I feel a million times happier, like the difference between night and day- night being the year of things that I tried that didn't exactly work out quite right, and day being Milwaukee, my new apartment, my new job, and my new life. I never in a million years thought I would end up basically back home, and back to the city I grew up a mere half an hour away from. But I feel absolutely no regrets about the decision, and as far as I'm concerned, anyone who can't see all of Milwaukee's charms is missing out.
That being said, it's still hard to throw yourself into the middle of something that wasn't exactly expecting you, or doesn't really care if you're there or not. What I mean is, Milwaukee's been changing and growing the whole time I've been away from it. People have done a lot of hard work to shape it into what it is now. People that have been here for awhile, maybe went to school together or didn't feel compelled to leave it like I did, and have changed it from a city that was known basically for the Brewers and Summerfest to a city with something that everyone can enjoy in some capacity. I realize that I have walked into the middle of a rapidly transforming place that's pretty damn comfortable with the direction it's headed, and, like I said, it doesn't give a shit if I'm here or not.
So basically, I'm going to have to be a bit annoying for awhile, and just keep showing up at things and throwing myself into things without embarrassment or apprehension. I have to look like I belong here. And I think I do. I just have to give it some time.
With that in mind, I showed up at an art event last night wearing a full-on Cheetah dress. Maybe it wasn't exactly appropriate, but I felt more comfortable wearing it than I would have in Sheboygan, that's for sure.
The event was the May "Fop and Hounds" at the Portrait Society Gallery. As I have mentioned before, I think gallery owner Debra Brehmer is pretty cool, and I thought I would check out the event. "Fop and Hounds" is a fun way to combine three really awesome things: art, wine, and dogs. For this monthly event, a person who has a strong voice about some art topic is chosen to host a discussion for the current exhibition at the gallery. The catch is, this person has to have a dog. For this "Fop and Hounds," UWM's Rebecca Holderness was chosen to host with her dog Asher, a Boykin Spaniel from Tennessee. Holderness teaches in the theater department, but her knowledge of found objects in relation to set design and playwriting seemed to fit comfortably with the current show, "Arrangements," by Keith Nelson.
Holderness with furry friend Asher
I'll elaborate on the discussion later. Another very important aspect of "Fop and Hounds" is, of course, wine, which is selected monthly by a wine expert to fit the personality and breed of the dog. This month's pairing, a Lacrime di Morro d'Alba, 2012.
Confession: I used to work at a winery, but I actually have no idea what this fancy title means. I can safely say, however, that this wine was pretty damn good. Not quite dry enough for my tastes, but Asher himself is not a very dry dog. An amicable pup with a taste for cheese, the wine fit perfectly with Asher's southern charms and warm affections. I probably had one glass too many.
As the discussion wore on, I listened, but I mostly thought about my own things, as I am prone to do when left to concentrate on something for very long. The piece that we were focusing on was this beautiful found object cityscape by Keith Nelson, which somehow seemed to fit in perfectly with my current excitement/ nerves about being back in Milwaukee:
Keith standing with his piece
Keith's "Arrangements" are made from debris that he finds in dumpsters, on the streets, and just plain old lying around. Each object has a story, and Keith collects these special scraps until he creates a flawless composition like the one you see above. Here's a better view:
At one point during the discussion I asked Keith whether or not he thought his pieces had anything to do with portraiture, since they were being shown at the Portrait Society. I guess I didn't exactly care what his answer was either way, to be perfectly honest. To me this piece is a portrait. The debris comes together to create a portrait of a certain time and place in the world. The time being now, and the place being Milwaukee. The piece is even reminiscent of the Milwaukee skyline: Sort of dull. Not impressive like Chicago or New York. But still nice to look at when you get that dusky light that bounces off the lake. Also, in some ways I think this piece encapsulates what a lot of people ignorantly think about Milwaukee. A bunch of scraps. People who don't want to live in an actual big city. Humble Wisconsinites. No vibrant colors or characters.
I thought those things too, until I came back here. But now I know better, and I see these scavenged goods as the people I know and the people I have yet to know who have come together to make Milwaukee what it is right now. A portrait of a place that I feel happy to call home.
And yes, I showed up to this event a half an hour early. I just don't know how to be late for things!