Racine, WI    November 22, 2013

Mathis Gallery Tree is 

Back Up for the Holidays


Racine Art Museum (RAM) is pleased to present what was once called "the most beautifully decorated tree in Racine." The tree includes ornaments from a variety of time periods and subjects--all from the late gallerist and arts supporter, Emile H. Mathis II's collection. Currently installed in RAM's main floor lobby, the 11-foot artificial tree will be lighted beginning on Friday, November 29, 2013 and will be on display through January 5, 2014 during regular museum hours.

Photography: Jessica Z Schafer

In addition to establishing The Emile H. Mathis II Fund for Children's Education when he died in 2012, Mathis gave the museum his treasured tree and a cache of handcrafted blown glass ornaments. Mathis spent years collecting ornaments for the tree that he decorated each year for a display in his gallery on Main Street. This tree became a part of the annual Christmas celebrations that took place in Racine's downtown each year. In addition to avidly collecting ornaments (at one point, he had over 3,000), Mathis sold them in his gallery. While his tree at the Gallery contained both antique and contemporary decorations, his gift to RAM concentrates on ornaments from the 1940s and 1950s through recent years, and tracks many of the trends in holiday decorations over these decades. 


"RAM is pleased to continue a tradition Emile Mathis started in downtown Racine and to share his appreciation for handcrafted glass ornaments with the museum's broader audience," said Bruce W. Pepich, Executive Director and Curator of Collections. 


The labor of creating the glass ornaments, as well as the process of design and aesthetic choices involved in their construction and decoration, parallels RAM's emphasis on craft practices. The product of centuries-old traditions in parts of Germany, handcrafted blown glass ornaments were shared with the larger world in the late 1800s. While there appear to have been several importers over time, it is noteworthy that in the late 1880s, F. W. Woolworth began importing glass ornaments to his dime stores in the United States. Such connections to mass consumption offered an increase in the popularity of the decorations. 


While glass ornaments can take many forms, a reflective/silvered version is often associated with modern Western European and American Christmas traditions. While early examples were blown in a free-form manner, molds soon became a popular means of ensuring a desired design and allowed for mass production. Hand painting was frequently employed. Subject matter both continued historical themes-such as fruits and vegetables, birds, round balls, and Santa Claus-and changed to reflect popular culture-television shows, celebrities, sports teams, and any number of animals. 


"This is not an exact recreation of Mathis's installation but RAM's interpretation of the presence this tree had in downtown and what it meant to the people of the community," Pepich continued, adding, "We also extend joyful greetings to museum guests who are celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa at this time of the year, and wish everyone a healthy and happy 2014." 



The "ornaments as art" theme continues with The Art of AdORNAMENTSThe Museum Store invites artists and craftspeople of all ages to participate in RAM's holiday ornament competition by delivering a handmade ornament to the museum's reception desk before 4:00 pm on Tuesday, December 3. Award winners will be announced at RAM on December 6 at 6:00 pm during First Friday in Downtown Racine. All entries will be on display at the museum December 6-29. More information and  an entry form may be found on RAM's website at http://www.ramart.org/content/adornaments-artist-information-page for more information and to download an entry form. 


Exhibitions at RAM are made possible in part by: Presenting Sponsors - Karen Johnson Boyd and William B. Boyd; SC Johnson; Windgate Charitable Foundation.


RAM at 10 | Growing America's Craft Collection
This year marks the Racine Art Museum's 10th Anniversary in Downtown Racine. Visitors are invited to discover stunning exhibitions that shine a light on RAM's achievements over the past decade and predict an even brighter future.

Together, the two campuses of the Racine Art Museum, RAM in downtown Racine at 441 Main Street and the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts at 2519 Northwestern Avenue, seek to elevate the stature of contemporary crafts to that of fine art by exhibiting significant works in craft media with painting, sculpture and photography, while providing outstanding educational art programming.

Docent led contemporary craft and architectural tours of the museums are available. Both campuses of the Racine Art Museum are open to the public Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, and are closed Mondays, Federal holidays and Easter. RAM is open Sunday Noon - 5:00 pm, while Wustum is closed Sundays. An admission fee of $5 for adults, with reduced fees for students and seniors, applies at RAM. Admission to Wustum is free. Members are always admitted without charge to either campus.
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