The holiday season arrives with a multitude of traditions, memories and decisions concerned with the search for perfect, festive gifts. If you are interested in finding things a little out of the ordinary and made with artistic flair, there are a few exhibitions that have made this year’s recommended list.
A perennial favorite is Art Bar’s Mini exhibition, which features the tag line “tiny art at tiny prices.” Both of these descriptors hold true as the dozens of works on view are less than 4-inches square and cost less than $100, with many options only a fraction of that.
Acrylic, oil and other varieties of paintings are always plentiful in this exhibition, with everything from abstract works to figurative pieces, landscapes and still lifes available. Some of the boldest works are prints by Daniel Stauff, with figures in black on red backgrounds that take on the character of James Bond movie posters in miniature. Also hunt for Stauff’s oil paintings, where his talents as a portraitist come through in the vibrant light and color he captures in the faces of people on the street or musical icons.
The Mini installation is changed up a bit this year as more three-dimensional pieces are included, such as pottery mugs by Andrew Linderman and vases by Ken Willert. Laura Rehorst shows jewelry with pendants that are actually tiny drawings. Sculptural earrings are creatively made by Charles Stevens, with elongated pieces that work as wall decorations or embellishments for the ears. Less utilitarian are Leann Wooten’s delightful assemblages, which come together like diminutive dioramas.
If you find that three-dimensional art is what you seek, the new exhibition I made this for you: Small Gestures in Clay at Portrait Society Gallery should be high on your list of venues to visit. This is the first exhibition of its kind done by the gallery, and as director Debra Brehmer notes, many of the artists involved took this as an opportunity to work in ceramics, although that may not be the medium they are most known for. A sense of inventiveness and the singular beauty of imperfection is what is most sought to bring out a distinctly individual sense of character in each piece.
About a dozen artists are included, including Rory Burke, Adolph Rosenblatt, Colin Matthes and Harvey Opgenorth. The pieces shown span a wide range of styles, from Burke’s mysterious busts and skulls that are caught between beauty and decay, to Opgenorth’s finely tuned, smooth black vessels. Matthes’ work combines his illustrations in richly textured mugs and dishes, while Rosenblatt’s sculpture is definitively figurative, reflecting his work, which is done on-site in front of the people in his art. His figures lounge on beach chairs, recline while reading a book, or are somewhat harried at their desk, as seen in his representation of the former art dealer Michael Lord.
Darlene Wesenberg, Debbie Kupinsky, Craig Clifford, Gerit Grimm, and Meghan Sullivan are other artists showing original work as well. Gary John Gresl takes a curatorial approach to his installation, which reflects one hundred years of home ceramics, from late nineteenth-century knickknacks to smooth Atomic Age dishware. Noted Wisconsin artist Rudy Rotter is also featured with an installation that introduces his ceramic pieces, a medium that expands on his wooden sculptures of entwined figures. He envisioned them in clay, with smooth, sparkling glazes that retain a sense of optimism and humanity in their naked forms.
Additionally, Portrait Society is showing Wisconsin Supper Club, a series of works by 20 artists who painted handmade plates thrown by Scott Dercks. Their decorations honor various Wisconsin artists, contemporary and past, and is a compendium of artistic accomplishments.
Also of interest as a gallery and a commercial space is the Pfister Holiday Marketplace, which is set up in the former Roger Stevens menswear boutique. More than 80 local artists have their work on display, which ranges from handmade cards and prints, to jewelry, scarves and other decorative items.
Nina Bednarski presents enamel paintings on glass from her Bird Hero series, with various avian species depicted by brilliant colors and noble gazes. The proceeds from her work go in part to nonprofit organizations devoted to wild bird protection and preservation. Dan Kirchen operates on a similar theme with charming birdhouses made in the form of Airstream trailers, a perfect seasonal home.
In addition to the art objects, a selection of Milwaukee music is available for sale, including CDs by bands such as the Fatty Acids, Nineteen Thirteen, Painted Caves, and De La Buena. As a bonus, selected releases are available on vinyl and cassette.
The holiday season is one in which goodwill and generosity should flow bountifully. In the spirit of gift-giving, these exhibitions and events are a way of sharing the abundant creative talent in the Milwaukee art community.
MORE VENUES AND EVENTS
Pfister Holiday Marketplace
424 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Dec. 3: The always entertaining and engaging writer Ànjà Notànjà will offer advice on holiday letter writing.
Dec. 6 and 20: Paper snowflake cutting will be the activity of the day. Visitors can create their own to hang in the shop or take home.
Dec. 11: Artist and event curator Renée Bebeau will demonstrate techniques for creating original etchings on mirrored coasters.
Student/Alumni Art & Design Sale
273 E. Erie St.
Dec. 3–5: Current and former students of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design offer an array of unique holiday and art items for collectors and gift givers. Entry on Dec. 3, 6-9 p.m., is $20, admission Dec. 4 (5-9 p.m.) and Dec. 5 (12-5 p.m.) is free.
Cream City Creatives Craft Fair
1038 N. Fourth St.
Dec. 13: More than 40 artists will display their work at Turner Hall Ballroom, including art pieces and various wares such as jewelry, body products, crafts and more. Admission is $3, free for kids 12 and under.
Mini: Tiny Art at Tiny Prices continues through December at Art Bar (722 E. Burleigh St., Milwaukee). Visit Art Bar’s Facebook page for more details.
I made this for you: Small Gestures in Clay continues through Jan. 8 at Portrait Society Gallery (207 E. Buffalo St., fifth floor, Milwaukee). Visit
portraitsocietygallery.com for more information.
The Pfister Holiday Marketplace continues through Dec. 24 off the lobby of the Pfister Hotel (424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee). Visit thepfisterhotel.com for details.