Over the last four months the Racine Art Museum of Wisconsin has shared works from their permanent collection to create a pair of exhibits, displaying crossroads between America’s urban and rural landscapes. The first, Great Art from Tough Times: Wisconsin WPA Artworks in RAM’s Collection, honors the great tradition of watercolor painting by artists who also helped shape the Milwaukee Handicraft Project—a response to urbanization, unemployment and unskilled laborers during the Great Depression. This exhibit examines a shift from rural do-it-yourselfness to urban mechanization between the years of 1936 – 1942. Scenes such as Schomer Frank Lichtner’s “Freight Yards” and “Driving the Wagon” depict early labor as well as movement from the countryside to the crowded city.
In these particular illustrations we see no signs of urban-dwelling trade or manufacturing, but only men and their means of work. Mari Bleck’s linocuts “The Trapper” and “The New Cabin” depict a similar transition from the hermetic to the populated with her scenes of life in the forest.