Take Ten: Museum exhibits worth a wintry road trip

RACINE ART MUSEUM PHOTO

Take a break and consider a museum road trip where traveling or seasonal shows pay attention to unique endeavors in fine art to pop culture and fantasy to reality.

Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Museum, 3000 Poberezny Rd., Oshkosh: At least 30 pieces of nose art – drawings on World War II bombers and fighter aircraft – are on display until the end of the year. The collection comes from Commemorative Air Force headquarters in Dallas.

Nose art “was deemed by commanders as an important part of the morale for these units” during the war, explains the CAF’s museum curator. A backstory accompanies each piece of art, which tends to depict a slogan, destination – or sexy woman. The most risque poses are in a “top secret” area of the exhibit. eaa.org, 920-426-4800

John Michael Kohler Art Center, 608 New York Ave., Sheboygan: The multimedia show “Escape Routes” examines how 20 people – from Nebraska to Japan – created artwork and make-believe worlds to lessen stress or escape reality. For some, the highly detailed nature of artwork borders on obession.

Photos, sculpture, video, drawings and paintings are a part of this collage of creativity, which remains in place until Jan. 20. Collectively, it is a good reminder that the Kohler Foundation is a global leader in identifying, preserving and elevating the extraordinary work of artists who are self-taught. jmkac.org, 920-458-6144

Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 W. Canal St., Milwaukee: The edgy biker museum has always been known how to break stereotypes. Truly extraordinary motorcyles get shrine-like attention. Dissected bike arrangements resemble fine art. Scavenger hunts engage and amuse children.

So don’t dismiss or underestimate your interest in the new Milwaukee-Eight engine display, to celebrate the newest of nine engines in the company’s history. harley-davidson.com/museum, 877-436-8738

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, 700 N. 12th St., Wausau: “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light,” an array of leaded glass lampshades and windows, opens Dec. 3 and ends Feb. 26.

The exhibition explains how Tiffany glass differs from stained-glass forgeries and showcases the works of three Tiffany Studios designers and a chemist. The collection comes from the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York. Add numerous workshops and talks about stained glass. lywam.org, 715-845-7010

Kenosha Public Museum, 5500 First Ave., Kenosha: Music is an inspiration for artist Tom Noll of Waukesha, and his splashy portraits of well-known guitarists are a part of the “Center Stage: A Century of Guitars” show that is up through Feb. 26.

Also on display are unusual and rare guitars, an explanation of the instrument’s evolution and special attention on inventor Les Paul, the Wisconsin native whose solid-body electric guitars remain at the heart of rock ’n’ roll. kenosha.org/wp-museum, 262-653-4140

Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Dr., Milwaukee: Landscapes and still lifes by a long forgotten but significant artist are on view through Feb. 26. “Nature and Opulence: The Art of Martin Johnson Heade” is the first major show of his work in 20 years.

Some of the 50 paintings of flowers and other objects were considered scandalous during his Victorian era because of sexual overtones. After the artist’s death, his work was recognized as important for his generation. mam.org, 414-224-3200

Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee: Play detective, with or without the kids, at “Hidden Wisconsin,” an interactive exhibit that involves one-way mirrors, clue deciphering and a 1920s speakeasy. Download the online “explorer guide” to turn a casual visit into a more intentional teaching opportunity.

Almost 50 objects teach little-known facts about the Badger State under four themes: Hidden in Plain Sight, Hidden Beneath, Hidden in History and Hidden Forever. The exhibit is bilingual and ends Jan. 8. mpm.edu, 414-278-2702

Racine Art Museum, 441 Main St., Racine: “Sensory Overload: Clothing and the Body” turns garments into sculpture that is more ornamental than functional. The work involves six artists from Ohio (Kelly Nye) to South Korea (Heejin Hwang) and stays put until Dec. 30.

“Contemporary artists use dress – or the idea of it – to explore larger cultural issues as well as notions tied to the body itself,” the museum explains. “Potentially reflections of personality, symbols of allegiance, and conveyors of meaning, the works in this show could enhance certain body parts or distract from others.” ramart.org, 262-638-8300

Wisconsin Historical Museum, 816 State St., Madison: Thanks to a Manitowoc business, Aluminum Specialty Company, aluminum Christmas trees became a natonwide fad. At least one million of the company’s Evergleam trees were sold after their 1959 debut at the American Toy Fair.

“Ever Gleaming: The Enduring Love Affair with the Aluminum Christmas Tree,” on display until Jan. 14, shows off the trees and explains their popularity, which peaked in the mid 1960s. wisconsinhistory.org, 608-264-6555

Wisconsin Museum of Art, 205 Veterans Ave., West Bend: The works of two very different artists are front and center until mid January. “David Lenz: People on the Periphery” is poignant paintings of populations whom we tend to ignore. That includes children in poverty, the intellectually disabled and weathered farmers. The artist lives in Shorewood, and the realism in his work could be mistaken as photography.

More experimental and sometimes whimsical are the portrait drawings in “Melissa Cooke: Egos,” which look like pencil drawings but aren’t. The artist is an Oconomowoc native. wisconsinart.org, 262-334-9638