The Photograph Curator Lisa Volpe Can’t Stop Thinking About

It’s rare that Lisa Volpe would get so stuck on a picture, but this one has her attention.

Since 1979, the Racine Art Museum has sponsored a statewide photography competition open to anyone living in Wisconsin. Lisa Volpe – the associate curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston – judged the competition this year. To do that, she had to winnow 1,040 original submissions down to 85 winning works, all of which are currently on view at the RAM.

We asked her to tell us which of those works she considers her favorite and why. Her pick? An abstract piece, titled Fractured #1, that was made by Milwaukee-based sculptor, fabricator and installation artist Adrianna Gilgenbach.

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Most people, Volpe says, see tens of thousands of images every day, and as a photography curator she likely sees even more than the average person. “So it’s very rare for me to be confronted with an image that I just can’t ‘figure out.’” But Volpe can’t stop puzzling over Fractured #1, an extreme close-up of an object that never quite resolves itself into something recognizable.

“It’s also the simple beauty of the work,” she adds, “and the meaningful suggestion that every photo we see is refracted, our understanding altered by all those images we’ve seen before.”

Wisconsin Photography 2020” is on view at the RAM through Nov. 28.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s October issue.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.