Artists to Watch 2020

Art authorities share their picks of local creators to keep an eye on this year 


Frank Juarez

Gallery Director, Frank Juarez Gallery

Recommendation: Tony Conrad,

“Tony Conrad’s way of connecting life, painting, and being in the moment has influenced how he communicates the world around him allowing time to slow down and to focus on what matters most. His execution is intuitive yet his colors are carefully planned. A great combination of harmony and chaos coexisting. Over the years his studio practice has gone through important developmental stages resulting in embracing the handmade. It is with the handmade approach to his paintings that I believe he is making his best work today, which is both honest and direct. Tony is an artist to watch for 2020.”

From Tony: “My work has influences from various cultural and historical movements including Persian textiles, Tibetan Buddhism, psychedelic rock culture, and meditative states.  I’m particularly drawn to the beautiful patterning that is central to these traditions. In these works, the repetitive mark making and layers of paint form a palimpsest of lines and patterns. The obsessive nature of reinventing the hash mark over and over again is therapeutic as it oscillates between order and disorder. Guided by my intuition to relinquish control over chance, a quiet history develops describing a journey – not a destination.” 

Cristian Andersson 

Owner, Matchbook Studio 

Recommendation: Erin LaBonte,

“Erin LaBonte is certainly a painter. Her art is about women within societal structures, with the goals of reflecting upon and changing norms through empowerment. Erin is also an organizer. Through murals, community projects, education, curation and co-managing a gallery, she develops numerous ways to bring art into our lives. Toni Morrison contextualized a statement she was told that when there is a need for healing it is time for artists to “go to work.” This is exactly why I admire what Erin, the messenger, does—her work is ultimately about creating dialogue and making it easily accessible to the public so we can benefit from both her thoughts and those of her fellow artists.”

From Erin: “I have come to be a public and private artist. My public art projects are collaborative and community based. I am a mural painter, gallery owner and art educator. I am an advocate for engaging as many people as I possibly can in the process of creation. My private, or personal art, is ever varying stylistically. It transforms through experimentation of medium, most often resulting in a culmination of layered thought processes. Although my work is ever varying stylistically, my subject matter is consistent. I make work about women. My work explores aspects of feminine, and I hope it is empowering and relatable.” 

Susan Rabideau
Director of Theatre, UWO Fox Cities, a campus of UW Oshkosh


Recommendation: Kylie Kintopf, @kyliek27 on Instagram

“Kylie Kintopf has always been a spectacular dancer. When she is onstage you can not take your eyes off of her, her energy and sheer joy are unmatched. She is now moving into choreography. I think her skill will translate well into that as she is a kind and exacting teacher. Her next project is SHREK at Fox Theatre.”

From Kylie: “Handwritten notes that look like a puzzling math equation are how I collect the thoughts in my mind and the movements that are expressed though my body. Given any opportunity to choreograph, I make sure that my work is original. I live to challenge my creative self in that aspect. Being able to teach the vision that was created in my mind to others is like making a dream come true. I love being able to connect with others through song and movement. For inspiration, I keep a framed article that was written about my first-ever choreographed musical. It is a simple reminder of why I do what I love to do.”  

John Adams

curator, Feather and Bone gallery at The Draw

Recommendation: Gao Kia Moua, @gao_moua_art on Instagram 

“Gao is a high school student and has been coming into The Draw for a few years to take part of the Emerging Artist Fox Valley class that meets once a week. Her quality of work and dedication to her craft has grown immensely over the past few years. Her work is moving from traditional drawing and painting to more creative expressions. Leif Larson, instructor of Emerging Artists Fox Valley, says ‘Gao is a gifted young woman who has a fierce creative spirit. She’s incredibly kind and carries herself with a grace and intuition well beyond her years. Her curiosity for life and making art are inspiring to those around her.’” 

From Gao: My name is Gao Kia Moua. I am a painter of all sorts of art mediums. My artwork is influenced by narratives, things I see, things I hear, but are maybe not necessarily seen or heard. Narratives are very important to me. But understand that these illustrations are loaded with puzzles, that provide different answers for different people. My work varies on many topics and is preferably a more succinct direct approach. I think, if I’m an artist I find my way, my language to deal with myself. Obstacles that are maybe simply my own obstacles, may be obstacles of generations.”

Melanie Thurber

Adult Services & Engagement Librarian, Appleton Public Library

Recommendation: Gregory Frederic,

“Painter Gregory Frederic is an inspiration to those who have experienced his work, heard his personal story, or experienced his sanguinity. He has the unique ability to both capture and evoke emotions through color, movement, brightness, and refraction. Gregory uses the human form, injustices he has seen, and the people he has met to inform his work. I have a feeling Gregory will make an impression wherever he and his art go. ‘I would like my work to stay immortal in the memory of each person. As an artist, my work should impact others and make a difference.’ I can tell you that it does.”

From Gregory:  “The inspiration for my colorful pieces comes from emotion felt through music, human form, injustices and people I meet. I hope to inspire change, living in harmony and respect for one another. My intuitive process uses color and movement to capture the viewer. I custom mix most of my acrylic colors to create the desired depth and vibrant synergy within each piece. In my work I break up objects with refraction lines allowing the dispersion of light.  Primarily I want my pieces to evoke a feeling, memory or tell a story, which is evident in the uniqueness of my technique.”

Leslie Walfish

Director of Galleries & Campus Curator, UW Oshkosh

Recommendation: Matthew Drees, @mdrees_art on Instagram 

“What first attracted me to Matt’s work is his finely developed sense of color. He uses bold hues that grab the viewer’s attention and draw people to his art. In every work Matt makes, whether it is a painting or a ceramic vessel, he incorporates an immediacy in his mark-making that is similar to drawing. His art often includes imagery that hints at complex stories. He creates work filled with symbols which keeps the viewer engaged as they try to figure out the mythological, religious, and personal stories that are referenced. Another element keeping the viewer engrossed is the ambiguous sense of space in his compositions. Like in a collage, scenes are combined and different perspectives are introduced which add complexity and a sense of depth to his work. What I like most about Matthew Drees’ artistic practice is that he is not afraid to experiment. He loves trying new techniques and is always working on new projects.”

From Matthew: “Our regard for the things we create, while we’re creating them, can have a dramatic influence on the way a final product is received. What if a painting is approached as a sketchbook? What if a painting, that is to be hung on display, is approached as something only to be seen by the person who made it? Questions of approach, especially as they pertain to the intersection of drawing and other mediums, serve as the primary motivation behind this body of work. The content, imagery and subject are therefore, to some degree, secondary, though still important. They range from broad reflections on culture, religion and iconography, to things much more personal, such as memories, dreams and people who I know.”

Silvija Jensen 

Executive Director, Mosaic Arts Inc.

Recommendation: Owen Brummel,

“I am recommending Owen Brummel as an artist to watch. Most recently, Owen won the Best Young Artist Award at Artstreet in August 2019. I find his talent to be way beyond his years and you can tell that it’s a craft he loves. His caricatures are perfect captures of his subjects. I truly love some of his more expressive and abstract pieces because of his attention to detail but also his ability to give it a twist that draws the viewer in. It’s hard to believe that he’s still in high school but I know that Owen’s career is bound for great things. I am excited to see where he goes!”

From Owen: “People’s faces and gestures have always intrigued me, as well as the discovery of the characteristics that make each person unique. A face’s unique expressions can tell a lot about a person, but I’m more inspired by the way people move and talk. Spawned from an early interest in caricatures, my portraits are a result of the relationships I have made and how my artistic abilities have grown – to bridge the gap between how people see themselves versus how others see them. There is a sense of comfortable familiarity in a portrait that not only holds a likeness but the essence of a person. Myself, friends, family members and strangers become the subjects of my work. I celebrate the generous vulnerability allowed by those I am privileged to draw or paint. My portraits honor my interactions with the people that are depicted. This connection is the most valuable thing for me as an artist. My self inclusion in my work shows my agency and how I view myself in constant flux.”

Rob Neilson 

Frederick R. Layton Professor of Art and Professor of Art, Lawrence University

Recommendation: Callie Kiesow,

“Callie Kiesow, born and raised in Menasha, spent two years at UW-Fox Valley before majoring in Studio Art at Lawrence University. This emerging artist creates large, beautifully executed, black and white charcoal drawings replete with cryptic darkness and suggestive intrigue. They are as enigmatic as they are enthralling: Female figures in an beguilingly ambiguous environment are caught mid-action physically reacting to… well… something. While we as the viewer may not be privy to the details of the events leading up to the moment depicted (or how this thing ends for that matter) Kiesow somehow manages to capture what seems to be the most pivotal moment in the narrative. We are drawn into Callie Kiesow’s drawings by the dark sphinx-like mystery but we stay for beauty and mastery. In a word, the work is captivating.”

From Callie: “My work explores dark psychological states. Distress and solitude can be disturbing; yet at the same time it can be a fascinating process where, after experiencing a moment when they are forced to give up their sanity, one finds their true self. Figures depicted without a recognizable identity leaves room for the viewer to engage with the work and form their own emotional connections with the scene; the body language of the figures suggests the narrative. Women’s sexuality and empowerment are important aspects within my work. My work also strives to avoid traditional roles of femininity and works to dismantle the historical and traditional portrayals of women within art in order to a represent figures that have agency over their own bodies.”

Shannon Piette

Executive Director, Richeson School of Art & Gallery

Recommendation: Jon Wos,

“It is a rarity to come across an artist with as much ambition as Jon Wos. Growing up with art as his driving force, Jon has spent a lifetime perfecting and mastering his techniques as a painter and glass artist. Now a nationally known, award-winning artist, Jon continues to captivate us with his exquisite representational work, excelling in oil, watercolor, dry media and glass. His ability to achieve masterful handling of a variety of mediums and the professional quality he exhibits is astounding. I have a profound respect for Jon, and it has been a privilege to experience his work.”

From Jon: “As a romantic realist I seek to make real the values that make life worth living.  Whether it is the value of the love of individuals or the value of the beauty of an object, I want to recreate these values through special, rare, or exciting visual experiences. I am a  romantic because I seek a better version of life, to show how life should be. I am a realist because I want this better version to be real, to be a convincing metaphysical experience, as an end in itself. The purpose of my work is to create experiences of reverence for life. I design these reverent experiences to be ends in themselves; as moments of joy for life.” 

Dave Razor

Multimedia Installation Artist 

Recommendation: John H. Beck, @slownormals on Instagram

“In an increasingly digital art world that prizes contrived, clean design, it’s a breath of fresh air to come upon an artist who seemingly dwells in the craft of the psychedelic yesteryear. John “Slow Normals” Beck and his unique DIY take on art has been on my radar for a couple of years now. He rises above most modern scenes with his circuit bending, data moshing, time-defying audio visual artistic styling that challenges even the most open-minded art fan to their limit. In my opinion, Slow Normals is standing on top of a mountain of discarded VHS tapes and rewired Goodwill keyboards with two middle fingers proudly and fully outstretched. Which is a very good thing to have in our community.”

From John: ”Through circuit-bending, modern modular synthesis and analog/digital video processing, I produce three-channel audio-visual artwork and an array of devices with specific functions that complement the artwork in a cybernetic feedback relationship. Much of my inspiration is derived from the pursuit of making a device that allows the user to temporarily see sound, encounters with extra-dimensional beings and hunting for fossils.”

Meet the Artists!

Meet our 2020 Artists to Watch at a gallery opening reception on Friday, January 17 from 6-9 p.m. at Appleton’s Feather and Bone Gallery inside The Draw located at 800 S Lawe Street. Parking is available across the bridge in the parking lot and directly across the street along the river. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be available. Artwork will be on display through February 16. 

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