals and animal imagery that throughout history has offered hope, order and alarm to unsettled humans. Her questions include how “generations-old beliefs are impenetrable and often left unchallenged.” Faris wants to discover “the root of these habitual beliefs and challenge the way they dictate her response to the world.” The resulting objects are reminiscent of traditional jewelry rooted deeply in beliefs of folklore and superstition, and through each cut and soldered piece Faris aims to move closer to her personal truth.

Masako Onodera, Menomonie, ponders how objects exist for decades, centuries or even millennia and transform over time in the meaning they create and how they are used. Despite their inanimate existence, “objects are loaded with their stories and functions, as well as the trace of hands that have touched them,” explains Onodera. “My work is the means to awake the viewers and wearer of the objects. It aims to make them conscious of their own bodies and the evanescence of time.”

Whitewater’s Erica Meier’s piece, “Necessary Tension,” explores “the study of disability and ableism, mental illness and addiction, and defining the disabled maker.” She says the role of the dysfunctional tool in her practice is a constant protagonist. Meier wants to “understand addictive behaviors and suicide is a persistent obligation; the piece simplifies the mechanism of a pulley and serpentine belt to an indicator of reliance and co-dependence.”

The complete list of artists in the exhibition includes:

Green Bay

David Barnhill

Andrew Redington


Lisa Gralnick

Jeffrey Clancy


Aric Verrastro

Masako Onodera

Vincent Pontillo-Verrastro


Michael Bernard

Yevgeniya Kaganovich

Chad Bridgewater


Teresa Faris

Erica Meier

The exhibit runs through Tuesday, Nov. 20. Regular gallery hours are noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, noon-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and during events in Toland Theatre. Exhibitions are free. Refer questions or arrange gallery appointments to the Art Department at 608.785.8230.

Metals artist to speak, hold workshop

In conjunction with the Wisconsin Metals Now Exhibition, Michael Bernard gives an artist talk from 5-6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, in 116 Center for the Arts. He will discuss his personal creative research, approach to making pieces, experiences and influences. Bernard will also conduct an intensive, hands-on workshop to UWL art students on Saturday, covering small-scale powder coating techniques for metal artists and makers.

Bernard, a metals artist and educator at UW-Milwaukee, received an MFA in metalsmithing from California State University, Long Beach in 2007. The 13 years that he spent in the Los Angeles art scene clearly influenced his highly stylized artwork. The dynamic forms of urban architecture and the vibrant colors used by street artists are both visible in his jewelry. Salvaged materials, welded trellis forms, and colorful powder coated elements combine to create his lively pieces.

If you go—

What: Wisconsin Metal NOW

When: Opening reception from 4-6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. Runs through Nov. 20.Regular gallery hours are noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, noon-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and during events in Toland Theatre.

Where: University Art Gallery, 333 16th St. N., La Crosse    

Admission: Free

Media contact: Deborah-Eve Plumb, Art – 608.785.8230