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current exhibitions

June 8 - July 21, 2018


Opening Reception: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 8 


(Part One)

Tim Brenner

Tracy Cirves 

Rebecca Kautz

Emily Rudolph

"I remember a nice white man who asked me during the open housing marches, 'What is it you people want?’ I said, 'My dear man, the same things you want. A place to live, green grass, a white picket fence, a place to go to work and good schools for our children.' “ -Vel Phillips, attorney/activist


Where do you live, how do you live, what are the conditions of your home environment, where do you dream of living?


Ever since sociologist Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted was published in 2016, the cultural awareness of how housing issues affect all aspects of society, from schools to public health, has come to the forefront.

This summer, Portrait Society Gallery is pleased to present a two-part exhibition focusing on concepts of home. Studies and articles about housing concerns tend to focus on the inner city and in some ways falsely isolate the situation.


Poverty, eviction, debt and unsafe living environments cross all demographic lines.

Homely (Part One), assembles four Madison area artists with diverse formal approaches but a common interest in domestic themes. Homely (Part Two) will present a series of images of Milwaukee evictions taken by moving companies as required documents for the sheriff’s office as well as Lois Bielefeld’s “Weeknight Dinner “ series that looks into American homes and the diverse ways we gather for evening meals. A third component will present Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photojournalist Angela Peterson’s images from the newspaper’s concurrent series by writer Erin Richards on unstable housing conditions and the impact on local schools.

Homely (Part One)

Continuing PSG’s summer practice of bringing select emerging artists to the forefront, three of the four artists in Homely (Part One) recently earned MFA degrees. The ability to obtain this level of education is costly and would indicate a certain privileged up-bringing. But like all assumptions, this may not be true. Thematically, each artist touches on domesticity and employs varying degrees of autobiographic reference.

Tim Brenner makes small acrylic paintings on masonite panels that embrace the quotidian and immediate. He lives in a rooming house, works at restaurants and finds physical space to make paintings by propping his mattress against the wall. Self portraits in imagined roles, paintings of his book shelves and favorite sweaters, as well as his steadfast, daily sketchbook drawings define the parameters of his lived and imagined lives. Brenner earned his MFA at UW-Madison in 2016.

Tracy Cirves who graduated from the Yale School of Art MFA program in 2010, subsequently moved back home to Mazomanie, WI with her toddler child to live with her parents. A makeshift studio in the basement allowed her to maintain her practice until she was able to rent space in a nearby building and expand the studio. Cirves’ paintings often deal with issues of femininity and isolation. She notes that historically, when men are depicted in isolation, it suggests inner depth and metaphysical contemplation. When women are shown in isolation, there is a sense of weakness and victimization. Tracy draws inspiration from her immediate surroundings and is highly conscious of the affectations of rendering versus the verisimilitude of fact.

Rebecca Kautz (b. 1978) completed her MFA at UW-Madison in 2018. She lives in Sun Prairie, WI with her husband and two children. Her recent work, executed on paper, has a domestic orientation as it explores non-linear narratives of power, sexuality and gender development in adolescence. Kautz writes, draws, paints and has done endurance type performances to unearth creative impulses often linked to social issues. She says, “The psychological space and concept of childhood and home is thick with residue. I return there in my mind to autopsy the space of the past, through the lens of the present where I extract the most compelling recollections. The resulting images are a hybrid of experiences and perspectives that tell of a breaching of American cultural family life.”

In Emily Rudolph’s large scale drawings, it feels as if the walls close in on these middle class interior social scenes where laborious pattern and distorted figures reflect the elaborate reticulation between home styling and human discourse. People move and merge, sometimes blurring within the complex architecture and patterns that create the visual rhythms of daily life. Emily is in the second year of her MFA in painting and drawing from UW-Madison.

Homely (Part Two)

Homely (Part Two), July 28 to September 1, presents a series of photographs of Milwaukee eviction sites, taken as documents required by the sheriff’s office as part of the legal proceedings.

A series of photographs by Angela Peterson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel taken for writer Erin Peterson’s series of articles on eviction and school performance will also be presented.

In 2018, Peterson and Richards followed Milwaukee families headed by single mothers who struggled to find housing and keep their children in the same schools. Peterson's photos provide an intimate portrait of two mothers urging their eldest sons toward graduation.

Angela Peterson has been a photo editor and photographer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 2003. Before coming to Milwaukee, she worked at the Orlando Sentinel as a photographer and photo editor with an emphasis on minority visual reporting. Currently, she's also working on the Journal Sentinel's 50-Ache project, a series of stories, visuals and multimedia pieces examining how far Milwaukee has come since the open housing marches in 1967.

Erin Richards has written about education for more than a decade at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After reading "Evicted," Erin sought to investigate the link between student turnover in schools and academic success in Wisconsin and also Milwaukee, a city where many families hop between different publicly funded school options. The Journal Sentinel series was done in connection with the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism at Marquette University.

A third component of Homely (Part Two) presents Lois Bielefeld’s photo series Weekend Dinners, a project where she traveled around the country, photographing people at their dinner tables. Bielefeld crossed geographical, economic, age and race divides as she looked at this shared nightly ritual enacted in innumerable configurations of what might constitute ‘family’.

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