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Jean Crane: Passages
April 6 - June 5, 2016

As a professional artist for more than 40 years, Jean Crane finds the natural world to be ripe with subject matter. Fresh and lush, or withering and dying, the artist draws upon nature in all its life cycles to make lyrical and sensual statements, sometimes with a surprising sense of scale.  Crane utilizes watercolor to translate her subjects into works of beauty.   

Jean Crane studied art and received a BFA degree from Syracuse University, but growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin she never expected to become an artist. Just over forty years ago, life circumstances propelled Crane into being a professional, full-time artist. Jean had been a commercial artist just after college, but after years devoted to family life with four children she had never been a self-employed, professional artist.

Coral Exuberance, Watercolor

Nevertheless, she loaded her art in her station wagon and drove to many an outdoor art fair all over the Midwest in the warmer weather months. She started going to her own studio in Milwaukee’s Third Ward for eight hours a day, five days a week. The gamble paid off. According to a 1980 Milwaukee Sentinel article by Dean Jensen, within the previous five years, Crane’s watercolors had been shown in a number of solo shows in Chicago and in the Milwaukee area, and her work had made its way into corporate and museum collections.

Today Jean Crane continues to utilize watercolor to showcase her artistic vision. Crane’s paintings have been frequent top award-winners at annual Watercolor Wisconsin exhibitions over the years. Her paintings can also be found in corporate collections such as Miller Brewing, Northwestern Mutual Insurance, Hyatt Regency and Wyndham Hotels, Borg Warner, Kimberly Clark, and Kohler Corporation as well as in numerous museums around the state and nation. 

The focus of Jean Crane’s art most often derives from the natural world. Verdant, lush flowers and plants have been a source of inspiration for many decades in Crane’s work. Up close and over life-size paintings such as “Iris” or “Zinnias” offer a view of these specimens that most people do not pause to consider. More exotic plant life is considered in “Fragment of Ecuador” or “Tropical Shadows I.” Crane’s compositions often have a limited sense of space with dark backgrounds and fragmentary shifts of tones to suggest abstraction as in “Coral Exuberance” or “Summer Rhythm.” 

As a metaphor for life and its passages or stages, this Cedarburg Art Museum exhibition reveals Jean Crane’s interest in the aging process and seasonal changes in growing things.

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