A World of Crazy Colors

* To read this article on the Urban Milwaukee website, please click HERE

A World of Crazy Colors

Artist’s TL Solien’s odd, uneasy narratives featured at Tory Folliard Gallery.

By Catherine Jozwik - Sep 26th, 2019

A work from TL Solien’s Forest Fighter/Black Eye Joke. Photo by Catherine Jozwik.

A work from TL Solien’s Forest Fighter/Black Eye Joke. Photo by Catherine Jozwik.

The Tory Folliard Gallery’s current exhibition, of Madison-based artist’s TL Solien’s Forest Fighter/Black Eye Joke, showcases 11 of the longtime artist’s innovative still life and portraiture paintings. It is on display through October 12.

Solien’s work was also displayed in the gallery’s recent exhibition, Nature Morte, named after one of his still life paintings.

For more than 40 years, Solien, also a professor of painting and drawing at UW-Madison, has incorporated touches of Americana (of which the artist is a collector) and sociopolitical symbols into his figure paintings, which feature uneasy subjects often struggling with emotional dilemmas.

Solien’s latest exhibition “continues this tradition by pulling viewers into his disquieting orbit of sardonic still lifes, landscapes, and portraiture,” the gallery’s description suggests. Solien favors bold colors, with many of his paintings set against bright blue backgrounds. His paintings, created with oil, acrylic and enamel paints, are absorbing and arresting. According to Becca Sidman, assistant director of the Tory Folliard Gallery, Solien personally hung the paintings lower than normal so the viewer gets the sense of being able to “walk into” them.

The artist pays tribute to cultural movements and fads, such as the fascination with all things Western that gripped America (especially younger people) in the 1950s. Solien also likes to paint contradicting landscapes. “Boy with Paint,” for example, depicts a horse-riding figure dressed in pirate garb, wearing a sailor’s cap, against a backdrop that’s one-part desert, one part urban.

“Not Fade Away” could be a nod to flower power and the hippie moment; a tribute to rock stars like Janis JoplinJim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, who all died prematurely at the age of 27 in the early 1970s.

Solien often paints lone figures, but works like “Boy With Calico Girlfriend,” featuring a figure in a red robe with x’s for eyes, standing next to a dour-looking calico cat wearing a beret, hint at unsatisfying, troublesome interpersonal relationships. Does the cat take the place of a human love interest, or could the cat suggest human qualities, such as fickleness, pride and independence? “Greensleeves” portrays a clothesline with clothes, as well as a fox, hung upside down in the forefront of a tall apartment complex.

“Forest Fighters/Black Eye Joke presents a broadly contextualized culture of interactive characters, engaged “in the ‘intimacies’ of interpersonal relationships, or the absence thereof,” writes Solien.

Sports and competition are recurring motifs in Solien’s works. Works such as “Hail Mary” and “Forest Fighter” depict athletes. Boxing gloves, which could represent external or internal conflict, appear in several of Solien’s paintings, including “Greensleeves” “Le Souris Morte,” and “Boy On Paint.”

The artist’s still lives — “Nature Morte,” “Theorem,” and “Le Souris Morte,” for examples—depict half-eaten fruits, a handbag bursting with forgotten household items, and geometric shapes, such as crisp black circles, reminiscent of graphic arts. In “Nature Morte,” Solien perhaps comments on American holidays and how they are faithfully observed. The painting portrays a Thanksgiving turkey with what appears to be white-gloved hands. The “gloves” could also represent the perceived formality of the holiday, or at least how it was observed years ago.

“Collectively, the paintings, works on paper and objects, will exist as ‘episodes,’ or ‘vignettes’ illuminating an ‘allegorically’ expansive narrative, in which the subjective concerns within the depicted culture weave through interpersonal moments of intellectual and emotional crisis,” concludes Solien in his artist statement.

Richard Taylor featured on WUWM's All Things Considered

* To read this article on the WUWM NPR website, please click HERE

New Sculptures Honor Milwaukee Road Railway Workers


The first two "People of the Road" sculptures in the Menomonee Valley.    CHUCK QUIRMBACH

The first two "People of the Road" sculptures in the Menomonee Valley.


A series of metal sculptures taking shape in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley honors the men and women who worked at a now-lost transportation giant. The "People of the Road” monument is a tribute to the thousands who labored for a passenger and freight-rail service best known as the Milwaukee Road.

The railroad was officially known in its later years as the Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul and Pacific. That's because in its heyday it operated on 10,000 miles of track in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. But for much of the carrier’s nearly 140 years, Milwaukee was a key part of the company's success. A huge railcar and locomotive shop at the southwest corner of the Menomonee Valley employed more than 5,000 people. 
When that building closed, and the financially troubled railroad dissolved in the 1980s, it was a mournful time in the city, as captured in the 1987 song Come Bugle Blow by Milwaukee folksinger Larry Penn.

Penn sang, "And what can you play, for a ragged old soul, but taps for the Milwaukee Road? Come bugle blow, for the Milwaukee Road, a rusty old road, a crusty old road. Come bugle blow, for a busted old road, for the Milwaukee Road, bugle blow.”

Forty-two years later, the passing of the Milwaukee Road no doubt remains painful to many. But others are hoping time has healed some of the wounds. Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist recently tried to offer a humorous remembrance.

"I remember the workers coming out of here, going through the tunnel across the river, and then going to the National Liquor Bar to cash their checks," he says.

Norquist spoke this month at an unveiling of two of the five sculptures that are planned for the “People of the Road” monument. The monument is going up along the Hank Aaron State Trail, just west of the 35th Street viaduct. It's in Menomonee Valley Community Park, which is where the railcar shop was. 

In attendance of the unveiling was David Pierce, who briefly worked for the Milwaukee Road.

"I was what you call a gandy-dancer. So, I used an 8-pound maul hammer, and I would pound spikes into the rail and we repaired the track. It was a federal project to repair them from Wauwatosa to Watertown. That was my three-month career with the Milwaukee Road. I was glad to move on," Pierce recalls to WUWM.
Other members of the Pierce family stayed longer. A brother worked for the Road as an electrician, while their father and grandfather were locomotive engineers. David Pierce says he's glad to see the sculptures.

"I think it's important that organized labor is recognized. We were in a union there, and that was a way for the workers to be treated fairly, in safe working conditions. There was always someone to look out for you." Pierce remembered.

The person looking out now for the story of the workers is the creator of the sculptures, Milwaukee artist Richard Taylor.

Taylor says his father worked briefly for the Milwaukee Road. But the artist hopes the monument honors all the workers.

Milwaukee sculptor Richard Taylor stands in his Riverwest studio. Before him is a maquette, or scale model, of the "People of the Road" monument.   CREDIT CHUCK QUIRMBACH

Milwaukee sculptor Richard Taylor stands in his Riverwest studio. Before him is a maquette, or scale model, of the "People of the Road" monument.


"I know I could have gone in other directions, with the iconography of the locomotives and the railcars, the tracks, and that sort of thing. But I thought the people should really be honored because it was such a rich history. It supported so many workers and families for decades and decades," he says.

Taylor says old photographs of the Milwaukee Road facility inspired the sculptures. One of the artworks features a male worker standing on a small trackside water tower while positioning a part to a rail vehicle. The other sculpture features a c-shaped railroad roundhouse standing on edge. A male worker swinging a sledgehammer stands next to the roundhouse, while a female worker stands on top holding a large monkey wrench.

Richard Taylor operates a metal grinder in his studio.   CREDIT CHUCK QUIRMBACH

Richard Taylor operates a metal grinder in his studio.


"We wanted to emphasize that there were women who did heavy work, did mechanical work, were employed by the Milwaukee Road in doing assembly and hard work," Taylor said.

The sculptures are in silhouette, meaning they look 2D and you can't make out the workers faces. Deliberate choices, says Taylor.

"The silhouettes let each one of us fill in these figures with, who knows? Maybe someone we know who resembles the physiognomy of that person. Maybe a relative. Maybe someone we know who worked on the railroad becomes one of these figures." He continued, "It also let me overlay the figures with a little bit of railroad track, sort of imprint them with the railroad, or second the notion that yes, these are people of the Road."Taylor was recently given the go-ahead to work on the third sculpture. He hopes to have it up by August. The Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail is still trying to raise money for the other two figures. 

Taylor says he understands that the layoffs of thousands of people more than four decades ago still doesn’t sit well with some.

"It is a rather bittersweet topic. But there are wonderful memories. There are people like my father who have great memories and great pride in the time he spent working on the railroad," Taylor concluded.

So, maybe, in a city that likes to offer toasts, that's another way to look at the new sculptures: as a celebration of a vibrant time in Milwaukee. Larry Penn said much the same in another verse of his song.

"So, drink if you like to the railroad men, lusty old men, Milwaukee Road men. And drink if you can in the taverns they been, to the days on the old Milwaukee Road," Penn sang.

Nature Morte Exhibition Reviewed In Urban Milwaukee

*to read this article on the Urban Milwaukee website please click HERE

Let Us Now Praise The Still Life

Tory Folliard’s “Nature Morte” show is a rich roundup of still life works by more than 30 artists.

By Catherine Jozwik - Aug 15th, 2019 05:28 pm

Nature Morte: An Exhibition of Contemporary Still Life Gallery. Photo courtesy of the Tory Folliard Gallery.

The Tory Folliard Gallery’s current exhibit, Nature MorteAn Exhibition of Contemporary Still Life, is a modern look at the genre of still life, from glass sculptures and stoneware carvings to surrealistic oil and vividly-colored, Impressionistic acrylic paintings.

On display through September 7, the exhibit showcases works in different media by more than 30 artists, many of them Wisconsin-based: Mary BeroChris BertiCraig BlietzTD BrennerDerrick BuischRobert CockeMarion Coffey, Laura DronzekBeth EdwardsAndy FletcherRon IsaacsBeth LipmanDylan Martinez, Lon MichelsMark MulhernKatie Musolff, Dennis NechvatalMichael NolandTodd Olson, Melanie Parke, Guzzo Pinc, Jeremy PopelkaBill ReidJeffrey RippleJim RoseJan SerrGeorge Shipperley, T.L. Solien, Fred Stonehouse, Paula Swaydan Grebel, Stephanie TrenchardMary Alice WimmerJohn Wilde, and Janica Yoder.

Still life is one of the oldest art forms, dating to Greek and Roman times. Western Renaissance artists, among them Netherlandish painter Bruegel the Elder and Italian painter Caravaggio, helped popularize the genre, which became extremely popular, especially among art collectors.

“Still life painting has incredible staying power as a genre in art. The idea that we should reflect on the transience and ultimate vanity of existence has a particularly modern, even existential appeal,” Stonehouse is quoted as saying.

Many may consider still life to be paintings of fruit bowls and flower vases. But while some contemporary artists employ traditional themes and styles in their works, still life as a genre goes far beyond that. Nature Morte features works in diverse media, such as oil and acrylic, blown glass, repurposed steel, birch plywood, silverpoint drawings, carved limestone and sand castings.

Although many Nature Morte subjects portrayed are inanimate objects—Wimmer’s “Remains III (Skull), a silverpoint drawing of an animal skull, Andy Fletcher’s “Beers of My Fathers,” (an oil-on canvas painting of vintage beer cans) and Jim Rose’s patchwork-like steel cabinet, for examples–the exhibit bursts with life, evidencing that still life as a genre is anything but static and boring.

Artists such as Melanie Parke, Mark Mulhern and T.L. Solien incorporate breathtaking colors in their paintings of flower vases, household items and geometric objects. Solien’s eye-catching “Theorem: Liar’s Paradox,” a vibrant medley of fruits, household objects, and shadows in a style reminiscent of graphic arts, hangs on the wall behind the gallery’s reception desk.

Fred Stonehouse and Robert Cocke’s surrealistic paintings (especially Stonehouse’s crying vegetables) add a dreamlike fantasy element to the exhibit. Jeremy Popelka and Dylan Martinez’s exquisite glass pieces highlight the artists’ incredible skill and patience with such a volatile medium. Popelka’s purple floral piece is lovely, and Martinez’s works depicting plastic bags filled with water are amazingly realistic. Stephanie Trenchard’s “Nature Morte Sur Les Tetes,” which appears to be paper cutouts of upper torsos of 1920s figures encased in sand-cast glass, and Chris Berti’s stone-carved vegetables are exciting departures from the traditional portraiture genre. Rose’s steel cabinets demonstrate the artist’s resourcefulness and ingenuity in creating objects out of discarded items.

Still life was once unfairly regarded as a “lower” art form among critics. Tory Folliard’s delightful, richly complex exhibit proves that this is certainly no longer the case.

Laurie Hogin Interview From UK Publication Bizarre

Many times in the artistic world we come across extraordinary things, strange things, shocking or simply that they leave you to the void without knowing what emotional path to choose. The first time we saw the works of Laurie Hogin we definitely felt trapped by a mixture of adoration and many questions. A world so colorful and so full of life, but we do not talk about life in its perfectionist image, we talk about real life, the one that catches you, the one that has its good and evil and the one that grabs you, squeezes, the one that you love and hate at the same time and most importantly ... you can not stop living it, because the connection you have is so strong that what happens happens, you keep holding her hand. And if we have to describe what we feel at the moment of seeing the works of Laurie Hogin, perhaps it would be just the moment to squeeze this hand and realize that it is not something else, but life itself.

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Urban Milwaukee Spotlights Tom Uttech Painting Acquired By MOWA

The Museum of Wisconsin Art recently acquired a large-scale painting by influential Wisconsin landscape artist Tom Uttech, purchased with funds raised from the museum’s 2019 Art Ball.

Held June 15, the Art Ball honored Uttech, presenting him with the Hyde Award, an award which “recognizes individuals and organizations for their significant influence on the Museum of Wisconsin Art and the future of Wisconsin Art. Tom Uttech is the first artist to receive the award,” according to the Tory Folliard Gallery, which has represented Uttech for 27 years.

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Lon Michels' Room At Saint Kate Featured In Chicago Tribune Article

Leopard spots — thousands of them, in a multitude of colors and sizes — cover just about every nook and cranny of one of the 219 guest rooms in Milwaukee’s new Saint Kate hotel, opening Tuesday.

“You have to sign a waiver that if you stay in this room and nine months later you have a child covered in leopard spots, we’re not responsible,” joked Lon Michels, the Wisconsin artist behind the room’s unorthodox, Instagram-darling design.

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Jessica Calderwood Featured In American Craft Magazine

How much of our true selves do we show to the world? When we look at others, do we see who they really are? Can we ever know what lies beneath the surface?

In her enameled paintings and jewelry, Jessica Calderwood captures imaginary characters in private moments and intimate places, with unguarded gestures: face in hands, fingers in mouth, belly button in extreme close-up. Surreal and enigmatic, her portraits have humor, attitude, and charm, but they’re also unsettling, for what they reveal and what they don’t.

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Richard Taylor Sculpture Honoring Workers Of The Milwaukee Road Railroad Shops To Be Installed On The Hank Aaron State Trail

The public art project will be visible to thousands daily on the Hank Aaron State Trail at the corner of W Canal Street and W Milwaukee Road. It will be a powerful reminder of the 100+ year legacy of an era gone by, the Milwaukee Road and and its dedicated employees.

Designed by local artist Richard Taylor, the five silhouettes were modeled after actual historical photos of railroad workers, a tribute to them and their impact on Milwaukee and the country. The tallest sculpture which is 14 feet tall includes a solar-powered LED crossing sign which will call attention to the piece at night.

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