Merrimac artist, son share art exhibit at Al. Ringling Theatre gallery

August 4, 2018

Will Turnbull hangs a light sculpture, a one-quarter-size scale model of a public art project, Tuesday at the Al. Ringling Theatre gallery.

A broken wrist didn’t block Susan Johnston from setting up the latest art exhibit at the Al. Ringling Theatre gallery.

“Since it’s the Ringling Theatre, the show must go on,” she said.

The Merrimac artist joined forces with her son Will Turnbull to present the month-long exhibit. She specializes in fiber art and mosaics. A blacksmith and glass blower, he creates large-scale metal sculptures.

Carol Kratochwill, who organizes the gallery’s exhibits, said she had long sought to bring sculptures into the mix. When she learned her friend Johnston, a fellow Merrimac resident, is a hobby artist – and that her son makes a living creating public art in Madison – Kratochwill pitched the concept of a “steel and threads” exhibit. “I wanted this show in particular because it’s a mother and a son. It’s quite unique,” she said.

Turnbull and Johnston set up the exhibit earlier this week. Visitors will find her hand-stitched wall hangings, as well as a mosaic table and doll house. He brought scaled-down prototypes of larger projects, such as a hanging lantern and a leaf made of stainless steel and glass. A closing reception is being planned for Aug. 26, but the exhibit will remain open through Aug. 31.

While installing an initial round of pieces Tuesday, Turnbull vowed to bring more. “There will be new things to check out every week,” he said.

He created the steel sculpture of a baby circus elephant at Myron Park, which was unveiled late last year. A steel sculpture of a mother elephant, designed by another artist, will be dedicated at the park at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“I particularly love working in public art because it’s for everybody,” Turnbull said. “Public art lets me sleep well at night.”

Turnbull praised Baraboo’s support of the arts and its flourishing downtown district. “It feels like a place people are invested in,” he said.

While art is his trade, it always has been a sideline for his mother, a retired emergency medical professional. The exhibit at the theater’s gallery lounge is her first.

Johnston received a toy sewing machine at age 4 and graduated to the real thing at 10, learning the craft from her mother. Johnston has made sewing a lifelong pursuit, recently taking quilting classes from Maday Delgado.

“I’ve always liked to do things with my hands,” Johnston said.

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