Spring Art Tour coming soon!

8ft chicken, Market Weight Studios, woodcuts, Great Pyrenees

Come see the 8ft chicken! The 8ft pulltoy pig! And lots more (including that Skip Johnson patriotic chicken in the foreground). Here are a few students from a visiting art class in front of Market Weight Press Studios

Now in it’s 7th year, the Spring Art Tour features 20 artists who will open their studios to the public June 7, 8, 9 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), 10-5 daily.

**NOTE: Sue will be in studio daily 10-5, EXCEPT Saturday absent 3:30-5p

S.V. Medaris’ studio will have printing demos, prints (unframed and framed), cards, pillows, t-shirts and more for sale. She is currently carving the first in a new series of Alphonse Mucha poster-inspired prints, as well as a 4ft hog woodcut, a flying (sort of) chicken linocut, and block-printing pillow covers, t-shirts and ? Lots of fun stuff.

Maps, artist profiles and more at the Mount Horeb Spring Art Tour site.

This Saturday night: Farm to Fork (to Fabulous!)

Opening reception Saturday, March 16, 7-10pm.

Showing with my friend and fellow artist Alicia Rheal in our From Farm to Fork (to Fabulous!) exhibit. The opening reception is a gala celebration and benefit for the Walls of Wittenberg. More info, and the poster, below. Highlight? Why Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats of course.

Poster for 'Farm to Fork (to Fabulous)' show, featuring artwork of S.V. Medaris and Alicia Rheal

This is going to be a really fun (and delicious) opening reception! (Click on poster to enlarge) And, if you drive up early, you can visit Nueske’s Company Store in Wittenberg (Sat. hours: 8-4).

The WowSpace is located at 114 Vinal St – Wittenberg, WI. Easy to find…Just look for the 8ft hanging hog carcasses and the giant pull-toy pig (cuts) in the front windows along the main street of downtown Wittenberg!

And here’s more info about the Walls of Wittenberg ongoing mural project.

One section of the wall installed for now….

Installing…. That’s an 18ft long Hampshire stud boar on right (the model, Pioneer is owned by Monson Show Pigs in Richland Center). And that’s an 8ft pull-toy pig in front window.

The Tunnel of Mortality

The Tunnel of Mortality, a life-size tunnel-book installation at Artisan Gallery, has been extended to September 9th, 2012! The next reception is Friday, July 27, 2012, 5-9pm at Artisan Gallery.

Here’s some shots (click any image to enlarge):

Door's entrance to old cheese cooler with show title: S.V. Medaris, The Tunnel of Mortality, inside reveals dark, wallpapered room.

“Come in.” said the spider to the fly….

Once you step in the door, you are in a floor-to-ceiling, darkly wallpapered, little anteroom, about 8ft x 8ft.

fancy-framed portraits on dark wallpapered walls

Back wall and right corner of anteroom

ornate wallpaper, fancy-framed portraits

Chairs are upholstered in the same, matching, printed fabric as the walls.

The richly detailed wallpaper is actually a 10in x 10in linocut pattern printed black onto burgundy duckcloth. About 480 times. If you look closely at one of the “tiles” you will see the underlying theme of the show:
plucked chicken, intestines, bones, axes, chicken foot...

If you look behind you to your right, the outside light looks blinding compared to the dramatic low lighting surrounding you.

taxidermied chicken on low table next to portrait hung on densely patterned wallpapered wall

Taxidermy chicken NOT for sale.

As you step through the door, into the anteroom, The Tunnel of Mortality is that big framed piece on the right-hand wall. It looks like any other of the framed woodcuts, except as you walk towards or by it, it changes (since it’s a 3-dimensional space, not a flat piece). If you’re not paying attention though, it doesn’t “read” as an interior space, but rather a mirror…or something. A number of visitors were looking behind and above them to figure out where the projector was. Most think it’s a mirror, but can’t figure out how come they don’t see their reflection.

Fancy framed portraits on dark wallpapered walls, and low table covered in matching tablecloth

Matching tablecloth and upholstery! This is really the only time I’ve gotten into “interior decorating” (in our real house, nothing matches. I mean, who has time when it takes this long to make pretend rooms?).

Walk into the center of the room, turn to your right, and there’s the tunnel.

fancy frame contains busy collage of farm animals and farm life

The Tunnel of Mortality, framed.

I’m not going to try to explain how this looks in real life, since you really have to go experience it to get it. Suffice it to say, that it’s confusing at first since you can’t quite tell what you’re looking at. Some have said it feels like a mirror.

And here’s a cropped panorama of the center section:

scene filled with relief-printed farm animals, carcasses and scenes of farm life

All woodcut or linocut prints on fabric or Tyvek.

Reception is this Friday, 5-9pm at Artisan Gallery (directions).
And the show is up through September 9th.

So, come check it out!
Experience the tunnel!
Sign the camouflaged guestbook!
Read some of the entries in the guestbook here.

cloth-covered book matches pattern of tablecloth

Tunnel of Mortality (and much more) Friday night!

Install, day 3 at Artisan Gallery
(Day 3 of the install)

Artisan Gallery 25th Anniversary Exhibition
June 8th – July 22nd, 2012
Opening Reception Friday June 8th 5-9p.m.

Group Show: 25th anniversary — We are excited to celebrate our 25th year in Paoli, the anniversary show will feature favorite work from many of our gallery artists.

In the Cooler: S.V. Medaris “The Tunnel of Mortality” — Printmaking from birth to slaughter and everything in-between. One season of life on the farm (in life-size tunnel book form), as told by S.V. Medaris of Market Weight Press.

Nick Wroblewski: Color Reduction Woodcuts — Wroblewski’s woodcuts entice the viewer through the use of vivid colors and hold their attention through his variety of distinct mark making. This exhibit will have many prints which showcase his unique style of reduction woodcuts.

More info at Artisan’s Facebook page and
Artisan Gallery website

Possum assassins, certain death and a Thanksgiving miracle…

possum in chicken coop

'Trapped' • an early pastel • 16x20in • private collection

It felt like CSI: Drammen Valley this week….

  • Possums in the chicken yards
  • the disappearance of Pbiddy
  • a pile of white feathers

…and none of the chickens know nothin’. It didn’t look good.

But first, some background…
(NOTE: Click any photo to enlarge.)

The Saga of Pbiddy

The saga of Pbiddy (Pea biddy=pea hen=female peafowl) started early this summer when Hilary called to say she had a single peachick that needed a safe haven. I had 4 broiler chicks who had just survived an especially tragic shipment of (mostly dead) chicks and we thought that maybe Pbiddy could find comfort with them here. These 4 broiler chicks–who after their miraculous survival became my Superchicks–and Pbiddy hit it off great. She stopped peeping almost immediately upon being set down amongst her brawny cousins.

brown speckled peachick stands out next to bigger yellowish broiler chicks

The Broiler chicks quickly outgrew the delicate Peachick (far left). Click to enlarge photo.

When the new Crested chicks (Buff Laced Polish, Golden Polish, White Crested Black Polish, Mottle Houdan, etc) arrived, I figured I had better move Pbiddy to that brooder, since the broilers would eventually be processed by summer’s end. And when they did go away, Pbiddy would be all alone. I set her in with the smaller Polish chicks, and she cheeped and cheeped at being moved away from her family; she was not happy.

The next morning however, there were no peachick sounds. And, she was nowhere to be found. I looked all over, around the brooders, and then counted the different groups. Hmmmm, there are 16 turkeys? There should only be 15…. omg there she is! Pbiddy had jumped the wading pool wall, right into the turkey poult brooder, and evidently liked it much better this way. She was very very quietly blending in with her new brethren. She picked her own family this time, and you have to admit, she almost looks like one of them. Is it a coincidence that she settled down with what looked like her own kind? Hmmm, I’d always been told peafowl weren’t very bright.

Peachick nestles in with turkey poults. Feather pattern of the 2 species is strikingly similar.

Hard to find, isn't she?

I wasn’t going to move her again, even though I dreaded the day that the turkeys would be going to the processor (as she would be abandoned once again), but for now, I just wanted her to be happy and calm.

The turkeys grew huge (these were Broad Breasted Bronzes this year; no diminutive heritage breeds), so they quickly outgrew Pbiddy, but remained close to her, often seeming to shelter her next to their huge-breasted bodies on the low roost.

Harvest and abandonment

When the turkeys went off to Twin Cities Pack (along with 15 broilers that I got later in summer) in November, I felt awful for my little peahen. She was soooo lonely. That’s it, I decided, it’s time to acclimate her to the big girls! So I started moving some of the grown Polish hens (smaller than Pbiddy), a small, White Polish cockerel and the Superchicks (I mean they’re Superchicks, right? I couldn’t take them in with the rest of the broilers) into Pbiddy’s pen and yard. This way, it was her turf, and perhaps she wouldn’t be pecked to death (when I tried putting her in with the crested a few weeks earlier, they had just rushed her and started pecking her like mad: “Intruder! Intruder!!”).

When they were all moved in, nobody attacked her. It was ok. Superchicks turned out to be gentle giants when added to another flock. If they didn’t want somebody near, they just stood tall, puffed their chests out, and scared anybody away with their size. No vicious pecking, just attitude and stance.

Mature pea hen walks in front of juvenile pea hen

Gracie the Guardian

Making friends

Pbiddy was out of sorts and hung out in the yard, even roosting on a branch outside in the pen at night instead of inside the barn with the others. The next day–Sunday I think it was–I went down to look from afar and analyze the situation. There, at the end of the run, Pbiddy was looking through the fence and touching beaks with Gracie (from the big henyard), the pea hen!! They were communicating through the fence. It was so touching and I felt hope. The peafowl seemed to recognize each other as their own kind. Maybe they’re not really stupid.

oil painting by S.V. Medaris of white chicken in front of peacock

George, looking pretty in 'Upstaged by a Chicken' • oil on panel • 5x7in • 2009 • private collection

That afternoon, I picked up Pbiddy and brought her into the big henyard. I waited behind a tree until Gracie was in the vicinity. I quickly, quietly, gently shoved Pbiddy onstage, around the front of the tree. Gracie looked at her and made the connection. Pbiddy, exhausted from the sleepless nights and stress I think, quickly stepped over near a pile of brush and settled down and closed her eyes. Gracie clucked and stepped over and around the little hen, cocking her head this way and that, standing up and looking around and just circling her and surrounding her. She marched this way and that, head down, looking very intense and officious. The others steered clear.

George (the peacock) came near to investigate, but stayed on Gracie’s other side, allowing her to keep her watchful force shield of protection around little Pbiddy. It was as if Gracie had taken her in and was protecting her.

I watched my–slightly bullying–Barred Rock cock just stand there, frozen, one foot in the air, facing Pbiddy but looking between me (behind the tree) and Gracie (on the other side of the new hen) and he almost seemed to be weighing his options. After what seemed an eternity, he put his foot back down and walked away. I just love to watch the body language between all of the birds–the subtleties in communication are fascinating.

peahen, peabiddy, woodcut, relief print, S.V. Medaris, hand-colored

A woodcut I made of this scene, the following year: Peahen on Guard • hand-colored woodcut • 26in x 37in • 2012 • edition of 10

All is well

That evening, I found Pbiddy hunkered down in the corner of the yard, not yet knowing that all the birds go in the coop at night to roost. I waited till just after dark, so I could pick her up and take her into the coop. If I’d tried to “herd” her into the coop, she undoubtedly would’ve flown off, frightened. That is a typical peafowl response–choosing flight over fight when cornered. I carried her into the coop, and set her down, up high on the roost. Later that night, I peeked into the coop and saw that Gracie had moved over and was roosting right next to her. Awesome!

Next day seemed great–Pbiddy was out in the yard, eating with the flock and getting to know the yard.

That night (Monday), I put her in through the chicken door, hoping she would “get” that that’s where you go at night.

Something wicked this way comes…

Tuesday morn after chores, I left for work in town. Working into the afternoon, I almost left early for home just to be sure I’d be there right at dark to make sure Pbiddy made it into the coop safely, but I got caught up in a current project and didn’t leave the office ’till 6 or so.

closeup of possum face, a pastel by S.V. Medaris

By the time I got home, it was very dark (daylight savings time makes it dark around 4:30-5 these days). I went down towards the henyard, sort of surprised at the utter silence–usually George or somebody else hears me coming and lets out a cry (or a cock’s crow) of alarm. Nothing. I turn on the flashlight at the gate, and point it to the usual spot in the henyard where Pbiddy would wait at night. Nothing. I notice the waterer is swinging slightly, which means…oh sh_ _…and I shoot the flashlight around, and there!–eyes flashing as I sweep the light past, it’s ghostly white body dimly glowing in the blackness–a possum! And then, up in the tree–another! And then, way over there, in the flight-netted yard where the turkeys were (and now Polish and Superchicks live) another!!! “Bastards!” I whisper, “What did you do with Pbiddy!!??” I quickly call up to James on my cell “Possums, 3, hurry.”

Vengeance and grief

After the possums were quickly shot, we looked everywhere for the little peahen. We found a pile of white feathers in the far pen, where the Polish and Superchicks were–one of the white crested Polish no doubt. Poor thing. All the live chickens were in good shape, though frightened and scattered, so they only got 1 chicken it looks like. No blood or gore anywhere else. Looking for a camouflaged bird in the daytime is difficult. Looking for it in the black of night with a flashlight is futile. We gave up.

James said, “You know, maybe she flew off to escape and she’ll come back when she knows it’s safe.”

“I bet she won’t!” I grumbled. “Peafowl are stupid, don’t you remember? And I kept moving her from pen to pen, yard to yard…she was probably totally confused.” I was so bummed out.

I looked all around for her next morning early in the light of day, but again, trying to find a camouflaged animal who doesn’t want to be found, is next to impossible. I gave up and went to work since I had a deadline that day. I took a short break around noon to see if she was anywhere. Nothing–not in the coop, nor henyard, nor dogyard (I was looking for anything–bloody remains–anything just so I could know what happened), nor anywhere around the circumference nor scans over the pastures.

All day, I thought about those wicked possums and how I would carve a really evil blockprint of them. I would show everybody how evil they were! “Bastards” I kept muttering to myself, every time I looked away from work and rested my eyes from the computer screen. I was a bit obsessed. It’s just really hard when you work at taking care of something–even if it’s months, it’s still hard–and just after everything seems perfect, it’s snatched away from you and disappears off the face of the earth.

A Hallmark (holiday movie) moment

That night (Wednesday, Thanksgiving eve), dejected, totally bummed, I went down to the coop to close up. After a quick glance in the henyard to be sure no predators were wandering around, I closed up the pens in the barn first. I just didn’t want to look in the coop and be reminded of the loss. The Polish and Superchicks were back to normal, walking right over the scattered pile of white feathers as if nothing had happened. I walked in the chicken yard and closed up the chicken door.

Then (big sigh), I opened up the walk-in door of the coop to collect an egg or two in the nest boxes. I decided to look along the roosts again for the upteenth time just to be doubly, triply, absolutely sure there was no Pbiddy here, and so I turned around. And omg omg omg there she was–roosting calmly right in between the other hens as if nothing was amiss “Just us chickens…” she seemed to be silently telling me.

Juvenile pea hen roosts in between 2 larger chickens (hens) on the bar

Just us chickens...

Turns out peafowl aren’t so stupid after all.

All content ©S.V. Medaris