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Artists to Watch 2021

Local artists and art authorities share their picks of creators to keep an eye on this year

Jamison Glisczinski, jamisonstudio.com

Nominated by Eric Miller

Owner, Foxley’s Gallery

“Three years ago I met an artist named Jamison Glisczinski, he brought in his clay and metal sculpture of Daphne, from the ancient Greek story of Apollo and Daphne. It was a fabulous interpretation of  the mythical story. The metal work emanating from Daphne’s outstretched arms reaching high above her head and the rooted base that is encasing her legs instantly makes one realize that she is going through a metamorphosis. Jamison’s sculptures reflect his love for nature, you can see it in his wonderful whimsical sculptures of frogs, sea turtles, dragonflies and even ladybugs. As well as his sculptures of trees, which of course Daphne becomes at the end of the ancient Greek story. Jamison studied fine arts at the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley and Oshkosh. He currently lives in Appleton.”

From Jamison: “I work primarily in clay, steel and copper. The clay and the metal stand on their own, never hidden. I draw my inspiration from nature and people, basically living things. I try to capture more than what we see everyday; like the curiosity in a raven’s eye, the personality of a twisted tree or the alien construction of an insect. My figurative work is meant to evoke a feeling or connection with nothing more than how a person is positioned, where its hands are or how it holds its head. Ultimately, I’m trying to connect with the viewer in a way that words can’t.”

Ruth Z. Rex

Nominated by Ana Maria Acosta

Reference librarian and art initiative coordinator, Elisha D. Smith Public Library

“An artist won’t stop creating after retirement. When Ruth Rex offered to share her art with us at [Menash’s Elisha D. Smith Public Library], I was not prepared to discover the intricate details expressed with life and color in fabric combinations with needle and thread. Ruth’s artwork seems to take you in many different paths. Each shape, bead and stitch are delicate yet purposely placed to make a statement. A retired art teacher, she has the gift to handle all kinds of media but with fabric she takes her generous and gentle personality to embrace each work with time and dedication. No wonder you can’t stop admiring each piece and wanting to interact and touch the tridimensional sensations that she creates for the world to see.”

From Ruth: “I create an explosion of color and texture in my compositions by using needle and threads to create playful fiber fabrications. The ‘Fiber Fabrications’ I create are completely original, starting with a blank piece of fabric and a grouping of colored threads, yarn, beads and many hours of stitches with a needle. Hidden in the stitches are found object surprises for the viewer to find in searching the surface area of the unique piece. With pausing to see the hidden stitches, beads, shells, and surprises in the piece, you get more delight. The themes I normally use are nature oriented such as flowers, leaves, branches, birds and fish. All individual works are made for pure enjoyment of the color scheme and a feast of different materials to delight your eye. It usually takes me a year to finish.”

Willow Bayer, @WillowBayer on Instagram

Nominated by Tony Conrad  

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art, Lawrence University 

“Willow Bayer’s rich and dynamic studio practice is heavily driven by process. Bayer’s vibrantly colored paintings and collages often depict ‘everyday’ places and embody the essence of snapshot photography. Although the paintings are constructed from the collages, it appears neither format holds a higher priority in Willow’s practice. The work exhibits a sophisticated awareness of color theory and craft as well as a perspective within the fluctuating aesthetics of social media posts and pop culture trends. Willow received her BFA from UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts in 2018 and continues to exhibit her work in Milwaukee as well as the Fox Valley.” 

From Willow: “By investigating different perspectives and using bold colors, I recreate everyday places. My process begins by either photographing or sourcing photos of spaces, from which I create collages. The collages are finished pieces and are references for my acrylic paintings. My references determine what textures and applications to use before painting each layer. After painting I add details with ink giving them an illustrative style. Through recreating these spaces, I reinvent the world using my imagination, but still including parts of reality. I find inspiration in the colorful environments in animated TV shows and illustrations in children’s books. I am also inspired by old photographs from estate sales and online archives.”

John Nance Jr., @blvq.aveli on Instagram 

Nominated by Mark Ferrell 

Fine art photographer at Eye Photograph

“It has been said that the enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of ‘how to do.’ The salvation of photography comes from the experiment. John has the passion of the early pictorialists like Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz who rejected the point and shoot approach to photography and relied on crafting a negative in the darkroom. This is not to say that John only shoots film. His understanding of the photo-mechanical process has informed him of the digital possibilities he has started to explore. In the five years that I have known John, the constant has been a continued growth in the quality and content of his work, as well as an unquenchable passion for his art.” 

From John: “My style of photography has always been a calm approach because I don’t want things to be forced or unnatural and a picture doesn’t lie. I only press the shutter when it feels right, every shot is well thought. I document to learn and change perspectives. Learning to see things from different views teaches me to be patient with the world, myself and others. This craft is more than just a camera and a lens. It’s just my choice of weapon to take on the world. You are a reflection of the world and the world is a reflection of you. So just like there is work to be done with your craft, it applies to self as well.” 

Finn Bjornerud, vimeo.com/finnbjornerud

Nominated by Ally Wilber

Executive Director of Wisconsin Visual Artists and Curator of Public Programs at the Museum of Wisconsin Art

“I am consistently impressed with the quality and authenticity of Finn’s work. With humor and skill, he relays beautiful interpretations of the Midwest and genuine insight on human experiences. Beyond film work, he shows an obvious aptitude for writing, poetry, and stop-motion animation. Particularly in these days of virtual communication, film is such a powerful tool for sharing stories and ideas. It seems important for Finn that he works with local artists and musicians, as well as youth organizations and underrepresented groups. He has been a teacher and a creative, collaborative force, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.” 

From Finn: “My focus in filmmaking is to form an acute awareness of genre, and use it to bend expectation and defy convention. Understanding the components of varying genres has let me produce a wide array of creative works – from gangster rap videos from the Northside of Milwaukee, to country-western short films set in the Badlands of North Dakota. In my adult life, filmmaking has afforded me many unique opportunities I likely would have never had should I have never picked up a camera. I am confident my life has been enriched by meeting and working with the diverse group of people I’m lucky to call creative partners. It is my aim to bring peoples artistic visions to cinematic life, and develop meaningful, long lasting relationships along the way.”

Erica Hess, ericachess.com

Beth Skogen Photography.

Nominated by Mia Russell

Owner, Amano Print House 

“Erica masterfully uses a wide array of materials and methods to so consistently achieve approachable, yet thought-provoking work. I really love how she takes objects and materials we know and so often see and reconstructs them conceptually as well as physically. She can make old tape balls, pavement tar and moving blankets so damn meaningful. And it’s not just about the object, though the object leads you in with familiarity if only to ease you into the discomfort. Erica’s work is immediate and emotionally provocative but maintains a remarkably cerebral quality. We’re super fortunate that she’s part of our community. Watch out!”

From Erica: “In my work, I usually begin with a ubiquitous object (the letter u, moving blankets, at the moment house trim mouldings) and deconstruct them physically and conceptually. I don’t limit my work to any particular material or form, and while sculpture is my focus, I also create drawings, paintings, photography and textiles. Despite this creative freedom, I’ve always grappled with my motivation to make art objects. The world has so many objects, and I like to work with heavy materials to make big things. Transporting and storing my work is a bit of a joke among my friends and family. But the reality of being an artist, the making, stewardship, and storage of these items have become the subject matter and the overarching metaphor in my work. Which objects are valuable enough to transport and protect? Why?”

Noah Harmon, reverbnation.com/noahharmon

Nominated by Todd and DeDe Heid

President and Executive Vice President, respectively, Heid Music 

“Noah Harmon’s musical endeavors began at age four and have continued ever since. He received a bachelor’s degree in music from Lawrence University where he studied classical piano performance with renowned Canadian pianist Dr. Michael Kim. While his studies focused on classical music, Noah also became interested in jazz piano as well as composition. He has performed with larger ensembles such as the Water City Chamber Orchestra, the Oshkosh Symphony, the Big Band Reunion, and the Chaminade Women’s Choir. Smaller ensembles he has performed with include the Electric Company, Bloodhawk, the Jazz Orgy, just to name a few. He currently performs in central Wisconsin with Christine Granatella, as a member of Salsa Manzana and as a soloist. Noah is also a piano teacher at Heid Music in Appleton and the Co-Director for Fox Jazz Fest.”

From Noah: As an artist, I am humbled by the creative process. Hearing accounts of musical geniuses and their amazing abilities to improvise (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin to name a few) has inspired me to seek out this lost artform and attempt to make it part of my style. Who enjoys improvising a sonatina or fughetta? I do. My introduction to the arts was in large part due to growing up in a musical family. My mother, Linda (Traf) is one of the greatest pianists I’ve ever witnessed. I also had the pleasure of listening and learning from one of the greatest jazz pianists of our time, my dad, John Harmon. As a child I’d wake up to hear him practicing in his studio with the smell of burnt toast in the air (this being one of his preferred breakfasts). 

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