MILWAUKEE – Like a lot of younger children, Beth Lipman had a plan for what she wanted to do when she “grew” up.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian, an artist and a soccer player,” Lipman said laughing. “The one thing that stayed with me at that point was art. I think I would have been a lousy vet and soccer player.”
After setting aside other childhood interests, Lipman has focused most of her life on creating and being involved in the world of art. Her work, which has appeared in the Milwaukee Art Museum and museums across the country, will be the subject of a new exhibition at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee titled “Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman” in September. The exhibit, organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, opens to the public on Sept. 14. The Jewish Museum Milwaukee, a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is the only Midwest venue for the exhibit, which has been customized and includes an installation not available at other venues.
Lipman’s work is based in the Dutch still life tradition, which flourished in the 17th century. These still life pieces portrayed inanimate objects in a way that reflected on the affluence of the Netherlands in the 1600s. According to Lipman, before this period, artists did not usually depict objects as the main focus of a painting or piece of work. One of the reasons for this had to do with the success of the Netherlands financially, and the increase in availability of products, such as food.
“The depiction of inanimate objects and cultural objects at the turn of the 1600s was in large part because it was the first time in history that food was considered a surplus,” Lipman said. “The still lifes were fantastical, and they depicted a huge variety of foods that you would never find on the same table.”
Lipman pulls from this tradition to create still life pieces that reflect this well-established genre, a genre that she thinks can still be relevant for us today.
“Those still lives could be read and understood as a reflection of the individuals and the society in which they were being painted,” Lipman said. “And so, when you look at what we surround ourselves with today in 2016, there’s a narrative there, there’s a story about who we are as people and what is valuable to us or what we perceive as being valuable.”
Though some may be familiar with Lipman’s work that has been created using glass, she describes herself as a multidisciplinary artist who works in many different materials and mediums, including photography, video and metal.
Lipman noted that most of the pieces in the “Once & Again” exhibition were created in glass, an example being “Laid Table with Fish,” a piece that may offer some sociopolitical commentary, according to Lipman. Other pieces include photographs from a series titled “Alone and the Wilderness” and one piece from a two-piece group titled “The Whatnot” that was created using black wood in addition to black glass. “The Whatnot” pieces “I” and “II” recreate objects that Lipman lived with in her own home.
When working on different projects, Lipman states that she does not intend on expressing her own personal beliefs in her work. Instead, she aims to learn and discover new things while creating.
“I’m not necessarily interested in making something that’s an illustrative of my ideas,” she said, adding, “I’m more interested in following the unknown path through the process of making the work.”
However, while working in New York, Lipman was commissioned to develop a piece for the Jewish Museum in New York. “Laid Table with Etrog Container and Pastry Molds” was constructed using glass, stone and glue, and depicts actual objects found in the permanent collection at the New York museum. She described this piece as being more personal, acting as a response to being Jewish and the process of assimilation.
After moving around the east coast among Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey, Lipman finally settled in Sheboygan Falls where she worked at the arts industry residency program at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Now focusing solely on her work and her two children, she finds Wisconsin to be an environment that is favorable for creating.
“There’s not a lot of distraction, I have the space I need, and the cost of living is really affordable,” Lipman said. “And then having the venerable institution of the Milwaukee Art Museum. There’s actually a lot of really great art that’s coming out of Wisconsin.”
The “Once & Again” exhibit opens to the public at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee on Sept. 14 and runs through Jan. 8 of 2017. There is a special preview event on Tuesday, Sept. 13 from 7 to 9 p.m., with a cost of $12 for members and $20 for non-members. Those wishing to attend this event must RSVP by Sept. 7.
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How to go
What: “Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman”
When: Open to the public Sept. 14, 2016 through Jan. 8, 2017
Where: Jewish Museum Milwaukee, 1360 N Prospect Ave.
Admission: $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for students.
Children 6 and under and those on active military duty get in free.