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The Wisconsin Project explores our roots…

Old postcards echo heartfelt sentiments long forgotten. The photographs depicted on these cards stop time, taking the viewer back to an almost familiar past. These pictures and thoughts speak volumes about their origin, emanating colorful details about the culture and mindset. Wisconsin artists Julie Lindemann and John Shimon have been exploring and expanding on these concepts since 2009 in an exhibition called “The Wisconsin Project,” primarily focusing on how inhabiting a single place over a long period of time grounds us to where we call home.

Manitowoc natives, Shimon and Lindemann are collaborative artists and associate professors of art at Lawrence University where they teach photography, digital processes and drawing. The purpose of “The Wisconsin Project,” they say, was to challenge the preconceived notion of Wisconsin as a lackluster region, devoid of any intricate meaning. By taking their own postcard photographs with an antique camera and collecting vintage postcards from our home state, Shimon and Lindemann look to explore what it truly means to be a Wisconsinite.

“Some in the art world view the Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, as banal ‘fly over’ subject matter,” Shimon says. “Our project challenges that by finding meaning in the ordinary and inviting audiences to examine, dialog, and reflect on the emotional quality of the idiosyncrasies of place as well as the perceptions of those both inside and outside of that place.”

Shimon and Lindemann say that a lot can be gathered simply by examining the world around us and dwelling on our indefinite definition of home.

“Looking carefully and attentively into a single small aspect of the world, we believe, can provide more insight into the human condition than searching the world over,” Shimon says. “This requires training of the mind to dismiss nothing and to suspend all judgment.”

The vintage postcards from their collection as well as their own photographs have been on display at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan in an exhibition entitled “Wisconsin Confidential” that runs through February 3.

“The John Michael Kohler Arts Center invited us to do a residency as part of the Wisconsin Project exhibition. Our residency included an invitation to design a project in collaboration with the Kohler staff to involve the community for their ‘Exhibition Without Boundaries’ series.”

Also included at the “Wisconsin Confidential” exhibit are postcards submitted by other individuals which Shimon and Lindemann said will help to expand on the themes and concepts “The Wisconsin Project” attempts to exude.

“More than 500 submissions were received from around the world,” Shimon says. “We wanted input and ideas about Wisconsin from as many people as possible.”

—By Andrew Scholz

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