Hannah McCarthy
Visual Art

A River Runs Through It

The first artist-in-residence for a new program, photographer Eddee Daniel captures river scenes amidst a city.

By - Jan 17th, 2014 01:36 pm
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Eddee Daniel's work is on display at Zimmerman Architectural Studios

Eddee Daniel’s work is on display at Zimmerman Architectural Studios

The photos of Eddee Daniel are filled with contradictions, showing the high-rise 100 East building looming in the distance above an otherwise natural setting of the trees and birds and sparkling waters of the Menomonee River. He loves capturing what he calls the “urban wilderness,” and contrasting the human-made environment with the natural world. That makes him perhaps the perfect choice to serve as the first-ever artist-in-residence for the Menomonee Valley Partners, who are engaged in reviving — and making more natural — the long declining industrial area in the valley.

The residency is actually a three-way partnership of photographer Daniel, the non-profit Menomonee Valley Partners, whose mission is “to revitalize the Menomonee Valley for the benefit of the entire Milwaukee community,” and the for-profit Zimmerman Architectural Studios, one of the city’s oldest such firms, which will provide office space for Daniel.

“There are many good reasons why someone should be doing this kind of work in the valley” explains Daniel. The project will track the evolution of the valley through Daniel’s lens, focusing on the relationship between urban infrastructure and nature. The AIR position, as it is aptly nicknamed, was born of the relationship between Daniel and Menomonee Valley Partners, which provided support for Daniel’s book “Urban Wilderness: Exploring a Metropolitan Watershed,” which captures the Menomonee River in photos and prose.

Daniel has spent six years exploring the Menomonee River watershed. He considers “the concept of urban wilderness” his brand, and feels a sense of ownership of the Menomonee watershed and its surrounding lands, as they are where he both lives and works. “The thing that interests me most,” he says, “is the combination of community development, natural development, and natural restoration – the intersection between the city and nature.”

The Menomonee Valley, once a thriving industrial area, began to decline in the 1960s, and was neglected and suffering before the establishment of Menomonee Valley Partners in 1999. Now, this area is a national model for urban growth paired with environment responsibility. This progress is frequently the subject of Daniel’s photographs.

Originally from New York, Daniel spoke of his concern for urban ecology and traced it back to being present at Washington Square in lower Manhattan for the original Earth Day. “I don’t expect to more forward in a linear fashion from what I have done in the past,” he says. While his nature photography has garnered him recognition in the past, Daniel has no intention of limiting himself to that while working as artist-in-residence.

Daniel hopes to establish a lasting legacy for artists who follow him. “My goal is that it’s not just me. I think the most important legacy of this is that other artists get to join us.” He also hopes this project will encourage the people in the valley to create new ways to incorporate nature and an urban setting into their overall lifestyle, especially involving art and entertainment.

Daniel’s work will be on display at Zimmerman Architectural Studios this Friday, January 17 from 5 – 8 p.m. Zimmerman is located at 2122 West Mount Vernon Avenue, accessible by 25th Street. More of Daniel’s work is available on his website.

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