My sculpture concerns human observation and description of the natural world. I am particularly interested in developing themes and images from the history of science and scientific illustration, including the background of public and private collections of natural history specimens. I have also developed a personal symbolism of death and rebirth expressed through images taken from nature and scientific illustration.
I currently have two ongoing bodies of work. One is based on the idea of a cabinet that houses a collection of objects or “curiosities.” These cabinets are in the form of a piece of furniture with drawers that contain assemblages of objects and text, or in the form of a larger room filled with artworks and objects that becomes, in a larger sense, the cabinet. My other ongoing series are dioramas built behind antique frames. My visual references for these pieces are Victorian shadowboxes and 19th century natural history museum display practices. For me, the power of natural history specimens and Victorian artifacts such as hair jewelry often resides in the juxtaposition of beauty with physical decay. Part of my intent with these pieces is to use beauty in the creation of art to better understand and express my own feelings about the substance and transience of life.
I use both found materials and constructed objects in my sculpture. Found materials are generally reworked; constructed objects are often made to look like found objects. The ambiguities between old and new and found and constructed are an important part of the work. To make my sculpture, I utilize many traditional art processes and materials as well as processes used in museum diorama building and taxidermy.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Martha Glowacki received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She worked as academic curator of the Design Gallery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was Director of the James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Previous to her work as a curator, she was a lecturer in metalsmithing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Along with her studio practice, Glowacki continues to do independent curatorial work.
Glowacki's work has been shown at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Milwaukee Art Museum; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; the Chazen Museum of Art, Madison; and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, among others. She has been the recipient of grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work is in many collections, including the Chazen Museum, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.
Solo exhibitions include Martha Glowacki's Natural History, Observations and Reflections, at the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2017); Loca Miraculi: Rooms of Wonder, in the American Galleries at the Milwaukee Art Museum (2008—2013); If Only We Had Met: Six Stories, at the Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin (2013—2014); Private Science, in the INOVA Gallery, Milwaukee (2011); and Starry Transit, an installation in the Washburn Observatory in Madison sponsored by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Astronomy (2005).