Gallery 224

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May, 2016

Featured Artist

Stephanie Pluta

I am an emerging artist and recent graduate from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Bachelor of Fine Art’s program, with concentrations in photography and sculpture. I have exhibited works in several galleries in my hometown of Milwaukee, including; The Hide House Creative, Usable Space Gallery, INOVA Arts Center Gallery, UWM Student Union Gallery, and The Milwaukee Art Museum.

In the spring of 2014, I assisted Magnum Photographers Jacob Aue Sobol and Alec Soth in the creation of the Postcards from America: Milwaukee exhibition at The Milwaukee Art Museum. My work is centered on fleeting moments of beauty residing within an ongoing search for identity. 

“As children, our visions of the future are ever-changing. When I was young, my imagination cycled through numerous dream careers. I never envisioned myself becoming an artist. I traveled more obvious paths and ended up feeling adrift. Yet, there was always a flutter living inside of me, something unidentifiable, urging me forward.

Eventually, I was able to identify the flutter and began chasing it. Curiosities about truths in my own life and the lives of others have always been a driving force behind my artistic process. Curiosities leading me to explorations, discoveries, documentation and reflection. Becoming a photographer has drastically changed the way I exist in the world. I have high hopes this residency will serve as a stepping stone to something even larger than I already know. “

Steph will be in the studio September-May 2016. Visit her website at



A Conversation with Stephanie Pluta

by Don Niederfrank

D: So to begin with, where are you from?
S: I was born and raised on the west side of Milwaukee.

D: Did you do art as a child?
S: Quite infrequently. From four year kindergarten to eighth grade, I attended a small private school where scheduled art classes only happened every other week or so. We didn’t have a specific art classroom, or teacher. Organized art projects would take place in the cafeteria. Teachers did integrate art into the classrooms, however. I remember always being one of the last kids to finish projects, and being very meticulous about coloring inside the lines. I also remember really enjoying writing assignments. I started using writing as an expressive outlet at an early age.

D: Do you still write?
S: I do, it’s cathartic for me. When I write at greater lengths, I discover things about myself. I also carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go, to scribble down random thoughts, happenings and ideas. I thought I wanted to be a writer for a living. Right out of high school, I started the journalism program at the University of Minnesota. The politics quickly frustrated and tired me. I found myself more attached to the images in the media, rather than the text. I found beauty in the pure realities, especially in the images involving people. Photography had been a hobby of mine since high school, so I began to explore it further. I started taking photography classes my sophomore year, and soon after, started researching and visiting private art schools. Shortly after my search began, my father became ill. I wanted to be near home, near him, so I started taking classes toward an art degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

D: What was that like?
S: There was a long adjustment period. I quickly found that the 3D classes were my favorite. Working with my hands was the only thing that could completely take my mind off of life’s tragedies. The repetition of sanding wood, and throwing clay, calmed me. I decided to declare a double concentration in sculpture and photography.

D: When did you begin to think of yourself as an artist?
S: About two years ago when I started showing the first body of work that I was truly proud of titled, Out Of The Woods.

D: If you could wave a magic wand, what would you want to change about the world of art?
S: I would remove all of the veils that cover the art world. Some artists seem to filter themselves when they talk about their work or write statements. I really don’t like the regimented style that many artist’s statements adhere to. I appreciate more of a freeform style. A statement that doesn’t give everything away, is more likely to spark my curiosity and hold my interest. (What followed this statement was Stephanie patiently listening to me go on at length about artist's statements.)

D: What art or artists have been your inspiration?
S: Of course, many famous artists have inspired me. I could list many obvious choices, but I’d rather mention the total strangers that have inspired me recently. One of my current projects has involved visiting several small towns in Wisconsin. Some of the people I have met in these towns, and the stories they have shared with me, a complete stranger, have kept me up at night.

D: Who is supportive of you as an artist?
S: I really have yet to meet someone who isn’t supportive. For people who know me, it seems to make sense to them that I turned out an artist. Total strangers I meet, either are genuinely excited to get to know me, or they are totally uninterested, but not necessarily unsupportive.

D: What's the hardest part about doing art?
S: Completing it! Then, stepping back, and preparing it even further, to a point where the world can see it. Also, coming up with answers to questions like…why am I doing this? What does this mean? Why does this matter? Within the last year I've significantly cut down on the amount of pictures I take. Somedays, I choose to go off and experience the world with my eyes and my body, rather than my lens. It helps with inspiration and reflection.

D: What brings you joy?
S: The moments when I am completely alone out in nature, and I see something beautiful, something specific. The realization that I am the only person in the entire world seeing that specific thing, in that specific moment, brings me joy. It feels like that sight is mine, and mine alone.

D: Has anyone ever asked you to define art? What did/would you tell them?
S: This may sound cliché, but art can be anything and everything. It just isn’t recognized as art until it undergoes a certain level of investigation and appreciation. (What followed here was a shared appreciation of the privilege of being alive.)

D: If you weren't doing art, what would you be doing?
S: Traveling, all of the time. I want to see it all. We only have a certain amount of time on this earth. Knowing there are so many places I will never see, is crushing, yet humbling all the same.

D: Stephanie, thanks, thank you for your time.
S: Thank you too, Don.


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