Cover Artist: Phoenix Brown
Remixing portraiture and preconceived notions of the Black female body is at the core of my practice. By painting representations of nature and the female form with contemporary material and aesthetic choices, I subvert the one-way window of fantasy that western painting has long offered.
There exists a feedback loop between my analog painting and digital editing that is visible in the final image. My interdisciplinary paintings are layered with impossible brush strokes from their time in Snapchat and maintain a textured surface that speaks to the western art canon. In colonialism, nature and Black women have existed as reserves to exploit; in my work, they commingle and force us to confront our viewing access to them. The work aims to confront the audience’s viewing psychology in the act of projecting their views onto how Black womanhood should exist in reality and in the flat image.
Phoenix S Brown(b. Cincinnati, Ohio) received a BFA and art history minor from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2019. With influences of fashion, nature, and young adult fiction, interdisciplinary painting grants Brown the space to highlight dialogues around Black feminism, power structures, and inner thinking. She was a resident artist at Yale Norfolk School of Art in 2018, and a recipient of Plum Blossom Initiative’s 2019 Bridgework artist development program (Milwaukee, WI). In 2020, she received the Abert Family curatorial fellowship, affiliated with the Milwaukee Art Museum. Her work was also selected to appear in New American Paintings’ 2020 Midwest print issue. She is currently based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Featured Artist: Frank Korb
Written by Erika Block
Frank Korb is a visual artist and arts educator in Burlington, Wisconsin. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Graphic Design from the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, and his Master’s degree in Visual Studies from Cardinal Stritch University. He is a board member of the Wisconsin Art Education Association, and is currently participating in the 2019-2020 MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network) mentor program, as a mentee. “I know that in order to be the best art teacher, I also need to be an active artist.”
His visually striking abstract geometric works are based on the building blocks of his personal faith, the elements and principles of art and design, and the complex relationships between those elements and principles. Layered, collaged Bible pages serve as the textured groundwork for his most recent works, symbolizing that his life is built on faith, and that his art carries that faith forward. “What I enjoy about using the paper is that even if nobody knows what is underneath the paint, it still brings people in closer due to the texture it creates. And if people do know that the Bible pages are underneath, it’s fun to see them get closer and try to pull out recognizable passages.” As his work continues to evolve, the Bible pages have become less of a hidden element and more of a visible part of the work. Each piece also focuses on compositional and visual movement, emphasizing the correlation between the colors, textures, spaces, lines, and shapes. How these elements interact and relate to one another make up the complex relationship quotient in the overall meaning of the work, as well as highlight the influence of his education and experience in Graphic Design.
Korb sets the tone for his new works by creating an underpainting on canvas, hardboard, plywood, or paper. Large paint scrapers, house painting brushes, and pieces of cardboard are used to lay in large swipes of color and movement. With the underpainting complete, he steps back with charcoal attached to a long stick and lays out the composition from a distance, for a broader view – a practice used by artists like Matisse. Then comes the paint, with thought to transparency, opaqueness, smoothness, and grit as the piece takes its final shape. “I enjoy creating abstract works that are pleasing to look at and live with, while also providing an opportunity for people to ask questions. I like that people question what the work stands for and what it means. The most important thing to me is being able to produce work that begins conversations and allows for dialogue.”
Frank Korb has exhibited in a variety of galleries and art spaces throughout Wisconsin, including group exhibitions, solo exhibitions, art happenings, fundraisers, and lectures. His works are part of numerous public and private collections, nationally and internationally. To learn more about Frank Korb and his work, please visit websites: frankkorb.com and artwithkorb.com. You will also find him on multiple social media platforms: facebook.com/fjkorb, facebook.com/frankkorbart, instagram.com/fjkorb, twitter.com/fjkorb, youtube.com/frankkorb
Featured Artist: Maureen Ashley Turner
Written by Erika Block
Maureen Ashley Turner is a visual artist living and working in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse for Pre-Med, focusing on Biology and Psychology, and has since become the youngest professional medical photographer in the Midwest. Surprisingly, photography was not at all part of her college curriculum. She did, however, work for the school IT department, where her supervisor recognized her natural talent for photography and encouraged her to pursue it. From there, her education in photography has been completely self-directed. While photography now plays an important role in her career as well as in her creative work, Maureen would rather not be labeled as a photographer.
Instead, she prefers the title of visual artist or creative, dabbling in multiple mediums including photography, digital art, collage, character play, modeling, and painting. She also enjoys writing, and writes in conjunction with her artwork to help viewers connect with the intended purpose and meaning behind it. Her work often depicts her passions for empowering others, mental health, psychology, and arts advocacy. Collaborating with other artists is an essential part of Maureen’s overall creative process. “I love collaborating with other artists, and I do in many of my projects. I believe collaboration helps us grow in many ways. I’ve had some of my best ideas from brainstorming with different perspectives from other creatives.”
In her ongoing Artists of LaCrosse project, Maureen brings awareness to the growing, yet largely overlooked LaCrosse art scene by creating a series of images that literally integrate local artists with their artwork. “This project came to me out of the strong desire to help connect the community with artists, and also [connect] artists with other artists, by learning about each other.” Each piece in this series combines the featured artist and their artwork by creating a double exposure image and is accompanied by an interview of sorts, which allows viewers to get to know the artist, who they are, what they do, and the meaning behind their work. Additional information is published on her blog for anyone that would like to personally connect with the featured Artists of LaCrosse, or simply to read more about them. A new local artist is posted each week. “In the future, I just hope to constantly meet other creatives, hear their stories, build connections, and make art out of it all. I want to make art that matters, impacts others, and moves people.”
Featured Artist: Jes Zange
Written by Erika Block
Jes Zange is an emerging textile artist living and working in Brookfield, Wisconsin. She received her BFA in Studio Art from Millikin University (Illinois) in 2009 with an emphasis on painting, drawing and printmaking. Painting has always been her first love, but when she discovered fiber arts in 2016, a new journey began.
Jes started learning about the different techniques and materials utilized in weaving, and after months of exploration, she began playing with the idea of “painting” with yarn. From there she honed her craft, and soon established herself as an accomplished fiber artist, creating commissioned works for clients around the world. “My creative journey is now where I should have begun, approaching my fiber art in the same way I paint.”
Her creative process begins with evaluating her inventory of natural materials. Investing in unique, high-quality, and locally sourced materials is an important part of her process, and it allows her to support her own community and fellow creators as well. “I have always been drawn to the wide variety of weights, textures and variations of color in which yarns are made.” She begins each piece by creating a base coat of color that acts like a map to where the overall composition is headed. “I use the same process as I would a painting, and it all comes down to layering.” There can be up to eight layers to each one of her works. Once the piece is finished, the materials are tied off, secured, and trimmed, then the piece is ready to be framed. From start to finish, each piece can take around 100 hours. This is all done from her home studio, a spare bedroom, where her art practice has become a family effort. She works together with her husband to custom build the framework for each piece. The energy and emotion of being at home with their young children during the day often guides her work, which is usually done while they’re asleep.
For Jes, the purpose of her art is simply to fulfill her own desire to create something unique and beautiful, and to continue exploring and expanding upon the medium and materials she has discovered a passion for. While her work is intended for sale, it is not created to be marketable, which is an important distinction. “I am thankful that after years of searching, I have found my calling within a field that continues to prove that it is boundless. I look forward to my continued exploration of fiber.”She also hopes that her work will help to break down the stigma that yarn is simply for crafting.
Erika Block is a professional creative director, award-winning designer, author, art instructor, and mixed media artist. She holds degrees in marketing communications, advertising, and digital media, and brings to the table over two decades of experience in the art, music, publishing, film and fashion industries. Her work has been featured nationally, including People Magazine, The View, Good Morning America, and the Today Show.