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Arts in Milwaukee

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  • “Be Good”Be Good

    12 x 16" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

  • “Take Turns”Take Turns

    18 x 24" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

  • “Good Gravy”Good Gravy

    24 x 36" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

  • “Stay Sharp”Stay Sharp

    18 x 24" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

  • “Let's Find Common Ground”Let's Find Common Ground

    12 x 16" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

  • “Please Come In”Please Come In

    12 x 16" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

  • “Cave Inn”Cave Inn

    18 x 24" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

  • “One Shot”One Shot

    18 x 24" Oil painting on vintage map affixed to hardboard. The original wording of the sign has been altered

Krista Allenstein

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Krista V Allenstein
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artist bio

Krista Allenstein finds objects with a past life fascinating. She enjoys giving old items a purpose and an opportunity to exist in a new way. In an effort to find a new use for her collection of vintage maps, she began to use them as the foundation of her paintings of mid-century roadside neon signs, their wording altered to transform the signs into positive and encouraging beacons. Because the designs of the original signs--motel and liquor stores, diners and drive-in theatres--attracted customers during a time when not all customers were welcome, Krista wants to reinvent the purpose of these signs to attract and welcome everyone.. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts (NYC), Krista has enjoyed a warm welcome into the Milwaukee art world. Opportunities include exhibitions at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts, Oconomowoc Arts Festival, Frank Juarez Gallery, Gallery 2622, 2020 Wisconsin Artist Biennial, and a 2019-2020 ARTservancy appointment.

artist statement

Objects with a past life fascinate me. Thrifted and vintage furniture fills my home and I most often wear clothes once worn by another. I like the idea of giving old items a purpose and an opportunity to exist in a new way. For instance, my collection of vintage maps from the 1940-1970s, amassed during my college years, sat unused in the basement. I wanted to find a new use for these discarded treasures beyond the walls of a box.
Because maps are beautiful pieces of art in their own right, I enjoy treating them that way, as the foundation of my oil paintings of mid-century roadside neon signs.
Roadside signs, once commonplace, are magical when spotted today. Their lights, the brilliant colors, and bold shapes stand out as unique and thrilling in a landscape of the unremarkable. Unfortunately, these sculptures are disappearing, often due to the great expense of operation and repair. In one way, my paintings serve as a way to preserve these signs from the past.
My signs, however, do not celebrate the darker pieces of the time from which they harken. The design of the original signs--motel and liquor stores, diners and drive-in theatres-- attracted customers during a time when not all customers were welcome. I want to reinvent the purpose of these signs to attract and welcome everyone.
I like to imagine driving down the road and seeing bright shiny signs filled with encouragement and kindness. Can you imagine the world filled with signs beckoning with “YOU ARE WELCOME HERE” and “YES” instead of “KEEP OUT” or “RESTRICTED”? What would that world look like?

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