Signs of spring may have been slow coming to Madison, but a steadfast and certain sign of spring, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Gallery Night, will be here Friday. More than 65 venues in the Madison area will be spotlighting hundreds of artists. Shop, view and talk to artists at exhibits, receptions, special events and demonstrations between 5 and 9 p.m. Friday (hours may vary at some venues). Visit www.mmoca.org/programs-events/events/gallery-night for a listing of participating venues and artists.

Emily Meredith Lewis had never considered herself an artist, yet she was always passionate about art. When visiting her exhibit “Excerpts from ‘The SadHappy’” at Table Wine, 2045 Atwood Ave., No. 111, viewers can see that Lewis is, indeed, an artist.

A dapper aardvark in a smoking jacket, a hipster llama in a turtleneck and a suave peacock in a sweater with a cup of tea are just a few of the individuals visitors will encounter.

Notable for its limited color palette, “The SadHappy” is Lewis’ online project that uses only pink, white, black and gray to emphasize ongoing elaborate metaphors.

“Emily’s illustrations explore the relationship between sadness and happiness by juxtaposing whimsy, simplicity, solitude and loneliness, and offering viewers a chance to observe as well as empathize with the characters and scenes they see,” the exhibit’s press release said.

A little more than a decade after earning a master’s degree in art history, Lewis quit her job at the end of last year to pursue her childhood dream of illustration, comics and animation. She now creates pen and ink works, comics and digitally illustrated content under her solo brand “enml illustration,” and collaborates with her husband, Jeremiah Lewis, under the name “Lewis Duo.”

Minimalism and environmentalism play a role in her art. With most of her works created digitally, she is mindful of which become physical prints. The impact humans are having on the environment and animals is the focus of her current project, “Real and Endangered.” She is drawing 100 endangered species in 100 days.

Lewis will be at Table Wine 5 to 9 p.m. Friday during Gallery Night. “Excerpts from ‘The SadHappy’” will be on display until June 8.

Madison textile artist Leah Evans is not new to exhibiting her artwork. Her quilted hangings have been featured several times, and earned a Sustainability Award, at the prestigious Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, D.C., as well as displayed in the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. You need not travel cross-country or overseas to view her recent pieces, though, as she is one of the featured Gallery Night artists at 702WI, 702 E. Johnson St., from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Aerial photography, maps and satellite imagery are sources of inspiration for Evans’ quilted artwork. The pieces are not always based on specific places, but they all are focused on the ways people impact their environment, and in turn, how the environment affects people.

“Mining, agriculture, water use and treatment, nuclear power, and oil extraction are frequent subjects of my work, and are meant as visual reminders of the changes we create in the land,” Evans said in her artist’s statement. “Similarly, components of my work demonstrate the influence of nature on our constructs, such as a river changing its course, thereby causing a shift in property divisions, and shifting coastlines due to climate change.”

Maps have been depicted in crafts throughout history. Evans feels that working in cloth allows her to use certain metaphors. Several techniques are used to create the layers, and metaphors, in her wall hangings. When she cuts and pieces together the fabric, the seams created suggest boundaries, and the seemingly erratic borders reflect parceling of the land.

When Evans reverse appliqués and cuts away layers to depict shorelines and riverbanks, it mimics erosion. Embroidery, needle felting and appliqué are used to symbolize development.

Evans prefers to use hand tools and processes over electric, and does not use a computer or imaging software in her work.

And, in keeping with her environmental impact theme, and the quilting tradition of recycling, “nearly half” of the materials Evans uses are salvaged from thrift stores, garage sales, remnants, and cast offs of family and friends.

“The judge of the Smithsonian’s Sustainability Award describes her winning work this way: ‘Artists have long been in the vanguard in addressing social/environmental concerns … Evans was right on the mark in a field of very strong and appropriate artist submissions,’” the 702WI press release said. “’Her quilted fabric portrayals of changing river patterns and shorelines clearly called attention to the impacts of climate change.’”

— Robyn Norton


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