Museum of Wisconsin Art Presents Among the Wonders of the Dells: Photography, Place, Tourism  

Photography exhibition spans 160-year transformation of the Dells

May 15, 2019
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WEST BEND, Wis. (May 15, 2019): From remote natural wonder to “Waterpark Capital of the World,” Wisconsin Dells has reigned supreme as the state’s premier tourist destination for nearly 160 years. The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) is pleased to present Among the Wonders of the Dells: Photography, Place, Tourism featuring more than 100 photographs from eight artists recounting the fascinating history and transformation of Wisconsin Dells. The exhibition opens with a party on Saturday, June 1 and is on view through September 8, 2019.

Among the Wonders of the Dells will include the earliest surviving photographs of the Dells dating back to the 1860s taken by eccentric river captain Leroy J. Gates. A collection of original panoramas, stereoviews, and photographs by Henry Hamilton “H. H.” Bennett present the most treasured bodies of nineteenth-century photography of the Dells. The exhibition also includes photographs by H. H. Bennett Studio, John A. Trumble, and Dennis Darmek, who collectively captured the tourist boom of the twentieth century and the transition to waterpark wonder.

In 2018, MOWA commissioned three contemporary artists to spend the year photographing the latest incarnation of the Dells. Kevin J. Miyazaki set up in H. H. Bennett’s historic studio, soliciting passersby to have their portrait taken, and in the process creating a visual cross-section of the contemporary Dells composed of vacationing families, summer workers on J-1 visas, and tourists from all corners of the world. Mark Brautigam trained his camera on the sites where humanity and nature overlap, shifting the emphasis between the two in his poetic images. As a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Tom Jones is acutely attuned to the discrepancy between tourist-oriented representations of Native Americans and the reality of Ho-Chunk history and material culture. His photographs document the present state of the appropriation and distortion of Native imagery at the Dells, a practice that began with the birth of the tourist industry in the nineteenth century.

The exhibition and accompanying catalogue will highlight historical and contemporary themes of place, travel, family vacation, tourism, and Ho-Chunk Nation influence and culture. Additional information at

Exhibition Partner: Wisconsin Historical Society
Supported by Travel Wisconsin, Dennis Rocheleau, Pick Heaters, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Wisconsin Humanities Council, Wisconsin Arts Board, James and Karen Hyde
Jennifer Turner, Director of Communications and Marketing, 262.247.2266