1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
The unique architecture of the University of Wyoming Art Museum lures folks inside for the first time.
It's the quality and diversity of the exhibitions, though, that keeps them coming back.
"When people leave, I hear them say, ‘This museum could be in New York or a major city,'" says Susan Moldenhauer, her voice filled with pride.
The museum's director and chief curator adds, "And since we don't have any permanent displays, there's always something new and different for them to see."
The museum's newest display may be different than anything anybody's ever seen in Laramie.
Etsuko Ichikawa, a Seattle-based artist whose pyrographs are made by drawing with hot molten glass on paper, will soon open what she calls one of her "most exciting and challenging" exhibitions for a 23-week display at the UW Art Museum.
Ichikawa's "NACHI -- between the eternal and the ephemeral --," inspired by a waterfall in her native Japan, incorporates more than 11 miles of twine shaped into a spiraling waterfall and six, 14-foot pyrographs, all hanging from the museum's ceiling, as well as audio and video components.
The weeklong installation of Ichikawa's exhibition, followed by its 6 p.m. opening on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011 is the culmination of nearly 2 ½ years of planning and a prime example of the long-term effort required by Moldenhauer to help the museum fulfill its continuing mission of building appreciation and understanding of art in the Cowboy State.
"I think for our faculty, long-term planning is maybe next semester. For our students, it's probably the end of this semester," says Moldenhauer, who contacted Ichikawa shortly after seeing her artwork for the first time at a December 2008 show in Florida. "Right now, I'm writing grants for programs in 2012-2014."
During their initial conversation, Ichikawa told Moldenhauer that she would soon be in Sheridan County at Jentel, a private foundation established in 2000 by Wyoming artist Neltje to provide a residency program for visual and literary artists, and would be willing to come to Laramie to see the art museum and begin conversation about a potential exhibition.
After her November 2009 visit, during which she met with Moldenhauer and UW faculty in the departments of art and theatre and dance to explore possibilities beyond an art exhibition, Ichikawa agreed to put together a proposal by February 2010 -- a deadline set by Moldenhauer to meet grant deadlines by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Like visitors to the UW Art Museum, Ichikawa was wowed.
"The gallery space here is beautiful," she says. "The space itself, and the architecture, really inspired me and made me want to come here."
Once Moldenhauer learned her grant requests had been approved, she contacted Ichikawa and the artist finalized her agreement to produce an exhibition. Ichikawa spent about six months creating the pieces that will be on view here.
"I can't thank Susan enough for all of her support and encouragement through the process," says Ichikawa. "One of the most important things that made my exhibit and visit possible is that Susan trusted my ability to execute such a large-scale and complex installation and found the supporting funding. When I consider the scope of the project and where I am as an artist, I am honored to have the solo exhibit at the museum."
Ichikawa's two-week visit to the university is also being funded by the Wyoming Arts Council and the UW Edelweiss Fund.
"It's not inexpensive for us to commission an artist to do an installation specifically for our museum, but it's something that's really important for us to do," says Moldenhauer, who has helped oversee the museum's evolution since coming to UW in 1991. "It's part of the art museum's contribution to the university's mission of striving for excellence."
In addition to installing her exhibition, Ichikawa is working with UW dance students on an improvisational performance that will be part of the Feb. 25, 2011 opening and participating in group and individual critiques with art students.
Ichikawa's exhibition will be on display through Aug. 6, 2011 at the UW Art Museum, located in the Centennial Complex at 2111 Willett Dr. The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.