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Richard Thompson: Seasons of Light and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Painting a Story

April 9 through June 12, 2005


(above: Richard Thompson, A Day to Remember, 1988, oil on canvas)

Two new exhibitions -- one featuring vistas familiar to Wisconsinites painted in an impressionistic style, the other featuring scenes from a make-believe world down a rabbit hole -- herald spring at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum and offer twice the enjoyment. "Richard Thompson: Seasons of Light" and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Painting a Story" open Saturday, April 9, and remain on view through Sunday, June 12, 2005.

The forty oil paintings by Richard Thompson (1914-1991) comprising "Seasons of Light" depict the year-round glories of Wisconsin's lakes, fields, forests, and hidden natural niches. Each canvas creates a sense of place, whether it's early morning on a fishing stream, a barn peeking through sun-dappled, blossom-clad apple trees, or a flock of Canada geese making their way across a cornfield at sunset.

"Seasons of Light" bears testimony to Thompson's fascination with nature's daily and seasonal cycles and his belief that these cycles are a metaphor of life itself. Thompson found unending inspiration in the eternal rhythms of spring's renewal, summer's growth, fall's decline, and winter's death.

His favorite subject was the Upper Midwest, and particularly the landscape of his beloved home state of Wisconsin. Throughout his life Thompson was never far from water, having grown up in Lake Geneva and, as an adult, living in the Hayward area and wintering in the warmer climes of Florida's Keys. In all of these regions, Thompson honed his skills in capturing both the seasonal and daily effects of light, earning him the endearing epithet of "The Monet of Wisconsin."

Thompson saw in nature a harmonious perfection, a perfection that he saw all around him -- in a neighbor's backyard, a luxuriant bed of wildflowers, or a favorite fishing hole. Through his art he reminds viewers of how easy it is to spot paradise on earth.

Woodson Art Museum curator of exhibitions Andrew McGivern organized "Seasons of Light" with the assistance of the family of Richard Thompson, who live in Fontana and Mequon, Wisconsin, and San Rafael, California. Thompson is represented in the Museum's permanent collection with two portraits depicting Leigh Yawkey Woodson and one of her three daughters, Alice Woodson Forester.

In "Painting a Story" Madison, Wisconsin, artist Diana Lakes (b. 1948) follows Alice into the White Rabbit's deep hole and through her whirlwind adventures in Wonderland in a series of whimsical acrylics. Along the way Alice -- and those who view the fourteen works comprising the exhibition -- meet eccentric characters like the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and the March Hare and take time out for a game of croquet played with flamingo mallets and a sip of tea at the Mad Tea Party. (right: Diana Lakes, The Croquet Ground, 1997, acrylic on canvas and wood)

Lakes will introduce herself and the stories that inspire her work -- including memories of growing up on a dairy farm in upstate New York to the characters of Wonderland -- on Sunday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m. when she presents "We All Have Stories to Tell."

Where do dreams begin and end? Because Alice's adventures are the stuff of dreams, Lakes extends the surreal world and childlike tale of Wonderland onto her picture frames and in so doing further distorts the distinction between reality and dreams.

Lakes is a self-taught artist whose works are consciously painted in a naïve style, characterized by a shallow depth of field. This whimsical approach lends itself to the highly visual enchantment and magic of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland.

"Painting a Story" complements Wausau Dance Theatre's Storybook Weekend and "Alice in Wonderland" production, May 6-7, at Wausau's Grand Theater.


(above: Diana Lakes, The Mad Tea Party, 1995, acrylic on canvas and wood)


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