Statement and Biography

Martha Glowacki, director of the Wisconsin Academy’s James Watrous Gallery, has been a curator, exhibition designer, and grantwriter/fundraiser for the Watrous Gallery since 2004. She previously was director of the Design Gallery at the UW–Madison (2000–2003). Martha has an MFA degree from UW–Madison and is a sculptor showing her work on a regional and national level. She is particularly interested in intersections between visual art and the natural sciences.


Martha Glowacki’s art explores the human understanding of the natural world through two areas of inquiry: the history of science and scientific illustration. Along with her study of public and private collections of natural history specimens, Glowacki is also developing her own symbolism of death and rebirth as expressed through images taken from nature. Glowacki says that “the power of scientific illustration and natural history specimens often resides in the juxtaposition of beauty with physical intent with these pieces is to use beauty in the creation of art to better understand and express my own feelings about the transience of life.”


Martha Glowacki’s sculptural installations reveal her fascination with the history of scientific investigation. She likes to examine rare books in the  at University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library, looking for illustrations of early instruments designed for exploring and manipulating nature. Her sculptures are artistic interpretations of such tools, particularly those invented between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries to understand, transform, and control patterns of life and death. In Starry Transit: An Installation by Martha Glowacki, organized by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Glowacki employs the environment of Washburn Observatory for its historical significance in exploration of the natural world.

Martha Glowacki was born in Milwaukee in 1950. As a girl she enjoyed visiting the city’s Public Museum, where she and her friend first saw skeletons and were inspired to collect and create a display of cow bones. Her parents encouraged her designing, collecting and building interests; her father taught her photography, letting her experiment in his dark room and teaching her to use tools to build cabinets. Glowacki developed early interests in becoming an archeologist, a museum preparator, or a scientific illustrator. Instead, she developed a career that joins her multiple art fabrication skills with her deep interest in scientific observations of nature. She employs techniques of woodworking, metalworking, etching, painting and taxidermy for creating sculptural assemblages that have the look of antique scientific objects. Her lively inquisitiveness and curiosity, as well as her desire to represent linkages between the natural and scientific worlds, contribute a sense of inquiry and discovery to her art.

Glowacki is a resident of rural Sauk City, Wisconsin, where her home studio is surrounded by an oak forest and a marsh, which sandhill cranes noisily visit on their annual migrations. Glowacki holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison and has exhibited at the Chazen (formerly Elvehjem) Museum of Art, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Michael Lord Gallery in Milwaukee and Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. She participated in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center arts/industry residency in 1993 and 1995. Glowacki was director of the Gallery of Design at University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently co-director of the James Watrous Gallery of Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters.