“History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.” -James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans
In a sense, we are what we leave behind. Whether this is a the legacy of our thoughts and deeds, a bequest to the greater good or indeed the objects that surrounded us in life, what remains has a way of explaining who we might have been to future generations. Art tells more than one story–that of the artists who create it and of the people who collect and appreciate it. And while a work of art does not alter its composition as it moves from hand to hand, the story it tells about each person connected to it may be vastly different.
Brent Budsberg is an artist based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has been wrapped up in the process of moving studio to a larger space and runs a design/build firm specializing in artwork fabrication as well as exhibition design and fabrication and other projects for the museum circuit. The business space doubles as a studio which Budsberg shares with his wife, Shana McCaw.
Budsberg recently completed a major project for Sculpture Milwaukee and he and McCaw have a show at the Rockford Museum of Art where they will exhibit a lot of past work, reconfigured. The couple are also working with the Boston Anthenaeum on a project that combines both art and design. The project is to create a replica of an elaborate 19th century cabinet. There is a tremendous amount of detail involved in replicating the intricate woodworking.
Early in his career, even during college, Budsberg sought out jobs he thought might fuel his artistic practice, even working in a hardware store where he was simply around the materials that inspire him to make art. Eventually, Budsberg began to shift his strategy so that work and art were no longer competing with each other but rather existed in tandem.
Budsberg has done several projects with the Chipstone Foundation including an ambitious project for the Milwaukee Art Museum recreating a period room based on a house in Newport, Rhode Island. The exhibition centered around a fictional character who was a collector and displayed pieces created to be included in her imagined collection of period pieces.
The recent public piece for Sculpture Milwaukee, a festival now in its second year, is titled Skew. It is a timber frame structure designed to resemble a house frame at a skewed angle and is made using traditional timber framing methods. The wood for the project came from milled wood taken from a White Pine, one of the best materials for timber framing, that fell on Budsberg’s parents’ garage.
To hear more about Brent Budsberg’s work, listen to the complete interview.
Shana McCaw is a curator and artist living and working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is senior curator at the Charles Allis and Villa Terrace Art Museums. Both are historic house museums and both hold historic collections while also exhibiting contemporary works. Terrace Art Museum exhibits mostly contemporary but does have a small collection of historic objects original to the house.
In her own studio, McCaw collaborates with her husband Brent Budsberg. At the time of the interview, the two were working on Skew, the piece for the second annual Sculpture Milwaukee. McCaw explains that only a few local artists were asked to participate among a collection of well known national and international artists so the couple were quite pleased to be included.
Skew, McCaw says, speaks to the architecture in the area in its way. The severe angle of the piece offsets the surrounding buildings. At the time of the interview, the artists had just been asked to include a base for the sculpture to discourage viewers from interacting physically with the piece. Hand tools and historic processes were used for the project and, due to its severe angle the artists needed to build some of their own custom tools. McCaw says that perhaps a book project documenting some of the tools and methods used for some of their more unusual projects is not out of the question.
Another project involved a site specific work on a prairie restoration area. McCaw discovered that as part of the restoration and maintenance of the prairie, frequent prairie burns were used. The artists constructed a small scale barn with the knowledge that it would eventually burn. Before the burn, McCaw and Budsberg used the structure as a film site for another project. Due to a wet spring, the burn was cancelled and the barn remained for another year. When the burn finally took place, the piece was barely damaged and has been since reconstructed and moved to Madison, Wisconsin.
To hear more about Shaa McCaw’s work, including the film she and Brent Budsberg are at work on, listen to the complete interview.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
Look around you and see what stories you will leave behind one day.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Brent Budsberg is reading The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees by Robert Penn. Shana McCaw is reading O’Keeffe: Days in a Life by C.S. Merrill.
AfrikaBurn is part of the international Burning Man Regional Network. Presently they seek submissions from across the globe to participate in their spring, 2019 programming. Those chosen may be eligible for some assistance. Those living and working on the African continent receive dramatically reduced rates for participation. This is an opportunity for artists to collaborate in a meaningful way through an established artistic/community organization on the African continent. For more details and to apply, visit the website. Deadline is October 28.
Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.
Sponsor: Whitney Museum of American Art – David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night. Jul 13–Sep 30, 2018. Beginning in the late 1970s, David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) created a body of work that spanned photography, painting, music, film, sculpture, writing, and activism.