A chance trip through the Flint Hills of Kansas left Wisconsin artist Beth Lipman “breathless” and inspired to capture the unique prairie landscape in a commissioned piece for the Wichita Art Museum.
The resulting suspended sculpture, weighing over 1.5 tons, now captures the attention of visitors as they enter the WAM lobby. Lit up at night and visible through the glass-encased lobby, the sculpture made of shimmering clear glass, wood, ceramic and metal also catches the eye of passers-by on Museum Boulevard.
To celebrate the installation of the commissioned piece titled Living History and other works created by Lipman over the years, WAM has organized what is called a mid-career survey of Lipman’s work. The summer exhibit, “Beth Lipman: All in Time,” opens June 25. In addition to being able to visit the museum on a free admission day, WAM has also planned complementary activities and artistic creation from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the opening day.
Before stepping down from her 10-year term as director of WAM earlier this month, Patricia McDonnell spoke about how important it was for the museum to have a piece commissioned by Lipman.
“It’s a site-specific work by an artist who is a major national art star, and it was part of the museum’s strategic plan to have a hanging sculpture to enliven our lobby. “said McDonnell, calling the installation the highlight of his decade with the museum. “I am thrilled with this sculpture.”
Lipman has created commissioned pieces for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and the Chrysler Museum of Art in Virginia and is working on one for the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. In addition to winning a Smithsonian Fellowship, she was also featured in the PBS documentary “Craft in America.”
While Lipman has used glass and other materials to create elaborate still lifes since 1996, the exhibition will feature more than a dozen pieces she has made since 2010, making it a rather mid-career survey. only a retrospective of his work dating back to the beginning.
She recently had a similar investigation exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and several of the pieces from that exhibit will be on view at WAM, Lipman said in a phone interview about a week before her scheduled return to Wichita. to set up the exhibit. She had traveled to Wichita in April to oversee the installation of Living History.
Originally, Lipman had planned to fly to Wichita in August 2020 to visit WAM staff about her commissioned piece, but due to the pandemic, she instead drove from her home base of Sheboygan. , Wisconsin, where the Pennsylvania native and Temple University alum has lived for the past 15 years.
The reader ended up being a major inspiration.
“The landscape really impressed me. I was a little out of breath when I arrived at the Wichita Art Museum. I was delirious. I didn’t know much about the Flint Hills. It became apparent with the history of Flint Hills as an uncultivated landscape that this was important and aligned with my work.
In addition to incorporating at least five different types of grass found in the Flint Hills and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the undercarriage, or kind of platform, on which the Living History still life was created is based on scans of a rock formation in Dead Man’s Gulch in northeast Gerry County. During one of the exhibit’s opening day activities on June 25, staff from the local Great Plains Nature Center will talk about the different grasses found in the Flint Hills.
Lipman was also influenced by her time in Wichita in August 2020. Her jogs around Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Wichita led her to incorporate a bell she spotted into one of the memorials and helmets of soldiers. WAM’s Pulse Field sculpture display at its main entrance – featuring 119 individual rods with solar-powered fixtures – is also referenced in Living History.
“There are a lot of different layers of things that aren’t hugely obvious when you look at them, but they’re all built into the scope of the work that cascades through the tall grass and above Living History,” Lipman says.
“If you took Living History away from the Wichita Art Museum, it wouldn’t make much sense. It might be interesting to watch but in terms of dialogue, if it was Seattle, for example, it wouldn’t make sense.
Lipman said she was drawn to glass work when she had the chance to work with the medium at summer camp. At the Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Temple, she majored in fiber and glass.
“Beth Lipman: All in Time” will be on view at WAM until September 25. Opening day activities on June 25 include artistic creation, live music by Pop and the Boys, food trucks and a 2 p.m. showing of films made about Lipman. Museum guides will also be available from 1 to 3 p.m. to talk about the Living History-commissioned sculpture and the exhibit.
Exhibition “Beth Lipman: Everything in time”
When: June 25-Sept. 25; special opening day activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Wichita Museum of Art, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for ages 60 and older, $3 for ages 5-17 and students with ID, and free for ages 5 and under and WAM members. Free admission for all ages on Saturday. WAM also participates in the Sunflower Summer program, where Kansas families with children from kindergarten through seniors can visit an attraction for free by downloading the app.
More information: 316-268-4921 or wichitaartmuseum.org