“Schomer and his friends in pastel” by Mike Judy.
This month’s shows at the Miller Art Museum, 107 S. 4th Ave. at Sturgeon Bay, are just plain fun. The work of six star artists, as well as that of Gerhard CF Miller, blend well with sometimes surprising echoes of subjects and styles.
Craig Blietz’s paintings of cows have some company in the work of Schomer Lichtner (1905-2006), who painted cows and ballerinas for the Milwaukee Ballet – often together. The cover of a book on Lichtner, In the moment from the Museum of Wisconsin Art, shows a ballerina, arms outstretched holding bouquets of roses, seated delicately on a cow.
He captured both subjects with equal skill.
Mike Judy, who was a friend of Lichtner’s, shares wall space and eclectic madness with Lichtner. In a portrait Judy created of Lichtner, the older artist is depicted with a dancer on one side behind him and a cow on the other side.
Both artists paint freely – with broad bands of vivid color, but also fine detail – and both make good use of geometry. Have cows ever come in triangles, or have sailboats ever had such triangular keels and sails?
Lichtner’s “Seven Chicks Piled High” is exactly that, and Judy comes up with “Smoked Fish”: a fish with a cigarette hanging from its mouth.
The back gallery features a large selection of Judy portraits and some Lichtner paintings from the 1930s, such as a Milwaukee coal dock at night with steam in a corner and a lighted industrial building behind piles of coal.
Lichtner’s “Diagonal Ballerina” places the dancer on a blue background with the graphic audacity of Matisse’s cutouts. In another painting, he echoes Franne Dickinson’s flower arrangements – at the corner of the Miller’s mezzanine – with his own stylized bouquet: a framed picture of a dancer to the left of the flowers and a similarly sized framed picture of a cow on the right.
Dickinson, now 94, is famous for her flower paintings, and you can see why: Flowers have a life of color all their own. But “Verger, Plein Air” opens to bare tree branches in orange with pops of white, while distant orchards have spots of purple for the foliage. And then, in a full start, there are three paintings of Darfurian women dressed in colorful Sudanese clothes.
Opposite, on the mezzanine, five works by the artist of Ephraïm Karsten Topelmann, who died recently. (His Hanseatic Gallery in Ephraim will sell his remaining work.)
The selection begins with the staircase with a Bavarian church interior bursting with light and color. There is also a view of the Alpine Lodge through the birch trees, and a beach scene with cliffs that descend almost to the water – although in Tenerife, not in Door County, which is reminiscent of that this German native and his German painter wife, whom he met in Chicago, traveled the world during their artistic life.
Topelmann’s joie de vivre is suggested in two tables of table services with elegant glassware, including champagne tulips depicted with the lightest of touches.
And don’t miss the small exhibition of 15 graphite sketches by Roy Mason, Miller’s mentor and friend. You can see the influence when you get to the back gallery of Miller’s own work in graphite, watercolor, and egg tempera.
Curator Helen del Guidice organized the show and said Judy was so happy to show with her old friend Lichtner that he painted his portrait with cows and dancers especially for the show.
These works will be exhibited until May 29 on Mondays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays from 10 am to 5 pm; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free entry.