Grace and Grit
January 19 - March 9, 2024
Discussion with Nirmal Raja and Jodi Throckmorton
(Chief Curator of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center)
5 to 6 p.m. Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., Fifth Floor
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Milwaukee Artist Resource Network, 191 N. Broadway
Free. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.
Essay by Barbara O'Brien
Portrait Society Gallery is thrilled to present a major solo exhibition of recently completed work from Nirmal Raja’s 2023 residency at the Kohler Arts/Industry program. Raja worked for three months in the foundry, casting metal objects that further investigate themes of global movement, memory, loss, and the resilience of women under the weight of patriarchy. The exhibition title, Grace and Grit, refers to how the monumental labors of women often go unnoticed or are intentionally devalued to preserve societal ideals of the feminine. Raja also became fascinated with how the residency program itself allowed for the insistence of beauty amidst the intense atmosphere and daily rigor of the factory.
“Grace and Grit honors the resilience and strength of women but also the human ability to navigate the body’s vulnerability and harness the power of metal and industry,” said Raja.
The exhibition includes a number of works cast in iron and brass. Flowers, braided hair, traditional hair ornaments, threads, and cloth bags undergo transformation through the process of casting molten metal in sand molds.
Nirmal Raja is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Milwaukee. She lived in India, South Korea, and Hong Kong before immigrating to the United States thirty years ago. She holds a BA in English literature from St. Francis College in Hyderabad, India; a BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She has participated in solo and group shows in the Midwest, nationally, and internationally.
Raja is the recipient of several awards including Graduate of The Decade from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She received the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship for individual artists for the year 2020 and the Mildred L. Harpole Artists of the Year 2022 award from the Milwaukee Arts Board. She is a mentor for the Milwaukee Artists Resource Network’s mentorship program.