409 Sixth Street, Racine, WI 53403
The Racine Arts Council is dedicated to promoting local visual artists
by providing emerging and mid-career artists an opportunity
to curate and/or exhibit in RAC's ArtSpace Gallery.
Thursday through Saturday
Noon - 5
RAC ArtSpace Gallery
409 Sixth Street, Racine, WI 53403
Ninety-seven-year-old Grace Verhaeghe's first solo show comprises untitled works that were discovered and rescued from her Northwestern Ave. home, where she had painted in relative obscurity from the late 1960s into the mid- to late-'80s.
Much of that work will be available -- potentially at a bargain -- to local collectors in an exhibition opening Sept. 1.
In the fall of 2016, a trove of Verhaeghe's artwork was salvaged from destruction by local realtor Dan Gobis and Nicholas Ravnikar, a local poet who then worked at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Gobis and Ravnikar, with the help of Grace's daughter Susan, prepared a selection of Verhaeghe's still-lifes, portraits, landscapes and abstractions for exhibition.
Grace Verhaeghe Retrospective
September 1st - October 21st
Closing Reception: October 21st 5-7pm
Verhaeghe, a lifelong Racine County native, first took up painting when a relative gave her an art set as a young girl, and she had early success when she entered a series of bird sketches into an art contest at the county fair at her 7th grade teacher's encouraging.
But she didn't pick up art in earnest again until she had raised her children and her youngest son, Michael, went off to serve in the Vietname war. A student in classes offered at Wustum Art Museum, she became first a student and then a contemporary of artists John Goray and Ruth Kjaer, with whom she explored a variety of themes, subjects and techniques.
At Wustum, Verhaeghe began under Goray's tutelage to explore still life and portraiture as Goray pushed her toward less conventional and less representational techniques. Kjaer, now an internationally acclaimed abstract artist, worked alongside Verhaeghe as a student in Goray's class until eventually relocating to Maine.
According to Verhaeghe, after the community of artists with whom she worked began to disband in the '80s -- first with Goray's relocation to California and then Kjaer's move east -- she gradually gave up her practice.
Although she has attempted to take up painting again since moving into an assisted living facility, she said, the energy required to set up her materials has proved to be too much. And she's generally not interested in the sorts of craft activities that are offered.
"Now they want you to use coloring books," she laughed.
Verhaeghe said that her landscape work, often drawn from the imagery she encountered on trips with her husband, George, was painted from memory in her Racine home studio -- and never from a photo. Thus, the paintings were her way of keeping record.
Though Verhaeghe only sold two paintings during her active years as an artist, her family said that an unknown and undocumented quantity of her work was sold at estate sales early in the family's attempt to prepare the house for sale.
As she continued to explore different techniques, Verhaeghe became less interested in representation and more interested in form. Thus, her show contains a number of painterly abstractions that experiment with the interactions of colors.
Most of the contents of Grace Verhaeghe's retrospective are available in a silent auction that runs throughout the show, which opens September 1. The auction will conclude with a closing reception, Oct. 21, 5-9 p.m., with a brief gallery talk by the curator and an appearance by the artist. Light refreshments will be served.
Proceeds from the auction of Verhaeghe's work will go toward the Racine Arts Council's Main Gallery program and to the Veteran's Outreach Center, in memory of Verhaghe's son.
Winners of the auctions will be able to pick up their paintings at the end of the closing reception until Oct. 28, when the show closes.
Organizations, businesses or individuals who are willing to give one of Verhaeghe's artworks a permanent home can visit the Racine Arts Council now through Oct. 21 to name their price on a piece of Racine's art history.