Finalists Exhibit Artist Profile – Pamela Anderson

As part of the Pfister’s ongoing commitment to the arts and those incredibly talented artists who’ve taken the time to submit their candidacy for our Artist-in-Residence position, we’ve put together a fantastic evening at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts to highlight Artist in Residence finalists from the first four years of the program. The show, debuted as part of the Hidden River Art Festival on Friday, September 14th from 5.30-8.30pm.  You can find an photo album of the show here, on our Facebook page (a Facebook account is not necessary).

The pieces will be on display at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center through October 17th. Participating Artist in Residence Finalists include: Albin Erhart, Anthony Suminski, Brandon Minga, Bridget Griffith Evans, Hal Koenig, Jeremy Plunkett, Kate Pfeiffer, Katie Musolff (former Artist-in-Residence), Matt Duckett, Mutope Johnson, Pamela Anderson, Reginald Baylor (former Artist-in-Residence), Sara Mulloy, Shelby Keefe (former Artist-in-Residence), Steve Ohlrich, and current Artist-in-Residence Timothy Westbrook.

Through the months of September and October we’ll be highlighting Artist-in-Residence finalists here on the blog. This week we’re featuring Artist in Residence Finalist Pamela Anderson.

Name: Pamela Anderson
The year you applied to be AiR: 2012
Genre of your work: Abstract Expressionism
Medium of choice: Acrylic, Spray Paint, Watercolor, Paper and Oil Pastel
City of Residence: Milwaukee

“Dreaming” by Pamela Anderson

Q: What inspired you to become an artist?

A: Some of my earliest memories are of me coloring for hours on the back stoop of our house. When I was in school we had art included in our curriculum and I could take art each semester. I did…That is all I wanted to do. It’s that simple. I lived, breathed art. Visiting Art Museums as a child stimulated my desire. I don’t feel that I had good direction back then or encouragement to become a working artist.On graduation from High School my Guidance Counselor encouraged the women in our class to become Nurses or Teachers. My Dad told me that he had only saved money for my Brother to go to College. He told me I wasn’t worth educating as I would only get married and have babies. I got sidetracked for a number of years. I worked in the corporate world of banking, mortgage banking and made a very successful life for myself. I raised a family. Then one day I recognized that I had never followed through with my dream. I started painting again with a new passion. I value my story…I feel it has shaped me as a person and brings meaning to who I am and my work.

Q: What piece of art (or artist) are you most inspired by?

A: This is a hard question. There are too many that inspire me! I love Calder, Miro, Kandinsky, Diebenkorn, Picasso. Frankenthaler, Mitchell, Cabrera Moreno… I could make an endless list. Locally here in Milwaukee I have studied with and have been mentored by Terrence Coffman, Reginald Baylor and Thomas Kovacich. There are aspects of all of their work that I study. Their use of color, placement, strokes…application.When I started creating again I left my traditional methods behind and began to explore Abstract Expressionism. I experiment based on my thoughts or feelings as I look at their work.

Q: What have you been working on in the time since you applied?

A: I have been experimenting with my processes at Plaid Tuba where I work as one of the Artists in Residence. Having the freedom to be able to create in an environment where imagination is nurtured has opened many windows of opportunity for me professionally and emotionally. This is an essential for an artist. Inspiration can come from many sources…but having the ability to actually work and to be successful with that inspiration is deeply gratifying and validating.

Elevated

When people wax poetic about “the good old days,” it’s not often that they’re referring to the 15th century.

“Artists had it best during the Medici period,” my table mate says to me.  She’s referring to the Italian dynasty famously credited for ushering forth the Renaissance. Their patronage of promising new artists such as Botticelli, Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and even Galileo launched a trend where arts patronage became one of the ultimate status symbols for wealthy families.

“If there were a tax break, patronage might have a comeback,” she says. “We do need patrons again.”

Her name is Amanda Marquardt. I found her in the café as I was scouting someone to share a cup of coffee. I picked her out right away: dark hair with fair features, fierce haircut, fluid movements as she worked on her laptop and an appraising sideways glance as I sat down with my coffee.

Amanda has recently returned to Milwaukee, after 12 years in Los Angeles, to help out with her niece and nephews. A graduate of Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Amanda has been immersed in the arts for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve been dancing since I was three, started instruments when I was 10 and theater when I was 14,” she says.

Amanda describes some of her work as abstract, “late night,” and a bit sardonic. Her plays have earned three nominations for LA Weekly Awards; she’s been a tour manager for the Prince Poppycock, a past finalist on  America’s Got Talent); she produces authentic burlesque shows; and is regularly consulted as a Vaudeville expert.

“In the 20s and 30s, it was working,” Amanda says. “Clubs would include 10-12 chorus girls in their budget. Costumes, a choreographer, a live band. They all were paid. Not a lot, but they earned a working wage.”

“Why do you think things changed?” I asked.

“All that money was yanked out of the budget, out of the schools, out of the social infrastructure,” she says. “The struggle is that, now, people will spend $150 a month on an insurance policy they probably won’t use, but can’t see the value of the arts.”

We talk about the life of an artist, the sacrifices, the necessary drive, the investment of time, education, training and the unbalanced payoff of financial instability.

“There are so many talented people who used all of their saving to move to LA, but can’t go to auditions because they have to work three jobs,” she says.  “The risk is so high.”

Amanda and I share woeful observations about mass market entertainment and how arts and culture will be defined for a new generation, especially with the withering investment of the arts in schools. She’s currently building a Shakespeare children’s theater.

“There are kids who can actually sing who don’t make the cut at Disney because they don’t look a certain way,” she says. “It’s all a big machine that diminishes the other things the arts can do. I was encouraged when my little girls told me they preferred being at rehearsal instead of watching TV.”

Amanda’s friend from high school, Matt, arrives.  As he approaches the table, she introduces him as “a wonderful visual and conceptual artist.” He raises a blush, shrugs one shoulder. Matt is blonde, clean shaven with a youthful glint in his eye.  He also works full-time in the engineering department for the Pfister.

“He’s creating the artwork for my upcoming show,” Amanda says. “I should be able to write him a big fat check for his incredible talent.”

I turn to Matt and explain, “We’ve been talking about the state of the arts.”

“She opened up Pandora’s box is what she did,” Amanda says to Matt.  To me, she turns to say, “He’s heard all this. A lot.”

Matt chuckles and excuses himself to wait at another table with his portfolio. I ask Amanda why she thinks artists keep at it, with the deck stacked so high.

She folds her hands in her lap, gives me a wry smile and says, “I have no other marketable skills.”

“I know better than that,” I say after a laugh. “To sustain an artist’s career for as long as you have, you have an arsenal of marketable skills.  So, really, what pushes you?”

Amanda leans back against the cafe bench to think for a moment. “Where we have evolved is incredible, but where we could be makes me sad,” she says. “A society that values its creative community is one that is elevated. People don’t see the immediate value, but I know that the arts completely inspires people.”

We say our goodbyes, Amanda with a production to plan and me with scribbled notes to sort through.  As tempting as it can be to second-guess a career in the arts, Amanda’s bold conversation was fortifying to this writer and, I’m sure, the many young people and performers she will mentor. Completely inspired, indeed.

Get them While You Can: Summer Menu Items at Cafe Pfister

Sure, summer is coming to an end, but while they’re available, you can still enjoy the delicious tastes of summer that Chef Brian has put together for the Cafe Pfister’s menu. Including two of Chef Brian’s favorites, the WELLspa Caprese Salad and the incredible Floribbean Panini.

WELLspa Caprese Salad

featuring: fresh burrata, heirloom tomatoes, torn basil, cracked pepper, Skyhawk cold pressed olive oil & herb grilled bread

Floribbean Panini

featuring: Sofrito roasted pork, sliced ham, melted swiss, sliced pickle, mango mustard

The Student Whisperer

By all accounts, Timothy Westbrook is a cheerful guy.  He’s beaming whenever I see him: showing one of his fabrics to a guest, chatting with staff, carrying a cup of coffee through the halls or waving from behind the sewing machine in his studio.  Beaming.

His good mood radiates with a different frequency today. Three of us have joined him in the studio: a chick with a notepad (me), a guy with a video camera (Dustin) and the woman he credits for launching his weaving career.  I watch as he smiles and fidgets with papers on his work station and smiles some more. His professor, Sarah Saulson, is looking about the studio space, admiring his works. Timothy is glowing with unfettered joy.

“Sarah was one of the few professors who was able to tap into ‘what’s important to Tim?’ and encourage those things in me.  She was so nurturing and wonderful,” he said.  “She’s still wonderful.”

Sarah stands beside Timothy as he talks.  She is tall, roughly 5’11”, without being imposing. Poised but unassuming. She’s dressed in comfortable, asymmetrical layers of leggings, skirt, smock and cardigan.  Her ash blonde hair is also clipped into interesting angles.  Her face is kind as she watches her former student with an approving grin.

Then, I hear her speak.

It’s only halfway through her recounting of Timothy’s first classes with her that I realize I’ve been mesmerized.  Sarah’s voice is airy and measured.  Lithe and deliberate.  She speaks with the lightness of a kindergarten teacher at story time and the unwavering calm of a hostage negotiator. I imagine the gauzy softness of her voice uplifting Timothy as a frustrated student and even leveling a humbling critique.

Sarah has been a professional textile artist for more than 20 years.  Her pieces have been featured  in textbooks; she’s published articles in trade and consumer magazines; she’s given workshops and presentations at conferences and guilds across the U.S.; her work is widely exhibited and juried at craft shows; and she works frequently with elementary school classrooms, in addition to being a professor at Syracuse.

I ask about her markers to gauge new students’ weaving potential.

“I know by the end of the first class,” she says, explaining that the studio classes are once a week in a four-hour block. “That first day, I get observe their work habits, confidence in learning new skills, creative approach. It’s intense amount of contact.”

During her decade at Syracuse, Sarah’s classes have drawn students from fashion, interior design, industrial design, print making, sculpture, history, public relations and music composition.  She’s mindful that they all come seeking something.

“Teaching at an arts school is something of a tight robe,” she says.  “Students are searching for their own voice but, by necessity, I have a list of techniques and terms that I must teach them.  I try to keep the assignments open enough for them to bring themselves forward.”

Open enough for weaving cassette tape ribbon into a loom? Yes.

“Tim was a fiber arts major, I suppose I already had a few expectations,” Sarah says with a wide smile. “I had vivid recollections of a research project he had done involving historical gowns and dinosaurs.”

Timothy drops his head with a sheepish grin.

“He’s concept driven,” Sarah continues. “Weaving, on the other hand, is technique based. It’s labor intensive and step-by-step. I knew this class was going to stretch him.”

“It wasn’t until the very last minute that I realized I love weaving,” Timothy admits.  The passion Sarah ignited in him that last semester of college ultimately catapulted Timothy halfway across the country to become the Pfister’s Artist in Residence.

“It’s amazing that your journey led you here,” Sarah says.

Timothy looks to her with genuine adoration and says, “You are responsible for me getting here.”

I ask Sarah about her new work. She is preparing for an exhibit this fall, “Relics of the Twentieth Century,” where she explores the anthropological roles of textiles and weaving in the human experience.

“It was only until the Industrial Revolution that the typical home didn’t weave its own fabric or, in some cases, spin its own yard to make that fabric,” she says. “I find it equally interesting how many twentieth century items are already obsolete.  Once upon a time, women didn’t leave the house without little white gloves. Many of my students conceptually know about typewriters or rotary phones, but have never handled or even seen one.  Exploring the concept of ‘commonplace.’”

The voice. I’m nodding my head…

Timothy and Sarah trade stories about exhibit materials and memorable projects from other former classmates.  The sample list is intriguing: pantyhose, candy wrappers, film negatives, shredded paper, coffee filters, yellow pages, aluminum cans, pull cords from a ceiling fan.

“I had an intern for a few weeks this summer,” Timothy says, “and I was totally inspired by her use of rubber bands.”

“Timothy,” I ask, the notion in my head slowly shaping into a question. “Having had this powerful mentoring experience with Sarah, what do you want to be a part of how you mentor new artists?”

He  paused and says, “I have such a strong point of view, I want to be sure I’m motivating them to pursue their own styles.  I also want to make sure I explain the technical elements as thoroughly as I encourage the conceptual ones.  I’m still working on that.”

I turn to Sarah. “Who mentored you, Sarah?” I ask.

“I don’t even have a clear memory of it. I’ve been weaving since I was eight,” she says.  “There was a woman on my block. I might have gone to her house once, but I’m sure it had its impact on me. As an adult, I became friends with a woman who had been the first American weaver to travel to Finland in the 1950s.  I also learned that the weaving community is very warm and nurturing.  I’m fortunate for that.”

Timothy and Sarah slip into another conversation that has pattern counts, lace, artist communes, rescue dogs, the Adirondacks and loom maintenance.  Their exchange is easy, like a beloved nephew and aunt.  Like peers.  Like friends.

They both look wonderfully fortunate to me.

Bravery

I spotted the boy first.  A fair-headed toddler with the ambition –if not the arm extension—to reach the hand towels all by himself.  Up on his tiptoes, he wiggled and stretched his fingers toward the sensor. His small grunts only rumbled out as giggles.

His mother and I watched for an extra heartbeat before she fanned a hand in front of the red light.  The box whirred and dispensed a length of paper towel. The boy was elated.  His mother and I exchanged a knowing glance: they first fall in love with their impact on the world at that age.

“How old?” I ask.

“Two,” his mother says, reaching for the bathroom door.  “Let’s go, buddy.”

He slaps the paper towel until it submits into a loose ball and dunks it into the trash bin. He exclaims in an indiscernible cheer, but still his mother responds, “That’s right, buddy.”

The door closed quietly behind them, and I was still smiling into the mirror. Toddlers are a tumble of curiosity and courage.  Cute ones are irresistible.

In the lobby lounge, I see the mighty half-pint and his mom again.  There’s another mother and two girls seated with them on couches near the piano.  I introduce myself and start chatting up the girls.  Hannah is 10 and Tracy is nine. The little one, Oliver, is Hannah’s  little brother. The mothers’ husbands are cousins, which makes the whole caboodle of them cousins.

“There are 10 of us on this trip,” Oliver and Hannah’s mother says.

“Seven kids and three adults,” adds Hannah’s mom.

They’re on the final day of a three-day excursion from Michigan. The mothers were content to let me talk with the girls (once their Spidey senses had given me the once over, of course) while they sipped on lemonades, seemingly relieved to be sitting still.  The respite for Oliver’s mom was cut short, however.  He squirmed and fidgeted until she scooped him up to walk the lobby and climb the staircase.

They need help expending all that nap-resistant energy at that time of day.

I learn that the girls are veteran travelers, as their families vacation roughly twice a year.  I ask what they miss most about being away from their bedrooms.

“My bed,” Hannah says. “It’s very comfy.”

“I miss my chair,”Tracy says. “It’s got a big cushion and it’s shaped like a bowl.”

“What color is it, pink?” I ask.

The girls wrinkle their noses.  “Zebra print,” Tracy says.

The girls are beginning to warm, relax and chatter. Tracy’s mother relaxes a bit too.  I turn on the charm to keep the girls engaged so that she can slip into a mental escape for a few minutes. Moms get so weary at this point of the vacation.

The girls tell me about neon clothes, liking sports and dressing girly, swimming in hotel pools, new teachers in the fall, pen pals they have in Italy and Colorado.  While they talk, Oliver is back and he’s trying to force feed me bits of trail mix.  I continue to hold up my end of the conversation with the girls, but my non-note-taking hand is tickling Oliver’s side.  They force your multitasking abilities at that age.

The girls have meandered onto the topic of Things I Was Once Afraid to Try.  Hannah tells of how it took being called a chicken to get her on a rollercoaster.

“I guess I had height-o-phobia, or something,” she says.  So accidentally clever at that age.  “I’ll ride them all the time now.”

Tracy was nervous to stand on her first pair of ice skates.  Now she’s a seasoned performer.  In fact, one of the stops during their Milwaukee stay will be a fitting for a specialty pair of skates.

“What else brings you to the city?” I ask.

They told me about their ride on the S.S. Badger, the largest car ferry to sail Lake Michigan.

“If you have kids, you really should try it,” says Tracy’s mom.  “We did it once before, when they were really little.”

“I don’t remember it at all,” inserts Tracy.

I turn my attention to the moms and repeat my bravery question.  “What’s something you had to build up some bravery to do?”

The mothers exchange smiles weighted with fatigue.  “Taking a boat trip across Lake Michigan with seven kids,” says Tracy’s mom.

Summertime, children and memory-making can make mothers so very, very brave.

Incognito

 

“So, who’s going to read this? Where will it be published?”

I suppose this is what it’s like to talk with a spy or an undercover agent.

 

“Do you have to use my real name?”

Or a fugitive from the law.

 

“You’re not going to mention where I work, are you?”

Or, maybe, someone in witness protection.

 

“I just don’t like to have my business out there.”

 

As someone who has broadcast innumerable episodes of my personal life into print or a microphone, I was wholly intrigued by this Spy Agent Fugitive Mob Murder Witness.

“Are you baffled by people who aren’t as protective of their privacy?” I ask.

I didn’t expect him to hold judgments against those folks (ahem, me), but I did wonder whether he had a reflex of curiosities when he saw the unabashed and aggressively social in action.  I, for example, will invariably mutter “how,” “why” and “what tha-” if I witness a parent getting publicly sassed by their kid.  It’s such a foreign phenomenon to me (I didn’t, my sister didn’t, my parents didn’t, my aunts and uncles didn’t, my cousins didn’t, my children better not ever…), I’m sure my jaw still hangs open whenever I see such a spectacle.

But Spy Agent says he doesn’t have the same incredulous thoughts about the gregarious public types.

“Everyone has to do their own thing,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “Some people like to keep themselves out there.  Me, I don’t need to be seen.”

I will share that the Spy Agent Fugitive Mob Murder Witness works in an undisclosed location, for an unidentified global company, and is an alumni of an unnamed local university.  He has an unverified number of children and has been married for a generally significant number of years.

“I’m just a low-key type of guy,” he says with a sly smile.

I ask what brings him to the Pfister (I can only divulge that we were somewhere inside the property) and he explains that whenever he finds himself downtown with time to fill, he comes here to get work done .

“Actually, I go to a lot of places along Mason Street.”

Right. Of course.

“Have you always been like this? I ask.

He considers. “For the most part,” he says, “but it really kicked in after college.  I found it easier to maneuver through life this way.”

Spy Agent assured me there wasn’t a public scandal in his past or an egregious betrayal to set him on this course.  Rather, he determined the best way to minimize drama is to minimize his exposure to dramatic situations and people.

“The world is made up of folks who tend to be haters,” Spy Agent says. “They learn a little about you and then start concerning themselves with where you’ve been, what you’ve got, who you hang out with and all that. I don’t need that stress.”

He mentioned that his wife, conversely, is heavily involved in the community and a social network.  “Way more people know my wife,” he says.

I ask, then, how they balance their lives as Introvert and Extrovert. Spy Agent promptly corrects me.

“I’m not an introvert at all,” he says. “I’m extremely sociable.  People who know me, know all sides of me.  I’m not shy or any of that.”

“So what is it?” I ask.

“I want to do things when I want to, and I don’t always need people,” he says simply.  “I’ve had people mistake that for arrogance or being antisocial.  Some have taken it personally.  I’ve even been called a few names. With the exception of my wife, I could go days without interaction.  I can’t help how other people see it. I only care about my peace of mind.”

I nod in slow deference, finally understanding Spy Agent’s perspective.  I, too, am social when I choose to be and unapologetic when I opt, instead, to bunker in my house. Spy Agent was overflowing with personality but, in equal measures,  determined to filter only the best of best-case scenarios into his personal time. I asked how he spends those pockets of undisturbed time.

“California.”

He says that and his wife became “winos” about two years ago and escape to a winery in Southern California every few months.

“Beautiful,” Spy Agent says. “The estate. The hills. The patio. Not a cloud in the sky. Not any kind of schedule. It’s the perfect getaway.  Completely laid back.  That’s what I’m about: being laid back.”

Got it.  I ended up having quite an engaging conversation with Spy Agent, once I’d gotten past his security screen.  As I begin to wrap up, I explain the hotel blog and Narrator program again, snap a faceless photo, get his follow-up information.

“Will I get to sign off on what you’ve written?”

“What if I don’t approve?”

“Take another photo. I don’t think my laptop should be open.”

“No names, right?”

Right.  You’ve got it absolutely right.

Good Genes

Zoom in close. The young performer engages every facial feature to deliver this song.  Pan out slowly, generic take in her full frame.  She’s comfortable at the microphone and at home behind her guitar.

Her singing is inspired and sincere. The lilt and texture of her voice is an appealing mix of Toby Lightman, buy cialis Stevie Nicks and Sara Bareilles. Pan out a bit further to take in the late afternoon sun lighting the furniture of Blu. Most of the chairs are empty. Two small tables chat in the back of the room.  One other person is with me at the bar. We’re both nodding along with the singer.

Her next song tickles a distant thought. “That sounds familiar,” I say, curling my face into a question mark, trying to remember. “I can’t think of–”

“It’s ‘Lights’,” my bar mate tells me. “It’s been playing on the radio a lot lately.”

I admit to him that I wasn’t familiar with the song, but liked how it suited her voice. He turned back to the performer and I smiled at myself, appreciating the life reminder about judging books and covers. Why couldn’t this silver-haired man wearing a t-shirt and shorts and enjoying a lager beer be familiar with the Billboard Top 100? Shame on me.

I learn that his name is Dan. He’s a designer for a fabrications company, creating plastic moldings for car dashboards, cell phones, keyboards and other manufacturing companies.   He’s lives in Madison, but is originally from Fort Atkinson.

“Are you a musician, too?” I ask.

He laughs, “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. All of my kids are really creative, though.  My wife and I don’t know where they got it from.”

We laugh about the traits that children will assume, both because of and in spite of genetics.

“There are parts of them that are so familiar and parts that are so uniquely them,” Dan says. “Like, when Katie first starting playing–”

Dan’s grin turns sheepish, and he tosses a thumb over his shoulder to the guitar player. “That’s my daughter,” he said. “I’m her roadie today, carrying all the heavy stuff.”

We talked a bit more watching our children bloom. How much he marvels at his two grandsons. That he enjoyed his own childhood. In mid-sentence, Dan’s face brightens with surprise and he smiles broadly at two women entering the lounge.

“These are two of my sisters,” Dan says, between hugs. As they settle at the bar, one sister introduces herself to me. Eileen.  She’s the oldest.  They’ve traveled from Madison to see Katie play, deciding to make an overnight adventure of the trip.  I catch her up on our conversation, sharing Dan’s comment about musical ability skipping a generation.

“It’s true,” she says, her face lighting up. “I knew Dad could play guitar, but I didn’t know how good he was until I was an adult.  It’s not like he had time to play much when we were all growing up.”

“He was a World War II vet,” Dan adds. “When he came home, I guess he was busy making up for lost time.”

Eileen laughed and turned to me to explain: “There were six of us in a span of nine years,” she said, smiling. “Good Irish Catholics.”

Their father passed away more than two decades ago, but the two siblings lobbed memories of his good nature as if they were last-summer fresh:

“If someone showed up to our house, he would get on the phone and start calling people to come over.”

“Remember the slip and slide!?”

“He got a tarp, a water hose and a bunch of dish liquid to make a huge 15-foot by 10-foot slip and slide.”

“He could make anything into a party.”

“Cousin Tommy always knew he could crash at our house.”

“He walked to the house from Elkhorn once.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“My dad always had a soft spot for Cousin Tommy,” Eileen says to me. “He’d been in Vietnam.”

“A paramedic,” Dan says.  “He saw the worst of everything.”

“Yeah, the worst,” Eileen says solemnly. “Dad understood what Tommy was dealing with.”

The lounge has begun to fill with people, many of them here for Katie.  She takes a set break and starts making her rounds with hugs. Dan is to his feet, too, shaking hands, patting backs, hugging family, laughing.

I lean back to admire their tangle of arms, conversations, smiles.  Even if they can’t trace every talent to a sponsoring gene, love of family is clearly a dominant trait that they share.

Timothy’s 2nd Gallery Night + “Wedding” After Party

Photo Credit: Alison Barnick (who also happens to be a Pfister Employee)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotobug8/

Pfister Artist in Residence, Timothy Westbrook’s second gallery night took place on Friday, July 27th. With the intention of creating a piece that referenced Elizabethan, Timothy decided to tell a story with his second gallery night piece.  Using guides from the 1890s, he created a piece that reflects Queen Victoria’s popularizing of the color white in wedding gowns.

Much like his first piece, Timothy’s fiber art is composed of re-purposed materials, and this piece was no exception.  Utilizing white plastic bags, Timothy weaved a fantastic  Wedding dress – a dress that tied in surprisingly well with Art Milwaukee’s “Wedding”, a Gallery Night after event that was held in the Pfister. But don’t take our word for it, hear Timothy’s thoughts about his second Gallery Night and the privledge of being involved in the event in the video below.

Timothy also used the Gallery Night event as an opportunity to exhibit some of his dyed gowns from earlier in the summer with the help of some local models, and the help of Botique B’Lou.

After Gallery viewing ended at 9pm, the evening commenced upstairs with Art Milwaukee‘s “Wedding” in the Pfister’s Imperial Ballroom.

Artists from throughout the city were on hand to ‘live paint’ through the evening while mock wedding events occurred throughout.

“I have a Much larger sense of accomplishment…” 

Check out some of the great photos from the evening below (for a full gallery, visit us on Facebook)…

So Fast

… and then it was over.  More than a year of searching, planning, budgeting and finger crossing, reduced to a memory in an instant.

“Everyone tells you it will go by fast,” said Ashley, “but I remember thinking ‘it’s a whole day, how fast could it go?’”

I’m with Ashley and her husband, Luke, on the mezzanine above the lobby. We’re surrounded by art, antique furniture and display cases filled with artifacts. This sitting area is the quickest to access from the lobby –just up the marble staircase- and often the quietest. We tucked ourselves into this enclave to mute the bustle of incoming guests, fast-moving staff, bee lines for the bar and a scampering cluster of bridesmaids.

Exactly one year ago, the gang of girls crossing the lobby in matching dresses would’ve belonged to them.

“It took a whole week to recover from all that work,” Luke said with a laugh. Fortunately, they “convalesced” in Cabo San Lucas.

Ashley and Luke were invited to return to the hotel as winners of the “I Do: Part Deux” Pfister wedding photo contest.  They won a weekend stay, services in the WELL spa, flowers, dinner and a photography session. The unexpected bonus was winning the package in time for their anniversary.

Sitting with me, Ashley responds to most of the questions. The couple look at one another often.  Checking in. Transmitting messages with their eyes. Comfortable.

“Now that you have a year under your belts,” I asked, “what part of married life has surprised you most?”

They look at each other, smiling and gauging.

“I realize how much I enjoy my personal time,” Ashley braves.  “When he’s out, I can veg out, watch what I want.”

Luke chuckles, unfazed by the admission. He said, “I realize that when she wants the dishes washed, she wants them washed now.”

We all laugh.

Luke and Ashley knew each other in high school, but never spoke until years after graduation when they recognized one another at a bar.  The romance was intense and fulfilling.  Luke said the wedding went just the way he’d grown up seeing them in the movies: surrounded by friends and family; everyone gushing about the beautiful room, the beautiful food, the beautiful dresses; the wedding party all cleaned up and strutting their stuff; showing off the rings; drinking; dancing. I asked Luke if he’d had any requests (or demands) for the day.

“Bow ties,” he said.  “That’s all I wanted. Everything else was all about her. ” He’s easy going, leaning back in his chair, unhurried in his responses, generous with his smile.  He’s not a big guy, but he looks sturdy and strong.  “I think that’s the way it should be. This was her dream.”

I raise an eyebrow toward Ashley. Behind the flush, she’s beaming, not at me but at Luke.

“Every morning when he leaves for work, he kisses me goodbye and tucks me back under the covers,” she said.

“I don’t have to ask for things,” Luke adds. “She makes my lunch, lets me watch my sports shows.”

They make more Couple Eye Talk.

We talk a bit about the planning, the changes, a missing tuxedo shirt, the long greeting  line. I realize it’s almost time for their next itinerary treat.

“What’s your favorite moment in that blur of a day,” I asked.

“My dad telling me jokes down the aisle to help me keep it together,” Ashley said.

Luke said, “When the door opened and I saw her in this dress I kept hearing about.”

Ashley looks at him warmly. Luke doesn’t turn, just smiles.

 

…and then it was over.  The calendar date, anyway.  Their lifelong celebration, on the other hand. That’s just getting started.

 

Quietude

The first thing seized is the nose. The smell is, at once, familiar and exotic: chocolate, ginger, hyacinth, grandma’s house and ocean breeze. This must be the scent of ambrosia.

Next, the eyes take in the organic symmetry of the room: open and clean lines, recessed nooks and uncluttered walls, multiple sitting areas, oversized planters and ottoman.  The space is bathed in comforting tones of caramel and sand. Soft leather.  Textured fabrics. Brushed metals. Polished glass. The décor is resplendent refined, the livable chic of a Park Avenue apartment (or, I should say, how I imagine a Park Avenue apartment).

I’m in the waiting area for the Well Spa + Salon. One woman is waiting with me.  She is in a sitting area closer to the entrance,  pressing the keypad of her cell phone.  She’s cozy on her leather island and I’m comfy on mine.

A tall woman with the angular limbs of a runway model appears from a hallway. She is dressed in slim black pants and a loose black blouse draping from one shoulder.  Her heels snap rhythms against the hardwood.

“Collette?” she asks.  The cell phone woman is ushered from her private island into the salon behind a frosted glass door.

A young guy with a high and fanning mohawk saunters through the waiting room, his oil dispenser hooked onto one of his belt loops. His eyes face ahead of him, but he wears a faint smile, like it’s carrying a lingering joke. More therapists and stylists criss cross the waiting room: a short, dark-haired woman; a tall, pregnant blonde; a thick-hipped brunette; an average-in-every-way soccer mom; a long sculpted ponytail.  They all wear black. They all wear pleasant expressions. They all move swiftly. What’s most notable, however, is how they all make minimal eye contact.  Each passes with the quiet and deliberateness of a river ebb.

As each guest arrives, I wanted to ask a battery of questions, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to disturb this shared quietude to ask whether this spa trip was a ritual or a special treat. If there was a specific stressor they hoped to have kneaded from beneath their skin. If they were still searching for a stylist to call their very own. Did the therapists approach each landscape of skin with a different sense of adventure. How do they relax when they’re not shepherding clients into zen?

Years ago, I remember sitting in a nail shop, my feet massaged by bubbling jets and my nails drying in painted gloss. The salon hummed with luxuriating customers until one voice began to peel away the soothing ease.

He was perched in the high chair next to me, his girlfriend next to him. One after the other, to seemingly no one in particular, he lobbed commentary about the warm water, the antibacterial spray to his toes, the antics playing out on television, the storm forecast, etc.  I’m sure the couples’ pedicure was a great idea when his girlfriend first thought of it.

“First time?” I finally asked.

He nodded, broad smile.

“Very different from the barber shop,” I said, smiling back.  “You get to just sit back and relax.”

He looked around. The technicians and their clients were leaning in close to trade quiet conversations, if they spoke at all; a few customers bantered lightly across aisles; some murmured into cell phones; most flipped through magazines, sat quietly or gazed up to the television. Understanding dawned on my neighbors’ face. He leaned back and embraced the quiet.

Once again, here in the Well Spa, I share a rich silence with strangers. It feels sacred. Or, maybe, this “right now” is the blessing. Our intersection of lives might have in common a precocious toddler, a fiesty dog, a new lease, an ailing friend or nothing at all.

I retreat into my notebook, welcoming the ease of not having to fill my mouth with words or drawing reluctant sounds from someone else’s. We are cocooned here, soothed with calming sights and smells, cradled in a suspended stillness.  Though I won’t be guided into the skilled hands of a masseuse or a stylist as I leave the waiting room, I ascend the staircase into the hotel lobby feeling wholly renewed.