Pfister artist paints Pfister bartender’s life story

06 Jul, 2013

by Molly Snyder

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Joe D’Acquisto – who has tended bar in the Pfister’s Lobby Lounge for six years – has deep roots in Milwaukee. He travels often, but has lived in the city his entire life and plans to stay in Brew City forever.

Although only in his early 20s, Joe recently bought a house in Bay View and is also a collector of local art. For a while, Joe wanted to acquire a piece of art that symbolized his past, present and future in Milwaukee.

“I really like urban art, if you can call it that. Street art,” says Joe.

When he walked into Stephanie Barenz’s studio – Stephanie is the current artist-in-residence at the Pfister – he immediately knew she was the one to create his visual life story.

“At first, I was surprised. I never had anyone that young buy a painting from me,” says Barenz. “But I thought it was really cool how energetic he was about wanting to buy one of my paintings. He was really personable and interested in my process.”

Joe wanted a painting that described his rooted-ness to the city as well as a piece that conveyed his continual growth. He plans to own a bar by the end of the year which will have a huge impact on his life and identity.

The five-by-two-foot painting is based on imagery sprouting from a twisty roots system. The roots connect all of Joe’s favorite activities – cycling, nature, fishing, traveling, celebrating with friends and beloved Milwaukee establishments – the Pabst Theater, art museum, Palomino – and signage like the marquee from the now-defunct Grand Theater.

“I love everything Milwaukee. I like unique Milwaukee gems that other cities don’t have,” he says. “This painting is a reflection of that. And of my life.”

The painting also includes a scene from a Sicilian boating village because Joe is Sicilian.

The piece, created from acrylic, ink and pencil on wood panel, took Stephanie between 40 and 60 hours to complete. The color palette is very neutral: yellow, ochre, light blue, burnt sienna and cream.

Joe also commissioned former artist-in-residence, Timothy Westbrook, to make him a vest.

Originally, Joe says he was going to hang the painting above a futon in his office, but changed his mind once it was finished and wanted to put it somewhere he could see it more often.

“I think I’ll hang it halfway up the spiral staircase. My room’s at the top of the stairs, so every time I go in or out of my room, I’ll see it,” he says.

Wait. Stop the press. He has a spiral staircase in his house?

“It’s incredible. It sold me on the house,” he says, beaming. “Actually, art is like buying a house. I looked at plenty of houses and knew right away when it was the one. That’s how I felt when I walked into Steph’s studio.”

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About the author

Molly Snyder

Molly Snyder has lived in Milwaukee her entire life. She started keeping a diary when she was four and published her first poem at age 10 called “The Unicorn” in the now-defunct Shorewood Herald. Today, she writes less about mythical creatures and more about Milwaukee people and places. She is a senior writer at OnMilwaukee.com, where she has worked for the last 12 years. Telling people’s stories is her passion.

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