When someone mentions Wausau, Wisconsin, a thought rolls through my mind- North Woods outdoor recreation. However, along with its outdoor activities, there is a small museum, refined with a reputation of showcasing avian art.
It’s pretty fitting. I think of Wausau as a rugged outdoorsy type of town. Why not have a museum that reflects that same image? The museum’s claim to fame is an exhibition known as ‘Birds in Art’. However, that international event doesn’t take place until September 8. No matter, their exhibitions during my visit were more than satisfying.
Their main exhibit, as with all, was a temporary one, showcasing National Geographic photography-‘Rarely seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary’.(At the museum till may 27) That is enough to draw me to the place.
I remember as a child, I had discovered National Geographic photos of Mt St Helen’s eruption. Lava and glowing embers were approaching the photographer who took the incredible stills. He, facing certain death, caught images no living man had witnessed before. Yet, instead of fleeing he planted his feet firmly in the ground and took his final shots.
Those images did three things for me. I marveled at the photos, as I thought they were ultra-cool. Also, I realized for the first time that you don’t have to be a soldier, firefighter or policeman to be brave. Bravery is found under many hats. Lastly, I regarded photos in a National Geographic as the pinnacle of photography to this very day.
So, a visit to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum was in order.
I approach what appears as a brick, steeple roofed addition to an old elegant Tudor style home. As I cross the threshold of the entrance, I find a very nonsensical and freshly finished lobby, as well placed double glass doors hint at galleries about to be discovered. A gentleman greets me cordially, presenting a map. He fills me in on the exhibits and I am left to guess if I will be pleased.
Instead of entering the glass doors in front of me, opening to the main exhibit, I meander a small hall off to the left. It is there, behind double doors, that I find the museum’s current bird exhibit-‘On the Wing-birds in flight’ (At the museum till may 13). It’s focus, as it seems rather specific, are airborne feathered friends. A variety of birds are represented here, from swallows to Egyptian geese.
At the mention of art that focuses on birds in flight, I endure a sensation of boredom. Flying birds are as common as dirt in a field. However, I change my mind quickly as these images and the way they are depicted are quite captivating. I find myself inspecting some of the paintings, sculptures and works on paper, which I regard as interesting, for a lengthy bit. Presented here, are the beauty, habitats and survival tactics of these winged animals. The different artistic methods and styles give different perspectives and interpretations of these creatures.
Of my favorites, a swallow skimming the water and a walnut sculpture of fishing pelicans highlight my perusal. I’m enthralled in this small gallery, fixed upon its seventy pieces of art. It is quite some time before I move on.
When I do, crossing into the main gallery which houses the National Geographic photos, my spirits, which are already recovering from a dismal week, are raised ten fold. Literally, the artistry displayed is mind-blowing. I see many extraordinary photographs, taken by some pretty talented individuals. From men riding the tusks of elephants to clouds threatening to unleash a tumultuous funnel cloud, this invigorates me.
In order to capture these photos, not only skill is required, preparedness and luck also come into this mix. Most of the subjects, as you would suspect, are of nature at its most compelling. Yet, there are a few, like a young girl taking a selfie with the Pope in a crowd, that include the human experience-the Pope is posing for the young lady as she snaps the shot.
There are fifty in all. The vibrance, seemingly fictitious images and artistry incite my question to an attendant. “Are these actual photos?”
To which he replies with a smile. “Yep! All of them are.” I can hardly believe my eyes and ears.
Lastly, I reluctantly leave the photo gallery behind and descend a staircase to the final exhibit. Its just as cool, as it features artwork that appears in children’s books. The name of the exhibit is ‘My friend Eric Rohmann'(at the museum till may 27) and it focuses on his work. My favorite, as it was his breakthrough work, is time flies.
Here, I’m familiar with some of the artist’s work, as I have noticed some of these pictures at Barnes and Noble.
After the final gallery, I’m kind of disappointed. The art was really enjoyable and the atmosphere was equal to the works. The place is fairly small, I wish there was more.
If your in the Wausau area, check out this very attractive and entertaining place. There is no admission cost, its one hundred percent free.
Every first Thursday of the month 9am-7:30 pm