Revisiting Gallery NIght, "Eggs Benedict," & Legacy

Apr. 22, 2013
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Spring Gallery Night brought chilly winds, yet the crowds discovered their untiring enthusiasm for Milwaukee art, so the galleries and venues were filled. Numerous people ventured to see “Eggs Benedict” at the Portrait Society Gallery, Niki Johnson’s portrait of the former Pope constructed from 17,000 condoms, which the gallery is now offering for sale. Each version of Johnson's image, or each side of the colorful and unusual portrait can be viewed artistically and conceptually, the knotted back more abstract than the realistic front that resembles large needlepoint stitches meticulously finished. An accomplished masterwork even without the political overtones. 

Johnson was there to engage in the conversations and answer questions about the piece when she explained that Eggs Benedict, her “painting,” was one included in a process that began a while ago from her interest in women's needlework, where the condoms are knotted, tied in the back image, similar to needlepoint. She has completed two portraits before this, both exploring the relationship of traditional women’s work, embroidery, and how this can be reflected conceptually in an image. Talking to the artist about this in regards to the much publicized "painting" was fascinating.

Johnson explains she chooses her materials and mediums in regards to the conversations she wishes to explore through the image and also her artistic process. Thus, the condoms become the threads, able to be knotted and relate to issues of birth control, pro choice, women’s rights, and the plight of women and children in the world who unknowingly become infected with the AIDS/HIV virus. Next on Johnson’s agenda will be a portrait of Michelle Obama rendered in cast glass to be featured at a Portrait Society Gallery show this June.

At Tory Folliard, everyone was celebrating the 25th Anniversary with their eclectic and exciting show provided by the 67 artists Folliard represents. Choosing a favorite was near impossible, depending on where one’s artistic inclinations were placed. Craig Blietz, Mark Mulhern and Melanie Parke offered new work, while a small wall in the back of the gallery exhibited reduced scale images perfect to purchase in honor of the special occasion, each one worked by an acclaimed artist. Claire Malloy's polished pastel featured one of her iconic clutches with a silver skull clasp, already sold, while In the visible holding room, slightly out of sight, Edward Larson's spotted wooden horse, spread in a soaring jump hung from the shelf, a very affordable and whimsical artwork. The exhibit honors the Folliard legacy until the beginning of June, so appreciate these renowned tributes to the gallery when one can view them in a less crowed and serene atmosphere.

Richared Edelman, who was on display in the Third Ward’s Hudson Business Lounge, will be unveiling two sculptural installations in and around the Third Ward this month, one titeld Sunrise and the other Little Dancer. The former engineer and now artist has built a successful career combining his creative and mechanical expertise, and has installed two of the largest sculptures in Wisconsin outside a Milwaukee North Shore Tabernacle. 

Also in the Third Ward at Urban Sanctuary was award winning Plein Air artist Shelby Keefe welcoming people to her new studio. Keefe was exhibiting her recent prize painting given by Pelin Air Magazine, along with several recent portraits. While Keefe has been known for her landscapes, especially those portraying urban scenes, Keefe ventured into painting figurative landscape when she had an opportunity installed as the year long Pfister Artist in Residence. Now her portraits radiate personality and Keefe’s spontaneous brushwork, and Keefe keeps expanding her abilities. The artist signed a three years lease for the working studio space behind Teavana and will attend four more plein air competitions/festivals this summer, including the Door County Invitational in July. Keefe recently began painting her plein air images on linen canvases. inviting a complex, yet soft textural quality. So visit, wait and watch for more on Shelby Keefe.

Pletz Gallery was alive with an expansive show in memorial to owner Cissie Peltz, and the Peltz Gallery was carrying this marvelous tradition forward. and will be with a few unknown teaks from son David in the future. The Milwaukee Art Museum will be sponsoring a “Memorial Exhibition” of her work, with more information on this tribute this week. For those who would wish to honor Cissie Peltz, a fund has been set up to acquire a major work for the Milwaukee Art Museum in her honor and memory. Cissie would have been very proud, with a smile across her face,  to see everyone appreciating the art she so loved in her gallery Friday night.





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