# Arts in Milwaukee – Mentors
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Arts in Milwaukee

A Public Service Of Milwaukee Artist Resource Network

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2019/2020 MARN Mentors


Della Wells Wells is a self-taught artist who began drawing and painting in earnest at the age of 42 and her creative process stems primarily from her personal experiences embellished through the art of storytelling into visual work. Wells' work has been written about and has appeared in several publications including Betty-Carol Sellen and Cynthia J. Johanson’s book, '' Self Taught, Outsider and Folk Art, A Guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources”, 2000 and 2016 ed. and one of her images appears in a children's book “The Classic Treasury of Childhood Wonders: Favorite Adventures, Stories, Poems and Songs For Making Lasting Memories”, published by National Geographic and written by Susan Magsamen. In 2010, ''Don't Tell Me I Can't Fly'', an award winning play written by Y York and inspired by her life, was selected to be read at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C., for its New Visions, New Voices Festival. In 2011, the play commissioned by First Stage Children’s Theater debuted in Milwaukee. Since its debut, the play has been produced in Nashville, Tennessee and in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is published by Dramatic Publishing Company and is included in an analogy of Y York’s plays, “Don’ Tell Me I Can’t Fly: 10 Plays For Children and Families” published in 2016. Wells illustrated a children's book "The Electric Train" by Nanci Mortimer. She has exhibited in a wide variety of galleries, museums and art festivals in the United States, Italy and British Columbia. Wells has been a featured artist at the Kentucky Festival of Arts as well as one of the featured artists in the opening of No Studios, an arts and entertainment hub in Milwaukee. Wells’ work is in over 100 private, corporate and museum collections including Saint Kate Hotel, Northwestern Mutual, Hurn Museum of Contemporary Folk Art, Milwaukee Bucks Fiserv Forum and The Wright Museum of Art. Wells is represented by the Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Main Street Gallery in Clayton, Georgia, Red Piano Too Art Gallery in St. Helena Island, South Carolina and Marcia Webber Art Objects in Montgomery, Alabama.


Mutópe J. Johnson received his MFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Peck School of the Arts Department of Art & Design. Johnson also earned a BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Arts and Communications Department. Mutópe’s recent accomplishments include being selected one of four University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 Inclusive Excellence Program Scholars, a distinguished 2013–2014 Imagining America P.A.G.E. Scholar (Publicly Active Graduate in Education) and a 2014 Dedalus Foundation Award-Nominee. Johnson’s’ visual art has been included in exhibitions at the Overture Center Fine Arts Gallery Madison, WI, the Charles Allis Fine Arts Museum, Northern Kentucky University Fine Arts Gallery, the Charles A. Wustum Fine Arts Museum, Racine WI, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Juxtaposition Gallery Minneapolis, MN, Susan Woodson’s Gallery Chicago, Ill, and many others. Mutópe’s professional background and broad range of experiences have included positions at large and small graphic design companies, advertising agencies and marketing communications firms. Johnson served in positions such as Chief Creative Officer, Global Marketing Brands Manager, Creative Director and Art Director while concurrently painting for more than 15 years as a professional visual artist. Mutópe was co-founder of the former Strive Media Institute, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit training ground for teens in TV, communications and journalism. Johnson’s current research and visual arts practice has led him to consider his role as an artist and how the arts can help shape the current state of African-American culture and its rich history. More importantly how the arts have enriched all of our lives. Johnson states; “This becomes my own personal way of establishing a working method that uses the power of the arts to help influence public opinion. As artists we can open up new avenues of critical thinking that serve as creative strategies that help to inform and educate others through the visual arts.”


Phyllis Bankier is a photographer. Capturing moments and freezing time in her images, whether shooting an urban landscape, the countryside, people, food or nature, she is inspired. Her photography is for sharing color and excitement. It is rooted in the deep love of bringing out the beauty and sensuality that nature has given us. Photography has always been part of her life. In an undergraduate college art class, she was given an assignment to use a camera. Immediately, she knew the camera was something special. She continues to compose the world through the camera lens to capture those distinctive moments and scenes. Her work has been accepted into many juried exhibitions as well as winning many first places and honorable mentions. For more information: http://www.scenescapes.us/ 


Nirmal Raja is an inter-disciplinary artist working between drawing, printmaking, fiber, video and performance. Raja has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally. She has received grants and awards from the Mary L. Nohl Suitcase Export Fund, the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Milwaukee Arts Board for various projects. She has been a mentoring resident for 6 years at Redline Milwaukee and now mentors emerging artists for MARN. She maintains a studio in the Marshall Building in downtown Milwaukee as a Material Studios and Gallery affiliate. Most often, her work deals with concepts of displacement, the body's relationship to space, cultural negotiation and memory. Periodically she curates shows and organizes collaborations that address notions of inter-sectional identity, migration, disenfranchisement and marginality. http://www.nirmalraja.com


Janelle Gramling has been a sculptor with a full-time studio practice in Milwaukee for over 15 years. Her work ranges from fine art to functional home goods with a main focus in ceramics and fiber. Her sculptural pottery, wearable art, and limited-edition wall sculptures have been sold throughout the US and abroad through small boutiques as well as national retailers. Inspired by raw, natural materials and traditional techniques, her work touches on themes of personal symbolism with a modern, minimal, and playful aesthetic. In her signature style of mixing ceramics with fiber and found object, Gramling explores function, contexts, and the narratives of materials. Gramling is motivated to help build community and support for artists in Milwaukee. She owned an artist-operated gallery and retail space in Milwaukee for four years. Through the artist cooperative, she helped organize and curate dozens of community events and art exhibitions. She also has a passion for helping to provide creative education and experiences for underserved Milwaukee kids and residents. Gramling has been an artist in residence with Artists Working in Education for three terms, helping elementary school children create works for their playground while integrating art concepts and techniques into their science curriculum. Gramling is a Milwaukee native and her home and studio are both in the Clarke Square neighborhood on Milwaukee’s south side.  She enjoys gardening, bicycling, and restoring her historic home where she lives with her partner, Matthew, and their four children. http://janellegramling.com/ 


Jessica Laub is a multi-faceted artist who indulges in a variety of mediums including ceramics, mosaics, and paint to create joyful artwork inspired by nature, animals and the people she loves. Her work, characterized by a bold use of color and a strong sense of line, celebrates the beauty and wonder she encounters in the world around her. Jessica hand-builds her ceramic sculptures, but uses a pottery wheel to throw sgraffito-style dishware in her studio at the Toy Factory located in Milwaukee’s Riverworks district. She combines her handmade, ceramic tile with broken dishware, stained glass, mirrors and other shiny tessearae to create mosaics that range in size from a piece that will fit in your hand to large, site specific installations. Jessica was an artist in residence at Redline Milwaukee from 2010 to 2013 as evidenced by the 12-foot-tall, mosaiced “Redman” which can be seen dancing on the back of the building. She created the sacred heart mosaic at Café Corazon’s Riverwest location in 2012, and the mosaiced mushrooms at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in 2015. More recently, she has been collaborating with children to create public art in their schools and neighborhoods through Artists Working in Education. http://www.jlaubart.com/


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. The natural elements, shadows and his immediate environment are Todd's subject matter. His work is produced in series, each series relates symbolically to his life experience and grows out of present day observation and inspiration. 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 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 at The Nut Factory in Milwaukee, WI. http://toddmrozinski.com/


Sharon Kerry-Harlan was born in Miami, Florida and currently resides in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and Hollywood, Florida. She received a BA from Marquette University and studied art at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, both located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kerry-Harlan’s work includes textiles, mixed media, and photography. Her work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally at the Smithsonian/Renwick Gallery, the American Craft Museum, the Harn Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and many others. Her work has been published in books and art catalogues. Sharon worked at Marquette University as an Academic Coordinator.  She also taught textile courses as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Currently, she concentrates on her artwork. Her work can be found on her website: https://www.sharonkerryharlan.com/home


Maureen M. Kane has over 30 years of professional experience in graphic design, software instruction and illustration. Maureen began MMK Design in 1996 with the mission to provide affordable graphic design to the non-profit community. MMK Design was awarded the A. David Schwartz Business Humanitarian Award from the Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee in 2009; and recently, four Milwaukee Press Club awards for her Wisconsin Gazette layouts & photo-collage illustrations. Her list of clients is diverse, from small grass-roots and start-up companies, to larger institutions. A wide range of design work includes announcements & annual reports, signage & stationery, postcards & POPs. She specializes in logos, having created over 150 in her career. Maureen graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design in 1986 at Arizona State University. “Being able to use my skills as a graphic designer,” Maureen says, “is how I can give back to my community.”


Santiago Cucullu creates multi-media works that culminate in spatially unified installations. Often arranged with elaborate wall-sized murals, sculpture, and vibrant paintings on paper, Cucullu emphasizes the subtleties of intuitive pacing and spatial orientation experienced in his broad installations. Specifically, Cucullu creates works using a duality of materials and appropriation to indicate the oscillation and ability of objects to collapse on themselves while activating an exhibition space. Elements in the work reflect moments from everyday life and local histories that act to displace or highlight frictions and narratives that we encounter. Cucullu uses imagery from one specific place to disrupt ideas of a uniformed reality by displacing representations of one particular culture into another and allowing these representations to reside side by side. Born in Argentina, Cucullu currently lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Boston, Massachusetts. He received his MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and his BFA from the Hartford Art School in Connecticut. A former resident of the Core Program at the Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Cucullu's work has been exhibited at a number of institutions in group and solo shows, including the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, among others.


"Darlin" Nikki Janzen aims to build bridges through spoken word, poetry, improv, mixed media art and restorative justice circle work. She uses the power of word and flair of drama to spread stories of overcoming struggle, healing broken, celebrating diversity, and choosing self-love to reach the humanity in us all.  Whether in a school, church, community center, club, coffee shop, performance center, mall or on a street corner, Janzen strives to humbly offer herself to diverse audiences of all ages. While work-shopping, she honors the voices of the people she serves to build community, confidence, positive thinking and grow empathy to help us recal our dreams and build potential to reach inner peace and create more peaceful communities. Janzen uses emotionally packed images through word play that flows organically through the senses. She chooses contrasting colors and mixed media collage to tell stories through symbols and shades. Janzen feeds souls with positive messages through poems, rap and images.


Richard Taylor works out of his studio in the Riverwest area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His sculptures rise from the ground, are suspended in the air and cling to walls. Certain pieces of his work could be considered painting and sculpture. His art is shown in galleries around the country. Some of his work is site-specific, and he enjoys the challenges of creating those pieces for unique locations. His work is inspired by music, by the power of personal memory, by found objects, and by clarity. He wants to make pieces which invite people to view them over and over again. Richard earned an MFA in painting from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. He works in sculpture, printmaking and painting. http://www.taylorsculpt.com/


Born in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Danielle L. Paswaters spent the majority of her formative years just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Her multifaceted upbringing informs her career in the curation of modern and contemporary art through a focus on issues of social justice and equality.
Danielle is an art museum and gallery professional with over 10 years of academic, curatorial, and administrative experience. She holds a B.A. in Art History with a Business minor and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Art History and Non-profit Management from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Trained as an entrepreneur, a paralegal and an art historian, she is currently the Gallery Manager and Curator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union Art Gallery. Danielle has worked on exhibitions including Fifty Works for Fifty States: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection; Gilbert & George; Andy Warhol: The Last Decade; Act/React: Interactive Installation Art and On Site: Santiago Cucullu. In addition, she has curated exhibitions which included works by Reginald Baylor, Mutope Johnson, Michael Davidson, Della Wells, Valaria Tatera, Tia Richardson, Ammar Nsoroma, Jennifer Espenscheid and others.
Danielle’s current research explores gender inequalities and race relations by way of investigating the community building aspects of interactive art and performance theory. She is specifically interested in exploring the ways in which multiple forms of art can be combined to create a more collaborative and immersive experience. Danielle believes that museums, galleries and community art spaces have the power to be agents of change. By blurring the divide between highbrow and lowbrow art we allow for a wider reach into our communities, which helps to create a greater sense of equality that can then translate into more productive and empowering societies.


Known for bold, colorful strokes and gestural movement, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – artist, Pamela Anderson, brings a modern dimension to her Abstract works. She applies paint in vibrant colors, allowing the image to emerge spontaneously. Her paintings are untitled which allows her work to be experienced with open interpretation by the viewer.  She is a full-time artist, an Affiliate and Managing Director of Material Studios + Gallery. She has been awarded the title of Pfister Artist in Residence for the 2016-2017 Artist-in-Residence Program at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

She is a strong advocate of the arts, active in local organizations including Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) where she is currently the Board Chairwoman and held the executive position of President 2013 – 2018. http://pamelaandersonstudio.com/


David Najib Kasir is an Arab-American born in 1977 to immigrant parents of Iraq & Syria. Kasir's work are contemporary paintings comprised of personal narratives and surrounds the act of coming to terms with the challenges of life, family, love, loss, homes and war. Kasir's work transcends the basic conversation of the issues surrounding Syria and the Middle East and gives you something truly palpable that you feel that you are able to emotionally connect with as a subject matter to create a better understanding. Originally a Chicago born artist, Kasir resides in Milwaukee as a 2001 MIAD alumni where he works as part of the Var Gallery growing collective of artist in Walkers Point. Kasir exhibits work regularly throughout the Midwest, as his work has been accepted into many juried exhibitions and has won many awards and acknowledgement for his work.