“Educated Rustic: Painting, Poetry, and Sculpture by Phillip Schultz” at the Kenosha Public Museum through November 27, 2016

Please attend the opening reception for “Educated Rustic: Painting, Poetry, and Sculpture by Phillip Schultz” at the Kenosha Art Museum, Friday October 21 from 6-8pm. As guest curator of the exhibition, I will present an informal gallery talk during this event and Phil Schultz will there to answer questions.


Phil Schultz is a remarkable man. He grew up in Racine, WI during the 1950s and, like many of us, attended high school and college. His life changed in 1979 when a back injury, and his already diagnosed  paranoid schizophrenia, disabled him.  After having worked in factories in Racine and in the jewelry business in Milwaukee, Schultz now found himself “physically and mentally handicapped and on welfare and eventually Social Security Disability.” These programs kept him alive, but also kept him in poverty.

During his convalescence Schultz, who had studied art in college, took up painting because, as he says, “there wasn’t much else I could do.”  For over twenty years he has lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in a run down house on College Avenue in Racine. Over time, he converted the unheated attic into a painting studio. Here he has produced hundreds of paintings, working with oil on cheap particleboard, and then fitting each into a handmade frame decorated with cut up mini blinds, bits of carpeting, and smashed pop cans collected from the garbage in his back alley. In the musty basement, Schultz set up a welding bench where he forms abstract figures from scraps of steel and builds molds for his cast bronzes.

Schultz is a thinking man, prone to philosophical and poetic contemplation. Since the mid 1980s, he has written one sonnet a day which he files in spiral binders and sometimes shares with friends or presents at local poetry readings. He says that his poems “aren’t any good,” but I disagree. Schultz’s daily efforts to communicate his feelings are a rare record of a life largely shaped by poverty, pain, and despair. In fact, we might not be able to bear to read Schultz’s poetry, if it were not for the joyfulness and compassion articulated in his painting and sculpture.

Patricia Briggs, October 2016

  • Also opening on the same night at KPM is “Monsters, Mutants and Madmen: Science Fiction Movie Posters of the Drive-In Era.”
  • This event is free and open to the public.  Light refreshments will be served.



Studio Visit: Anne Muntges

Anne Muntges, Skewed Perspective, 2014. Installation in The Center Gallery, Jamestown Community Campus, Olean.

Anne Muntges, 2014

When I visited Anne Muntges in her Buffalo studio last year she had just finished up a Bemis Art Center residency where she had been working on a weird “kitchenette” drawing installation. This was not a drawing of a kitchenette, but rather an actual kitchenette transformed by drawing. To begin, Muntges covered all of the surfaces of things that make up a kitchenette with white paint: a section of wall with cupboards and a counter, a microwave oven sitting on the counter, a rotary telephone with coiled cord hanging on the wall, a circular table, salt and pepper shakers, a wooden chair, a broom and dustpan, etc.. All of these are painted white, their surface decor and detail erased so that they can serve Muntges as a continuous drawing surface or vast blank page.

Inspired by the black and white drawings of Edward Gorey and Shel Silverstein, Muntges uses black line to cover every square inch of the installation, bringing into being an odd whimsical drawn world comprised of crosshatched patterns in varied shades of grey.

Intrigued by her work, I invited Mungtes to install an expansive installation in a small gallery—The Center Gallery—located on JCC’s Olean campus. She spent months preparing and with the help of gallery staff (that is, with the help of Colin Shaffer) Muntges filled the gallery with the contents of a small furnished apartment, all of its surfaces encrusted with her obsessively drawn patterned crosshatchings. What the viewer encountered when they walked into Muntges Olean installation entitled Skewed Perspective was a surreal in-between place, made of readymade objects that no longer seem solid or “real.”  By changing the surface of things,  like surrealists Man Ray or Meret Oppenheim, Muntges managed to deconstruct the normal existence of things and reconstruct them as part of an uncanny imaginary world.

Talking about Skewed Perspective, Muntges said that she is currently trying to figure out ways to place herself inside the drawn space of the installation and has gone so far as painting her hands and drawn on them. Hearing this I began to understand that the practice of drawing (she works for hundreds of hours on the installation) and the drawn space are an immersive place of fantasy for Muntges. Very interesting.

Reading the “Veterans Book Project” in Western New York

I am pleased to share photos of readers taken during the Veterans Book Project (VBP) exhibitions in Chautauqua County this November.  Two sets of the VBP library–fifty volumes, each written by a different person with first-hand experience of war–were exhibited simultaneously at two locations. At the Weeks Gallery we put on a full-blown exhibition with lots of support allowing teachers and professors to bring their classes to the gallery for quiet reading and discussion sessions. On average, we worked with one college or high school class  per day in the gallery.  SUNY-Fredonia’s Reed Library Lobby Gallery, hosted a smaller installation of the VBP library, which faculty across campus sent students to visit. One professor used the VBP as a focus for her Literatures of War class and Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk, plugged the VBP at his talk at Fredonia. Castner said that teachers all over the country are looking for recourses like the VBP, which puts the words of everyday veterans and Afghan and Iraqi civilian refugees right in students’  hands, in a quick-to-read format that communicated directly about the sobering realities of war.

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Facilitating reading and discussion sessions with student on my campus, I came to realize that today’s college freshmen were in kindergarten when the Twin Towers fell. When the Iraq War began they were in second grade. For most of them, the media coverage of US military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ongoing terrorism at home and abroad closely connected with these conflicts has been a buzz humming in the background of their lives.  It felt important to work with these young people to try to pull the realities of the human cost of war into the foreground of their consciousness through discussion and debate spurred by reading the VBP library. My hope is that they left the exhibitions understanding some of the reasons why 21 veterans kill themselves every day and I hope that they recognize that this war statistic takes comes into being in neighborhoods where they live, not in some distant land.

Many of you may know that I have followed the Veterans Book Project by artist Monica Haller for some time. Haller built the library  between 2009 and 2013 by facilitating thirteen bookmaking workshops across the country, each with four to six participants. Before it was completed, the Veterans Book Project was included in the San Jose Biennial and an exhibition presented by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. In 2012 a nearly complete Veterans Book Project was presented as a solo show at the Nomas Foundation Gallery in Rome, Italy, and again in 2013 at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Haller has been invited to speak about the VBP at countless colleges and universities as well as at  Pompidou Center in Paris. The VBP library is now complete with fifty volumes; Chautauqua County hosted the first two exhibitions of the completed work.

Thanks to Randy Gadikian, Reed Library Director and to Anna Stadick for editing this post.Thanks to Mark Kirsch for taking many of these photos and sharing them with me.

Teto Elsiddique’s Mimicking Surfaces

Teto Elsiddique, Plastic and Gold and New Money (2014) Spray paint transfer, clock, party poster board, mylar balloons, acrylic and latex paint. Weeks Gallery.

Teto Elsiddique, “Plastic and Gold and New Money” (2014)
Spray paint transfer, clock, party poster board, mylar balloon, black ink, acrylic and latex paint. Installation in the Weeks Gallery at Jamestown Community College.

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I met Teto Elsiddique a few weeks ago when he was a resident artist installing two pieces on campus.  In three days he installed two large site-specific spray paint transfer prints on walls—one in the Weeks Gallery, another in the college center at Jamestown Community College.

Teto Elsiddique installing a site-specific spray paint transfer to the wall of the gallery.

Adhering spray paint transfer to the wall of the gallery.

Elsiddique learned to use spray paint as a teen making graffiti in Toronto. As an art student at the  Nova Scotia College of Art and Design he found ways to integrate this highly coded material into gallery installations with an ingenious transfer method he invented himself.

The colorfield-esque wall abstraction at the center of Plastic and Gold and New Money started long before Elsiddique arrived on campus. It began with a large plastic tarp (9o cents at a hardware store) which Elsiddique often uses as a printing matrix.  He draped the very thin plastic across the surface of a bed so that the the plastic conformed to the undulating pattern imbedded in the mattress’s surface.  Applying spray paint at an extreme raking angle, Elsiddique picked up, essentially copying, the wavy pattern on the matters with the metallic shapes of spray paint silver, purple, black and green.

spray paint transfer, detail.

When the spray paint on the tarp is dry Elsiddique has an inked printing matrix.  In the gallery,  he applies latex paint to the wall where he wants to  print (or transfer) the image. Pressing the dry spray paint side of the tarp to the wet wall paint, he rubs and squeegees the plastic so that it becomes affixed to the wall. When the latex  paint dries the spray paint is adhered to the wall. At this point Elsiddique pulls the plastic tarp away leaving the spray paint transfer behind.Screenshot 2014-03-03 21.40.14

Although the wall print is a field of atmospheric abstraction that looks like the night sky, sea waves, or sand dunes, or “the northern lights” as one viewer said, it also contains highly realistic tracings of the mattress  surface which perfectly mimic the familiar pattern.

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By indexically mimicking the mattress pattern in this work, Elsiddique creates a signifier through a process  direct physical  contact with a signified. This means that like a photograph, his mattress pattern tracings share an intimate physical bond with the object they represent. Considering that touch is central to this process in other ways as well–Elsiddique spreads the tarp across the surface of the bed and presses it with his hands to conform to the patterns–the intimacy suggested  in the final work is considerable intensified as this is the same gesture as he would make to spread a sheet on a bed if he were making it.

The process yields powerful results when Elsiddique uses flesh colored spray paint to trace the surface pattern of mattress in such a way that the printed transfer looks like a sheet of skin when printed on  a piece of gaudy poster board that glitters brightly behind and beneath the paint.

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Spray paint transfer print on sparkly holographic poster board. Plastic tarp matrix conforms to the surface of a bed mattress.. Installation detail.

the flesh tone paint traces the wave pattern of the matters foam

Flesh tone paint traces the wave pattern of the matters. Installation detail.

Elsiddique’s bed tracings take on an added level of meaning when they are considered in the tradition of frottage. Like Max Ernst’s  frottage drawings made by rubbing the wood grain of floor boards, Elsiddique transforms banal traces of the everyday world into marvelously rich fields of imaginary  worlds. For Elsiddique the world is filled with objects to print from and to print onto. Every surface is essentially equivalent to shiny silver mylar ballon or holographic sparkly poster board, in that it can be reflected, mimicked or doubled with the help of some spray paint or a vessel of black ink.

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Elsiddique uses an inexpensive clock purchased at a dollar store as a “vessel to hold black ink.”

To see more of the process and Elsiddique’s installation in the Hamilton Collegiate Center visit the gallery Facebook album. Please “like” the Weeks Gallery.

Teto Elsiddique was raised in Sudan and Canada. He received his BFA from  Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in 2013.

Phillip Schultz: One End of Forever

I’ve been following the work of Racine artist Phil Schultz ever since I saw his “The Wish to Change” in Kate Remington’s wonderful gallery about three years ago. This arc welded steel tabletop sculpture presents a scrawny horseback rider standing dangerously upright, stepping off the back of his mount as he attempts to walk in the opposite direction his horse is going.  Like much of Schultz’s sculptures “The Wish to Change” has a primitivist outsider  angst-ridden sensibility.  Made from small bits of scrap steel joined together, its entire surface is decorated with raised metal droplets that both hold the piece together and demarcate an obsessive linear pattern.  Later I encountered a small exhibition of Schultz’s more light-hearted colorful non-representational paintings, each with hand-crafted frame made of cast off materials which prompted me to write a blog post and prompted Schultz to invite me for a tour of his studio.

Schultz’s home and studio are remarkable. For the past thirty years he has lived in a small subsidized one bedroom apartment where he’s produced a vast body of artwork which has remained largely hidden from public view.  There are sculptures everywhere–on the mantel, tucked behind chairs, sitting on the floor, pushed under tables. The walls of his living spaces are filled with his paintings, each with its uniquely patterned frame.  Over the years Schultz managed to expand into the attic of house where he rents, making it a painting studio and frame building workshop. He’s taken over parts of the dank basement for his welding and silicon mold making.

Schultz is also a  writer.  He has written several plays, a paper on linear perspective and optics, and nearly 15 thousand sonnets.  Aside from his commitment to his art practice, Schultz has been on a quest or the last twenty years to design and advocate for safer more accessible and affordable automobiles. He refers to this as his “Urban Vehicle” work.  he has made a series of part engineering/part fantasy designs and has taped a four-part cable access video program devoted to this ongoing project.

The day I first visited Schultz’s home I began to dream of an exhibition that would capture both the rich variety of Schultz’s work and the character of his life, his home and studio. I’m happy to announce that this exhibition “Phillip Schultz: One End of Forever” is on view at UW-Parkside Gallery September 4 – November 8, 2013.

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UW-Parkside Foundation Gallery is located in the Rita Tallent Picken Center for Art and Humanities on the UW-Parkside campus in Kenosha Wisconsin.

Artist’s Reception: October 16, 4:30 – 6:30 pm

Curator’s talk: October 16, 1:00pm.

Life on Lake Michigan at the Turn of the Twentieth Century – glass plate negatives made into large format prints

I became obsessed with UW-Parkside Archive’s collection of dry plate negatives last year when director Anna Stadick shared them with me. I determined to scan, print and research a group of the negatives for a little show at the Parkside gallery.  We have just installed  an exhibition of  large format digital photographs pulled from high quality scans of the original negatives that date to 188os to early 1900s. These photos primarily show beautiful boats on the Lake Michigan, but there are a few other subjects as well. Enjoy this slide show and vista Parkside’s E. H. Mathis Gallery located in the theatre lobby if you can.

By researching the names of the vessels mentioned in the index to the slidesI found that many of the ships shown were well-known racing yachts at the time. I had no idea that yacht racing was a popular spectator sport at the turn of the century, and that the Lake Michigan Yachting Association hosted a regatta in 1901 that sailed between Chicago and Kenosha. The images are marvelous.

What is a Dry Plate negative?

The Dry Plate process was first invented in 1871. It replaced a messy and time-sensitive process that required the application of wet chemicals (wet collodion) to a glass plate minutes before a photograph was taken. This means that before the Dry Plate process, a photographer could not take a photograph without having a “dark room” to create a light sensitive “Wet Plate” for use in his or her camera. The Dry Plate process made photography much easier because the light-sensitive silver gelatin emulsion was applied and allowed to dry on the plate before it was used by a photographer.  A photographer could simply carry dry plates and load them into a camera to take a photograph. By the 1880s factory-made silver gelatin dry plates were widely available, and this brought photography to a wide audience of amateur practitioners.  Glass plate photography began to decline when flexible roll film was invented and it virtually disappeared by the mid-1920s, replaced by George Eastman Kodak cameras that used only flexible roll film. (from the galley website)

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“Chalk Talk Kenosha Banners” on view at the State Capitol in Madison, UW-Parkside Library, Celebre Place Senior Living, Madison Public Libraries, and the lobby of the Rita!

The banners created last year to celebrate the community art project “Chalk Talk Kenosha,” organized by UW-Parkside Galleries and ExposeKenosha, are on view of the WI State Capital during Jan and Feb, 2013. This project was inspired by Minneapolis-based artist Wing Young Huie represents the collaboration of over a hundred community participants from the public schools (teachers and students), Kenosha Literacy Council, Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha, Parkside students and senior citizens. Nearly 200 individual photos were taken in workshops lead by volunteers and the photos were shown in Kenosha downtown businesses, in senior living residencies, in public schools and in the Fine Arts Gallery at Parkside.

See all the Chalk Talk Kenosha images at UW-Parkside’s Gallery webpage: Chalk Talk Kenosha

Banner features Wing Huie's  photos taken at chalk talk workshop at Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha.

Banner features Harborview Academy High School student work.

Banner features photo taken by volunteers at Kenosha Literacy Council chalk talk workshop.

Banner features photo taken by volunteers at Kenosha Literacy Council chalk talk workshop.

After their display at the State Capitol, “Chalk Talk Kenosha” banners found a home in the UW-Parkside library.

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As the school year begins at UW-Parkside, this wonderful community project has been formed into a mural in the entry way of the Rita Tallent Picken Center for Arts and Humanities.

Mural display in the lobby of the Rita Tallent Picken Center for Arts and Humanities at UW-Parkside.

Mural display in the lobby of the Rita Tallent Picken Center for Arts and Humanities at UW-Parkside.