A friend of Keith's, Todd Mrozinski, who is the current artist-in-residence, was there to give us access to the otherwise elite parts of the hotel. Todd is the seventh artist to have a residency through the Pfister's internationally acclaimed program. In accordance with the hotel's rules, Todd is required to give tours to guests and visitors throughout the day, and Keith and I were lucky enough to have Todd give us a tour, as well.
When we arrived we found Todd tinkering in a large, well-lit room in the foyer.
Todd told us that he has the privilege of exhibiting his art in this space during the course of his residency, and was working on hanging his paintings alongside the designs of Timothy Westbrook (who did a residency at the Pfister from 2012-2013 and has since appeared on Project Runway).
Todd also showed us his studio where he gets to make art all day long and talk to hotel guests. With a hearty grin on his face he recounted a story from last night in which Bob Dylan (yes, Bob Dylan) poked his head into Todd's studio to admire his paintings. (Not a bad result of having a residency at the most expensive hotel in town).
Todd's studio space
After revealing his studio Todd showed us around a bit more. Unbeknownst to me, the Pfister is home to a huge collection of art that happens to be the largest collection of Victorian paintings in the entire world. Some of them fit in perfectly with the hotel and its general decor:
Others had me erupting in bursts of giggles down the hallway:
Todd had mentioned that the previous artist-in-residence had caused a stir with the hotel staff due to the explicit sexual content of her work. I couldn't fathom how this erotically charged painting didn't seem to stir anyone at all (except for me of course, who couldn't stop laughing).
In addition to these erotic babies, I noticed there were also painted babies on the hotel ceilings:
Todd pointed out that it was easy to tell that the murals had been painted long after the hotel's inception in 1890 due to the fact that not all of the cherubs are white (the murals were actually painted in the 1990s).
Todd also showed us a very strange App that serves as an interactive guide to the paintings in the hotel called the "Augmented Reality Tour."
When scanned, the kittens in this painting jump out of the screen accompanied by a man's stern voice. I'm not really sure what he was talking about. He kept saying "Meow, meow, meow" and saying something about cats. In order to explain this fully I'm going to suggest…download the App, go to the hotel, scan this painting, and let me know what you come up with! (I was stumped. It seemed like a half-assed educational programming experiment gone terribly wrong. Talk about an augmented reality...).
After this point the tour moved from augmented and weird to exclusive and even more fancy as we progressed to the upper tiers of the hotel (27 of them to be exact). Here we discovered the views and amenities the rich have access to on a regular basis:
Taken from inside the women's room (did not realize until it was too late that there was a woman actually using the restroom while I was trying to get this shot)
Inside of a very blue resturant appropriately named, "Blu"
A strange blue light cast over the group from the blue restaurant
We spent some time wandering around the 27th floor, which is mostly devoid of art, but is still cool to wander around in and gape at rich people, and their incredible food. Before any of the elite could cast some suspicious glances our way, we hurried down the elevator and went back to the main floor. After we had said our goodbyes and thank yous to Todd, I commented to Keith how much stuff there is in Milwaukee that I don't know about even though I've lived here over a year now. He made a comment back about how old he is and how long he's lived here and how much stuff he hasn't seen, either.
Old or young, there is always an adventure to be had in the city that you live. I'm glad I took the time to do something educational (and fancy) on my day off. Tomorrow, I know I'll remember the view from the top, the kissing babies, and the animated cats on the iPhone screen as I cringe through my 10-hour, extremely un-fancy day.
Salve: Italian; hello, and goodbye (informal)