Debra works for American Girl and has a heavy hand in choosing the artists for the art gallery at the American Girl building in Madison. Debra is one of those people whose entire life is a work of art. She has an artistic job, she does her own art, and her house is a little art haven. She used to live in NYC like a real artist, and has lived in Madison for a long time actively enjoying the arts scene there. Whenever I go to Debra's she has some cool new art thing to show me. I've always enjoyed this room in the back of her house that is packed with artistic odds and ends of all shapes and sizes:
In the past I remember being intimidated that Debra was so cool, and so well-versed in art. I sort of just followed her around in a daze while she showed me tons of art stuff that I didn't realize was awesome. (This one time she took me to a wig fashion show in Madison. I was like sixteen years old. I had no idea how cool that was...). This time I finally felt like I was on her level in regards to namedropping local artists and other art stuff, and it was pretty cool to talk about artists and art we had seen in the past year or two. My favorite thing Debra showed me were these little dog and cat sculptures that were made in a workshop with Milwaukee artist Steve Wirtz.
Wirtz makes simple wire armatures for participants in his workshops who then have the delightful task of coating them in papier mache to bring them to life. I liked them so much that Debra gave me one to take home (I chose the cat of course).
Another artist I really liked was one found in the bathroom:
This oil and pastel composition was done by artist Mary Ann Wakeley who Debra claims is her current favorite artist. Wakely is represented by Guy Lyman Fine Art and Saatchi Art.
I was also charmed by this sculpture that Debra obtained in artist Rachel Miller's (no website found) "free pile" outside of her studio.
The ceramic pieces are actually removable and can be rearranged like a child's toy. It reminded me of certain Arts/Industry artist Justin Richel whose whimsical Endless Column (2013) is also stacked precariously.
Fortunately, Richel's ceramic goodies are not removable, or I'd have a lot of trouble keeping kid's hands off of them during tours (more than I already do, that is).
I left Debra's feeling excited that I'm going to be living so close to Madison now, and that I can visit the galleries there more often. Also, so that I can go and visit Debra. I think I take it for granted how many artists I have in my family. Everyone's always like "Network, network, network!!" But all I have to do is email my "aunt" and I feel like I've made a connection. Also, Debra is a cancer survivor who made the most of having cancer by wearing extravagant wigs (hence the aforementioned wig fashion show) and keeping an overall good attitude about it. Cancer's mean. You gotta remember that anyone can get it, and not everyone survives it.
After adventure weekend was over I had to head back to Sheboygan to work a Sunday ARTery shift at the arts center. I wasn't too happy to work on a Sunday or to leave my new blissful Milwaukee life, which I felt kind of guilty about, but I ended up having a good time. There was a family that came in, a dad and two little girls, who had driven up to Sheboygan from Chicago for Mother's Day. The dad was quite talkative and I chatted with him for a good portion of my shift. His two little girls were pretty precocious. They argued a lot with each other and insisted that I procure materials that we don't actually have at the arts center. I improvised by giving them two wooden boards that we were going to otherwise recycle and told the girls to make a Mother's Day present out of them. That seemed to make them happy. When they were done making their gifts and it was time for them to go, their dad majorly surprised me by A.) giving me a hug, and B.) handing me this pin that he got this year at the Boston Marathon:
He said, "It's not about being from Boston, it's about being American, and remembering the bombings that took place last year. Thank you so much for a wonderful day. If it weren't for people like you and places like this, then where would we be?"
Compliments are tricky things. Sometimes I wonder if people give them out so that you will feel guilty and act better than you actually are.