What’s happening in Wisconsin arts? What issues are artists grappling with, and which media and approaches are rising to the forefront?

These questions are explored, answered and celebrated in the “Wisconsin Triennial” exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Every three years, MMoCA’s curatorial staff spend weeks visiting artists in their studios across the state, ultimately choosing more than 30 to represent the current status of contemporary Wisconsin art. Photographs, prints, paintings, installations, sculpture, video and more coming in this multimedia exhibition held throughout the museum from October 19 to February 16.

“The ‘Triennial’ presents the whole spectrum of really established and emerging artists,” says curator Leah Kolb. “To get that variety is wonderful.”

One newcomer of note is Madison artist Pranav Sood (above left and right), who depicts the quest for love through a series of five vivid, graphic and pattern-filled op-art paintings that nod to his upbringing in India. Another is Della Wells (above middle), a Milwaukee artist who uses collage to create symbolic, empowering narrative worlds that blend history and fiction.

“I see the lineage of collage dating back to the African American female practice of Quilting,” Wells states. “It is also deeply rooted in the notion of ‘making do’ or creating one’s own private paradise out of what is found, sourced and gathered through community.”

Like Sood and Wells, many artists in this year’s “Triennial” create work that’s deeply personal while resonating with broader society.

“There’s this jolt of narrative energy,” Kolb says. “Artists are taking personal symbolism and mixing it with recognizable forms.”

And showcased together, artists in the “Triennial” not only offer a fascinating survey of Wisconsin art today, but also a preview of what will be highlighted in exhibitions in the years to come.

The “Wisconsin Triennial ” runs October 19-February 16 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), 227 State St. mmoca.org

This article originally appeared in the 2019 fall/winter issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.

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Katie Vaughn is a Madison-based writer who focuses on travel, art and feature stories.

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