A Glimpse into Timothy Westbrook’s First Month
04 May, 2012
by The Pfister
My first month as Artist In Residence has been action packed. While it has been a whirlwind to get here, I could not have asked for a better start.
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting some wonderful people and attending some great events, making my transition into this position smooth and fun.
I’ve been introduced to a lifetime of memories. The beauty is each one is new, unique and provides me with a bit of inspiration.
Some of my favorite moments include:
- Being graced with the presence of a “Klondike Kate” who offered to sing me one of the songs of her performance.
- Meeting the brilliant Lola. A seven-year-old that told me all about her life as the malevolent little sister and shared her evil laugh. She also named one of my mannequins, Marlene.
- Being invited by a lead a member of the Intermezzo String Quartet for a day of antique store shopping the next time I’m in Madison.
- Meeting my model, Rose, who made my first project come to life. We were both invited that day to attend a showing of Othello at the Rep Theater. Othello meets Biker Gangs, HOW FUN!
I will never forget the night I finished my first weaving. I was joined by a kind but quiet woman who was captivated by the process. She had seen every fiber process leading up to weaving. Her sister has sheep so she has seen sheering, carding and spinning (all processes involved in making yarn); after about an hour of vigilantly watching she shared that it was her birthday.
Sharing a special bonding moment with the birthday girl that night was fantastic. She cared as much about the weaving as I. And the next day, she continued on with her life but profoundly moved me in the moment that 28 feet of woven cloth escaped the restriction of the loom.
The following day a couple came in who had lived together in Milwaukee from the time they were born to the time they were somewhere in their thirties. It has been 26 years since they had been back and they said the Artist in Residence programs was one of their favorite changes to the city.
Easter was my day off. And by day off, I mean I only was in the studio seven hours instead of 10-14 hours and I was sketching and putzing instead of energetically sewing and weaving.
A very creative five-year old joined my favorite part of that day. We worked on some new sketches and her sense of positive and negative space with the use of neon pink was very inspiring.
A well known singer in her home town, Sherron, had a late flight into Milwaukee. Still awake from jet-lag, we took a midnight tour of the art collection. That night two weddings had happened. We enjoyed the view of the ballrooms as the clean up crew collapsed the tables and shared stories about the fun the bridal party had.
As I worked steadily the days leading up to my opening gallery night show, the studio was visited by high school guidance counselors, bankers, knitters, family members of people who once had a sewing machine, or once had a loom.
That “Big Night” came with my first visit of friends that might as well be family. My mother’s childhood friend stopped in with her partner and their child, who is now eleven. This was my first time meeting her. What an amazing event for a reunion.
After a wildly successful premier gallery night, HOW could this residency possibly get any better?
Easily. A lovely poised, elegant, woman whose great aunt was an on-call tailor in the early days of the hotel, walked into my studio. She shared stories of women who would tear their dresses when a miss step of the heel caught the hem of a train. A tailor would be on sight to quickly mend the tear then send them back to the dance floor.
Shortly after, a leading frame historian who also works in art frame restoration came in the space, sat down on the floor cross-legged with me and we discussed history, art preservation, textiles and museums. It was truly an honor.
Later that week, an incredible group of people started to filter into the hotel – championship dancers. This was the 25th year of the Wisconsin State Dancesport Championships. I enjoyed our former Narrator Ed’s perspective he describes it perfectly.
My first month has gone faster than the dancers can spin. Just when I thought it could not get any better, late in the evening on the last day of April in walks the first opera singer into the studio. Thirty-six years ago, he performed as Papageno in a production of the Magic Flute in Milwaukee. What a magical way to end what has been an extraordinary month.
I’ve enjoyed it all, from every conversation to the few people that popped their heads in long enough to put a smile on my face. Even some of the late night wise guys quotes have been great. Some of my favorites have been:
- “Can you make a jacket with bird cages on the shoulders?”
- “What man, did you get in a fight with all your cassettes?”
- “What looks better, country or rock and roll?”
Thanks for making my first month so memorable.
Looking forward to sharing my work with you! Stop by anytime, my door is always open.