Water, Stone, Feather & Bone | wisconsinacademy.org
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Water, Stone, Feather & Bone

They had never met, these two grande dames of Wisconsin art. Though they are scheduled to have a joint exhibition at the James Watrous Gallery this fall (see below), Milwaukee artist JoAnna Poehlmann and Madison artist Lee Weiss didn’t know much at all about each other. Certainly, they have some things in common: both are Wisconsin Academy Fellows, both are octogenarians, both are fascinated by the natural world, both are still vigorously pursuing their craft.

But, commonality doesn’t always make for compatibility.

So it was on a balmy October day that the Watrous Gallery’s Martha Glowacki and Jody Clowes and I picked up Lee Weiss in a rented minivan and headed for JoAnna Poehlmann’s Prospect Avenue apartment. We as Wisconsin Academy staff were determined to see that these two got to know each other in the run up to their exhibition in the hopes of preparing the two for the potential questions they might receive during their artist talk scheduled for the weekend of the Wisconsin Book Festival. Lee and JoAnna, as it turned out, simply wanted the chance to get to know each other.

Brief introductions immediately led to some fascinating observations by the artists, beginning with Lee pointing out the
common knowledge of the day when she began her career in the 1950s: “Women can’t paint,” she said. JoAnna affirmed this and added that it was vexing for her to always be referred to as a “woman artist,” as if that was somehow different than a regular one. A rapid-fire exchange ensued, including a fair amount of insight about process.

In all it was a wonderful discussion, and one that you can view, too. Watch the video of the artists’ first meeting below. The two artists also graced us with a selection of their works for this issue of the magazine. So, let us celebrate the lives and works of these two grande dames of Wisconsin art.

A Conversation with JoAnna Poehlmann & Lee Weiss from Jason A. Smith on Vimeo.

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JoAnna Poehlmann's art is a rare combination of superb draftsmanship, meticulous observation, droll humor, and effusive joy.

From 2008 to 2021 Jason A. Smith was the associate director of the Wisconsin Academy and editor of its quarterly magazine of Wisconsin thought and culture, Wisconsin People & Ideas.

Since 1959, when Weiss began to focus intently on her painting career, she has had over 125 solo shows. The recipient of several individual honors and awards, Weiss has also participated in numerous group and invitational shows.

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Phone: 608.733.6633 x25