Curator Spotlight – Kendra Bulgrin, James May Gallery
Written by Todd Mrozinski
Kendra Lynn Bulgrin is the director and owner of James May Gallery located in Algoma, WI. She was raised in Racine and received a BFA from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater with an emphasis in painting and a minor in Japanese Cultural Studies in 2005. Bulgrin completed her MFA in interdisciplinary arts at Memphis College of Art in 2007.
Along with being a curator, Bulgrin maintains an active studio practice and has shown nationally and internationally, with shows at the Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, Sheetz Gallery at Penn State, and at Beijing Normal University, China. She has also taught at various institutions including Memphis College of Art, Washburn University, Kansas,Emporia State University, Kansas, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and St. Norbert’s College. She has two upcoming solo shows at Art Start in Rhinelander, WI and at the Ploch Gallery in Brookfield, WI and an upcoming artist residency at the Everwood Farmstead Retreat in Glenwood City, WI.
When I asked her what artist, living or dead, she would like to curate a show of, her response was Enrique Martinez Celaya. She states, “I have been continually inspired by him as a painter and thinker since seeing him give a talk at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It was an auspicious time for me. I learned I was pregnant that very night when I couldn’t stomach the food while dining with friends before the lecture. His lecture, which was partly made up of projections of his poetic, melancholic paintings set to a Leonard Cohen song, moved me like no other artist lecture ever has.” Martinez Celaya uses simple symbols such as a girl, a boy, a deer or a sunrise to reach a deeper level of understanding that transcends our intellectual understanding. His work is a dreamscape reflection on life’s radiance.“Celaya has also inspired me to always be authentic both in my painting and as a curator. I will always support emerging artists and show what I love and believe in, despite the art market. I have learned over the years as an artist and curator to always value the real and authentic over the passing and ironic.” This feeling infuses the work Bulgrin makes and shows. As Martinez Celaya has said, “To be an artist you need vulnerability, and being willing to be vulnerable in the face of challenges, the expectations of others, and your own accomplishments, requires courage.”
Curator Spotlight – Tyler Friedman, Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA)
Written by Todd Mrozinski
In mid-2018, Tyler Friedman joined the Museum of Wisconsin Art as Associate Curator. He has curated various shows over the past two years; the most ambitious of which being the 160-year-spanning “Among the Wonders of the Dells: Photography, Place, Tourism”, followed in short order by the forthcoming “Wisconsin Funnies: Fifty Years of Comics”. He considers the most poetic to have been “Sound | Asleep” at MOWA’s downtown Milwaukee location, MOWA|DTN, in Saint Kate the Arts Hotel.
Friedman was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he spent his adolescence maxing out his library card and haunting the halls of the Cincinnati Art Museum. He studied philosophy at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and Texas A&M. At the end of 2012, he returned to the Midwest to do doctoral work at Marquette University focusing on the philosophy of art and post-Kantian German thought. While at Marquette, he was a freelance arts writer, primarily for the Shepherd Express. He defended his dissertation in 2018, which built on the work of a few neglected thinkers (Ernst Cassirer and Alfred Schütz) to reorient intractable philosophical debates on art in general and music in particular.
When asked what his dream show to curate would be, he said a show of the late Harry Smith—a filmmaker, painter, collector, and curator in his own right. “His many projects would make for an engrossing curatorial challenge. Of course his abstract films and his paintings would be included but I’d be most excited to exhibit and write about his collections of found paper airplanes, Ukrainian Easter eggs, string figures, Seminole textiles, and, of course, 78 rpm records.” When Friedman was in high school he would listen to Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music while he slept in hopes it would take root in his subconscious. “The Anthology is, in my opinion, Smith’s crowning achievement and on my shortlist of most profound works of the twentieth century. Incorporating music in an exhibition is a direction I would like to explore.” Harry Smith has been called a “data squirrel” because of his ability to gather and arrange his collections. I am excited to see and hear what morsels of intrigue Friedman will collect and organize for our senses to feast on in the future.
Curator Spotlight – Danielle Paswaters, UW-Milwaukee, Union Art Gallery
Written by Todd Mrozinski
Danielle L. Paswaters is the curator and manager of the UW-Milwaukee Union Art Gallery as well as the curator for the Milwaukee Artist’s Resource Network (MARN). Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Art History with a Business minor, Danielle is presently pursuing an M.A. in Art History with a focus on performance and queer feminist theory at UW-Milwaukee.
Born in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Paswaters spent the majority of her formative years just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. She returned to Wisconsin in 1997 to attend High School in Campbellsport before moving to Milwaukee for college, during which time she spent a semester in Alicante, Spain. Her multifaceted upbringing informs her career in the curation of modern and contemporary art through a focus on inclusion and advocacy. Danielle’s current research explores gender inequalities and race relations by way of investigating the community building aspects of interactive and performance art. She is specifically interested in exploring the ways in which multiple forms of art can be combined to create more collaborative and immersive experiences. Danielle believes that museums, galleries and community art spaces have the power to be agents of change and that by blurring the divide between highbrow and lowbrow art, we allow for a wider reach into our communities. She maintains that these efforts create a greater sense of equality, which can then translate into more productive and empowering societies.
When I asked Paswaters what artist, living or dead, she would like to curate, she chose the Chicago based artist Senga Nengudi. Her art naturally provides a platform for discussion on issues in gender, race and politics. Although working in various multi-media, Senga Nengudi is most known for her R.S.V.P. nylon stocking installations, which are activated by improvisational dance performances. Paswaters states, “her work calls upon personal experiences as a black woman living in a time charged with racial tensions and feminism of the 1970s and 80s, yet it continues to evolve and maintain relevance today through documentation, new installation interpretations and contemporary impromptu performances.”
The last time I saw Paswaters she was directing student workers on the install of a huge two person show at UWM. She was the hub of a spinning wheel with many eyes looking to her for guidance and direction. Nengudi once said, “If you don’t have complete commitment, you get lost.” Fortunately, for all who view her work, Paswaters is an extremely committed navigator.
Todd Mrozinski acquired his BFA in painting and drawing from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1997 where he was the recipient of a Fredrick Layton Scholarship and attended The New York Studio Program. He was the 2015-16 Pfister Artist-in-Residence and curator of The Pfister Pop-Up Gallery. He is represented by The Woodman/Shimko Gallery, Provincetown, MA/Palm Springs, CA. Todd is is a contributing art writer for Urban Milwaukee and teaches drawing and painting for MIAD’s Pre-College and Continuing Education Programs. He and his wife, Renee Bebeau, have a studio in The Nut Factory in Milwaukee, WI.