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Fancy This

Fancy Glasses

You’re standing inside a giant kaleidoscope. The year is 2004, and the site is the Milwaukee Art Museum where you’ve come to indulge yourself (through June 20) in 200-plus items comprising “American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840.” If you dig things psychedelic, this one’s for you. Bring the kids. They’ll love what amounts to a circus of stuff. Wear your old tie-dyed tee in memory of Timothy O’Leary, who if he witnessed this, would find his mind blown to bits. Fancy is a kissin’ cousin to “folk art;” however, it was produced not out in the country by untrained artists, but in the Colonial centers of the east coast. Mainstream Americans went wild for the bodacious style in much the same way that the USA of the 1960s flipped for paisley and pop art. And like the madness of that era, it lived hard and died fast. There’s some irony in the fact that a chap named Sumpter T. Priddy lends historical weight to the exhibit, which is both sumptuous and pretty. The array of furnishings brought to you by the Chipstone Foundation in dressed-to-kill gaudiness, certainly demands more than one trip-out (www.mam.org provides a sneak preview). By the by, M Magazine, a Milwaukee Magazine wanna-be and the event’s media sponsor, in a flight of misguided fancy (in living color in their April 2004 issue) identified the aforementioned Sumpter Priddy as “Sumter Pretty.” Whatever, SP penned the catalogue accompanying the show. In case you haven’t noticed, the Milwaukee Art Museum is turning ever-more-often to the Chipstone Foundation in order to fill the marble halls with folks not particularly interested in ogling abstract paintings and piles of stones arranged in arty heaps. Plus the competition for our entertainment dollars is fierce. For instance, running through August 8 at the Milwaukee Public Museum: “The Quest For Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt,” touted as the most important exhibition since the treasures of Tut blitzed the U.S. in ’76. Though this blockbuster has 100 fewer artifacts than “American Fancy,” it has objects aplenty to die for. Either one of these splendiferous events will help fill the yawning gap created by the loss of this year’s Great Circus Parade. And you won’t have to camp out to get the best view either.
Fancy Glasses