BY CONNIE KLIPPEN, STAFF WRITER
Dowagers by Johanna Winters, which was exhibited from March 3.31, definitely proved thought-provoking. If you walked by the Gage Center Art Gallery this month, you probably noticed huge constructed puppet heads projecting hopelessness, worry, and anger.
In Winters’ artist statement, she describes the exhibit as following: “Dowagers explores ideas about control and play through a pair of sisterly spinsters who manage to encounter glee despite their strange condition.” Her work mirrors playful coping rituals for anxieties about aging, vanity, shame, and disappointment. The exhibition includes elements of animation, printmaking, and puppetry.
Dowagers featured abstract two-dimensional paper cutouts, antique furniture, silverware and dishware and several different hand-constructed puppets. The cut-outs could most easily be personally interpreted, as the side profile of women featured a lack of the entire upper body, and it could be debated whether the lower half was meant to portray legs or not.
Each cut-out faced a different way; their positioning serving a larger purpose. I would assume the antique pieces, ways of life and social constructs, were meant to put the viewer in the mindset of a time long before their own. Personally, this added emphasis on the strains of the anxious puppets in the center of the room.
Due to the size and placement of the hand-crafted puppets, I have concluded that they were intended to be the main focus of the exhibition. Two huge puppet heads showed signs of exhaustion, consistent worry and a dire need for a good moisturizer. Two smaller, full-body puppets sit up in bed between the larger, beaming similar qualities. I would argue the puppets can be uncomfortable to look at, but I would disagree with anyone who believes the exhibit was not thought- provoking. They imitate an exaggerated reality that we all experience throughout life.
Johanna Winters, from Minneapolis, is a current candidate of an MFA printmaking program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This local artist has taught printmaking at UW-Green Bay and recently completed a puppetry residency at a theater in Minneapolis.