Art transforms a storefront into Wisconsin’s progressive past

Entryway into Writing in Stone. Photo by Jeff Redmond.

On unassuming 4th street blocks from Downtown, remains a time-stamp into Wisconsin’s past. Inside the RedLine Milwaukee Gallery there is art on display that showcases Wisconsin’s history in the Underground Railroad in 1842. The exhibit, “Writing in Stone” from artist Terese Agnew will be open through March 25.

Read Dominique Paul Noth’s exploration of the exhibit via Urban Milwaukee 

There are added attractions on opening night  – which is tonight — for “Writing in Stone,” with two special shows starting at 5 p.m. featuring living sculptures (who later turn into musicians Jaia Wilbour and Raina Gravatt) and storyteller Blanche Brown invoking the desperate tale ofCaroline Quarlls, the 16-year-old slave who was the first to use Wisconsin’s Underground Railroad in 1842.

As for the exhibit that will continue into March, “Writing in Stone” is a physical stroll among monuments, imagined woods, talking trees and real sayings of Wisconsin’s rich history.  It is the latest offering from Agnew who credits fellow artist Diane Dahl and a legion of helpers from the Vernon County artistic community. But it is Agnew  who has become famous for her ability to marry art — in thread, quilt, wood and tablet form  — with poignant social commentary.

From her days as a graduate student flying a dragon out of the North Point Water Tower to her socially attuned quilts at the Milwaukee Art Museum, also featured on PBS – and especially to her “Portrait of a Textile Worker,” sewn from thousands of clothing labels into a piece of art that has toured the globe — Agnew has demonstrated a knack for seizing our moral compass within the textures of modern art.

The creativity of “Writing in Stone” stems mainly from the inventive nonlinear juxtaposition of workmanlike elements, dotted with doors, keyholes, stumps and fresh motifs. The concept is to etch the words even more than the artistic presentation into our heads, while the juxtapositions help the ideas to leap over time, geography and place.

For more on “Writing in Stone” visit Urban Milwaukee