Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 1:27pm

We announce the recent death of the internationally known functional potter Warren MacKenzie at his home in Grant, Minnesota outside the Twin Cities on December 31, 2018. He was 94. This world-renowned ceramic artist was revered as one of the leading studio potters in the US. He influenced multiple generations of ceramic artists by serving on the faculty of the University of Minnesota from 1953 until 1990 and also by teaching workshops around the world. MacKenzie was known for wanting collectors to live with and use his pots instead of treating them as untouchable works of art.

MacKenzie was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1924, and grew up in Wilmette, Illinois. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago after the end of World War II. After unsuccessfully trying to sign up for painting classes, which were full, MacKenzie took ceramics instead. He quickly fell in love with the medium and set forth making pottery for more than 70 years. Following graduation, he taught at the St. Paul Gallery and School of Art before departing for England. There, MacKenzie studied with Bernard Leach, one of the 20th century’s most important studio potters, for over two years before returning to Minnesota. Upon his return, he purchased property in Grant where he continued to live and maintain a studio for the rest of his life, working in his studio until just a few months before his death.

MacKenzie’s years of teaching continuously brought him into contact with young students who were committed to working in clay. He was so influential that many artists purchased properties near his and established the area around Stillwater, Minnesota, in particular, and the St. Croix Valley, in general, as a center for ceramic activity.

His work is included in the collections of the: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Smithsonian’s National American Art Museum, Washington, DC; National Folk Art Museum, Tokyo; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and RAM, which holds seven examples of his work. MacKenzie was a member of the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows and received the ACC’s prestigious Gold Medal for consummate craftsmanship in 1998.

For more information about this artist:
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - 12:56pm

We sadly acknowledge the death of the Wisconsin artist Lee Weiss who died at the age of 90 at her Madison-area home on November 26. She was a much-respected member of Wisconsin’s visual arts community and known internationally for her large-scale watercolor paintings.

Weiss was known for her ability to capture the spiritual qualities of nature—often portraying a grand subject by looking at a smaller detail of the landscape—to communicate her responses to the place she depicted. She found inspiration in world-wide travels and also on walks through local parks and was one of the nation’s leading proponents of having watercolor viewed as an acceptable medium—alongside acrylic and oil—for the creation of paintings. In advocating this through her work, Weiss helped move watercolor from a medium that artists historically used to make preparatory studies for finished oil paintings into a material to be used for the creation of formal works.

She had a long career exhibiting in major watercolor competitions from the 1960s through 2010, including the first Watercolor Wisconsin competition at Wustum Museum in 1966. Weiss is also remembered for her role as a mentor for many younger women artists in this state and across the US in the watercolor field as she helped break barriers for women artists.

Weiss was a Dolphin Fellow of the American Watercolor Society and earned the Watercolor USA Honor Society Lifetime Award in 2009 and the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Phillips Collection, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, and RAM, which holds eight examples of her work.

To learn more:

Capitol Times, Madison

Obituary for Lee Weiss

Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 10:34am

We are sharing, with sadness, the death of the artist Elise Winters, a good friend of the Racine Art Museum (RAM) and an artist whose work we are archiving in the museum’s permanent collection.

The Rochester, New York, native was born in 1947 and Winters’ early career was as an artist and teacher working in the media of ceramics and photography in New Jersey. However, it was her participation in the polymer medium, where she worked as an artist, educator, and advocate beginning in the mid-1990s, for which she is known nationally and internationally. Winters began experimenting with this oven-curing clay-like material at that time and became one of a number of individuals, with professional art training, who explored the possibilities that this medium held for creating decorative arts objects and handmade jewelry. Winters’ unique wearable pieces were part of a national movement among artists to explore the use of unexpected and non-precious materials, in unusual forms and scale, for the creation of personal adornment. 

As an indicator of her career recognition, Winters’ artwork now resides in the permanent art jewelry and decorative arts collections of six major US museums, including: the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA, Boston); the Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey; the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), Philadelphia; the Racine Art Museum (RAM), Racine, Wisconsin; and the Mingei International Museum, San Diego.

Those wishing to make donations in Winters’ honor should consider a contribution to the Oncology Department of the Englewood Hospital, or to the Racine Art Museum, in Racine, Wisconsin

Elise Winters Full Obituary

Polymer Art Archive 
Terra Nova: Polymer Art at the Crossroads exhibition at the Racine Art Museum
How Polymer Hit the Big Time | American Craft Magazine 2012


Posted on Thursday, January 3, 2019 - 12:38pm

We note, with sadness, the death of longtime RAM friend, Joan S. Patton, who died at her Racine home on November 24 at the age of 79. Joan helped this museum in many ways for more than 45 years but her greatest contribution was as one of the museum’s original Docents, serving from the group’s inauguration in 1982 until a few months ago.

Born in the Chicago suburbs, Joan came to Racine in 1967. Her first involvement with the museum was as part of a team of members of the Junior League of Racine, who inaugurated the Art Sales and Rental Gallery at the Wustum campus in the early 1970s. She also served a full six years on RAM’s Board of Directors in the 1990s.

Joan had a gift for treating children as equals in educational settings and for talking with and not to other people. This skill made her a great Docent, for she drew others to her who could tell she was excited to see what people could learn about art. In 1990, Joan earned a BA in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. These studies gave her even greater insight into the visual art making process which she happily shared with others.

Joan was a legend in this community for her commitment to volunteerism through working for a number of organizations on a long-term basis. She did all of this with a great sense of humor, making her a delight to work with. We express our gratitude to Joan and extend our condolences to her family and friends.

The Joan S. Patton Memorial Fund has been established at RAM and your contributions in her memory are welcome.

To Learn More

Eulogy given by Bruce W. Pepich, RAM Executive Director and Curator of Collections