Mary Ellen Sisulak

Mary Ellen Sisulak is an artist/craftsperson known for working in diverse materials through her long career in the arts. Her training was at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she earned a BFA in painting with high honors in 1974. The professors who had the most impact upon her were, Thomas Uttech and John Colt. Yearning to live closer to nature, she moved to rural Door County, WI. Her work is influenced by living next to a unique habitat, the Mink River Nature Conservancy.

She has maintained a studio/gallery in Door County for 43 years, designing and producing wearable art in leather and fiber. Her leather work is well known for exploring the mechanics of functional handbags and stretching the boundaries of surface design.  More recent work focuses on other natural materials: wool and silk. Collections of dyed and felted wool accessories and digitally printed and pieced silk wall hangings complement more commercial work in the studio/gallery.

Mary Ellen has exhibited at numerous juried shows for 40 years: The Smithsonian Craft Show, The Philadelphia Museum Craft Show, American Craft Exposition, The Sausalito Arts Festival, American Craft Council Shows in Baltimore, St.Paul, Atlanta, Chicago and SanFrancisco.  Best of Show awards for both leather and fiber were received at The Madison Art Fair on the Square – 1998, The Edina Art Festival – 2011, 2012 and The Oconomowoc Festival of Arts – 2009. Work was selected for Standard Oil of Indiana Collection and Harley-Davidson Collection. Leather bags have been marketed in galleries and shops from the East to the West Coast.  Custom  products were developed for The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the iconic Harley Davidson brand.

In 2002 she received a Grant from the WI Arts Board/WI Arts Assn. to journal and paint her beloved Mink River habitat.  This led to a one woman show at the Link Gallery in Fish Creek, WI.  The Grant fueled more explorations in digital printing and pieced 2-D silk wall art. Single image, diptych and triptych pieces have been commissioned by interior designers and individuals for homes and offices both regional and national; notably the UW Health Clinics in Madison, WI.

Marketing art is an important part of her involvement in the community. She established Ellison Bay Arts in 2004; an association of local artists and schools to collectively market through ads, brochures and events. From 1993-1998 she owned and operated Turtle Island Gallery in Egg Harbor, WI.  Reaching a new audience, Art Camps are now offered in her studio so that other craftspeople can share her knowledge, space and equipment.

Published work: The Geology of Door County: A Self-Guided Tour 1978 Bill Skadden, Mary Ellen Sisulak.  Reflections in a Tarnished Mirror, The Use and Abuse of the Great Lakes 1978, Tom Kuchenberg, Jim Legualt, Mary Ellen Sisulak. Self-published picture book: Pinklieee!, written and illustrated by Mary Ellen Sisulak 2015. Featured articles appeared in Door County Advocate Sept. 4, 2003.  Door County Living, Fall 2005. Luxury Homes, Fall 2006. Peninsula Pulse, Issue 11, 2008.  Peninsula Pulse, March 2015.

In 2017 Mary Ellen received a commission to incorporate leather into a large wall piece.  The 4’ x 6’ piece led to a new mixed media collection which combines her skills as a painter with the techniques of a crafts person. Pairing stones and leather, she found a voice that she had been searching for.  As enthusiastic now as at the beginning of her career, her interpretations of environment are strong reminders of the vulnerability of nature and man’s relationship to it.

Naomi Moes-Jenkins

A native of western Nebraska, Naomi has lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin for much of her life.

Naomi is a free-form artist. She combines newspaper and binders such as clay and concrete using her own formulas.

In Green Bay, Naomi maintains studio space and teaches classes in the ART Garage, which provides space, shows, classes and much more for participating artists.

She works with wire, wire cutters, sheets of newspaper, her various formulas, paint (acrylic or oil) and an imagination that tends toward fantasy figures with Medieval elements.

Hayden Wilson

Hayden Wilson grew up in the Mountains of Western North Carolina.  He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in sculpture from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

As a second generation glass maker, he has been around glass his entire life, but working professionally as a glass blower and caster for the past six years.

He has been an assistant instructor in the glass studio at Penland School of Craft, in Penland, North Carolina and also at Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state. Hayden has also worked Jackson County Green Energy Park building equipment, teaching glass and metal foundry classes.

He currently works with glass artist Alex Bernstein and manages the Asheville Glass Centers hot shop, a public access studio that focuses on art glass making as well as offering an array of classes. Hayden creates his work at the Asheville Glass Center.  Hayden’s work conveys his aesthetic of clean lines and inspired by modern, utilitarian design.  He works with utilitarian vessels, as well as steel and cast glass sculptures. In addition to his own work, Hayden has also designed and created various lighting commissions for local restaurants and businesses in the region.

Kairong Liu

Kairong likes to paint outdoors. He believes there is always beauty to be found in the most unexpected places and he tries to reveal that in his paintings.

His work has been collected by Mayo Clinic, Cargill, Midwest Federal Reserve Bank, Crown Bank, Health Partner Inc.,Target Cooperation, University of Minnesota, Wells Fargo Bank, Northwest Airlines and many other businesses, hospitals and private collectors.

Currently he has two pieces hanging at the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul Minnesota. His work “Golden Turn” has won 1st place in the Fine Arts painting category in the Minnesota State Fair.

He came to the United Stated from mainland China. He received his Bachelor and Masters of Fine Art from Westmar University and the University of South Dakota.

Kairong has taught many private painting workshops, has instructed at the Minnetonka Center for the Art, and has taught classes at Edina and Bloomington Art Centers.

His work can be found galleries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and Florida.

Charlie Hunter

“Charlie Hunter has the uncanny ability to seize upon the most ordinary things, and transform them with his brush into bewitching jewels of design and artistic perception.” — Richard Schmid

I live in Bellows Falls, a resurgent mill town on the banks of the Connecticut River in Vermont. My studio is in an old paper mill. There, I like to paint what nature does to what man creates.

I was born in a small town in New Hampshire where we used to swim in the abandoned granite quarries. We had pigs and chickens and rambling barns. I’d walk home from school along the tracks of the Boston & Maine Hillsborough Branch , and read the names and slogans on the box cars that’d roll by, things like “The Nickel Plate Road” and “Santa Fe All The Way.”

When they put a highway through our barns, my family returned to the house built by my great, great, great grandfather in Weathersfield Center, Vermont, where my great aunts lived. Our family still makes maple syrup there and also have a hand-cranked cider press which makes amazing cider but can remove a finger if you’re not careful (just ask Uncle Andrew).

My Dad was an occasional minister who ran a small print shop. There was always a lot of paper and drawing stuff around. I drew a lot. Though I did not appreciate it at the time, in college, I was lucky enough to be forced to draw the figure three days a week from 8:00 am till noon under the tutelage of William Bailey. Afterwards, I got a job designing tour posters for acts like The Clash, REM and The Jerry Garcia Band. I got to design a lot of album covers and became a music manager. I quit that just before the music business imploded and went back to painting a lot and running music trains (live music on long-distance train trips – a few times a year. Now painting is my primary focus.

My goal is to paint beautifully that which is not traditionally considered beautiful. Sorta like a less-grotesque Anselm Keifer in a better mood.

Photo credit: Rachel Portesi

Michael-Che Swisher

Michael-Che Swisher’s work is inspired by her love of animals. As a child, she dragged home every injured squirrel, bunny, and bird. As a adult, she became a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator and fostered many kittens. The artist often had baby opossums and squirrels as residents and at other times, a house full of playful kittens.

With each painting, the artist focuses on color and texture to highlight the animal’s unique personality. Michael-Che’s style is instinctive. Colors and tools are selected as the painting develops. Brushes, painting knives, and other unexpected tools are utilized to create the artist’s characteristic levels of texture. Mixing colors on both the palette and canvas allows the artist to experience the joy of manipulating thick layers of paint.

Michael-Che lives with multiple sclerosis which at times interferes with her painting,
weakening her eye muscles and the right side of her body. In early 2013, the artist
experienced severe muscle weakness in her right arm and shoulder and a loss of fine motor control in her hand. She was unable to paint for the rest of the year.

Today, the artist paints with the assistance of a mobile arm support that holds her arm up which she is unable to do herself. Despite the pain and challenges involved, Michael-Che is determined to paint. The MS Society asked her what it meant to paint again. Her response: “It means everything!”

Some days the artist can control the movements of a brush. Other days, it can be interesting. If her right hand is not strong enough to hold a brush, she’ll let her left hand take over. The artist will find random objects and embark on an exploration of textures, turning something she can’t control into finding new ways to express herself.

Before turning to fine art, Ms. Swisher was an illustrator for seven years. She illustrated four children’s books and her artwork is displayed on dinnerware, bed & bath items, in magazines, and advertisements. Michael-Che’s paintings can be found in private collections throughout the U.S. and in Japan, Australia, Great Britain, Korea, and Canada.

Pamela Ruschman

I am inspired by color and nature.  Regardless of the season, God puts forth an amazing palette of colors, shapes and patterns.  Sometimes the landscape is a quiet hush of color, while at other times it seems to scream with excitement.

My love of painting began when I was a child growing up on a dairy farm in Southwest Wisconsin.  I would wander the hills and deep valleys and saw a painting at every turn because of the unique rhythm of this driftless land.  I have always been intrigued by color and the wonders of nature.

Painting “en plein air” which in French means “in the open air” brings a whole new level of visual and sensory experience to painting.  While outside painting, I might encounter beautiful moments of solitude observing animals or experiencing sheets of ice crack under my boots.

My primary subject matter is the landscape and livestock of Wisconsin.  Each seasons brings a new opportunity to paint the landscape.

Molly Krolczyk

Molly Krolczyk is a Wisconsin studio artist working with acrylic paint.  She has a BFA in Painting and Drawing.  She loves nature, a good cup of tea, children, bright colors, and the changing seasons.  Molly lives in Madison with her awesome husband, 3 kids, dog, and chickens.

Brian Sindler

Brian Sindler was born in Chicago in 1957. He received a bachelor of arts from Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. Working as a musician for years, he did not take up art until he was into his thirties.

His earliest work was rather abstract.  This was long before he took up landscape painting.  His subjects were primarily figurative, although he also painted still life subjects.  This work generally involves highly simplified forms consisting of broad planes of subdued colors, often arranged in an almost cubist style.

These paintings tend to be thickly painted.  Sometimes Sindler created multiple layers with several applications of paint and oil plus a torching of the paint surface.  The result is interesting from both a compositional as well as textural point of view.

After about two years of exploring this experimental approach to painting, Brian Sindler took up etching.  His subjects remained the same—figurative and still life.  But now he delved more directly into cubism and other modernist tendencies.  His work from this period was greatly influenced by Picasso.

Sindler began classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1996.  From 1997 through 2001, he was enrolled at the School of Representational Art, a French-style atelier in Chicago.

The work from this period resembles the rigorously detailed work of talented students from the various art academies that were popular in the nineteenth century.  There is much attention given to the careful depiction of models and still life arrangements.  Accurate drawing, modeling of the form in two-dimensional space, and chiaroscuro effects are all emphasized.

Some of Sindler’s work from these years has a photorealist quality, particularly the charcoal drawings.  His considerable talents are very much in evidence.

After graduation, Sindler turns his attention to landscape painting, especially plein air painting.  That would remain his focus from then on. Much of the work from this period is impressionist in style and is clearly influenced by Monet and other French impressionist painters.  The focus is on lighting and color effects.  The impasto is thickly applied and broken brushstrokes are often in evidence.

Sindler readily adopted this style.  After some practice, his paint handling became masterful and confident.  His paintings from this period tend to be boldly colorful and exuberant. Many of these landscape paintings were executed in and around his home in the North Shore of Chicago.

The artist’s next period is that of a more tonalist style.  He has been working in this style since around 2004-2005, although his tonalist work comes in two forms.

His studio paintings tend to be characterized by the use of more subdued colors, the flattening of the pictorial space, and a thinner paint application with broad bands of color. The work which is done en plein air tends to have more vivid colors and a thicker impasto.

But, of course, there are many exceptions to this rule. Sindler may occasionally produce a plein air painting which is so austere that it comes close to being monochromatic. And he may execute a studio painting that is wildly colorful and expressive.

As Emerson suggested, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Sindler’s creative impulse is not at all limited by the need to be consistent. He relishes the opportunities for artistic experimentation and personal growth as an artist.

Sindler is also not constrained by any desire to capture nature as it appears to him at any moment in ever changing lighting and atmospheric conditions.  He takes liberties with both forms and colors.

He likes to reduce the number of elements in his paintings and to simplify the forms. So a cluster of four trees, for example, may be reduced to a single form. A complex cloud formation may be turned into a large rising cloud or a pair of floating clouds. Some of this work can therefore appear highly abstract.

Beginning around 2008, Sindler makes more of an effort to impose an even greater control over the design of his paintings. He further simplifies the forms in his compositions and he reduces the number of forms.

Sindler also adopts a two-step process to aid him in the design of his plein air paintings. The first step is to create quick sketches from nature that provide a kind of design template for the painting. Then later he returns to the same location to paint the scene en plein air by taking account of both the natural setting before him and the planned design sketch which guides him in the composition of the painting.

With this approach, Sindler’s arrangement of forms and choice of the coloration of these forms allow him to achieve a more balanced composition and a more compelling contrast between light and dark tones.

His tonalist style has had a very contemporary sensibility about it. But since around 2012, he has produced some paintings that come closer to the American Tonalism style of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This work is somewhat more painterly and less abstract, although the forms are still highly simplified. In these paintings, formal considerations take a back seat to contrasting tonalities and color harmonies. The effect is both poetic and sublime.

Brian Sindler has exhibited widely in individual and group shows.  In additional to gallery exhibitions, he has been a regular exhibitor at the Salmagundi Club in New York, the Plein Air Festival in Door County, Wisconsin, and the Cedarburg Plein Air Competition.  He has been awarded numerous prizes in these competitions.

From time to time Sindler conducts painting workshops at the North Shore Art League in Winnetka, Illinois, and at the School of Representational Art in Chicago.

His work is included in a number of private and public collections in the United States and abroad.

~Michael Greany

Mary Mendla

I am a painter, fiber artist, and apparel designer living in Grafton, Wisconsin.  I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 1992.  Since that time I have been on a creative journey that has led me in many directions; painting, teaching, fabric surface design, sculptural fiber art, and apparel design.  I cannot choose one over the others; they each bring forth essential parts of my creative spirit.

My paintings and fiber art have often been referred to as atmospheres; surfaces to enter into rather than to simply view on a two dimensional surface.  My intent is to metaphorically communicate my deepest experiences of the mystery of the natural world through color, texture, and composition.  Intuition, rather than conscious control guides me in the expression of these experiences onto canvas, board, or textile.

My non-objective and tonal landscape paintings are created through varied processes involving oil and acrylic paint, cold wax medium, and a variety of other mixed media materials.  Layer upon layer of paint, dry pigment, metal leaf, and additional media are intuitively applied to a painting surface.  These layers of paint and mixed media are scraped through or dissolved with solvent, additional paint & mixed media is applied, and this process repeats itself until a rich, textural surface reveals a composition and meaning begins to become apparent.  The archaeology of the painting is uncovered and the history buried between the layers is revealed through these processes.  The meaning of each painting evolves through intuition and is expressed through choices made of the images and textures that appear.

The enjoyment I get through creativity is very much enhanced by the unpredictable qualities inherent in the processes that I work with.