Ultimately I know it's because, as insular as Milwaukee is, Riverwest is ten times worse. It's like a small town within a city that also happens to be tragically hip and inherently cliquey. I am definitely not cool enough for it, which is sad because I'm drawn to the grungy, artistic atmosphere of the place.
That's okay. I'll still go to bars over there every once in awhile just to piss everybody off. And when there's an art exhibit, as there currently is at Art*Bar on Burleigh. My good friend Deborah Levinson, who was also an art major that graduated my year, has recently moved to tiny Milwaukee from big NYC, and I wanted to show her some of the art things that are going on here. Deb, as I call her, contacted me under the pretense that we hang out and drink wine or do art things. Or do both at the same time. Which is why Art*Bar seemed like the perfect place to start.
What is Art*Bar? According to their Facebook page: "Just the ABC's: Art, Booze, Coffee." Nice, I like all three of those things. By perusing their page I can glean that they host art exhibitions, concerts, game nights, and also art making events such as Paintnite which is a step by step painting class hosted by a local painter. "All you have to do is drink and have fun!"
I can totally drink and have fun. In fact I'm really good at it. However, the intentional pairing of alcohol and art is new to me. The first time I had heard of an event that paired art and alcohol in a way other than serving Yellow Tail and Spotted Cow at gallery openings was at Final Fridays at EBCO Arts in Sheboygan, hosted by the Sheboygan Visual Artists. I didn't end up going to the event, but I heard that it was a night of pairing wine with paintings and other art pieces. Then of course there was last week's Fop and Hounds which paired wine with a dog and a discussion of art.
I don't think Art*Bar puts as much thought into whether the alcohol selection matches the current art exhibit. I think it is mostly just a bar that happens to host art events. But I'm a big fan of the idea. I often find myself out on weekend nights wondering why the heck I am just drinking. I like to sit around and socialize but I prefer drinking when I am pairing it with the things I enjoy, like art and music. To be honest, I often feel guilty when I am doing anything that I couldn't potentially use as material for this blog.
Blah, blah, blah, long/nerdy story short, I went to Art*Bar and hung out with Deb and had a great time. We chatted for a few hours about our adventures after school and laughed at about how we are basically as broke as we were when we graduated and how tough the "real world" still is. We commiserated over our experiences in the art world and talked about the things we had learned. We came to the conclusion that neither one of us really misses Lawrence all that much and that even though life outside of school is tough it feels more satisfying in a lot of ways. The whole time we talked, I looked at the paintings on the wall. The current exhibition, "We Came, We Saw, We Painted" is a collection of paintings done by painters in the Wisconsin Plein Air Painters Association. "Plein air" painting is painting done outside rather than in a studio, so there were many outdoor scenes and landscapes. The twist: the exhibition also included a comparison of the same scene painted in a studio rather than outside. For example:
Study of Red, Barbara Hayden- Studio painting on left, plein air on right
*Stop right there.* If you're thinking this is a bad photograph that doesn't really show the difference between the two paintings very well, then you are right. I was, after all, in a dimly lit bar in which I chose to consume alcohol before looking at the art, and therefore none of the photographs I took of the pieces were really all that great. At one point I even took this photograph over two guys who were playing pool at at the pool table:
I haven't exactly mastered the technique of mixing art and alcohol in a way where one enhances the other and vise versa. The other photographs I took didn't even match the apparent concept of the exhibition:
Go Out and Play, Sherri Thomas- Plein air study
Painting Painters, Jenny Anderson- Studio painting
Same scene. One painted outdoors and one painted indoors. But they were done by different artists, which doesn't really make sense if the point of the exhibition is to compare the way an artist works inside a studio from a photograph versus how an artist works outdoors in real time.
Perhaps my miscomprehension was due to the the fleeting way in which Deb and I walked past the paintings and either said "I like the one on the right" or "I like the one on the left," and didn't really spend much time analyzing them at all. But a band had just started, and I was sleepy, and like I said it was dark in there anyways. I'm tempted to go back to Art*Bar so I can figure out exactly what this exhibition was about and whether or not I thought Art*Bar was a good venue for the show. But I really just want to do it during daylight hours when I am completely sober so I can just look at the paintings like I would if I was seeing any other art show. So then I guess it wouldn't really be an authentic Art*Bar experience at all.
I told you I'm not cool enough for Riverwest.