I made this for you: Small gestures in clay

Harvey Opgenorth - Space Volcanoes 2015

Harvey Opgenorth – Space Volcanoes 2015

Dates: November 20 to January 8, 2015
Reception: 6 to 9 p.m. November 20, 2015
Screening: Friday, December 18. Ron Taylor film about sculptor Adolph Rosenblatt, 5 to 8 p.m., free.
Gallery Hours: Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.
Related essay: Orphans and Rejects
Review: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

installation, rotter, psgPortrait Society Gallery is pleased to present its first ceramic-based exhibition. Figurative and commemorative ceramics as well as functional vessels will combine into a handmade exhibition featuring small-scale works, perfect for the holiday season.


Colin Matthes

Exhibiting artists include: Rory Burke, Adolph Rosenblatt, Colin Matthes, Harvey Opgenorth, Darlene Rzezotarski Wesenberg, Gary John Gresl, Rudy Rotter, Debbie Kupinsky, Craig Clifford, Gerit Grimm and Meghan Sullivan.

The malleable, amenable intimacy of clay allows for a range of sculptural expressions as artists deal with its textures. Some, like Gerit Grimm, create figurative works with an almost skin-like velvety surface. While others, such as Colin Matthes, retired UWM professor Adolph Rosenblatt and the self-taught Manitowoc artist Rudy Rotter, allow the many marks from the pushing, prodding and pinching of the clay to lend a hand-hewn expressive spontaneity to the work. Both Rotter and Rosenblatt have significant bodies of work in the show. This is the first time an exhibition has focused primarily on Rotter’s ceramics.

adolph rosenblatt, head

Adolph Rosenblatt

What unifies this exhibition is the small scale and primarily figurative aspect of most of the work. Matthes paints simple graphic faces on his hand-built vessel forms. Rosenblatt is well-known for sculpting portraits from life, using the clay like a drawing material. The gestural surface of his work matches the gestural physical quality of each figure. Artist Darlene Rzeztarski Wesenberg creates intimate sculptural scenes and portraits that show people in their environments. New portraits of Mary Nohl, Joseph Pabst and the poets Antler and Jeff Poniewaz will be included.

In addition, Portrait Society has spearheaded a special project where twenty artists were invited to paint portraits of fellow Wisconsin artists (dead or alive) on ceramic plates which were hand thrown by potter Scott Dercks of the Milwaukee Potters Guild. This project was coordinated for the gallery by Rachele Krivichi. All of the plates will be for sale.


B. Mad by Elly Hazard


Didier Leplae by Peter Barrickman


Skully Gustafson by John Kowalczyk


Ron Bittocks by Keith Nelson.


Rafael Salas by James Pederson


Colin Matthes

Orphans, rejects, the flawed, 1

Orphans and rejects, sculpture


Rudy Rotter, family group, 1980s

adolph rosenblatt, cards

Adolph Rosenblatt, card players at beach


Adolph Rosenblatt, Girl reading

Revealing Nature: Pedro Velez and Greg Klassen

Dates: September 11 to November 14, 2015
Opening Reception: Friday, September 11, 6 to 8 p.m.
Gallery Hours: Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

Location: 207 E. Buffalo Street, FIFTH FLOOR, Marshall Building, Third Ward, Milwaukee
Social media: #RevealingNature


Muse in Parking Lot

Pedro Velez, “Parking Lot Muse (Frances)” dimensions variable

Pedro Vélez and Greg Klassen present new bodies of work at Portrait Society Gallery, September 11 through November 14, 2015, in an exhibition titled Revealing Nature.  Curated by Claudia Arzeno and Debra Brehmer, the exhibition brings together two artists who individually consider the entwined relationships between the artist, his or her influences, creative production as well as the relationship these have to both human nature and the natural world.

IMG_7328Vélez, one of three Milwaukee-affiliated artists in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, is known for his paintings and photo collages that use social media references to express commentaries on cultural, political and racial issues. This body of work, Revealing Nature: Pedro Vélez Social and Private Portraits, steps away from these previous explorations and delves into more personal and intimate subject matter. (Additional images from the exhibition)

IMG_7411 In this new series, Vélez looks at the idea of the artist’s muse- in other words, the artist’s source of inspiration. What does this influential person, thing, place or idea say about his or her nature? The artist has revisited past photographic work as well as personal relationships, romantic relationships, break ups and places in order to analyze what tends to spark his creativity.  In an effort to be more self-aware, Velez asks himself why he keeps going back to certain people as sources of inspiration.  The findings were then translated into new portraits, flower paintings, abstracted depictions of the body and intimate photo collages that function as a fractured narrative in which the dynamics of personal and platonic relationships are blurred.

Ros pelo dream state

Pedro Velez, “Rosalyn Mártir as Judith (Dream State),” Dimesions variable

Vélez has re-examined previous work while analyzing past romantic and non-romantic relationships, pinpointing their effect on his work. Subsequently, he has gone back and re-photographed these subjects, creating paintings from the photographs that are most significant to him. The artist has found that certain people are constantly repeated in his work while other people with whom he has had important relationships are barely featured. These muses are not the passive figures of Greek and Roman times, but instead active important protagonists in Vélez’s work.

IMG_7409Rosalyn Martir, a friend of Vélez’s has been the subject of multiple photocollages, including a piece referencing Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, which was censored here in Milwaukee. Mónica Rizzo, one of the artist’s former romantic partners, has also been featured in a variety of pieces—one of the most well known being Ann Lee Lives!, a controversial protest piece where she embodied the popular purple haired Japanese figure, Annlee. Vélez considers Walter Robinson, whom with the artist worked closely at Artnet, as an important muse. This was reflected in the series of work he created for the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Tony Fitzpatrick, and his work, have also surfaced as important muses, as one of the pieces in Revealing Nature illustrates.

In addition, Vélez has realized that over the course of his career, it has not only been people who have served as inspiration for his work, but places and ideas as well. For example, political issues and the city of Chicago, where Vélez long-resided, both constantly serve as sources, or muses, for new artworks.

Greg Klassen, sketch book.

Greg Klassen, sketch book.

Greg Klassen is a Milwaukee-based artist. Klassen’s notion of “Revealing Nature” places the artist, the studio and the natural world in a dynamic relationship that explores how ideas of growth, inspiration, survival, decay and creativity come to fruition. He breaks down the walls between art production and the forces of nature. For example, Klassen has buried his painted canvases in compost piles to let the natural processes of decay color and shape his compositions. He has also brought plants into the studio, tossed them into piles of studio debris, set up a home-made watering system and allowed nature to take its course. This exhibition will feature a room installation, a series of sculptural sketchbooks and a series of collages. Klassen has said of his work, “My art is the design of experiments, the staging of serendipitous expeditions.”


Pedro Vélez
Pedro Vélez’s recent exhibitions include the 2014 Whitney Biennial in New York; Morally Reprehensible at 101 / Exhibit, LA; #DrunkDictators, an “On The Wall” installation at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago; Ransom Notes and Surrender Flags at AREA, Caguas Puerto Rico; No Regrets at Oliver Francis Gallery in Dallas.

His work as both an artist and writer has been discussed in the LATimes, Chicago Tribune, Al Jazeera America, Huffington Post, New York Times, Artforum, Mutual Art, Frieze, Artspace and The Miami Herald among many other publications. For 10 years Pedro Vélez maintained a regular column about the art scenes in San Juan and Chicago for Artnet Magazine. In addition, his writing has been published in Newcity, New Art Examiner and Arte al Día.

Pedro Vélez’s work merges his interest in art criticism (including his own writing) and journalism into what he calls “visual essays” that take the form of large sculptural paintings, photographic collages, and limited edition posters and postcards resembling the look and feel of movie posters. Velez also incorporates text in his work, based on hashtags lifted from Twitter, that are scathingly critical as well as poetically cryptic. Taken together, Vélez’s multi-disciplinary approach creates a vibrant, stream-of-consciousness commentary on a variety of issues, encompassing race, politics, and other aesthetic concerns.

Greg Klassen

Greg Klassen (b. 1965) earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and did advanced study at Kunst Akademie Dusseldorf, Germany. He was one of the last artists to study under Gerhard Richter in the 1990s.

A major exhibition, Perishable Atlas, was staged at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Institute of Visual Arts in 2011. He recently exhibited a collaborative  project at Usable Space, Milwaukee. Other exhibitions include the Watrous Gallery, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, Jurgen Kalthoff Gallery (Germany).

Portrait Society Gallery

Portrait Society is a progressive, contemporary art gallery in Milwaukee, WI dedicated to the issues surrounding the genre of portraiture. Established in 2008, the gallery showcases both current and historic artists who work broadly and loosely with the conceptual ideas embedded in portrait traditions.


Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, Charles Van Schaick


 Dates: June 12 to August 30, 2015


gallery night: Friday, July 24, 2015

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

Opening Night images: BY ART ELKON


CLOSING RECEPTION: 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, August 30. Walk through with gallery director Debra Brehmer and talk by Thomas Hellstrom in conjunction with his Project Space exhibition.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, and Charles Van Schaick are renowned Wisconsin photographers who emerged from three different centuries to garner fame from the gentle peculiarities of their long-term projects. Portrait Society Gallery is pleased to unite them for the first time in this important exhibition.
Wis-Con-Sin: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, Charles Van Schaick will present about 75 photographs that show compelling intersections between these three unique bodies of work. Wisconsin is known as a fertile source of independently spirited artists and environments. This exhibition examines the layered influences between a self-taught artist, a small town photographer and the contemporary collaborative team, J. Shimon & J. Lindemann.

b112ec11Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910 – 1983) was born in Marinette, Wisconsin, but spent much of his adult life in a small house in Milwaukee. He created art there for 40 years amounting to several thousand works in various media. After Eugene died, the work was brought to the attention of Milwaukee Art Museum director Russell Bowman. Besides apocalyptic oil paintings, ceramic crowns and vessels, he and his wife Marie (Eveline Kalke) collaborated on photographs that staged Marie in provocative poses and costumes. Eugene had met Marie at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1940. They married in 1943 and were together until Eugene’s death in 1983. Now 2255internationally famous, EVB (as he is known) has had many museum exhibitions and was included in the 2013 Venice Biennale. The Kohler Foundation in Sheboygan owns and has conserved much of his work. Portrait Society is pleased to present 12 black and white vintage photographs of Marie, printed by Eugene, and one hand-tinted original color portrait. The work is courtesy of Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York.


Charles Van Schaick, Lutie Frantz in Nude Flexing Back, circa 1880-1940, courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society.

Charles Van Schaick (1852-1946) worked in Black River Falls for more than 60 years as the town photographer in an era before cameras were available to IMG_6248the masses. He opened his photographic studio in 1879. About 60 percent of his approximately 5,700 extant glass plate negatives are studio portraits. The other 40 percent include street scenes, major events in the region, outdoor family and group photos, buildings, picnics and people and their livestock.


Charles Van Schaick, Woman Wearing Hat with Veil, circa 1880-1940, Black River Falls, WI. Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society.

The Van Schaick collection, housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, was made famous in 1973 when the writer and doctoral student Michael Lesy published the book “Wisconsin Death Trip,” featuring Van Schaick images alongside excerpted newspaper accounts and records from the area and time period. The book was made into a film by James Marsh in 1999. Portrait Society has created a limited edition series of prints in collaboration with the Wisconsin Historical Society that will be available through the gallery. Susan Barnett provided curatorial assistance for this project.

Justin and Dylan, 2011, 8 x 10 gelatin silver

J. Shimon & J. Lindmann, Justin and Dylan, 8 x 10 gelatin silver print, 2011.

Shimon & J. Lindemann have collaborated as artists since 1983, choosing to focus on rural Wisconsin towns not far from where they both grew up. As Wisconsin’s pre-eminent

contemporary photographers, they use antiquarian cameras and printing techniques to record post-industrial settings, rural landscapes, small towns and shifting modes of life. Their rich interchange between place and people sits alongside Von Bruenchenhein and Van Schaick’s works in an associative conversation about human relationships in particular times in history.


J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, Amber & Brad in their Backyard (Memphis Clothes), Manitowoc, Wisconsin, 2005 (detail) 34×27 archival inkjet print

A retrospective of their work was held at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, through June 2015 and included a major catalog.


J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, self portrait.

In 2014, Shimon & Lindemann were named “artists of the year” by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and received the Wisconsin Visual Art Achievement Award from the Museum of Wisconsin Art this year. They have done editorial work for the New York Times, and their work has been published in Visiting Tom by Michael Perry (Harper Collins, 2012), Unmasked & Anonymous: Shimon & Lindemann Consider Portraiture by Lisa Hostetler (Milwaukee Art Museum, 2008), Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self by Coco Fusco and Brian Wallis (Abrams, 2003), Photography’s Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes by Lyle Rexer (Abrams, 2002), and Wisconsin Then and Now by Nicolette Bromberg (UWPress, 2001).  They have exhibited their prints in galleries and museums in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. They live in Appleton, Wi. where they are associate professors of art at Lawrence University.

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

Discussion: Fop and Hounds, Thursday, April 30, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Join Shane Walsh, his dog Miles, and guest host Michael Davidson in a discussion and wine tasting. Free. donations appreciated.

closing: May 23, 2015

Review: Kat Murrell, Shepherd-Express

Review: Austin Kleon

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.

psg_install_5Key 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 psg_install_6process 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.

rafael_3Lamb+in+death_2_lowresSalas 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.

snow+and+sky+print_1Velvet+Fender+1.1+hi+resFollowing 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.

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, portraitsocietygallery@gmail.com.

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. portraitsocietygallery@gmail.com, 414 870-9930.

Janet Werner and Ariana Huggett

Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Fifth Floor, Marshall Building, Milwaukee, 414-870-9930,  portraitsocietygallery.com, 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, portraitsocietygallery@gmail.com, 414 870-9930.