Shane Walsh and Rafael Francisco Salas

Shane Walsh: 12th Wave Utopia

Rafael Francisco Salas: Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Opening: Friday, March 20 at Portrait Society Gallery, 5:30 to 9 p.m. and Rafael Salas’ show is also opening simultaneously at walker’s point center for the arts

closing: May 23, 2015

post-reception event:  Cielito Lindo (739 S 2nd St) starting at 9:00 pm. a communal gathering with a “meat raffle” at a Mexican restaurant.

gallery hours: Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

Shane Walsh In Shane Walsh’s second solo exhibition at Portrait Society, he shifts away from the highly chromatic work in the last show to a suite of tonal black and white paintings. (Click here for exhibition images). These new paintings are littered with references to industrial printing techniques, screen-printing, Ben-Day dots, and transfers and combined with more recent examples of image making technologies such as Photoshop and iphone drawing programs.

Key to this body of work is the use of reproduced/found marks as a palette from which to build, collage and layer gestures. Working only with black and white, the compositions immediately suggest a bygone era as well as the visual logic of the photocopy. The notion of a reproduction or a digital mark translated into paint on canvas heightens our awareness of how much our daily intake of imagery comes from electronic, distanced, non-material sources. get-attachment-3.aspx Upending the notion of originality or uniqueness, these paintings are concerned with a shared contemporary visual vocabulary – of screens and electronic modes of communication. We live in a copy/paste world where sampling, collage and simulation are the norm. Walsh uses this as his starting point. His painting process itself is aligned with a hunting, gathering and re-configuring of sources versus the modernist notion of ‘invention.’ Shane Walsh earned his MFA at the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2006. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Portrait Society included Walsh’s work at Art Basel, Aqua, Miami, in 2013.

Rafael Francisco Salas, Jukebox, oil on canvas, 30 x 60 inches.oil on canvas, Rafael Francisco Salas: Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Rafael Francisco Salas will exhibit a solo show in two venues, via an exciting collaboration with Portrait Society Gallery and Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, with an after-hours stop in the middle. “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” reflects on identity and the tensions played out on the landscapes of rural Wisconsin. Click here for additional images.

Salas grew up in small towns in Wisconsin, of mixed Mexican and Caucasian descent. In these exhibits he examines the spaces between cultures and how a mixed racial identity can create a distance from both, leading to a kind of cultural isolation. Salas has found inspiration in this liminal space. He explores the topic emotively, summoning the ghost of Tejano superstar Freddy Fender and the sacred lamb from Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece as allegorical reflections on identity, landscape and as objects of devotion all at once. get-attachment-3.aspx Portrait Society will feature an installation that romanticizes a Mexican roadhouse, “The Salas Eat,” creating the atmosphere, symbolism and items of nostalgia from the Mexican-American restaurant his family owned in rural Wautoma, WI. Walker’s Point Center for the Arts will present a series of large-scale drawings and sculpture. Salas also considers the space between the galleries as evocative of the tensions between different races.

Following the opening receptions, (starting at 9 p.m.) participants will be invited to celebrate at a third venue, in the geographic middle, Celito Lindo, 733 S. 2nd Street. A “meat raffle” will be staged with cuts of lamb donated by Salas Farm, the artist’s family’s grass fed sheep farm in Burnett, WI. The event will combine the tradition of the meat raffle commonly held at bars in rural Wisconsin with Latino heritage and food. Attendees will be given a card validating their attendance at each gallery. Both cards can be brought to the event for a chance to win prizes, which include a framed artwork by Salas and cuts of lamb from Salas Farm, his family’s grass-fed sheep farm in Burnett, WI. The event, a communal gathering at a Mexican restaurant, brings yet another layer for the attendees to experience the dichotomy and signifiers that run throughout the exhibition.

Rafael Salas earned his MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2003 and his BA from Macalester College, St. Paul, MN in 1995. He is an associate professor of art at Ripon College, Ripon, WI.  His work has been exhibited in New York City, San Diego, Boston, as well as many venues in the Midwest including The Neville Public Museum, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, The John Kohler Arts Center, Dean Jensen Gallery, Circa Gallery, Frank Juarez Gallery and Portrait Society Gallery. Salas is also a contributing writer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Special event/exhibition


Opening: March 6, 2015, 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Portrait Society

Press: Radio interview with Barbara Miner

Writer and photographer Barbara J. Miner will exhibit photos from her recent trip to Cuba  — Postcards from Cuba: Back to the Future — at Portrait Society March 6 to 14.

The exhibit begins with an evening of art, music, fun and rum on Friday March 6, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the gallery’s Project Space. The public is welcome and the event is free.

Miner and her husband visited Cuba this past summer, traveling to Havana, Viñales and Trinidad. For half a century, U.S. travel to Cuba has been severely restricted as part of an economic and political embargo of the Caribbean island following the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro. In December, however, President Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half century, with travel opportunities expanding for Americans who want to visit Cuba.

The exhibit celebrates the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, which is a mere 90 miles from U.S. shores.

Miner is an award-winning writer and photographer from Milwaukee. Most recently, her article and photos on the 53206 ZIP code — “A Dream Deferred”— appeared in the February issue of Milwaukee Magazine. She is a previous recipient of a Mary L. Nohl Fellowship, with the fellowship resulting in her 60-page photo essay on North Avenue, Anatomy of an Avenue. Her photography books also include “This is what democracy looks like,” chronicling the protests in Madison in 2011.

Miner’s writing has appeared in a range of publications, from the New York Times, to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to Rethinking Schools and The Nation. Her most recent book is Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City (New York: New Press, 2013). The book won the Studs and Ida Terkel Prize, given annually by New Press to celebrate authors “who share Studs Terkel’s commitment to exploring aspects of America that are underrepresented by mainstream media.”

Lois Bielefeld: Androgyny

Opening: Gallery Night, January 16, 2015, 5 to 9 p.m.

Running through: March 14, 2015

Gallery hours: Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment, 414-870-9930. School groups welcome.

Sales: Prints from this exhibition are for sale at the gallery and are available on-line. 

Interview with Lois Bielefeld, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Video: “The Bathroom” installation.

Article:  Luxembourg residency

Ben by Lois Bielefeld, 2014. 20 x 30 in. archival digital print, Edition of 10. $500. With purchase, a copy of the print will be donated to the Museum of Wisconsin Art, under buyer's name.

Ben by Lois Bielefeld, 2014. 20 x 30 in. archival digital print, Edition of 10. $500. With purchase, a copy of the print will be donated to the Museum of Wisconsin Art, under buyer’s name.

Androgyny: An Exhibition by Lois Bielefeld will open Gallery Night, January 16, 2015, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Fifth Floor, Milwaukee. The exhibition runs through March 14, 2015. In addition, the annual Winter Chapel has expanded to an indoor and outdoor installation. Bruce Knackert has built the indoor chapel and kathryn e. martin has installed a Winter Chapel across the street from Portrait Society at the Mercantile Building.

This exhibition, nearly two years in the making, explores the power and complexity of gender identity and fluidity through a series of photographic portraits, short videos and a large-scale, interactive audio installation. The word “androgyny” means having characteristics that are both traditionally male and female.

Nicholas, 2013

Lois Bielefeld, “Nicholas, 2013.”

Judith Butler’s 1990 book, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, launched the concept of ‘gender performity,’ which challenged the notion of a binary ‘given’ of male/female. In Androgyny, Bielefeld expands assumptions about gender, showing an array of subjects, ranging from grade school children to adults, who don’t fall squarely into an existing category associated with sex and identity.

140412_amaya_017Besides a large-scale audio installation in the center of the gallery space, the exhibition includes 23 portraits. Through research and referrals, Bielefeld found subjects willing to come to her studio, stand on a scruffy floor against a white wall and assume a pose. They were asked to wear everyday clothes. The photos are direct, simple, unmediated variations on the fashion photography Bielefeld engages in professionally for Kohl’s. Each subject, in their willingness to share this aspect of their identity, to literally offer it up for our perusal, assumes a pose and eye contact with the camera that feels both courageous and vulnerable. The emptiness of the photographic background heightens the mood of aloneness which “difference” can evoke, and magnifies the act of self-performance. As the artist says, “The photographs invite the viewers to look, stare, and question, which unfortunately is what happens to the subjects on a regular basis in public.” Essentially, however, these portraits award us all permission to more fully be who we are, no matter what ‘pronoun’ we ascribe to.

Lois Bielefeld, a Milwaukee based photographer, is best known for two previous bodies of work, “The Bedroom,” (2008-2012) and “Weeknight Dinners,” (2013-ongoing), as well as a recent film, “Ladies Out.” She speaks from her own experiences as she tackles the subject of androgyny. “Personally when I was younger,” Bielefeld says, “I was regularly misgendered. It happens much less now (only with children). But I think what brought the project to the forefront to start working on it was watching my girlfriend be misgendered on a regular basis. I distinctly remember another woman look in horror as Jackie entered a public restroom at the airport.”


Lois Bielefeld, “kQween, 2014.”

Like her previous bodies of work which use a cultural, universal norm, like eating dinner or sleeping, to look at similarities and differences in geographic, economic, gender, race and age disparities, Androgyny points a camera and opens up the possibilities that who we are need not be determined by what we are biologically or culturally given.

“In cultures with a binary gender system, such as the U.S, we innately categorize by sex because it is uncomfortable for us to not know an individual’s sex,” says Bielefeld. “For example, the typical first question following the announcement of a pregnancy is if the parents know the sex. Those who do not fit neatly into a category, such as the androgynous or gender non-conforming, are subject to sneaking glances or outright stares, a probing and/or invasive question or two, and incorrect categorization. The issue is compounded and can potentially turn hurtful or violent when individuals choose to present themselves androgynously – to not perform their sex as society expects.”


Lois Bielefeld, “Sara, 2014.”

Lois Bielefeld

Lois Bielefeld is a conceptual photographer and filmmaker as well as a commercial/fashion photographer. She was born in and currently resides in Milwaukee, WI with her girlfriend and daughter. Lois has her BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and from 2003-2010 she lived and worked in New York City. She is a 2012 recipient of the Nohl Fellowship and has shown at Inova, The Museum of Contemporary Photography, ArtStart, Portrait Society Gallery, and the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Lois is the recipient of the Luxembourg Artist Residence through the Museum of Wisconsin Art, which will begin in February 2015. Bielefeld is represented by Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee.

The exhibition was organized in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Parkside, Kenosha, and was previously shown there. It was supported by the Mary L. Nohl Suitcase Export Fund and ReStore (Habitat for Humanity).

During the run of the exhibition, work will be available for sale from both of Bielefeld’s previous projects, “The Bedroom,” and “Weeknight Dinners.” In addition, for every “Androgyny” portrait purchased, a print will be donated to the Museum of Wisconsin Art, in an effort to institutionally secure and preserve this important project.


Every year, Portrait Society Gallery invites an artist to build a Winter Chapel. The selected artist can create any type of room they want, with the only requirements being that it has a meditational quality and a place to sit. The intent is to fashion a space in which to contemplate the harsh winter months of the midwest, to settle into a moment of quiet, and to consider the disjuncture in western culture between the sacred and profane.


Collection of Bruce Knackert.

Running through March 14, the Winter Chapel arose as a means of acknowledging our shared condition of psychological hardship and physical duress during the three months of cold.


Collection of Bruce Knackert.This year we are pleased to announce that for the first time there will be two Winter Chapels: One inside by Bruce Knackert and one outside by kathryn e. martin. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design professor Leslie Fedorchuk is dedicating her sabbatical year to researching sacred/secular spaces and artist designed chapels to expand the depth and reach of this project, now in its sixth year. A small catalog with an essay by Fedorchuk will accompany this year’s Winter Chapels.

This year we are pleased to announce that for the first time there will be two Winter Chapels: One inside by Bruce Knackert and one outside by kathryn e. martin. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design professor Leslie Fedorchuk is dedicating her sabbatical year to researching sacred/secular spaces and artist designed chapels to expand the depth and reach of this project, now in its sixth year. A small catalog with an essay by Fedorchuk will accompany this year’s Winter Chapels.

Bruce Knackert, Associate Director of INOVA (Institute of Visual Arts at the Peck School of the Arts, UW-Milwaukee), has spent the past 30 years working at four university art galleries, a university natural history museum and a commercial art gallery. While designing and installing countless exhibitions for other artists, he was also quietly turning his home, a 1911 Arts and Crafts Bungalow in Milwaukee, into a museum/installation. Knackert’s early obsession with thrift shops, rummage sales and, later, eBay, eventually resulted in over 100 crucifixes, dozens of images of the Sacred Heart and assorted rosaries, reliquaries, Virgin Mary figurines. Stemming from his Catholic upbringing, the collection became a kind of domestic, walk-in history of populous religious signs and symbols. En masse, the installation presents a portrait of an icon, Jesus, and let’s us think about how his image was visual conceived and fashioned. In transferring all of this to the gallery, Knackert is also ready to share it. All of the artifacts will be for sale.

Image by Antyony Kuhn, NPR.

Image by Anthony Kuhn, NPR. Buddhist temple, Yushu, China.

kathryn e. martin is well known for her innovative use of unexpected materials. She has completed a number of public art commissions, including a recent project for Milwaukee’s new East Branch Library. She says that her work consciously connects with its users and communicates with its audience through “a targeted conversation with the history, people, and architectural elements found on location.”

martin is building her Winter Chapel installation on the south side of the Mercantile building, 220 E. Buffalo Street, across the street from Portrait Society. Her Winter Chapel will be continuously open to the public and is generously sponsored by Hanson Dodge Creative.

Inspired by a Buddhist temple in the city of Yushu in China, martin will create and string several hundred hand-made white prayer flags. She says of the project, “I want to flood this area in Milwaukee with prayer flags, making a sacred space while providing a commentary on the state of today. I feel a heaviness in our air. I see so much loss, pain and hurt. Despite the goodness here (and especially in my own life), I believe we are in need of prayers. Prayers on both ends, giving and receiving. And I want to give Milwaukee this space, idea and place.”

Kathryn e. Martin earned her BFA at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2001 and her MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts in 2007.

Previous Winter Chapel installations included:
2010: Debra Brehmer, Marsha McDonald, Dave Niec
2011: Linda Wervey Vitamvas
2012: Keith Nelson and Paula Schulze
2013: Kevin Giese
2014: Ashley Morgan

For additional information, please contact Portrait Society Gallery, Debra Brehmer, 414 870-9930,

Lynn Tomaszewski: Phenomenal Agglomerative

Lynn Tomaszewski: Phenomenal Agglomerative

Raw vs. Cooked: a group show

Dates: November 21 to January 10, 2015
Opening Reception: Nov. 21, 6 to 8 p.m.

Closing reception: Friday, Jan. 9, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Fop and Hounds Salon: Friday, December 19, 2014, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with special hosts Rebecca Duclos (Graduate Dean and Professor in the Visual and Critical Studies Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and David K. Ross (photographer and filmmaker) and their dog Po, a three-year-old greyhound. FREE, open to the public, fun.

Review: Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Lynn Tomaszewski, Complex 4, 12 x 12 in., acrylic on panel, 2014.

Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee, is pleased to announce two new exhibitions. Phenomenal Agglomerative by Lynn Tomaszewski and a group show, Raw vs Cooked, will  run through January 10, 2015.


Lynn Tomaszewski, Complex 10, 24 x 24 in., acrylic on panel, 2014.

Lynn Tomaszewski (b. 1967) was Chair of Foundations at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design until 2014 when she became Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her conceptually driven art often explores the relationship between perception and ideas. This new body of work features a series of luscious, visceral paintings. Tomaszewski is interested in the processes of accumulation, growth and learning: how marks build up and form patterns over time. From hives to swarms to various growth algorithms, relationships and social orders emerge. These paintings, created painstakingly from innumerable individual gestures, grow into active optical fields — shimmering, unstable, vibrating.


Lynn Tomaszewski, Complex 5, 24 x 24 in., acrylic on board, 2014.

Tomaszewski’s mark making follows sets of rules, such as “all paintings begin with a flat field of one or more colors.” Each drawing also begins with one circle. All subsequent circles need to touch all others. All circles are then filled intuitively with color. The goal, says Tomaszewski, is a painting where there is no hierarchy. All of the colors demand equal attention or there is a shifting hierarchy, where each time you look at the painting, a different color might dominate.

BubbleComplexWhen the paintings are complete, they become active visual fields, almost alive in their optic states. The process of viewing the paintings creates a sensory exchange of perception and data, a vitally energized and communicative engagement with the viewer. One stands in front of each painting and the dynamic of how we process and receive information, our limited human means of reception, becomes more apparent.

Tomaszewski has said that: “Another concern in the work is how the legacy of minimalism can fuse with our image-laden, information-driven reality to articulate both the ‘little picture’ of the individual and the ‘big picture’ of the entire complex of life.”




Zach Hill (in RAW), Cubby Hole2 Series, mixed media, 6 x 4 in., 2014. $50 each.


Linda Wervey Vitamvas, porcelain, STIRRED.

As a nod to the upcoming holiday season, Portrait Society will also present Raw vs Cooked, a group exhibition with all of the work priced under $500. Raw vs. Cooked asked five different artists or curators to each take on a food related word and assemble a body of work that relates in some way to the word. Participants include: Shane Walsh (artist) FROZEN; Lynne Shumow (Haggerty Museum of Art) RAW; Colin Matthes and Makeal Flammini (artists) BAKED; Trent Miller (Madison Public Library Program Coordinator/artist) FRIED; and the art collective Gnaw STIRRED.

Please contact Debra Brehmer at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Fifth Floor, Milwaukee, for additional information., 414 870-9930.

Janet Werner and Ariana Huggett

Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Fifth Floor, Marshall Building, Milwaukee, 414-870-9930,, Thursday-Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

Janet Werner and Ariana Huggett

Introducing: Elly Hazard, Project Space

Friday, September 26 through November 15, 2014 

Opening Reception: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, September 26, 2014.

Gallery Night: October 17


Exhibition Review: Kat Murrell, Urban Dial

Video of recent Janet Werner retrospective, University of Saskatchewan

 lecture by Janet Werner, Concordia University

 interview with Janet Werner, Canadian Art magazine

Janet Werner, Paris (blue)  45x54

Janet Werner, Paris (Blue) 45 x 54 in., oil on canvas, 2010.

Canadian artist Janet Werner and Milwaukee painter Ariana Huggett open the fall season at Portrait Society Gallery.

Janet Werner (b. 1959) is well-known internationally, however she has shown her work less frequently in the United States.  Portrait Society is honored to bring her work to the midwest. Gallery Director Debra Brehmer had discovered Janet Werner’s work at an art fair five years ago, purchased her book, “Too Much Happiness,” and found herself returning to the images repeatedly.

Crying girl 31x24 2010 lr

Janet Werner, Crying Girl, 31 x 24 in., oil on canvas, 2010.

Werner, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, earned her MFA at Yale in 1987. Werner’s work focuses on the fictional portrait as a vehicle to explore subjectivity and desire, especially involving femininity. Her paintings operate within and against the genre of conventional portraiture, taking found images of anonymous figures in popular culture and imbuing them with fictional personalities.

Lately, Janet Werner’s work has veered further from representational sources and has become more distorted, mannered, expressive, exaggerated, mangled. Figures stretch and morph into masks and deformities that almost humorously address the continuous bruising of the human condition. And yet, the history of grand portraiture, via John Singer Sargent, van Dyck, or Velazquez, never fully departs. The artist has said, “With me there is always this argument between pretty and its destruction. I have a complicated knot of things around the question of beauty.”

Birds_and_Masks (1)

Ariana Huggett, Birds and Masks, 6 x 8 in., oil on wood, 2014.

Ariana Huggett (b. 1965) has shifted her interests from patterned abstraction to representational paintings of home interiors. Her exhibition at Portrait Society, “Everyday Spaces,” includes 20 small-scale oil paintings done on-site, over a period of days. Each painting of an interior holds a mood and time of day as well as a sense of the artist’s selective vantage point. The view she chooses to paint is often determined by what provides an interesting formal composition. The framing of ‘place’ is then balanced between the emotional resonance of its intimacy and the concerns related to light, pattern, shape and color.

In the early 20th century, French artists such as Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard also turned to the domestic interior as subject. Without human figures in the compositions, it was the afterglow of the things and the comfort of the settings that left traces of private lives.


Ariana Huggett, View from Entry, 10 x 8 in., oil on wood, 2014.

As part of this body of work, Ariana has accepted advanced commissions. Those paintings will also be included in the exhibition. She is also available for future commissions that can be booked through the gallery.

Ariana Huggett, cottage

Ariana Huggett, Cottage, 2014.

Ariana Huggett earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1987 and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1994. She last showed her work at Portrait Society in 2009. For additional images, click here. 

In addition to these two parallel exhibitions, Portrait Society’s Project Space, an intimate exhibition venue in the hallway between the gallery and its office, will present “Elly Hazard: One.”

Elly Hazard, Too Tight

Elly Hazard, Too Tight, 40 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2014.

Elly Hazard, Mask

Elly Hazard, Show me with your eyes, 28 x 36 inches, oil on canvas, 2014.

This is an exhibition of paintings created since the artist graduated from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in the spring of 2014. Hazard translates the immediacy of drawing and doodling into lively, colorful oil paintings that often feature a female figure but refer more broadly to general moods and states of being. Patterns create action and energy from which colorful dramas charm and entice with their messy exuberance.

Portrait Society’s Project Space is dedicated to experimental projects and emerging voices.

For additional information and images, contact Debra Brehmer, Portrait Society Gallery,, 414 870-9930.

Summer art orgy

Romano Johnson and Skully Gustafson

tina turner

Opening Reception: Friday, July 18, 2014, 6 to 9 p.m.

Gallery Night: July 25, 6 to 9 p.m.

Review and video

Romano Johnson, Silver Art Bible and Skully Gustafson, The Juice, will open with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 18 at Portrait Society Gallery. The shows run through September 13.

Portrait Society is located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward at 207 E. Buffalo Street, FIFTH Floor, Marshall Building. It is one of the city’s most progressive contemporary art spaces. Hours are Thursday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Call 414 870-9930 for information.

Both Romano Johnson and Skully Gustafson bring performative qualities to their paintings and their lives. The artists expand

Romano Johnson, 48 x 60 in., (purple angel)the boundaries of their practices by turning themselves into works of art. By painting his clothes and shaving patterns into his hair, Romano Johnson visually blends with his glitter-induced paintings of super stars, motorcycles and imagined places. Skully, in collaboration with his partner Erik Moore, dresses (and undresses) in layered collages of fabric, fishnet and silk, often using studio installations as sets for performances and photo shoots.

romano johnson, hair design

Romano Johnson, hair design.

Romano Johnson will show a suite of new large-scale paintings of Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Prince, as well as several drawings. Portrait Society first introduced his work in a group show last summer. Johnson, 35, moved from Chicago to Madison at aged 12, which is when he started making art. “Mano,” as friends call him, works out of the non-profit studio in Madison called Artworking, Inc. 

Johnson says of his work, “I want people to see happiness and joy for all families when they look at my work. When I draw a face, I want the viewer to feel a happiness that makes them want to clap their hands for all the faces in the world.”

get-attachment-4Skully Gustafson’s exhibition, The Juice, will transform the white box of the gallery into a Pee Wee Herman meets Jean-Michel Basquiat meets My Little Pony fantasy land of art-making. Paintings, collages, objects, ‘blobs,’ costumes, videos and, most likely, a live performance or two will mark Skully’s summer occupancy at Portrait Society.

Gustafson says of this project: “The Juice installation is a room that is a full blown art orgy.  The entire space is important and treated equal to the creatures within it, as well as the vessel that channels the information from the source, myself.  I see myself in relation to The Juice land as an anthropomorphic entity.  I am the physical maker skully Gustafson get-attachment-1and model of it and am integrated into it as a mythical creature. Archeologist within the archeology.  I am studying this foreign land and unveiling artifacts within.  It’s a psychic and organic process of digging into the grime of creation and pulling out evidence.”


Erik Moore, from Half Human, 2014.

Gustafson’s partner and collaborator, the photographer Erik Moore, will concurrently show portraits of Skully in these created environments as well as a body of black and white images, “Half Human,” in The Lounge.

For additional information, please call Gallery Director Debra

Brehmer at 414 870-9930, or email

The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment.



Keith Nelson: Arrangements

Keith Nelson, floor pieceArrangements: Keith Nelson

Guest Composers: Peter Barrickman, Paul Druecke (Chuck Stebelton), Shelleen Greene (Nirmal Raja), Greg Klassen, Bruce Knackert , Michael Mikulay, Jen Price, Graeme Reid, Marla Sanvick, Amanda Tollefson, Shane Walsh (Sean Heiser, Sean Weber)

Rural Utopia: Watercolors from Blotchy Blobs Blog by J. Shimon

Fop and Hounds, Thursday May 29, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Hosted by UWM Theatre Department’s Rebecca Holderness and her dog Asher. Discussion of Keith Nelson’s Arrangements exhibition. Free. Contributions appreciated.

Opening Gallery Night, April 25, 2014. Reception 5 to 9 p.m.

Running through July 5, 2014.

Gallery hours/location: Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment (414) 870-9930. 207 E. Buffalo Street, Marshall Building, Historic Third Ward, FIFTH Floor.

Press: Mary Louise Schumacher, Journal/Sentinel, Kat Murrell, Third Coast Daily, Shepherd Express video review

Web 1Portrait Society is pleased to present an exhibition of object-based collages by Milwaukee artist Keith Nelson. Arrangements features various iterations of Nelson’s long-term investigation of found materials and their relationships once assembled as compositions.

With a preference for surface pattern and texture as well as minimalist shapes, Nelson gathers wood planks, tiles, toilet tank tops, metal plates and panels of linoleum from which he orchestrates linear, layered compositions. Like the Italian artist Morandi, who was fascinated with the tonal rhythms of staged vases and jars in his paintings, Nelson works with a formal vocabulary of shape, color and pattern as he builds works that are equally painterly and sculptural.

Keith Nelson, shelf, pinkHe arranges these objects on shelves and also on walls as diptychs. Most recently, he has been making freestanding forms. Nelson refers to his work as “object-based collages.”

This idea of the shelf as a stage or “platform” is being generously expanded in a related exhibition called Guest Composers. Nelson invited eleven individuals (artists, curators, a historian, art preparators and an academic) to participate in his exhibition by curating a shelf. The participants were invited to show their own work or select someone else to occupy their shelf, thus passing the baton of authority over his/her own exhibition and opening it to potential widespread and unedited involvement. While Nelson’s work is succinct, controlled and poised, the Guest Composers will undoubtedly use their curatorial stages in digressive manners.


Chuck Stebelton, via Paul Druecke, five years of receipts from Woodland Pattern Bookstore.

Participants include: Peter Barrickman, Paul Druecke (Chuck Stebelton), Shelleen Greene (Nirmal Raja), Greg Klassen, Bruce Knackert, Michael Mikulay, Jen Price, Graeme Reid, Marla Sanvick, Amanda Tollefson, Shane Walsh (Sean Heiser, Sean Weber).

The arranging of things in our lives — be it shoes, book shelves, coffee tables, desk tops, pillows or platters of food — is a constant. Even something as minute as the placement of the soap dish, or the means by which one folds and stores dishtowels, becomes a curatorial act of selection, placement and ordering. Rather than what is on the shelves, this show heightens thinking around how it got there and what that means.

Truth and Beauty in the Ravine 2012In the third gallery, J. Shimon’s beloved watercolor series Rural Utopia from his Blotchy Blob Blog will collectively tell tales of art making, gardening and existing in the Midwestern landscape. A selection of nearly 100 watercolors will be displayed amid homemade planters crafted from acoustic guitar bodies and filled with herb seedlings. It’s spring, after all. Only in these intimate paintings does contemporary art discourse meet gardening implements. Nude figures, representing an idyllic Eden-like fantasy world loosely based on observation, go about making sculptures and music, deconstructing Wisconsin tourist sites, and growing vegetables as commentary on capitalism and contemporary art, in a sweetly humble honoring of the ordinary.

A machine that makes clouds you can touch

J. Shimon, A machine that makes clouds you can touch, 2014, watercolor.

This body of work was recently included in the exhibition “J. Shimon & J. Lindemann: We Go From Where We Know” at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and has enjoyed a large following on the

For additional information about these exhibitions, please contact Debra Brehmer at or call 414 870-9930.