Janet Werner and Ariana Huggett

September 26 - November 15, 2014

Opening reception: Friday, September 26, 6-9pm.

Gallery Night: October 17

Canadian artist Janet Werner and Milwaukee painter Ariana Huggett open the fall season at Portrait Society Gallery. 

Janet Werner (b. 1959) is well-known internationally, however she has shown her work less frequently in the United States.  Portrait Society is honored to bring her work to the midwest. Gallery Director Debra Brehmer had discovered Janet Werner’s work at an art fair five years ago, purchased her book, “Too Much Happiness,” and found herself returning to the images repeatedly.

Werner, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, earned her MFA at Yale in 1987. Werner’s work focuses on the fictional portrait as a vehicle to explore subjectivity and desire, especially involving femininity. Her paintings operate within and against the genre of conventional portraiture, taking found images of anonymous figures in popular culture and imbuing them with fictional personalities. 

Lately, Janet Werner’s work has veered further from representational sources and has become more distorted, mannered, expressive, exaggerated, mangled. Figures stretch and morph into masks and deformities that almost humorously address the continuous bruising of the human condition. And yet, the history of grand portraiture, via John Singer Sargent, van Dyck, or Velazquez, never fully departs. The artist has said, “With me there is always this argument between pretty and its destruction. I have a complicated knot of things around the question of beauty.”

Ariana Huggett (b. 1965) has shifted her interests from patterned abstraction to representational paintings of home interiors. Her exhibition at Portrait Society, “Everyday Spaces,” includes 20 small-scale oil paintings done on-site, over a period of days. Each painting of an interior holds a mood and time of day as well as a sense of the artist’s selective vantage point. The view she chooses to paint is often determined by what provides an interesting formal composition. The framing of ‘place’ is then balanced between the emotional resonance of its intimacy and the concerns related to light, pattern, shape and color. 

In the early 20th century, French artists such as Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard also turned to the domestic interior as subject. Without human figures in the compositions, it was the afterglow of the things and the comfort of the settings that left traces of private lives.

As part of this body of work, Ariana has accepted advanced commissions. Those paintings will also be included in the exhibition. She is also available for future commissions that can be booked through the gallery.

Ariana Huggett earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1987 and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1994. She last showed her work at Portrait Society in 2009.

Elly Hazard: One

Project Space

In addition to these two parallel exhibitions, Portrait Society’s Project Space, an intimate exhibition venue in the hallway between the gallery and its office, will present “Elly Hazard: One.”

This is an exhibition of paintings created since the artist graduated from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in the spring of 2014. Hazard translates the immediacy of drawing and doodling into lively, colorful oil paintings that often feature a female figure but refer more broadly to general moods and states of being. Patterns create action and energy from which colorful dramas charm and entice with their messy exuberance. 

Portrait Society’s Project Space is dedicated to experimental projects and emerging voices.