ARTIST STATEMENT

Milwaukee-based artists, Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and Marna Goldstein Brauner combine technologies of printmaking with fibrous materials such as paper and fabric to create new visual representations of space and site. They are drawn to the fragile, seemingly temporal nature of handmade paper as a medium to create both two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects, and are excited by the potential of collaborating on their installation, Wall Paper. Both artists explore cultures through traveling and making, through examining the environment via mediation, process, and materials. They obsessively photograph, draw and collect specimens, sourced near and far–from Milwaukee to distant locations including South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Italy, and India. Drawing from a repository of gathered materials, they re-imagine and synthesize place through printing, stitching, assembling, and fusing together elements into multi-dimensional forms, objects, and environments. Both artists are drawn to dense metropolitan areas, crammed with diverse architecture from modern to ancient and advanced to makeshift.

In an emerging, collaborative body of work titled Wall Paper, Meuninck-Ganger and Goldstein Brauner combine their stylistic approaches and create a long, dimensional assemblage, and free-standing objects that merge Goldstein Brauner's saturated and vibrant photographic/digital and textural sensibilities with Meuninck-Ganger's monochromatic, drawing-based graphic renderings. They layer and fuse imagery using translucent papers and architectural elements to form a panoramic wall-scape. Building on "wall" as a concept and prompt, the new body of work will reference a variety of ideas, including: interior vs. exterior (i.e., what it contains, obstructs, and disguises, as well as, its unique space within); wall as a presentation of decorative impulse; and wall as a conveyer of message (i.e., an archive of collaged popular, cultural, and political visual communications.)


ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES

JESSICA MEUNINCK-GANGER’s prints, artist books, and large-scale mixed media works have been exhibited in museums and both experimental and commercial galleries regionally – near her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – nationally, and internationally. Her art is included in several private and public collections, including the Weisman Museum of Art, Northwestern Mutual, and the Target Corporation, and contemporary art publications, such Richard Noyce’s recent book ‘Printmaking Beyond the Edge.’ She has received residencies and fellowships all over the globe, and has instructed printmaking courses and workshops throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana. Jessica received her MFA in Studio Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2004 and is currently the Head of Print and Narrative Forms and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. www.jessicameuninck.com | CV

MARNA GOLDSTEIN BRAUNER is Professor Emerita of Art and Design (1989-2014) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, specializing in fibers-surface design. Prior teaching included the University of Kansas (1977-1985) and a visiting appointment at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her MFA in textiles, with distinction, from California College of Arts and Crafts, 1977 and her BFA in Visual Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1974. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally in both solo and group shows, most recently at the Centro de las Artes de San Agustín (CaSa), San Agustín Etla (Oaxaca), Mexico; Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University, Hyderabad, India; Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China; Gyodong Art Centre, Jeonju, South Korea; Hong Kong Design Institute and the Kaohsiung (Taiwan) Museum of Fine Arts. Goldstein Brauner has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Milwaukee Artists Foundation. Her work was featured in the books, The Surface Designer's Art and Celebrating the Stitch: Contemporary Embroidery of North America, as well as Fiberarts Magazine, and The Surface Design Journal. www.marnabrauner.com | CV


ARTIST INTERVIEW

Inspiration (Backstory)

The following questions are intended to provide insight into the artist's process, how they got started and what inspires them.

Was there a person or event that got you started creating your art? Does that person or event continue to influence the work that you do?

JMG: My parents are artists and retired educators. Both dedicated their careers to public education. My dad, Tom Meuninck, draws beautifully and is a master craftsman in ceramics. He taught at Washington High School in South Bend, IN for 40+ years. My mother, Karen Meuninck, works in 3-dimensional media, was trained in fibers and taught high school art as well as college-level graphic design. My brother, Tyler Meuninck, earned his MFA from UWM in studio arts (painting) and is a prolific artist. I grew up in rural Indiana, in a small town where several artists purchased land. Within a 3-mile radius, lived Ed Harding – a painter, lithographer, and professor of Graphic Design at Ivy Tech; Marion Pilarski – a painter and high school visual arts teacher; and Jim Paradis – a sculptor and professor at the University of Notre Dame. These colorful characters sat at our dining room table nearly every day, or at the very least, every week. Each played a significant role in exposing me to a broad range of art disciplines, concepts, theories, and practices. Of course I continue to share my art, ideas, and progress with friends and family several times a day. Ed, a printmaker, passed away during my sophomore year of college, is with me in spirit every time I grain a stone, mat a print, or step back from a drawing and analyze it with a critical eye. I often hear his words of advice and helpful criticism in my mind.

MGB: I had the good fortune (and very smart parents) to go to a high school with an excellent art department with nine full-time faculty. Faculty such as Nadine Raich (2D Design), William Wimmer (Printmaking) and Royce Lewis (History of Art), not only gave me my basic skills, but helped me find my unique voice. Bill Wimmer also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and continued to be a profound influence during my undergraduate degree. An important visual and conceptual influence, photographing in cemeteries, that has continued throughout my career, started with my photography teacher at SAIC, Harold Allen. Finally, my major professor in graduate school, Janet Levin, was so important to my development as an artist and a teacher, that I still hear her voice in my head forty years later.

At what point did you consider yourself an artist?

JMG: A many points. My answer changes as I consider different contexts, and it can depend on how the person asking the question defines an artist. I suppose I considered myself an artist when I first put paint or pencil to paper with the intent to visually communicate an idea or feeling. I won awards throughout primary and secondary school and was a Sharpe Scholar in high school, maybe at the time and each point I considered myself an artist. Hard to say. When I won a Scholastic Arts “Gold Key” for a portrait of my good friend, Jack? When I earned my bachelor’s degree? When I was included in a juried exhibition? First solo show? Gallery representation? There are many points in an artist’s life that seem to validate a path. Internally, it’s been a part of my identity since I understood the concept of identity.

MGB: I tend to think of myself more as a maker. Since I applied for teaching jobs, exhibitions and grants that were for "artists" I must have thought of myself as one.

Who or what inspires you and why?

JMG: In general … people. My family and friends – their curiosities, interests, and dedication to making, teaching, the arts, community and civic engagement. Also, nature and built environments. Travel is my favorite form of research, from my commute to work to trips over seas. I’m also inspired by master craftspeople who have dedicated their lives to researching and honing techniques, then teaching skills others to preserve arts role in culture.  

MGB: I guess "everything" is too broad an answer, although its close to the truth. I'm a very visual person and take way too many photographs, most during travels. So, I guess I would say that the unique visual tidbits of the world inspire me. I have also been inspired by the beauty of world textile traditions.

What was the first piece of art you made? Do you remember why you made it? What materials did you use and why?

JMG: When I was two and made “pimple pig” (a small ceramic pig with globs of clay all over its body) with my dad in his studio. I’m sure I made marks and finger painted before then, but that’s the first art project that survived as a story and artifact.

MGB: I can't define what was the first piece of "art" I made. I've made stuff since I was young, always asking for colored pencils or oil paint sets. Pretty early on I realized I wasn't a painter. I define myself as a 2D object maker, and the first piece I got into an important juried show, was a photo-screen-printed quilt, so textile materials and processes have always been important to my work.

Are there any programs or learning opportunities that you wish you had as a young artist?

JMG: I attended a public school with a strong art program. In high school, I was involved in many extracurricular activities such as Art Club and Drama Club (set deigns), and was co-editor of the art and literary magazine. I took life drawing classes at the South Bend Regional Museum of Art as well as the University of Notre Dame. I feel like I had many opportunities. In contrast, I taught in the public schools in Elkhart, IN. During my tenure, the school system experienced tremendous cuts and lost art programs at the elementary and middle school levels, and it was devastating. During that time, I directly observed the shift in students’ analytical skills, ability to creatively problem solve, and general knowledge of tools and making. Integrating art programs in a rounded education is a significant and proven method of fostering skills, confidence, empathy, and independence through one’s direct relationships with materials and ideas!

MGB: As answered earlier, I couldn't have been luckier. I had excellent art teachers from middle school on. For all of the art classes I took, I didn't think I was going to become an artist. I thought I was going to be a children's librarian (another important childhood influence), and I was making stuff for the pleasure it gave me. I wasn't one of the art stars in my school and it took a lot of pressure off. My parents offered to drive me to Saturday kid classes at SAIC, but I didn't think I was good enough. Now I'm glad I came to my career in the way I did. My passion has kept me going all these years. No complaints.

What would you say to a young person to encourage their study and practice of art?

JMG: It’s not a frivolous effort or path. It will prepare you in unimaginable ways, and I guarantee that you will, at the very least, be more prepared to cope with rapidly evolving work, political, and environmental climates because of it. It will teach you flexibility, frugality, innovation, organization, leadership, confidence, and so much more. Do it!

MGB: As a teacher I used to tell students that making art is a choice between that, and a rubber room. Its a weird thing to do, and you only do it if you are driven to do it and have no choice. I guess the encouraging part is getting them to find what is unique to them in the process. I also used to tell them that the time to worry is when their parents like what they are making. As supportive as my parents were, they didn't get it until I got my first university teaching job and had "Professor" in front of my name.

 

Artistic Practice

The following questions are intended to create insight into the artist’s practice and why they think art is important.

Is this your first and only career? If not, what other jobs have you had and how have they influenced your artistic practice?

JMG: My career path has been a straight path. In the 7th grade, I decided I wanted to be an educator. I was hired straight out of college and taught sculpture, graphic design, and introduction to art at Elkhart Memorial High School before heading to the Twin Cities for grad school. After receiving my MFA, I taught classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. We moved to Milwaukee in 2006, and then I applied for a position at UWM's Peck School of the Arts. I've been at UWM ever since.

MGB: I have been teaching textiles/fibers since 1977, when I started as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. I retired as Professor Emerita from UWM in 2014. Indeed, first and only career. That said, teaching at the college level has definitely had a profound influence on my artistic practice. My studio work over the years blended textiles, printmaking, and photography, all disciplines with historical tradition. I’ve also lived through a time of tremendous change, primarily due to the computer. I knew that to avoid becoming an academic dinosaur, I would have to learn digital applications to teach to students. Little did I imagine how important digital processes would become to my own studio practice.

Do you like people to see your work/comment on it while it is still in process? Why?

JMG: Ideally, yes. I enjoy working with artists, curators, and writers. The creation of work becomes a collaboration. New threads and directions emerge form conversations. Although their recommendations may not be evident in the work at the time, feedback nurtures the evolution of ideas and techniques. It inspires new ways of thinking about/making work. For this new series, the collaboration with Marna, the fluid exchange of ideas and perspectives has added new levels of engagement, excitement, and compromise that will undeniably influence my process in the future. Additionally, I feel it's important to model the creation of work alongside my students in a workshop/printshop studio environment. I have studio assistants who help me print, and I share my process in classes. Students are probably my most influential critics–their feedback is invaluable.

MGB: After all of these years of making, I find that I really don’t need that input. Early on in my career I was fortunate to have a colleague that I had a two-way critique relationship with, which was a perfect bridge between graduate school and the rest of my career. Of course, my experiences with collaboration, including this one with Jessica Meuninck-Ganger, are a different story. In-process discussion, feedback and re-working is an important component of collaborative work.

Do you have a daily artistic ritual or routine? If so, how does this help you?

JMG: This depends on the time of year. For nine months, during the academic year, I wake up at 6am, head to UWM, teach, and return home by 6pm or 7pm. Then, I spend time with my family and crash by 9pm or 10pm. I wake up at 3am, and that's my creative time from 3am to 5am. Nap from 5am to 6am. In summer, I prefer working in the morning. I wouldn't say that I have a routine, I just squeeze studio time into my schedule whenever I can.

MGB: At this point in my life, my only daily ritual is swimming laps in the middle of each day. Studio work and everything else fits in before and after. This gives me the mental and physical energy necessary to spend the hours needed to complete the body of work for an exhibition.

What inspiration/research led you to your current body of work?

JMG: Travel and architecture. When I travel, I'm drawn to exteriors. I photograph and draw sites and landscapes. Last semester, I partnered with Professors Arijit Sen in Architecture and Urban Planning and Simone Ferro in Dance. We designed service learning projects in Milwaukee's Washington Park neighborhood; and my students volunteered by offering a relief printmaking workshop for 7th and 8th grade students at Our Next Generation. In preparation, Arijit introduced me to works by James Corner (landscape architect and theorist), and I was significantly inspired by his essays "The Landscape Imagination" and "Reading the Landscape: Terra Fluxus".

MGB: I have always travelled a great deal, and the photos I’ve taken while traveling have been used in my work since graduate school. Starting with a trip to China in 2005 I switched from film to digital, which meant I could shoot even more photos. There are certain categories of images of which I have many, “walls” being one of them. In 2012 I went along on a study abroad trip to South Korea, led by Jessica, and Rina Yoon. It was to study traditional paper craft. The following year I participated in an exhibition in Jeonju, South Korea, with some of the artists that were on the 2012 trip. It was to be a paper exhibit, and looking back at the photographs I had taken the previous summer, I decided that I would make work in which I digitally printed images of paper, in various contexts, on paper, so that paper was both concept and object. Two of the pieces were composites of photos of the paper covered walls and windows in the historic Korean palaces. These likely led to my continued use of walls as images in my work.

What caused you to gravitate toward the materials and processes you are currently using?

JMG: The collaboration with Marna and my other works are mediations on the discipline of architecture in the context of our constant recreation of structures within our environment. The materials we use are significant. Paper especially. Our assemblages are created from prints on Hanji (Korean paper, used for spiritual, architectural, and scholarly practices–deemed to last 1,000 years). Imagery is sourced from observational drawings of buildings in Milwaukee to cities in South Korea, South Africa, Japan, Italy, and other points of perspective between home and destinations near and far. Originally printed and built as 3-D representations (in my case) or directly captured through photography (Marna), compositions and structures are then dismantled, repurposed, and reimagined into new visual interpretations of space and place. The slow practice of drawing, printing, editing, rendering, assembling, and re-conceiving provides a process to deeply consider, care about, and honor community, craft, and culture.

MGB: My material of choice for the last 45 years has been fabric, which I dye and print on, and machine and hand stitch. I am interested in how people relate to fabric objects as having a history of function, even though the works I create are not, in themselves, functional. For many years I’ve taught a way to make paper into fabric, by backing it with iron-on interfacing, then repeatedly crumpling and ironing to soften it. It was the perfect solution to creating the pieces for the exhibit in Jeonju. Since then, I have continued to use this to create a series of paper pieces, the latest of which are in this exhibit.

 

Current Work

The following questions are intended to offer insight into the artist’s current work and what they intend their audience to understand. 

What role does process have in your work?

JMG: As I described in the previous series of questions, I build structures in paper, then dismantle, repurpose, and reimagine them into new visual interpretations and forms. The slow practice of drawing, printing, editing, rendering, assembling and re-conceiving provides a process to deeply consider, care about, honor and reflect on community, craft, and culture. Making is a form of mediation through process.

MGB: I only make work that gives me great pleasure in the making of it, so I suppose process is very important. From taking the original photographs to digitally printing them, to the cutting and stitching, this is when I’m the happiest. The making is never a means to an end.

How do you know when a piece is complete?

JMG: My works never are complete. That's the concept. I am always repurposing works into new forms, like Joseph's overcoat in the book Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. I suppose they are complete if they are commissioned or sold. Once a work returns to my studio, it's subject to change. My future retrospective could very likely be a 2" x 2" patch (grin and wink).

MGB: I’ve always said that I wait for the piece to tell me when it’s done. I don’t plan what the finished work will look like. The pieces in Wall Paper started as sets of 18 to 20, 12” by 18”, digital prints that I started cutting and stitching in various combinations. The images in each set determined the cutting and stitching patterns. This way of building the whole from individual elements, has been the way I’ve worked from student days on, so I suppose knowing when it’s done comes naturally now.

What is the one idea/thought you hope people will have/take away with them after viewing your work?

JMG: The exhibition is a collaboration, a visual representation of a dialog between two artists. Hopefully, visitors will take (have) a moment to view and encounter the works. From there, hopefully they will add an additional perspective unique to their own experience.

MGB: I don’t know if there is only one thought I would want people to take away. As someone who takes a lot of photographs, I’ve always believed that everything already exists in the world, and that artists just pick and chooses from them, recombining them into unique works. I hope my work will make people look more at the visuals around them to find those thinks that give them the same visceral response.

Why do you create art?

JMG: I create art as communal engagement in “making” by means of paper, printmaking, and hybrid forms. I have a dedicated interest in learning and sharing the histories of these techniques that are rooted in ideas of preservation, dissemination, and community.

MGB: I make art primarily because I have no choice. It is as much a part of my life as eating and sleeping (and swimming). As I mentioned earlier, I get great pleasure in the making process, as well.

What role does the artist have in society? Why do you think art is important to society?

JMG: The role depends on the artist and motivation. I am a studio artist and educator who creates work to process experiences into visual forms. I depict my observations through my drawings and prints, and I use paper and print as a means to practice, process, synthesize, and ultimately share my reverence for paper, craft, and community.

MGB: Different artists play different roles. As a partial list, art can be about memory, be a reflection on society, or be a creation of a unique visual experience. The artist in the broadest sense would include designers and craftspeople as well, who add unique voices in a world of mass production. The creative voice is always an important addition to the present and future.

Why do you think it’s important to support the arts?

JMG: Cuts in (public) education and the arts are limiting access to quality arts-enriched curricula and experiences. I strongly believe that teaching skills that emphasize critical making (taught through arts education) are essential in fostering thinkers, makers, and innovators. With national shifts that pull funding from education and the arts, it's even more important to support visual and performing arts as a means to promote their value in our culture–to ensure pleasure in our lives, to avoid a society void of empathy, and to provide a means for a national conversation about its identity or anything else.

MGB: The arts represent our culture. It is who we are and what we are thinking about. The arts are our record of who we are physically and metaphysically.