Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

Wausau, WI

(715) 845-7010


Monumental Sculpture of Whooping Crane Pair Dedicated at the Woodson Art Museum


A 12 1/2 foot high pair ofbronze whooping cranes, the newest addition to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's permanent collection, was dedicated on June 29. Kent Ullberg's Rites of Spring graciously welcomes visitors from its prairie green granite base located near the entrance to the Margaret Woodson Fisher Sculpture Gallery.

The sculpture and its installation are a gift from John E. Forester in loving memory of his late wife, Alice Woodson Forester. Together, they provided the vision and leadership to create and build the Woodson Art Museum in the mid-1970s.

The bold diagonal lines of Ullberg's cranes provide a strong upward lift that draws the viewer's eye skyward. But not to be overlooked is the base, where Ullberg captures nuances of both the cranes' summer and winter habitats. The left side presents the salt marshes of the tidal biotope around Padre Island in Texas, where the cranes winter, and where Ullberg could observe them closely from his boat. On the right can be seen the freshwater marsh grasses of the cranes' summer habitat north ofArctic Circle in Canada's Wood Buffalo Park. A closer look reveals numerous examples of animal life that share these habitats with the cranes and upon which the cranes rely for their livelihood.

Ullberg included these telling details to provide a narrative context in which to view the sculpture. It is a work that invites discovery and exploration. On one level, it is about the abstract form of the birds and the imposing diagonal created by their wings, suggesting the powerful thrust that carries them thousands of miles twice each year. On another level, it is about the whooping cranes' habitat, and more important, their triumph as a species.

Rites of Spring took two years to finish, from concept through clay modeling, molding and casting in bronze. It was cast by the cire perdue method in approximately 70 welded pieces at a Colorado foundry. A stainless steel infrastructure supports the cranes. Landscape architect Joe Pepitone of the Zimmerman Design Group, Milwaukee, designed the installation site, and Ullberg supervised the actual placement of the work in late May.


rev. 11/26/10

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