You might think that searching for a home referred to as "the invisible house" would be tough to find. It might also raise questions like, "Is there an invisible garage?" and "What about the inhabitants? Are they invisible, too?"
Turns out the house is easier to spot than any other on the block – the 4400 block of Lake Drive in Shorewood – because, surprise, it’s not really invisible (I still believe in magic, yo).
Instead, it’s a very real mid-century-style home with an eight-foot sign illuminated through the windows that says, ironically of course, "INVISIBLE."
Brad Lichtenstein and Anne Basting – who are quite visible – own the sign and the home.
The couple acquired the piece in 2013 from friend and New York artist Steve Lambert. The large commercial-looking sign requires about 100 carnival lights – low-energy incandescents – that they purchased from, aptly, a carnival supply store.
"We have stacks of them in the basement because they are not easy to find," says Lichtenstein.
In the past three years of owning the sign, Lichtenstein has replaced exactly one of these low-energy light bulbs.
The sign is not on a timer so it’s up to Basting or Lichtenstein to turn it on themselves. It is, however, on a dimmer, and Lichtenstein says he cranks it up brighter than Basting.
"If you’re a woman and alone, you will, most likely, feel more vulnerable calling attention to your window," says Lichtenstein. "I get that, but when Anne’s out of town, I blast it and play guitar."
Lichtenstein is the president of 371 Productions and the co-founder of Custom Reality Services (CRS), a virtual reality company. He is also an award-winning filmmaker best known for his documentary "As Goes Janesville," which chronicles the workers and families affected by the closing of the GM plant. Basting is a theater professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a playwright. The couple have two school-aged sons.
When they first installed the sign, people often stopped their cars for a photo or rang the doorbell to find out more about it. "People are usually receptive," says Lichtenstein," but sometimes I get, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ which is Midwest for, ‘I’m done talking to you about this.’"
Although the sign draws a lot of attention to the house, their neighbors have not been (at least outwardly) annoyed by it.
"I didn’t think or worry very much about the neighbors. In a way, we’re fake Lake Drive people – the only reason we could afford this house is because we sold a house in New York to move here, and there’s such a large difference in real estate value it made it possible for us to live here," says Lichtenstein.
The couple moved to the house four years ago, after shopping around for the right digs for three years. Lichtenstein says Basting wasn’t always a fan of mid-century modern design, but she is now a convert.
"I love the idea of making your private space public – not all the time, of course," says Lichtenstein. "So many people walk and run and drive on Lake Drive, so why not turn your window into an art space and let people enjoy it and talk about it? It’s a public service – maybe sometimes an annoyance – but mostly a public service. More so, it’s an opportunity to have an art talk on Lake Drive."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.