May 7, 2024—The Miller Art Museum is pleased to present two new exhibitions opening on Sat., May 25, 2024: Expressions of Place featured in the Museum’s first floor main galleries and Wisconsin Visual Artists NE Chapter Show 2024 on the Ruth Morton Miller Mezzanine. Expressions of Place features the work of Hector Acuna (Grafton), Marc Anderson (Sturgeon Bay), Shelby Keefe (Milwaukee), Stephanie Lord (Sturgeon Bay), and Brian Sindler (Chicago), along with 38 member artists of the WVA. The exhibits open to the public at 10 am on Saturday, May 25, 2024; a free artist reception will be held on Friday evening, May 24 from 4 – 6 pm with remarks by WVA Juror Craig Blietz at 5 pm on the Ruth Morton Miller Mezzanine. Light refreshments will be served and music will be provided by Craig Schultz and Mike Miller. The exhibitions will remain on view through July 6, 2024.

Expressions of Place, an invitational, highlights plein air painting in celebration of the rich history of the practice on the Door Peninsula. Works by artists Brian Sindler (Chicago, IL.), Shelby Keefe (Milwaukee), Marc Anderson (Sturgeon Bay), Stephanie Lord (Sturgeon Bay, WI) and Hector Acuna (Grafton, WI) will be featured and complimented by a selection of plein air works curated from the permanent collection.

“There was a time in Door County before art galleries, but, there was never a time that people couldn’t appreciate the beauty of the Peninsula. When the snow melted from the fields and the pink and white blossoms popped on the trees, the temptation was there to record it on paper or canvas,” said Lorraine Mengert (Door County’s Art History, 1996, p. 5).

Plein air painting has long been a tradition in Door County, beginning with the artist communities that professors from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago established on the peninsula during the early 1920s. Little evidence of those initial artist communities remains, but what has endured is the desire to experience landscape painting and drawing outdoors in Door County. The practice is celebrated annually by the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek with their Plein Air Festival, which attracts artists and visitors from across the country each summer. Expressions of Place highlights the practices of the five participating artists and includes imagery from Door County and beyond.

“Each artist invited to participate in this exhibition was chosen for their distinct method of plein air painting,” says Helen del Guidice, Miller Art Museum curator.

Brian Sindler is an award-winning painter who has exhibited nationally. His paintings are characterized by the use of a subdued palette and the flattening of the pictorial space. The artist often paints in the limited light of evening scenes, where formal considerations take a back seat to contrasting tonalities and color harmonies.

In contrast, Shelby Keefe’s work is imbued with bold, exuberant color. Keefe, another award-winning artist, has participated in museum exhibitions and prestigious plein air painting competitions nationally; further, she has attained the signature status in Oil Painters of America, the American Impressionist Society, and American Women Artists.

Like Keefe and Sindler, Marc Anderson, represented by Edgewood Orchard Galleries, is an award-winning plein air painter previously based in Milwaukee who has recently relocated to downtown Sturgeon Bay. His landscapes display dynamic naturalism and active brushwork with enchanting results.

Stephanie Lord, also a resident of Door County and represented by Plum Bottom Gallery in Egg Harbor, engages in both studio painting and plein air work. She is a member of the American Impressionist Society.

Hector Acuna, a professional artist and educator living in Grafton, Wisconsin, earned his Master of Fine Arts from Michigan State University. For Acuna, plein air painting is a way of documenting the present and finding meaningful connections to the world around him.

The practice of painting en plein air requires an artist to paint their subjects, usually a landscape, in the outdoors and from life. The theory behind the practice is that an artist can capture the fluctuations of natural light, rendering colors more attuned to nature rather than stylized studio techniques.

In 1860, the remarkable invention of oil paint premixed and sold in tubes enabled a new generation of outdoor painters. A group of four art school students, Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), and Federic Bazille (1841-1870), took advantage of the portable, synthetic blend and revolutionized landscape painting. Known as the Impressionists, these artists discovered that following the light of the sun as it fluctuated and using bold brushfuls of pigment created a dazzling new style of painting that remains popular with artists and art lovers all over the world today.

Displayed in tandem with Expressions of Place on the Ruth Morton Mezzanine is the Wisconsin Visual Artists Northeast Chapter Members Show, an annual exhibition featuring two and three-dimensional work that this year highlights the work of 38 member artists. The WVA began in 1900 as the first professional association of artists in the state and has continued for 123 years as an educational, supportive, and connective force for artists within Wisconsin.

“The organization supports its NE Wisconsin members at all stages of their career, bringing together artists that are relatively new to the arts community with those that are widely recognized,” del Guidice says.

The exhibitions are presented with support from the following sponsors: The Boldt Company, Huehns Family Charitable Trust, the MMG Fdn., Inc., Ellsworth and Carla Peterson Fdn. with additional grant and in-kind support from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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