Mount Horeb exhibit tells the story of Wisconsin agriculture


By Barry Adams

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MOUNT HOREB, ​​Wis. ( State Journal) – The works are produced in a variety of media but tell a familiar story of Wisconsin’s agricultural heritage.

Douglas Eames uses oil paints and canvases. The late Tom Brunner selected metal and battery powered motors.

And for the first time, their paintings and working models of agricultural machinery came together in the town center of this village to celebrate the seasons and showcase farm life, mechanical ingenuity and unfulfilled passions. that later in life.

Eames grew up on a beef cattle farm near Mineral Point and Brunner grew up on a farm north of Mount Horeb near Pine Bluff. Eames, 80, began painting in his forties, while Brunner, who died in late 2020, began building models of agricultural machinery at a similar time in his life.

“A Country Christmas: An Artistic Tribute to American Farm Life,” in the Driftless Historium of the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society, offers mementos of the day-to-day operation of a farm and the analog machines that were once ubiquitous on farms large and small. Only everything is disappearing, as well as the small family farms that helped shape our state in America’s Dairyland.

“We try to put together different types of expressions,” said Destinee Udelhoven, executive director of the historic company since 2014, who grew up on a dairy farm in South Dakota. “I think this art exhibition is important and that it will resonate with people who grew up in that time and teach those who didn’t what we risk losing.”

The exhibition runs until January 3 in the community hall of the Kalscheur Family Foundation with opening hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Monday, but visits by appointment can be requested on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Free entry.

The Driftless Historium, 100 S. 2nd St., is one of the gems among Wisconsin’s historical societies. The 14,500 square foot museum, archives, research center and community center opened in 2017 and includes artifacts from Little Norway, now closed , campaign signs by former Wisconsin governor, presidential candidate and Primrose native Robert M. La Follette, and the recreation of a rural general store. The installation, which includes a gift shop, also contains clothing, housewares, tools and nearly 25,000 photographs and thousands of documents. One of his most recent exhibitions focuses on the evolution of living rooms and includes models from the 1800s, 1930s and early 1960s.

Art of the farm The exhibition “Christmas in the countryside” fits perfectly with the mission of the Historium and comes at a time when the state has only about 6,000 dairy farms compared to the more than 47,000 that were operating in France. 1978.

Four of Eames’ paintings are a bit larger than a piece of plywood, but their enormous size allowed the artist to focus on details that would have been lost in smaller pieces. There are smaller paintings and a 3D aluminum piece from a wax mold in the exhibit, but the larger works of Eames cannot be overlooked by visitors and provide a suitable backdrop for visitors. Brunner models.

One of the paintings shows farmers from the 1960s taking a break from household chores while they have lunch, their table being a wooden hay cart. Another painting illustrates the planting season, while two more are views from inside a farmhouse and provide insight into the discussions taking place around a kitchen table.

“These images relate to what happened to me,” Eames said last week as we stood in front of his work he creates from memory. “That’s how I put them together, because they’re part of me.”

Eames, who has a studio in Barneveld, describes himself as a ‘contemporary expressionist with a regionalist theme’, but his path to oil and canvas was anything but typical as his family’s farm was among those devastated by the farm crisis of the 1980s. Eames had also leased farmland for himself, but after this was sold under him, Eames moved on to a repair and maintenance position at a farm equipment dealer.

At the same time, he started sketching and drawing and was encouraged by friends to participate in a UW-Extension art exhibition intended to support cultural activity in remote rural areas. After winning an award at the exhibition, he took a drawing course at UW-Madison, which then led to a degree, glass and printmaking, and art classes. graduate studies at Louisiana State University.

When he started painting, Eames was trying to reproduce famous paintings, but now only does original work that included abstracts. His farm scenes, however, are close to his heart.

“It helps me connect with (agriculture) when I paint pictures,” Eames said.

Working Models Brunner was brought in to build working models of agricultural machinery after restoring a few pedal tractors that had been used by his children. What followed was over 30 years taking detailed measurements, searching for parts, and spending hours at a time in his rural Verona store crammed with tools and piles of metal. He would spend a year on some parts, including scale replicas of machines made by Wisconsin companies such as Gehl in West Bend, Janesville Manufacturing, and Fuller & Johnson Manufacturing in Madison.

In 2015, at the Greater Madison Area Farm Toy Show, he showed a model replica of a 1911 50-bottom plow.

Last week Brunner’s son Paul and grandson Michael were on hand at the Historium to show off a fraction of Brunner’s 200-piece collection. It includes a Case Corporation metal baler that Brunner owned but spent months recreating it as a model. It is powered by a cordless drill and can actually create miniature hay bales.

“You have to understand how the real machine works to understand how to operate a model,” said Michael Brunner, 20. “That’s why Grandpa bought original (parts) and tore them up.”

The Historium exhibit also features a replica of a rare three-wheeled Gehl tractor, horse-drawn John Deere manure spreader, threshing machine, bulldozer, hay rake, two-row corn planter and cultivator. . Work is underway to better organize and store Brunner’s replicas on his farm, and the machines are likely to be featured again at farm toy shows.

Michael Brunner, however, misses what had been the constant movement of his grandfather, who never tired of building.

“It was really impressive because I would go into his store and see some half-built projects and he was building stuff like that,” Brunner said, as he stood in front of a two-row self-propelled tractor. corn picker. “I couldn’t imagine how his mind worked to build something like this. I can’t believe the way he was able to visualize and build something.

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