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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Haggerty Museum makes Milwaukee art accessible to all

This photo is from Milwauke-based photographer Mark Brautigam's "On Wisconsin" series. Photo courtesy of the Haggerty Museum of Art.

Milwaukee isn’t often recognized for its art beyond the masterpieces at the Milwaukee Art Museum, yet there is a massive amount of talent outside its walls living right here in the city. And while art can be intimidating for some, much of this Milwaukee-based art is accessible to anyone.

The Haggerty Museum of Art’s newest exhibition, “Current Tendencies II,” is a perfect example of local art that can mean as much to the everyday individual as it can to a professional art critic.

Running through Dec. 31, the exhibition features a variety of media, including photography, painting, drawing, printmaking, video and sculpture. All the pieces come from 10 Milwaukee area artists: Reginald Baylor, Mark Brautigam, Nathaniel Stern, Jessica Meuninck-Ganger, Julian Correa, Lisa Hecht, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Luc Leplae, Will Pergl and Jordan Waraksa.

“Current Tendencies II” has been a process two years in the making. Its 2009 predecessor, “Current Tendencies,” was a successful show featuring artists from around Wisconsin. When it came to proposing new talent for the present exhibition, the Haggerty staff realized most of the suggested artists hailed from Milwaukee.

“It seemed that as we were working on the exhibition, we were bringing more Milwaukee artists to the front,” said Lynne Shumow, curator of education and community outreach at the Haggerty. “That’s when we decided to make it all Milwaukee artists.”

Living in the same city provides all the artists with a common background, but their work touches on different issues and themes that reach across not only multiple academic disciplines, but also various real-life experiences. Walking through the exhibition exposes viewers to a wide range of art all together in one space.

For instance, Sharon Kerry-Harlan’s earthy tone pieces on quilt-like material have a strong social-political message, whereas photographer Mark Brautigam captures simple moments so intriguing that viewers can create their own narrative behind it.

“We’re not showing art just for art’s sake here,” Shumow said. “Artists are applicable to everything.”

The Haggerty is an academic partner of Marquette, so the exhibitions are often incorporated into different curricula. With this exhibition’s focus on Milwaukee, Shumow proceeded to pair the artists with Marquette professors sharing similar interests in order to create a dialogue about the artwork. Each professor reflected on a single artist’s work and wrote about it.

“[The] first thing I thought was that I didn’t have an in,” said Melissa Shew, a visiting assistant professor in the department of philosophy. “But this is good for philosophy. I spend a lot of time thinking about dialogue.”

Shew wrote a reflection on Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and Nathaniel Stern’s collaborative piece.

While Meuninck-Ganger works more with traditional art mediums, Stern makes use of computer technology.  Their finished product, “13 Views of a Journey,” is a combination of silkscreen, traditional printmaking, lithography and digital media, along with other methods. The dynamic piece incorporates pop culture references as well as historical figures and events.

Shew is also using the exhibition as a point of conversation for her students.  To her, “Current Tendencies II” and the Haggerty are great resources, even for a philosophy class.

“Its genius to ask different faculty members to share their point of view,” Shew said. “It’s a unique opportunity. It’s win-win for Marquette and the artist.”

Reginald Baylor, a featured artist in the exhibition, said his discussion with Roberta Coles, a social and cultural sciences professor, was successful. Together, they created a very honest reflection of Baylor’s work.

A mix of textile, metal, vinyl, traditional acrylic on canvas and commercial banner material, Baylor’s pieces are sprinkled with references to pop culture throughout.

Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and Nathaniel Stern's collaborative work "13 Views of a Journey." Photo courtesy of the Haggerty Museum of Art.

Baylor said he believes the Haggerty’s showcase of Milwaukee artists is a great example of creating accessibility for a wider audience, and therefore creating a better understanding of visual arts.

“If I spoke a foreign language you didn’t understand, the more time we spent together, eventually we’d start communicating,” she said. “A lot of people think art is a foreign experience. They just need to spend more time with it.”

Many of the featured artists find inspiration in the same places the average person finds inspiration. The work on display delves much deeper than merely what’s visible externally.

“Art is much bigger than art,” Shumow said. “Art is a reflection of life.”

And “Current Tendencies II” is much more than just the Haggerty’s fall exhibition. It’s a collection of diverse artists and a chance to dispel the myth that art isn’t relatable. “Current Tendencies II” is an opportunity to truly understand visual arts in Milwaukee.

“Current Tendencies II” runs through Dec. 31 at the Haggerty Museum of Art. The museum is free and open to the public Mondays – Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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