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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

“I have the desire to do, more than just the feeling”, UWL Alumnus Dale Wedig presents “Copper”

Examples of copper artwork from Dale Wedig: Copper. Photo taken by Ann David.

The University Gallery in the Truman T. Lowe Center for the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse hosted Dale Wedig’s “Copper” exhibit from Sept. 11 to Oct. 6.

On display were vases, bowls, and artwork made either entirely or mostly from copper. Wedig gave an Artist Talk on Friday, Oct. 6, and went through a slideshow of his work, including some pieces that were showcased in the exhibit. He answered questions from the audience and shared stories about some of his pieces, as well as explained the process of creating copper artwork.

Dale Wedig is an alumnus of UWL who graduated in 1979 with bachelor’s degrees in Physical Education and Art Education. He earned a Masters of Art in Jewelry and Metalsmithing at the University of Iowa and spent three years at Arizona State University to earn a Masters of Fine Arts in Jewelry Metalsmithing. He credits his time spent at UWL as the beginning of his metalsmithing career.

“When I was a student here, I used to take ceramic classes. One day I came by and the teacher was screaming at people; he was going nuts. So, I went in and he was upset because people weren’t working hard in the studio they were screwin’ around. And I thought, ‘I got to learn something from this guy.’ That really was the first introduction. He knew he was going to start a blacksmithing shop, so I told him I’d help him set up the shop and got started there. That was in 1976,” Wedig said.

One anecdote Wedig shared from his artist’s talk showed how constant hammering affected his physical health: “I’ve had carpal tunnel surgery, and I’ll probably have to have it again one of these days. When I go to bed, my hands fall asleep all the time. But I look at some of these brazings and wonder why I have carpal tunnel, they’re 36 in. discs and about 16 gauges. That might not mean a lot to you, but it’s like you’re really wailing away on it, you know, lots and lots of hammering. When my hands got really bad, I had a solution to the problem, and it wasn’t having them operated on. I took spray adhesive and I would spray my hand with it and then the hammer handle. And then I’d grab onto the hammer and I could work with it until I was done for the day because I couldn’t let go of it. But I could not feel it half the time. It still works, though,” said Wedig.

Wedig is currently a Professor of Art and Design and also the Head of the Metalsmithing and Sculpture Department at Northern Michigan University, in Marquette, Michigan. Wedig has held that position for 27 years. He has multiple public artworks throughout Marquette, including steel gates for the Marquette County Courthouse and public benches made from repurposed train trestle bridge steel.

Moving such large pieces of metal is not easy, and Wedig went into detail about a unique process he had for moving the courthouse gates:

“I went to the weight room and got six volunteers. They picked [the gates] up, put them on a trailer, drove them down, and picked them up and just walked it into the space instead of getting a crane or all this other stuff. All I had to do was buy those guys all-you-can-eat fish dinner.”

Wedig also had a story about transporting the large metal pieces for the public benches: “The guy who was going to help me get this to the house, I met him; he had a dump truck waiting. He was going to pick them up with a magnet crane, drop them in the truck, and drive it out to my house for me to work on it, but he ended up not showing up. Another guy who was helping me said, ‘We could put it in my truck and drive out [to Wedig’s house].’ which was ridiculous because there was so much weight, but I didn’t care because it was his truck.”

“We put a lot of the stuff on the back of this truck. I said, ‘How are we going to get this stuff off your truck at my house?’ He said, ‘I have a plan.’ We drove to my house and got there and he said, ‘Where do you want it?’ ‘Right here in front of the door,’ I said. And what do you think he did? Drove backwards, hit the brakes and everything flew out. Landed right where I wanted it. It was like he had done this many times.”

When asked about his thought process for creating different works of art, Wedig said, “It’s more like I want to try something and I think it’ll be challenging. I know it’ll take a lot of time to get to that point, but I’m still intrigued by the process to just proceed. I have the desire to do, more than just the feeling. I’m really compelled to do it. To me, it’s always interesting. Each one of these takes an enormous amount of time. It’s probably the reason a lot of people don’t do this process, it’s very time-consuming. So much of it is just repetition. You start with a flat disc and you have to compress it into shape, not stretching it.”

The University Gallery has played host to other artists in the past, from historical artifacts such as “Sewn in Memory: AIDS Memorial Quilt Panels”, to student Senior Art Exhibits. The gallery has also exhibited artwork from alumni of UW-La Crosse, such as Luke Achterberg’s “Convolutions”.

In an interview with The Racquet Press, gallery director and lecturer Deborah-Eve Lombard spoke about the goals for the gallery and which exhibitions make their way into it.  

“Our goals are spread over many years. It’s hard to be fair because there are lots of great alumni. It’s always kind of juggling our resources. Mostly the gallery is here for the whole campus and we try to make connections with what people are learning on campus. Sometimes the exhibitions correlate with our programs because we have metalsmithing. Sometimes we do exhibitions with people from the sciences. There’s so many possibilities. We can’t do everything here, but over the years you would see [alumni artists] as a thread,” said Lombard.

When asked about Wedig’s art, Lombard said, “Well, I’m not a metals person and it blows my mind that these start from a piece of copper. It’s a flat piece. Some people might make a container by soldering in a bottom; he hits it! Unless you know that, you could just say ‘These look like vases you could buy in the dollar store, you know, we have vases.’”

As gallery director, Lombard gets to take the artwork and place it around the gallery. “I have to unpack and install and do all this. I get to hold them with gloves, and that’s fun for me because metal is one of the most fragile things in terms of the oils and minerals in your hands damaging it, but you think of metal as being so strong.” 

The next exhibition to be presented in the University Gallery will be “Len Davis: Brainstorming”, opening on Thursday, Oct. 19, and ending on Sunday, Nov. 19.

There will be two workshops with Len Davis where students will be able to create a piece that will be put in the Student Union. Additionally, an Artist Talk with Len Davis is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, in Annett Recital Hall, Truman T. Lowe Center for the Arts. A reception with the artist will follow at 5 p.m. on the same day in the University Gallery, 100 Truman T. Lowe Center for the Arts.

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About the Contributor
Ann David
Ann David, Multimedia Editor
  • Year at UWL: Junior
  • PGPs: She/Her/Hers
  • Hometown: Eau Claire, WI
  • Major: English: Medical Professions Emphasis
  • Minor: Biology; Music Performance
  • Other Campus Involvement: UWL Wind Ensemble and Orchestra Member
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Attending grad school in Minnesota
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Walking through the Rotary Lights at Riverside Park in the winter with friends.
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