For Immediate Release – March 18, 2024

The Arts + Literature Laboratory and UW–Madison Art Department are pleased to announce the 2024 Arts + Literature Laboratory Prize winners University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate Students Kate Davidson and Claire Tomkiw!

The annual ALL Prize exhibition is awarded to one or two graduating MFA candidates from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, selected by curators on the ALL Visual Arts Team. The prizewinner’s MFA thesis exhibition is shown at ALL, and receive a $1,000 stipend to assist with exhibition expenses and installation provided by the Art Department.

A local Madison community-driven contemporary non-profit arts organization, the ALL provides the visual, literary, music and performing arts that presents over 200 events per year, mostly free or low-cost, and year-round arts education for all ages, working to make the arts more accessible and sustainable in our community.

Hovering between the real and imagined, the functional and fictional, A House in the Clouds considers our relationship with architecture and the spaces that surround us. What does it mean to build ourselves into a place, put down roots, or see shifts over time? How do these changes affect our feelings of driftlessness or connection?

Laid out as four overlapping, interwoven installations, this exhibition explores the ways we influence and are correspondingly influenced by our built environment. Drawn from quiet and sometimes invisible background elements of our architecture like HVAC currents, cast shadows, and the view from the windows, each piece introduces questions and curiosity, motion and magic into our daily landscape. From a field of floating kite forms and their tethered shadows to shelves of experiments and sketches, this work is a recognition of the many ways our spaces come alive around us.

—Kate Davidson [MFA ’24]

Kate Davidson is an artist, craftsperson, and educator currently completing her MFA in Woodworking and Furniture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her practice is materials and process-based, using a mix of wood, textiles, imaging, and water to create site-specific sculpture that explores our connection to place. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 2013 with a degree in Religious Studies, she began working in historical restoration carpentry, eventually enrolling at the Vermont Woodworking School full-time to study furniture design and technical woodworking. Her furniture and sculpture have been exhibited nationally, including at the Esherick Museum and Museum for Art and Wood in Pennsylvania and City Gallery in San Diego. She has participated in residencies at Penland School of Craft and the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. Besides the creation of own work, her practice centers around the importance of collaboration and community in craft and art education.

Stone Fruit is an exploration of the performative femininity intrinsic to my experience with chronic illness and it’s impact on my relationship with myself and others. Large-scale alternative process photographic prints of my own MRIs and self-portraiture are displayed alongside contact prints of vintage garments, lingerie, and flower petals; blood vessels, reproductive organs, and tissue become akin to the folds of fabric, pencil-lines of plant matter, and the boning of a corset.

Thematic elements of each image are staged in a papier-mâché tableau, referencing classic vanitas still life paintings. From the picked-clean pelvic bone, to a floral arrangement teeming with bugs, each paper sculpture is an uncanny facsimile of a real-life object. This is a false and flat, but appealing, reflection of the reality of inhabiting an inherently unreliable body.

From afar, the illusion of normalcy is present. Take a closer look, however, and there is something lurking under the surface, a poisonous pit hidden in the flesh.

—Claire Tomkiw [MFA ’24]

Claire Tomkiw in an interdisciplinary designer with a focus in combining analog photography processes, sculpture, and writing. Her work explores the limitations of the body, particularly through the lens of chronic illness, and pressures of womanhood through playful exploration of myriad mediums. She has exhibited in shows throughout the Midwest and East Coast, and received a Shorty Award in 2021 for her design work. Claire obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland and is currently completing her MFA at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Davidson and Tomkiw’s 2024 MFA thesis exhibitions will be shown at ALL from March 19 to April 20, 2024, with a closing reception on Friday, April 11th from 6 to 8pm.