“What Are You Doing For Thanksgiving?”

 

The following people shared their Thanksgiving Plans:

 

Name: Ariana

Location: Artist studio

Context: One Pfister Artist Niki’s interns, drugstore Arianna spent her day crocheting condoms into upholstery for Niki’s fainting couch.

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“I’m going to my fake aunt’s house. I actually met her on the bus, recipe the green line by the Pick ‘N Save on Oakland. I was wearing this fake fur coat (‘cause it’s like 0 degree here all the time) and she saw me and said ‘nice coat.’ We started talking and I said I’m from Baltimore, and she said ‘Well, I’m from Maryland.’ We started talking and going on, we talked about her kids a little bit, and about me and about where I go to art school, and we’re just talking and she says, ‘I really like that you’re an artistic person from Maryland, I’m really excited about that. Let me give you my card.’ And I say ‘Well, let me give you MY card, because I had just made business cards for an internship.’ So we exchanged cards, and I texted her immediately, and we’ve been friends ever since. This was in February. I just went to her kid’s talent show this weekend. Her kids are 11 and 14, and smarter than I thought kids could ever be. She’s the most extreme extrovert I’ve ever met. We’re going Thanksgiving hopping, which I’ve never done before. We’re going to one at one ‘o clock, and then another one at six thirty. I was like ‘Great,’ I was like ‘Sweet, I’ve never been to multiple Thanksgivings, I guess this is what happens when you’re like super cool and always talking to people.’ I’m hoping some of this will rub off on me. “

 

I ask Ariana, how many people she thinks her fake aunt has met on the bus.

 

“Her car was out, like in the shop, so she had to take the bus that day. But I think she does have approximately two other fake nieces and nephews.

 

 

Names: Tim, Carmella, Joe, Corinne

Location: VIP Lounge

Context: All four of them sitting around a table and conversing.

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“I’ve usually been a cooker,” explains Carmella, “Our children have all gotten older now and they’re all off doing other things, so we decided we’d go out and have fun!” Previously, they’ve stayed in their Chicago homes to celebrate, but tomorrow they will be at the Pfister for the feast. “We’ve never been here. We don’t know how it works. We’re going to eat at the Mason Street Grill, three ‘o clock Thanksgiving dinner.”

 

They all look the same approximate age. I ask if they are all family.

“Yes, brother and sister.”

“He’s our father,” one of the two men, points at the other, who replies, “You can’t blog ****content censored!!!!**** you.”

 

 

Names: Shosho (who declined to be pictured) & Abdullah

Location: The café

Context: Shosho is finishing her croissant, they are two of the most attractive people I’ve seen in the hotel all week.

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Both are from Saudi Arabia originally, but they met in Chicago. Shosho is getting her masters in Education, so that she can work in the field of Administration. She has never been to a Thanksgiving dinner before, and tomorrow will be just another Thursday in Shosho’s life. Abdullah, on the other hand, has attended a Thanksgiving dinner in the past. “To be honest, I didn’t like the turkey. It tasted raw. Next time I’m just going to get salad and other things.” Eloquently put! Abdullah just completed an English as a Second Language course a few days ago.

 

Tuesday Afternoon Reverie

It is 2:21 p.m. and here’s what is going down:  a recording of violin music saturates the air.  Someone walks past hauling a 2.88 (or so) foot long camcorder.  The fronds of a palm tree sensuously caress the south column.  A security guard carefully explains how to get to the Metro Market to a hotel guest.  I estimate the guest to be about thirty years old by the way he has trimmed his beard. Another man in a baseball cap asks me if I am typing a letter to my mother, cialis I am not.  I am writing a letter to the hotel lobby, or rather what is happening inside it, since the lobby itself might not be sentient in the way that you and I are.  If it were though, I’d feel sorry for the rug.  Here is this exquisite rug placed on top of the ornate wall-to-wall carpeting and people just walk right over it without respectfully acknowledging the brief yet fantastic change of terrain.

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Behold.

This is a place where no matter where you look there is something that you can get lost dazing into. I am going to stop typing now so that I may enter reverie as I consider the spatial delights experienced by the light emanating from all the electrical fixtures.  I consider the spatial tension that exists between the empty chairs at the top of the stairs.  If you stick around in this place long enough you will hear each quarter of the hour marked by the dingdong chime of a grandfather clock.  Today I’ve typed here long enough to see a ball bearing pop off my typewriter and roll down the marble steps.  The steps here remind me of salami.  How delicious!

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Genoa salami is my favorite, perhaps but this looks a little more like capicola.

 

A man descends the stairs and I notice that he has clipped his sunglasses to the backside of his turtleneck collar.  I have never seen anyone keep their sunglasses snug against their neck vertebrae like that before.  Someone loudly asks, “Anymore gifts?”  Their companion loudly replies, “We are up to $1500,000 now.” People wheel their baggage through.  It is funny to think about how 20 years ago all this luggage would have been lugged in without wheels.  When I was a kid it still had not occurred to society to put wheels on suitcases. We have come a long way.  I leave my typewriter to go sit by the fire for a while.  My eyes close.  Val, the bartender asks if I want anything, but no, I just want to sit by the fire.  “That’s fine, people have been doing that since 1893,” says Val.  As I sit I hear a pair of middle-aged women in the midst of some profuse giggling.  I walk over to them.  Pam & Kate explain how they just got back from a Photoshop conference and are now feeling giddy.  The Happy Hour has descended.  Roc at the desk has told me that the lobby bar is where Marilyn Monroe liked to sip her drinks.  The stairwell is where Elvis Presley stood to graciously wave at everyone.  Roc himself spent an hour and a half discussing international politics with Margaret Thatcher.  Roc also said, “The hotel never used to allow dogs in here like they do now.  Dogs love the elevator here! Each floor has it’s own bouquet of smells that the dog catches whiff of as they go past in the elevator. I wish you could interview a dog and get them to tell you what it is that they smell on each floor.”  Hmm, good idea.

Our art-related stories

On Friday night, Pfister artist in residence Stephanie Barenz and I hosted a storytelling event in the Rouge Ballroom in conjunction with Gallery Night. Nine local artists told 5-minute stories around the theme of art. The audience picked the winner – Anja Notanja Sieger – who won a night at the Pfister and dinner for two at the Mason Street Grill.

Stephanie and I thought this event was the perfect way to celebrate her last gallery night as the artist in residence. We are both storytellers, but in different ways. I tell stories through words, and she through visual art.

This weekend, we honored another form of storytelling that’s the oldest and the most common: the oral tradition. We really enjoyed hearing all of the artists’ stories and decided to share our own as well.

“Red Boots” by Molly Snyder

It was the summer of 2009 and everything was about to change. I didn’t know it at the time, but I felt it. Meanwhile, I busied myself with projects and work and, above all, mothering my two young sons.

At first, the nagging was a quiet ache in my stomach, but eventually, it brought my brain on board and I dreamed of cracking open empty walnuts and fortune cookies stuffed with paper messages reading “something is wrong.”

I lived with the perplexing ache and dreams for years. Sometimes, a feeling of clarity and relief would wash over me for a few seconds, and I would stop in my tracks and actually ask aloud, “What? What am I supposed to do?”

In the middle of that fateful summer, artist Mike Frederickson caught one of these moments with his camera. I did not know it at the time. Mike was at the same street festival and – randomly and clandestinely – took photos of people to potentially paint later.

I remember this day clearly. I was wearing my favorite skirt at the time – the one the boys loved that was made from the retro-looking astronaut fabric – and my rhinestone-studded red cowgirl boots. It was a hot day and I was drinking a beer in the street, occasionally setting it down on the curb to pick up a sweaty, cranky boy.

At one point, I imagined just walking away and slipping away into the crowd forever. Instead, I sipped my beer and then picked up my younger son. “Shhhh, it’s going to be OK,” I told him.

In 2011, Mike sent me a Facebook message saying there was a painting of me at Jackpot Gallery in Riverwest. I was already a huge fan of Mike’s incredibly realistic-looking paintings and could not wait to see it.

A few days later, I walked through the gallery doors, and there it was, front and center. Massive. Me. My son. My former life. Much to my surprise, I started to cry.

A year later, while making my final payment on the painting, I tried to explain to Mike why it moved me so much. I told him that he captured a period of my life painfully perfectly, and that every time I looked at the painting, I wanted to climb inside of it and warn 2009 me that everything was going to get so much worse and so much better. But more than anything, I wanted to tell 2009 me that I did the right thing by listening to the ache and I would never regret my choices.

Mike listened to my ramblings. And then he smiled, cocked his head and said, “I just really liked your boots.”

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“Opinions Are Like …” by Stephanie Barenz

Someone asked me a while back if as an artist I had ever encountered harsh criticism. The answer I gave was a resounding, “YES!” And as I continue to pursue my career and hopefully become more established I can only imagine that it will get worse.

A friend of mine has been in and out of counseling the last few years. When I asked him how his sessions were going he replied that the most valuable piece of advice he received from his psychologist thus far was, “Opinions are like a-holes, everyone has one and they usually, always, stink.”

Why do we care what people think? Oh wait, I know, we all want to be heard and validated. I have been called some pretty awful things, as I am sure you have, too. The following comments were either said to my face or I found out about them later through the grapevine. Here is a sampling that relate to my career:

“You aren’t an artist.”

“You don’t think like an artist.”

“Your work sucks.”

“Your work is too feminine.” (I see that one as a compliment, even though it was not intended that way.)

“Bleh, your work sucks.” (that one is different from above, because it had a gag response before it.)

“You are so naïve.”

“Your work is way too decorative.”

“Your work is not original because you stole my color palette.” (Sorry, I didn’t know you owned the rainbow.)

“Stephanie doesn’t know what she is doing.”

“I am worried Stephanie won’t go anywhere.”

“I walked into your studio and was like, ‘What is going on in here? This is a disaster.’”

“Your work looks like a graphic T-shirt.”(Irony here: the person was wearing a graphic stretched-out v-neck T-shirt.)

You know why these were so hurtful? Because a lot of them were things I had voiced silently to myself. Here is another thought, your opinions of yourself usually stink, too. We have all heard it before but you have to be your biggest champion. There are people out there who will insult you so you shouldn’t take the time to do that yourself.

When I was a kid, the school bully called me fat. When I went home crying to my mom, she told me that this kid’s dad was in prison and that people who are hurting usually say hurtful things to others. While this is a simple lesson, it was probably one of the most valuable I ever learned. I saw the bully in a new way, someone who was operating out of hurt and pain.

I know in my insecure moments, I have ripped some very innocent parties to shreds. It isn’t something I am proud of, but nonetheless we are all guilty of this behavior. Whenever I am criticizing someone I try to ask myself if I am doing it out of a place of hurt or insecurity.

So the lesson I learned from all of this is that opinions usually stink, just don’t listen to them. Find a group of people who have your back and can be honest with you. Seek out constructive criticism, don’t listen to the rest, and make sure you aren’t your biggest bully.

The 2014 Pfister Artist in Residence Finalists

Congratulations to our six 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists. Their work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, shop 2013 through February 14th, 2013. The public will be able to vote for Richard & the other 2014 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.  
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, and you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Richard Dorbin

Richard Dorbin – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  I love interacting with people and learning their stories. I also love creating images that have a human narrative. These two loves can dovetail into a new medium for the Pfister Artist-in-Residence: Photography

Imagine an image of a guest’s nightstand, littered with a crumpled wedding invitation, a withered boutonniere, and crumpled tissues. How could an image of “trash” on a nightstand be compelling, emotional, or even artistic?

I believe that I have the experience as an artist, a listener, and a story teller to answer that question and do it in collaboration with guests in the gallery.

There are countless stories to be found in the objects, faces, guests and employees of the Pfister. Those images can be emotionally charged and artistically compelling.

That very collaboration will be the creative process that drives the creation of my art.

Gallery nights will also be collaborative events that will highlight established professionals and aspiring photographers as well as creating exciting, in-the-moment imagery as part of the event.

The gallery space will display an on-going and ever changing collection of images that will tell stories with a unique and textural voice, as well as being host to photography classes for underserved parts of the Milwaukee community.


Richard’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Richard & the other 2014 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.  
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Jeff Redmon

Jeff Redmon – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  The Future Is Now

As the 2014 Pfister Artist in Residence, I will bring a new dimension to the program as the first contemporary abstract painter chose, creating a body of work that stimulates people’s sense, providing excitement, intrigue and inspiration within a world class luxury hotel.

It’s fair to say that the early 21st century digital revolution has had a profound effect on our society as the 19th century industrial revolution had. This makes it an exciting time to be an artist with remarkable new ways to communicate and share creations with a global audience. I plan to take full advantage of the tools at my disposal to create a digital marketing campaign with the goal of physically driving people to my studio at the Pfister for personal interaction and sales.

Bringing the Future is Now to the Pfister is an incredible opportunity to take my artwork/artist practices to the highest level, expanding upon my distinct style of line work and vibrant colors. I will draw inspiration from our amazing city, creating a series of large-scale electrifying paintings, t-shirts, prints and various mixed media pieces.

My studio will have easels with large colorful oil paintings, exploratory drawings, and a cozy living room area for presentations and discussions. I will use paint and markers (removable) to display my latest ideas on my studio windows, creating a live interface, prompting hotel patrons to enter and interact with me.

If chosen, I will proudly carry-on The Pfister Hotel’s legacy of art and art appreciation.


Jeff’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Jeff & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Stacey Williams-Ng

Stacey Williams-Ng – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  My current body of work is a series of paintings and drawings of people, who are looking right back at us. These faces, rather than smiling or posing in portrait mode, gaze at the viewer, unaware, as if reacting to a work of art. Capturing the attention of the viewer is the primary focus of most artists – and we wonder, as we put our art into the public eye, what people are thinking and feeling when they see it. In these paintings, strangers stare back at us, in various states of interest, amusement, judgment or boredom.

As I consider this thesis within the context of the Pfister’s residency program, I can imagine how interacting with the public will add a new layer of meaning to the work. These paintings are meant to make us think about what art really is, and how we feel about is, and what role the viewer plays in bringing a work of art to life. What sort of feelings and judgments do the hotel’s guests bring with them when they enter into the Pfister’s doors? What are they thinking? How are they a reflection of who we are?


Stacey’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Stacey & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Niki Johnson

Niki Johnson – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  If chosen as the Artist in Residence at the Pfister Hotel, I will create a series of six sculptural child-sized bathtubs decorated to illustrate fairytales written by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.

Fairytales are the earliest narratives that join us culturally to one another. This body of work re-imagines the bathtub as the place where children go before hear bedtime stories. It is my intent with these sculptural works to create dialogue about earliest stories we come to learn, as well as how daily rituals and self-care shape our everyday lives.

I envision my residency in the Pfister artist’s studio as a professional and inspirational experience, where I am allowed the opportunity to share various aspects of my practice with the patrons of the hotel. During my 30-hour workweek in the Pfister artist’s studio, I will primarily be working in oil clay, sculpting and carving features for the bathtubs, and drawing detailed sketches for the components of each piece. As the final sculptures will be made out of cast porcelain, I will be spending additional time in my home studio preparing molds and casting. To encourage a holistic experience for the patrons, I will keep a few molds on display and will also regularly post photographic documentation of the work I do both on and off site on a digital display that I can talk about.

Additionally, I will produce a line of limited edition commemorative plates to match each of these sculptural pieces. They will be available when I begin each tub, as both an aide to help patrons visualize the direction of the work in progress, alongside the drawings and sketches that will be on view.


Niki’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Niki & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Dena Nord

Dena Nord – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  When Pfister employees describe the hotel’s famous art collection they mention favorites, its history, and save the best for last – the residency program. One employee described it as “It was a breath of new life. Since the program, the collection has really started to grow.”

Taking that idea of life and growth as inspiration for my proposal, if selected I would create a body of abstract paintings that seem to literally grow on top of the existing collection. I would pick eight to ten pieces to work off of and record my abstract painting interpretations in time-lapse video. Using a technology called augmented reality; I would overlay the process video of my new work on top of the existing collection piece, as well as my original painting. With any smart device, one could download my App and unlock these videos and see how I organically developed the painting. If feeling inspired, I might also tag other things in the hotel that would work well with my new medium of technology and fine art.

In the studio, I would create a living hands-on environment. Guests and employees feeling creative, or public visitors on gallery nights, could paint along with me on a group canvas. I would demonstrate techniques on my current piece and talk about my work, while others follow along on the group canvas.


Dena’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Dena & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Brandon Minga
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng

2014 Artist in Residence Finalist – Brandon Minga

Brandon Minga – Milwaukee, WI

 

Proposal:  Built in 1893, The Pfister Hotel has long been known as a historic beacon of Milwaukee and one of the trendiest places to stay and play. In the late 19th century, while the Pfister was becoming the premier spot for Midwest movers and shakers, the hottest trends in fashion, art, food and spirits were also beginning to emerge. It was this juxtaposition of old and new, past and present, that inspired me to create “the Vintage Future” for the Pfister Hotel.

My work will marry the richer history of the Pfister Hotel with the trends of today. I will reimagine historic events like “the Drunkard” and past venues such as “the Old English Tavern” and “the Columns” drawing a contemporary inspiration from the Pfister’s Victorian collection and archives, both image and text. I hope to collaborate with the Pfister’s narrator, chefs, bartenders, and social media partners to create these interactive events, in which we would pair my artwork with food and libations inspired from menus of the past.

“The Vintage Future” will include 15-20 mixed media collages on paper. I will offer limited-edition prints and create related apparel. Much like what Charles Pfister had intended when he concocted his Indian Punch, “the Vintage Future” will be marketed and sold nationwide.


Brandon’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 13th, 2014 through February 14th, 2014.  The public will be able to vote for Brandon & the other 2014 Artist-in-Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.17.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.
(Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 17th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can read the proposals from each of the other finalists by clicking their names below:

Dena Nord
Richard Dorbin
Niki Johnson
Jeff Redmon
Stacey Williams-Ng