About the Exhibition

This exhibiton is open to the public at MOWA on the Lake, located inside the retirement campus of Saint John’s on the Lake in downtown Milwaukee. Learn more


June 3–August 21, 2022

MOWA on the Lake

Michael Knapstein imbues photographs of things that in themselves are rather unremarkable—a farmhouse, a field, a tree, a blouse on a clothesline—with a sense of beauty and grandeur that elevates them into iconic representations of the American Midwest.

Knapstein’s numerous awards attest to the power of the images to signify place. The photographs are quintessentially American; their locations couldn’t be anywhere else and the title of the exhibition, Midwest Memoir, situates them in the American heartland, arguably that most broadly “American” region of the country. Specific locations are not evident and the scenes display an air of timelessness and even a touch of nostalgia, as if they might find a home in a John Steinbeck or Willa Cather novel.

The look and feel of a classical American mid-century modernism was a conscious goal. Knapstein selected a formal square format, split-toning that approximates platinum printing, and a warm matte paper support that adds to a vintage appearance. The strong narrative quality of the images proclaims a story to be told, but Knapstein leaves the interpretation up to the viewer: his titles are quite formally descriptive rather than suggestive or didactic. The photographs exhibit a remarkable directness: Knapstein confronts his subjects head-on, usually at eye-level. As viewers, we do the same, easily engaging with a landscape that feels familiar on a fundamental level.


Exhibition Opening Party

Monday, June 6 | 5:00–7:00
Location: Saint John’s on the Lake, 1840 Prospect Avenue, Milwaukee


Image: Michael Knapstein, After The Storm, 2017 (detail)