Welcome to a new exhibit of work by Milwaukee artist Karen Williams-Brusubardis, opening September 8, 2018, in the Leenhouts Gallery at First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee.
The show will continue through November 3.
Exhibit: “Introspection of a Life Between”
Work by Karen Williams-Brusubardis, Milwaukee
There is something satisfying when painting tiny shapes over and over. It satiates. Each shape forms into a completed object, or particle. Each painting is a compound of these little objects. Particles repeat, overlap, layer, connect, weave together to make a larger object. The particles are building blocks of color. They have their own identity, but they also contribute to the identity of the whole.
And then there is the space between each particle.
When I first heard of the Higgs Boson Particle, or God Particle, my imagination went full steam. A primordial glue that connects all matter! The substance that unites us all into a whole composite organism! I had just finished my “Rebirth” series of landscape paintings in oil when a sudden sensitivity to the fumes forced me to stop.
As usual in art, conflict brings opportunity. I needed to adapt. This was my bottleneck moment. My paintings would either go extinct or I’d have to run with the new DNA, acrylics. The “Particle Landscapes” were born. It was the right event at the right moment. While my imagination was running wild with thoughts of an invisible glue holding the universe together, a family crisis and an Asperger’s diagnoses was forcing me to confront identity issues and my lifelong racial imposter syndrome.
My paintings are autobiographical. They pull from memories of places or experiences that had an impact on me.
I was born in a small town in Western Wisconsin to a multi-racial family. My father, of Norwegian, Scotch Irish and French descent, was a retired mink rancher who served in the Navy during WWII. My mother is a Bolivian immigrant of Native American, Spanish and Lebanese descent. My parents were 23 years apart in age – worlds apart in not only culture, generations and ethnicity, but also in personality and politics. My mom enjoyed sewing, attending social gatherings, concerts and sport events. My Dad enjoyed isolating himself in the woods, building houses and sheds.
I understood the appeal of both.
When I was 12, my father passed away. My mother was forced to step into the role of father as well as mother. As a result, her Bolivian heritage naturally became a stronger influence on my identity.
In Tomah, there didn’t seem much confusion regarding who we were. Our family stuck out among the rest. My classmates were very much aware that I had a father as old as their grandparents and a mother from a Latin American country. At the time, we were one of the few Latino families in a 50-mile radius and probably, the closest thing to Mexican in our community.
So, that’s what they called us. Despite having to constantly educate people about Bolivia, that it wasn’t the same as Mexico, my three sisters and I grew up with this identity.
It wasn’t until I moved to Milwaukee that I realized I didn’t fit the Latina stereotype. When I mentioned my Latin American heritage, very few people believed me. However, my pale skin, aspergian naivete, and Minnesota accent fit the stereotype of a rural, white girl.
I came to the conclusion that society determined my identity, not me. I was an exotic Mexican in Tomah and a white, sheltered country girl in Milwaukee. I learned to juggle these identities and eventually, reconcile them.
While I spent my childhood in rural western Wisconsin, I’ve spent my adult life in the city of Milwaukee. I appreciate both worlds and what they have to teach me. The rural life instilled a love of nature in me. It permanently connected me to the Earth. It taught me how to find peace and how to heal.
The city has exposed me to a variety of people and world views. It gave me an education at MIAD and access to the arts, science institutions and museums. I learned to reconcile these identities as well.
Eventually, I came to the understanding that society does not determine who I am. I do. I am, like everyone else, a composite of unique DNA, experiences and thoughts.
I am a story of particles glued together by some primordial substance that unites us all together into a universal fabric.
I am what I am.
Questions or Purchases
The Leenhouts Gallery Committee is pleased to present artist Karen Williams-Brusubardis. Her work will be on display in the Leenhouts Common Room from September 8 through November 3, 2018.
For more information on Karen, visit her website https://www.wbartist.org/
The Leenhouts Gallery champions local emerging and established artists, particularly those whose work resonates with our Unitarian Universalist principles. The Gallery Committee strives to build community through the visual arts and provides a space for exhibiting artwork that grapples with issues such as diversity, tolerance, and respect for the interdependent web of all existence.
The First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee is a progressive church for spiritual community, social justice, and intellectual freedom. Visit us for Sunday services, forums, religious education for children & youth, and other programs and social activities. Visitors to First Church are always welcome! Join us for coffee and conversation in the Common Room following each service.