The Milwaukee Art Museum collects and preserves art, presenting it to the community as a vital source of inspiration and education. This blog was created to share additional content about the Museum's art collection, offer sneak peeks and unique perspectives on individual objects and art as a whole, and to offer a behind-the-scenes view into what goes on under the wings of the famous..
Celebrated Wisconsin artist and beloved University of Wisconsin–Madison professor Truman Lowe passed away on March, 30, 2019, leaving behind a powerful legacy.
Raised in a Ho-Chunk community near Black River Falls, Lowe always felt a connection to nature; he was especially captivated by water and its natural qualities. Lowe’s relationship with art began at a young age, learning traditional crafts from his family, but he later broadened his creative scope to include sculpture, glassblowing, and ceramics. Though his work and skills developed throughout his career, Lowe continually drew inspiration from the natural world around him.
The artist became known for his beautifully understated sculptural pieces, often made with wood he gathered himself. The Museum acquired one such piece by the artist in the late 1990s, and in his remembrance, the work is now on display in the Contemporary Art Galleries. Lowe’s large-scale Inni-che-ru-he (Stone Wall) installation (1995), made of chalk on paper and willow branches, is part of his larger Canyon Series.
Truman Lowe, Inni-che-ru-he (Stone Wall), from The Canyon Series, 1995. Installation of chalk on paper and willow branches. Purchase, Doerfler Fund M1997.25.
Though Lowe continues to be greatly missed, his kind spirit, love of nature, and pride for his personal heritage live on through his work, which will surely inspire for years to come.
Lowe’s work has been exhibited in the Kohler Art Center, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, in Oregon, and in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House, and he has received numerous awards, including the 2007 Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award.
Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky once noted, “color is a power which directly influences the soul,” and science tells us it’s true—color can affect your mood, opinions, and even your behavior. Our Collection Galleries, filled with vibrant hues, soft tones, and complementary color pairings, are sure to brighten your mood, no matter how you’re feeling. Visit the Museum today to see all of these colorful artworks and so much more!
Henri Edmond Cross, Landscape (Garden at St. Tropez), ca. 1900. Oil on canvas. Purchase, Marjorie Tiefenthaler Bequest and Partial Gift of the Louise Uihlein Snell Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation M1996.29. Photo credit: Larry Sanders.
Jaime Hayon, Produced by Nason Moretti (Murano, Italy, founded 1923), Afrikando, 2017. Glass. Purchase with funds from the Jill and Jack Pelisek Endowment Fund, the Sanford J. Ettinger Memorial Fund, and by exchange M2017.23.1–.7. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Olafur Eliasson, Rainbow Bridge, 2017. Painted and mirrored glass with powder-coated steel. Purchase, with funds from the Contemporary Art Society, Jeffrey Yabuki, Donna and Donald Baumgartner, Sue and Bud Selig, Herzfeld Foundation, Steve and Janice Marcus, Ken and Kate Muth, Flavius Cucu and Miriam Van de Sype, Jason and McKenzie Edmonds, Tim and Sue Frautschi, Lincoln and Lilith Fowler, Mark and Judy Garber, Michael and Jennifer Keough, Joan Lubar and John Crouch, Justin and Susanna Mortara, Buddy and Catherine Robinson, Christine Symchych and James McNulty, and friends of the Contemporary Art Society M2017.126. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
French, Leaf from a Liturgical Psalter, early 14th century. Tempera, ink, and gold leaf on parchment. 6 3/8 × 4 7/16 in. (16.19 × 11.27 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Paula Uihlein M1932.108. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Before the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, books were handwritten. Imagine… every time a copy of a text needed to be made, someone had to do it painstakingly by hand. In our world of quick reproductions and the ease of hitting “print”, this can be hard to believe!
The exhibition The Art of Devotion: Illuminated Manuscripts from Local Collections, on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum through June 16, 2019, aims to provide an introduction to these handwritten texts–called manuscripts–that were made in the middle ages and early Renaissance. A good number of those manuscripts are also illuminated, or decorated with gold, silver, and bright colors that make them literally look like they shine from within.
Ornamenting the Christian Bible and related texts reflected their holiness, as revealing the teachings of God. Monks and nuns would make the books in a scriptorium—or copying room—as a type of religious devotion. By the fourteenth century, commercial scriptoriums fulfilled the demand for books made by the aristocrats and nobles who commissioned them not only to use in private devotion but also to display their great wealth. As you can imagine, this leads to amazing and beautiful books!
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at one of the objects in the show and see what it tells us about illuminated manuscripts.
Below is a leaf on view in the exhibition. A leaf is a sheet from a book. A page is one side of the leaf.
French, Leaf from a Liturgical Psalter, early 14th century. Tempera, ink, and gold leaf on parchment. 6 3/8 × 4 7/16 in. (16.19 × 11.27 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Paula Uihlein M1932.108. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
The support used for illuminated manuscripts is not paper, but parchment. Parchment is processed animal skins. The process is long, tedious, and messy, but not that difficult. You can see more in this video.
A careful look at the parchment reveals little black dots:
These are hair follicles! This means that we are looking at the hair side of the leaf, or the outside of the animal. The other side, which would be on the inside of the animal, is called the hide side.
Once the parchment is processed and cut, each page needs to be laid out. Ruling lines—either marked in ink or incised with a tool—show the scribe where to place the text. The ruling lines can be seen faintly in a faded red ink between the lines of text:
The text is written in Latin. The passage with the first decorated letter reads:
Deus qui corda fideliu sancti spiritus illustratione docuisti da nobis in eodem spiritu recta sapere et de eius semper sancta consolatione gaudere. Orison.
Hard to believe, isn’t it? Even if you know the Latin, it’s hard to read. This is because of the Gothic font, which is made with dramatically thin and thick strokes. These strokes are created by the tips of the quill pens made by the scribes, and is the basis for modern calligraphy.
While we’re looking at the Latin, let me ask—did you notice the little line over the “u” at the end of fideliu?
This is called a tilde. It denotes a shortened word. In this case, the “m” is left off of the word fidelium. Abbreviations like this were widely used to make the text shorter in order to save time and parchment.
And then there’s another abbreviation at the end of the second line in this paragraph.
This is the word et. Instead of being fully spelled out, et is often shown in manuscripts as only one character that combines the two letters. This kind of combination is called a ligature. One ligature for et eventually becomes the symbol we now call an ampersand, which still means “and”!
The section of text we’ve been looking at is a prayer to the Holy Spirit:
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolation.
The word in red at the end of the prayer is orison:
Orison is a variation of the Latin word oratio, or prayer. This tells us that this is a liturgical book, or a book for use in public worship. The text in black is what the officiant says when leading the ritual, and the text in red is the response made by the entire group. The full text of the response is not given, because it would be known by those performing the ritual.
Words in red in liturgical manuscripts are called rubics, after the Latin word rubrica, a type of red pigment. Today, we still use the word rubic to mean a set of instructions.
Our page has two lovely illuminated letters marking the beginning of two prayers. This one is for the D in Deus:
The artist has highlighted the D with what seems like an impossible amount of decoration: a background of blue and red paint; delicate patterns from white paint; plant forms nestled next to each other at the very center; shimmer and shine from gold leaf; and additional visual power provided by black outlining.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the letter practically explodes into the margin with quick and sketchy lines and dabs of paint that become flowers, vines, and leaves.
The illuminations are there to celebrate a holy text, but they can also help the reader find his place—visual clues in book layout is nothing new.
We’ve learned a lot by looking at just one of the objects from the exhibition. Make sure you stop by gallery S202 (in the European galleries on level 2) by June 16 to see the show and see even more examples of illuminated manuscripts!
Because many museums house precious objects and valuable artworks, they tend to have a “look, but don’t touch” and “keep quiet” reputation. Doesn’t sound too fun, does it?
We often hear the misconceptions that museums aren’t spaces for children, that art museums are boring, or that older art objects lack relevance—when in fact, at MAM, there are countless opportunities for visitors to engage with and connect to art, make your own masterpiece, play games, get active, and even enjoy a beer (or two!). Read below for all the ways to play at the Museum.
See and make art at Story Time in the Galleries or Play Date with Art.
It’s never too early to learn to love art! Bring your little ones to engage with artworks in the Museum’s Collection through stories, music, and hands-on activities. Story Time in the Galleries is hosted every Saturday, starting at 10:30 a.m., and Play Date with Art is offered on one Friday each month.
Spark your creativity with a Family Guide or an ArtPack Station activity.
Family Guides bring a playful lens to feature exhibitions, allowing you and your whole family to participate in fun games and activities as you journey through the exhibition. Your family can also explore the Museum’s Collection Galleries with picture books, puzzles, puppets, and even sketching materials—ArtPack station activities can travel with you, transforming an afternoon at the Museum into an imaginative adventure. Both are free with Museum admission.
Bring out your inner artist in the Kohl’s Art Generation Studio.
Paint, sculpt, draw, and sketch to create your own masterpiece inspired by works in the Museum’s Collection. This is a great space for visitors of all ages to get creative, even if that means getting a little messy in the process. The Studio is open every day the Museum is open and closes one hour before Museum close.
Hang out with friends at Teen Night.
Teens—make new friends and celebrate the talents of your peers at this special event, held two times each year. Hosted by the Museum’s Teen Interns, this event features live music, art-making, teen-led tours, and a collaborative exhibition.
Sign-up for a personalized tour.
No matter your age or interest, we have the perfect art tour for you or your group. Bring a student group to discover animals in art, celebrate a bachelorette on our “Naughty Bits” tour, or build your own adventure—Museum staff are happy to create a special tour, just for you!
Party at MAM After Dark.
Hosted ten times each year, MAM After Dark is Milwaukee’s artiest party, tailored to young adults. Dance to live music, join quirky art tours, strike a pose with friends in the Front Room photo booth, sip on a cocktail, and engage in a variety of activities at this after-hours event—plus, enjoy a new art-inspired theme each month.
Stop by after work for Happy Hour on the East End.
Every Thursday from 5–7:30 p.m., enjoy discounts on beer, select wines, and cocktails at the Museum’s East End Café. Unwind after work with a glass of your go-to beverage—or try something new—all while enjoying stunning views of Lake Michigan. Then, take a stroll through the galleries*; the Museum is open until 8 p.m. every Thursday.
*Museum admission required, if entering the Collection Galleries.
Say “Namaste” under the wings.
Stretch your mind and body at Yoga @ the Museum, offered monthly. Recharge for the week ahead in an inspiring space, as omTown Yogis guide you through an all-levels yoga class. Then, spend the afternoon exploring art—your registration includes same-day Museum admission.
*Within the disability community today, some may prefer identity-first language (e.g., “disabled person”), or person-first language (e.g., “person with a disability”). Because the curators do not know the preferences of the historical subjects in the “Functional Fashions” display, they chose to use identity-first language based on the recommendations of collaborators.
The mistaken belief that there is no history of clothing designs for disabled users has had a number of repercussions. Among them: nearly all designers treat their own iterations as inaugural, there has been a dearth of innovation as designs are continuously repeated, and disability-led innovation is written out of the historical record . Not only is there a long history of clothing designed by and for disabled persons, but in some cases it sets a higher standard than the efforts that followed. “Functional Fashions,” a display in the 20th- and 21st-Century Design Galleries at the Milwaukee Art Museum, introduces the largest collaborative clothing line for disabled persons in American history.
Installation view, “Functional Fashions,” Milwaukee Art Musuem, 2019.
Between 1955 and 1976, nearly thirty of the United States’ top clothing designers created garments to fit disabled bodies under the Functional Fashions line. Brands ranged from high-end sportswear to everyday labels. Leading the charge was designer Helen Cookman, whose own disability was hearing loss. During a research residency with Dr. Howard Rusk at New York University’s Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Cookman recognized a need and a business opportunity: beautiful clothes with features for the millions of Americans living with disabilities. At the Institute, Cookman co-authored Functional Fashions for the Physically Handicapped and developed a sample collection . With New York Times Style Editor Virginia Pope, she then created the Clothing Research and Development Foundation to run Functional Fashions. The clothing line included Cookman’s own collection, garments by other designers with Cookman’s innovative features, and outfits already deemed “functional.” The line ended when Cookman and Pope passed away and has since been largely forgotten.
During World War II, Dr. Howard Rusk noticed that his patients were healed, but unable to work. In response, he developed rigorous rehabilitation programs to help veterans adopt a “do-it-yourself” and “self-help” mentality to productivity . Overcoming barriers of the nondisabled built environment, he believed, would improve a patient’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Rusk applied these same methods for treating disabled civilians at New York University’s Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, creating veritable obstacle courses for the body and mind. At the Institute’s “self-help shop,” occupational therapist Muriel Zimmerman encouraged patients to design their own gadgets for everyday tasks. The strict postwar definition of independence positioned these devices as replacements for caregiving, and the ability to dress and undress oneself was one of the most important markers of autonomy.
Self-help gadgets illustrated in Howard Rusk and Eugene Taylor’s publication Living With A Disability (1953).
The pilot Functional Fashions line that Helen Cookman developed with Muriel Zimmerman was part of a series of design initiatives at the Institute that deviated from self-help devices in that they were designed to be accessible from the outset. Cookman’s ensembles were not meant to test a disabled user’s ingenuity with required adaptations. Instead, Cookman believed that psychological rehabilitation would derive from beautiful, “functional,” clothing. Cookman’s own hearing loss informed the designs she created at the Institute, having constructed extra pockets on her famed coats to fit the large batteries that powered her hearing aids. Together Cookman and Zimmerman studied the clothing complaints of patients at the Institute, using this data to design innovative features such as shorter suit jackets to eliminate the discomfort that longer jackets often cause wheelchair users, “action pleats” on women’s jackets to allow for easier arm movement, and reinforced underarms for crutch users . The public response to the line was overwhelming. Thousands of Americans wrote in to inquire about the line, prompting Cookman to create the Clothing Research and Development Foundation with the mission of encouraging other designers to incorporate her innovative design features into their own lines . Over the span of twenty years, Functional Fashions collaborators included designers of womenswear, menswear, and childrenswear ranging from Pauline Trigere to Joseph Love.
Installation view, “Functional Fashions,” Milwaukee Art Musuem, 2019.
Prior to the Functional Fashions line, consumers seeking clothing that fit their disabled bodies had to make or alter their own garments (work that often fell to women), or search medical device supply stores. Functional Fashions made it possible for style-conscious disabled consumers to find beautiful, ready-to-wear clothing that met their needs for the first time.
Left to right: Bonnie Cashin, Dog Leash skirt ensemble, 1957 (courtesy of The Bonnie Cashin Archive, Stephanie Lake Collection); Florence Eiseman, Dress, 1963; and Vera Maxwell, Speed Suit, 1976.
Vera Maxwell, Rugby Suit, Indianapolis Star, Aug 4, 1963.
Vera Maxwell remained the longest collaborator, including Functional Fashions elements in her garments for ten years. Indeed, one of her best-known creations, the Speed Suit, was created for disabled bodies. Made with a lycra-knit top, it slips over the head with no fastenings, perfect for “the woman who wants to dress quickly” or “anyone whose fingers are crippled with arthritis” . Maxwell also contributed one of the most luxurious Functional Fashions creations, her Rugby Suit, a tweed ensemble lined with seal fur, which had a matching lap robe for wheelchair users. Its closures made use of a new invention, “pressure tape,” recognized more widely today by its brand name Velcro.
The Functional Fashions line also highlighted pieces that were not specifically designed for disabled bodies but met this need in novel ways. Most notable were American sportswear pioneer Bonnie Cashin’s iconic designs, including her signature ponchos and her well-known Dog Leash skirt. Her goal was radical for the era: to design high style unrestrictive clothing for modern women . Cashin had designed this skirt, which first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1957, for a single purpose — the attached industrial hardware allowed her to quickly hitch up her skirt while navigating her country home stairs with martinis and canapés occupying both hands. Functional Fashions republished it as a sophisticated solution for women with limited mobility.
Bonnie Cashin, Dog Leash skirt ensemble, 1957. Courtesy of The Bonnie Cashin Archive, Stephanie Lake Collection.
Milwaukee-native Florence Eiseman’s A-line shapes and high-quality fabrics made her a natural Functional Fashions ally — so much so that the Milwaukee Sentinel reported Helen Cookman visiting Wisconsin in 1963 to show the fruits of their collaboration . In this period, polio was drawing huge amounts of attention to children’s disability. The disease and its disabling effects were on the rise, and since rehabilitation treatments considered dressing oneself a sign of normal development, parents hoped the playful designs would encourage their children to practice this task. Eiseman’s designs included large, simple shoulder buttons on dresses (which allowed them to easily slip on and off) and trousers with wider pant legs to accommodate braces. At the same time that polio was constructed as a white middle-class disease that took away innocence, Eiseman was marketing a postwar vision of childhood that was whimsical and characterized by “wondrous innocence” .
Helen Cookman’s last Functional Fashions collaboration was perhaps her biggest. In 1975, the Levi’s® Letter magazine announced that Levi’s® jeans would produce a pair of mail-order flares . The design was based on Cookman’s patented Trousers for a Handicapped Person, which included zippers down the length of both legs and a belt that kept the front in place while the back unzipped for ease when using the bathroom. Cookman passed away two years prior to this release.
Left to right: Helen Cookman, Trousers for a Handicapped Person patent, 1960; Levi’s® Letter magazine, 1975.
In the postwar era, the country held a notion of independence that expected citizens to be self-reliant while performing productive, gender-normative roles in the labor force and at home. The Functional Fashions line was meant to help disabled users meet the mental and physical requirements of this ideal. Of course, many disabled persons could not. Yet it was an early effort to create accessible, beautiful garments, and until the Functional Fashions collections are compiled and interpreted, it will likely remain the largest.
You can see the “Functional Fashions” display in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s 20th- and 21st-Design Galleries now through early 2020, and learn more about the intersections of disability and design at the Museum’s upcoming program, “In Conversation: Design and Disability.” This discussion between professor Bess Williamson, disability rights activist Liz Jackson, and the author will be held in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Lubar Auditorium on Thursday, May 16 at 6:15pm.
Members—May is all about you! The Milwaukee Art Museum is so thankful for your support throughout the year, and to show our appreciation, we are giving you a full month of added benefits, special offers, and extra Member-only events.
Bring an additional guest to the Museum for FREE during each visit this month. Share your love of MAM with a family member or friend—especially if they’ve never visited the Museum before.
Café Calatrava, Windhover Coffee, and the East End Café
Take advantage of 20% off food and beverage* purchases all month long. Whether you’re looking to recharge with a coffee or linger over a gourmet lunch, our cafés are sure to satisfy.
Receive 20% off your full purchase* every Thursday in May, plus free shipping on online orders over $25 (after discount).
*Discount cannot be combined with any other offers or vouchers.
Enjoy special Member-only events throughout the month, starting with Member Swap Day on May 5. For one day only, receive free general admission to a number of area museums when you show your Milwaukee Art Museum Member card.
Reserve your spot on May’s Member Trip to Crab Tree Farm, a dairy farm turned lakeside estate in Lake Bluff, Illinois. Inspired by the exhibition Charles Radtke: Contained, the trip will not only highlight the estate’s eclectic architecture, but also the stunning furniture housed on the property.
New and long-time Members alike can learn more about utilizing a Museum membership at the Member Morning: Orientation on May 19. Enjoy early access to Windhover Coffee, followed by an hour-long orientation and tour.
We close out Member Month with the Annual Members’ Meeting on May 28. Join us as we celebrate our accomplishments and look ahead to the Museum’s future. RSVP by Monday, May 20.
Thank you for helping the Museum remain an important space for education, creativity, and inspiration. We hope you, as Members, feel special not just this month, but every time you walk through our doors.
Not a Member? Join today, and start taking advantage of all the benefits of membership.
How did we maintain 65,340 square feet of granite plazas, fill 39,913 square feet of exhibition space, and inspire 355,878 visitors in the past year? With your help! As a private nonprofit, the Milwaukee Art Museum relies on the generous support of its Members, donors, visitors, and volunteers.
No matter what you’re able to do, there are so many ways to help the Museum remain a source of learning, inspiration, and creativity—from a one-time donation to year-long membership. Read below to learn all the ways you can show your support (and have fun at the same time).
1. Visit the Museum.
Explore thousands of inspiring artworks in the Collection Galleries and so much more. The cost of your admission ticket helps support the conservation, preservation, and maintenance of the Museum’s Collection—and includes all special exhibitions in one price. Ticket revenue only covers about 10% of the Museum’s costs.
2. Become a Member.
Members not only get exclusive access and great benefits for an entire year—they also directly support Museum exhibitions and programming. Your ongoing support makes it easy to stop by any time, and helps underwrite important activities that keep the Museum running. Join today.
3. Make an annual donation.
Help the Museum continue to inspire for years to come. Your donation strengthens the ability of the Museum to plan ahead, connect to the community, and truly make it a resource for everyone in Milwaukee. You can donate online at any time. Have a project, program, or exhibition you’re passionate about? Consider becoming an official sponsor, as an individual or as a brand. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for all the opportunities.
4. Shop in the Museum Store.
Find creative gifts or something to commemorate your visit. All proceeds benefit the Museum’s general fund, making everything from building clean-up to art conservation possible. And wearing, carrying, sipping from, or sending something that shows your MAM pride helps us get the word out. Shop on-site or online.
5. Grab a bite at the Museum’s cafés.
Indulge in a gourmet meal at Café Calatrava, recharge with a latté at Windhover Coffee, or linger with a light lunch at the East End Café. The East End also hosts happy hour every Thursday, from 5–7:30 p.m., making it a great spot to stop off after work. Members receive a 10% discount on all food and beverages*—every day.
6. Attend an event.
Sip on a cocktail while taking in a stunning view of Lake Michigan, enjoy hands-on art projects with the whole family, practice mindfulness, or dance to live music under the Museum’s iconic “wings,” all while simultaneously supporting Museum programs. Check out the calendar to see all the upcoming events and happenings that would be perfect for you. Events are also a great way to introduce a friend who’s never been to the Museum to experience it for themselves.
7. Book a tour.
Make your own event a Museum event. Discover engaging tours for every sort of visitor—from animal-themed school tours to grown-up tours that end with a cold beer. Bond with coworkers, engage students’ imaginations, or celebrate a bachelorette. Contact email@example.com to get started.
8. Help or host an online fundraiser.
You can donate right on Facebook or start a fundraiserfor your birthday.Spending time, and money, on Amazon? Select the Milwaukee Art Museum as your charity on smile.amazon.com and they will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Museum, at no extra cost to you. Every dollar, and new donor, makes a difference to the Museum.
9. Tell someone.
If you’re reading this, you probably know how special the Milwaukee Art Museum is. But there are many people, including those living in Milwaukee, who haven’t experienced the Museum yet.
Invite a friend, write a review, or tell a neighbor what about the Museum excites you. Tell someone who thinks they can’t afford the Museum about Meijer Free First Thursdays or the Access Membership program. Thank a sponsor for supporting the Museum, a program you care about, or an exhibition you loved.
Help the Milwaukee Art Museum truly be Milwaukee’s art museum so that we can continue to act as an important resource for the city, the region, and the world for years to come.
Thanks for all that you do to support the Museum. However you help, we’re proud to be your art museum.
Clocks, calculators, measuring tapes, and scales—tools for measurement and calculation have long been important for people to accomplish tasks at work, school, and home. A new display in the 20th- and 21st-Century Design Galleries considers the role designers played in shaping such devices in the twentieth century, with examples from the 1920s-1980s. On one hand, these objects demonstrate how many designers aimed to make tools that are simple to use and easy to read, such as the streamlined kitchen clock and timer that Isamu Noguchi designed for Measured Time, Inc. in the early 1930s. At the same time, these designs bring to light how measurement and calculation have been closely linked to the human body in the twentieth century, as this post explores.
Though the practice of timekeeping extends back thousands of years, new strategies of labor management emerged in the early twentieth century that placed particular emphasis on keeping track of time and bodies in tandem. In the United States, labor theorists Frederick Taylor and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth introduced and popularized methods of scientific management. In particular, they used time and motion studies to first evaluate workers’ behavior, and then modify it for maximum efficiency.  The Gilbreths developed the chronocyclograph, which used small electric lights attached to workers’ bodies to produce images of tasks being accomplished over time. The idea was that through such studies, inefficient ways of working could be identified and replaced with standard practices that would increase productivity at work and at home. 
Gilbreth chronocyclograph of motions necessary to move and file sixteen boxes full of glass, n.d. From: Mike Mandel, Making Good Time: Scientific Management, the Gilbreths, Photoraphy and Motion, Futurism (Santa Cruz, CA: California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside, 1989), 26.
In this period, standardization was seen not only as a means of modernizing production, but also consumption. In terms of measuring bodies, this relates especially to the rise of ready-made clothing and shoes. For instance, the foot care brand known today as Dr. Scholl’s, originally founded in 1906 in Chicago as the Scholl Manufacturing Company, contributed to the transition from custom-made shoes to off-the-shelf options through the invention of a patented measuring device, Dr. Scholl’s Automatic Shoe Sizer.  The tool, which features a surprisingly complex system of hidden mechanical components, helped salespeople to quickly identify which standard shoe size would provide the best fit—a practice that continues today.
Detail of U.S. utility patent 1,792,892 for “foot measuring implement,” 1931. United States Patent and Trademark Office, http://www.uspto.gov.
In the mid-twentieth century, the field of ergonomics began to emerge in the United States as a means of creating products and workplaces better suited to the complexities of human bodies. Also referred to as the study of “human factors” or “human engineering” in its early years, ergonomics had roots in theories of scientific management. However, in addition to Taylor and the Gilbreths’ interest in training humans to work more efficiently, ergonomics also posed the question, “how can the machine be designed so that the man can operate it most efficiently?” 
American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss was a leading voice in this endeavor. His 1955 book Designing for the People encouraged designers to take human bodies into greater account in their work. The book introduced drawings by Alvin R. Tilley of “Joe” and “Josephine,” whose proportions were meant to represent the typical American user.  In the following decades, Dreyfuss’ understanding of ergonomics evolved to account for a greater range of bodies. In 1974, his office produced Humanscale, a series of booklets accompanied by brightly colored plastic sleeves containing paper dials that could be rotated to reveal information on dimensions and capabilities of various types of people, including men and women; children, adults, and the elderly; and able-bodied and disabled individuals. This multiplicity is mirrored by the collaborative nature of the project itself; Humanscale was co-authored by designers Niels Diffrient, Alvin R. Tilley, Joan C. Bardagjy, and David Harman, and designed by 27-year-old graphic designer Valerie Pettis, who created the emblem for the 1975 International Women’s Year around the same time.
Henry Dreyfuss Associates, Humanscale selector 3a “Wheelchair Users,” 1974. Plastic, paper, and metal. Milwaukee Art Museum Research Center.
At first pass, tools like Humanscale, the Gilbreths’ chronocyclograph, and Dr. Scholl’s shoe sizer may seem specialized, even idiosyncratic. Yet when taken together, they reveal significant intersections between production, consumption, time, and bodies in histories of twentieth-century design. These and other tools for measurement and calculation can now be seen in the Museum’s 20th- and 21st-Century Design Galleries, and will remain on view at least through the end of 2019.
Hannah Pivo is Curatorial Assistant for Design at the Milwaukee Art Museum. She works on acquisitions, gallery rotations, and exhibitions of 20th- and 21st-century ceramics, glass, textile, graphics, industrial design, and more.
 See: Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1911); and Frank B. Gilbreth, Primer of Scientific Management (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1912).
 Laurel D. Graham, “Domesticating Efficiency: Lillian Gilbreth’s Scientific Management of Homemakers, 1924-1930,” Signs 24, no. 3 (1999): 633-675.
 Penny Sparke, et. al., Industrial Design in the Modern Age (New York: Rizzoli Electa, 2018), 127.
 Leonard C. Mead and Joseph W. Wulfeck, “Human Engineering: The Study of the Human Factor in Machine Design,” Scientific Monthly 75, no. 6 (1952): 373.
 Ellen Lupton, Beautiful Users: Designing for People (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014), 24.
Since its opening in 2015, the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts has proudly featured many world-renowned female artists working in photography, film, video, and digital media, specifically through solo exhibitions and special programming. These initiatives contribute to an institution-wide effort to highlight more women artists, challenging the art world’s male-dominated past.
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we are looking back at some of the most recent Herzfeld Center exhibitions that have focused on women artists. Read below to learn more.
Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Sara Cwynar (b. 1985) explores through film and photography the subjects of color and design, the ways that they operate politically, socially, and historically, particularly in the context of how we conceptualize beauty. This first U.S. solo museum exhibition for the artist presents three of her latest films—Soft Film (2016), Rose Gold (2017), and Cover Girl (2018)—together with photographs from her ongoing Tracy series.
Co-organized with the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Supporting Sponsor: Live Wire Productions
Exhibitions in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts sponsored by: Herzfeld Foundation Madeleine and David Lubar
Visionaries: John and Murph Burke Sheldon and Marianne Lubar Charitable Fund Mr. and Mrs. Joel Quadracci Sue and Bud Selig Mr. Jeffrey Yabuki
Helen Levitt (American, 1913–2009), New York, ca. 1939. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Marvin Hoshino M2016.157. Photo by: John R. Glembin
American photographer Helen Levitt (1913–2009) captured the life of New York City’s sidewalks for over five decades, revealing through her work a unique “way of seeing” (the title of her 1965 book) rather than an overt message. This exhibition presented early black-and-white photographs, later color work, and Levitt’s film In the Street (1952).
Leading contemporary artist Rineke Dijkstra is internationally praised for her elegant and sensitive photographic and video work. This exhibition featured two of the Dutch artist’s large-scale video installations—portraits of young dancers during the precious years of early adolescence.
Embracing the flood of images available in the Internet age, contemporary artist Penelope Umbrico sifts through millions of images shared on Craigslist, Flickr, and other social media sites and appropriates them as source material for her work. This exhibition featured over 30 photo-based installations—comprising nearly 5,000 individual images—along with photographs, videos, and books that trace Umbrico’s obsessive systems of inquiry and online research since 2006.