January was a whirlwind month! I worked as the artist in residence at the Cedarburg Cultural Center and began my journey as a finalist for the next Pfister Hotel artist in residence. It’s been five weeks and counting of live art-making, hanging shows, teaching workshops, and more. I’ll be finishing this crazy spree of activity this Saturday, February 9th, as I return to the Cultural Center for their all-day live painting event and fundraising gala. All “roaring 20’s” themed this year!
Last Saturday, I spent the entire day at the Pfister Hotel with the current artist in residence, Timothy Westbrook. In what he hopes to start as a new tradition, Westbrook has invited each of the six finalists to spend a full day in the studio, displaying our work and showing off what we do.
For my big day, we started off with setting up my willow tree backdrop in the studio space and hanging some of the “Circus and the Cyclone” art. Then a group of dear friends and family gathered for Westbrook’s tour of the hotel’s famous Victorian art collection. There were several small children along for the tour (including my own) and the spacious and luxurious Grand Ballroom proved too tempting as a running zone. The adult’s enjoyed the informative talks about each of the paintings, while the little ones enjoyed the freedom of running under the enormous twinkling crystal chandeliers.
The afternoon and evening were spent working in the studio and talking with the many guests who stopped in to see what we were doing. I continued work on a wedding portrait, stopping here and there to explain my process and how it was used in the making of “The Circus and the Cyclone”. I was amazed at the steady flow of foot traffic and the interesting conversations that resulted. While I may not be the loudest, most out-going person in the world, I’m far from shy when it comes to talking about art, books, music, circus history, 19th century operatic plot motifs… you get the picture.
As you can see from the photo, Timothy Westbrook also has a love for Victorian sensibilities. His work over the past ten months at the Pfister has largely consisted of creating Victorian inspired gowns out of a unique combination of materials and methods. In his studio, you can see the loom he uses to weave cloth out of natural silks, cassette tape, shredded plastic shopping bags and more! Westbrook’s creations are drop-dead gorgeous, but the most compelling part is getting up close and realizing what they’re made of. “Alexis Rose”, the gown in the photo, was inspired by two paintings in the Pfister’s collection, “The Rose” by Adolphe Piot and “The Rose Garden” by Daniel Ridgeway Knight. You can view many of the pieces in the collection in this art book.
The whole day felt a bit like a fairytale, the hotel itself being nothing short of a palace. I was sad to pack up at the end of the night, being careful not to drop any glass slippers in the elevator on my way out. Hopefully I’ll get to return and make more art there a couple months from now. If you would like to help make that happen, you can vote for me on the Pfister Hotel’s facebook page. You can also vote by tweeting “@poll SUEL”, or by texting “SUEL” to 22333.
And, if you are in the Milwaukee area, I highly recommend visiting the finalist exhibit at Intercontinental’s Gallerie M. There you can see the work of all six finalists. It’s a stunning show and we all put a lot of effort into making it the best it could be! Be sure to stop in and vote for your favorite.