An artist’s look at Milwaukee beyond ‘Beer and Brats’

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"More than Beer and Brats"

Local artist Katie Perton drew her response to Miller Park in marker as part of her “More than Beer and Brats” collection. Photo by Cy Kondrick/cy.kondrick@marquette.edu

On the surface, this city is all about its beer. From Lakefront Brewery and Milwaukee Brewing Co. to the countless pubs and bars lining Milwaukee’s streets, it has rightfully earned the nickname of Brew City.

But despite its outer façade, Milwaukee has more to offer than Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller Lite — and not just to drink.

Emerging local artist Katie Perton puts it best with her newest collection, “More than Beer and Brats,” on display at Danceworks, 1661 N. Water St., until Dec. 15.

The exhibition is a compilation of gestural, whimsical pieces that portray various ways Perton sees Milwaukee. Most are engaging, colorful drawings done in marker that resemble watercolors, but she mixes it up with a couple of charcoal drawings and two oil paintings as well.

A 2007 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Perton was initially going to move away after graduation. But after some soul-searching, she ended up staying here and decided to try to rediscover Milwaukee through her artwork and fall back in love with the place she calls home.

“Everyone has the way they feel about the city and their own perspective,” Perton said. “But I wanted to show my perspective.”

Her drawings include realistic interpretations of iconic Milwaukee sites like Miller Park and the Hyatt building, as well as the city’s characteristic elements, like a yellow house in the style of those found on the East Side.

Perton said she thinks every city has its own personality, and she finds it interesting to see how different people view them.

“Everyone can drive down Wisconsin Avenue, but everyone sees different things,” Perton said.

Madeline Huston, visual arts director at Danceworks, said the show resembles an intimate look into a sketchbook of Perton’s responses to the scenes and people around Milwaukee.

“It’s very honest, it’s very spontaneous, it’s not the least bit contrived,” Huston said.

Huston said Perton’s pieces will range from something that is extremely public, like buildings, to something that is very intimate, like a pair of children’s shoes. She said each piece, regardless of subject, defines Perton’s view of the city.

“It is all very telling of what her perspective of Milwaukee is,” Huston said.

Huston’s favorite pieces in the show are Perton’s self-portraits.

“Katie herself is an extremely authentic person, and it really comes across as being a person you could just talk with,” Huston said.

In her artist statement for the show, Perton said she included self-portraits to convey how she fits into her view of Milwaukee.

Danceworks is primarily a dance company — hence the name — and the members of the company perform during the opening receptions of each exhibition displayed in the gallery. For “More than Beer and Brats,” dancers present interpretations of their favorite Milwaukee scenes.

Perton’s collection offers a glimpse at her rediscovery of Brew City, which she says is a continuing process despite the opening of the gallery.

“I’m kind of one of those people who believes you’re never really done because there’s always more to say,” Perton said. “I guess when I saw a portrait of Milwaukee in (the collection) is when I stopped.”

Danceworks, 1661 N. Water St., is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The gallery is free and open to the public.

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