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I just finished working on a project drawing imagery from the book and subsequent movie Wisconsin Death Trip. It’s a loose interpretation of Wisconsin history from about 1890-1900 wherein many, many people seemed to go crazy and did extremely strange and violent things to themselves, their property, their families, strangers, their communities, etc.  It is not scary like the title might suggest, but instead extremely captivating, haunting, and enigmatic.

The main part of this project is doing majolica paintings of some of the people and events from the book on hand built and thrown vessels.  I am largely using the photography of Charles van Schaick, who was a professional photographer working in Black River Falls who took all of the photographs used in the book.  The Wisconsin Historical Society has an entire collection of his photographs which you can view as part of their incredible online image archives.

But I also wanted to include some imagery of the Mendota Asylum, which happens to be a Kirkbride building and the place where many people were committed during this period.  Kirkbride buildings were a bunch of asylums made according to the ideas of Thomas Story Kirkbride, built in many different styles all around the United States, many of which have unfortunately been demolished.  After watching a video in this post about transferring images to clay using a photo-lithographic process at Ceramic Arts Daily, I decided to try it and make some tiles with historic images of Kirkbride asylums.  The first run of tiles (which were quite small) were not very dark, so next time I plan to up the contrast and use slightly larger images.  The second batch turned out much darker and were a lot larger.  It’s definitely a process I want to try out again soon.

Here are some images of my larger pieces before I fired them:

Insty

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