21st Century Memento Mori: The Watercolors of Katie Musolff at the Tory Folliard Gallery

JOANNA POEHLMANN’S BIRDS : photo courtesy of The Tory Folliard Gallery

full disclosure: I am a personal friend of Katie Musolff

Over the years, I have been amazed by Katie Musolff’s watercolor and gauche paintings. Well amazed might not be the best descriptor here…I have been mesmerized by her work. And I have experienced that same sense of wonder and awe while viewing her current show, Bone To Pick, at The Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.

LATE SUMMER : photo courtesy of Tory Folliard Gallery

No matter the subject matter, birds, fish, insects, or botanical specimens, Katie’s facility with the media provide that sense of awe and wonder…and define for us a recognition in the relationship of all living things while still making us aware that the objects being represented are individuals within their group or family. And the skill and detail in this work provides a view that few of us will discover on our own.

Memento Mori? Well, yes. Although these paintings represent living things, the actual subjects illustrated are dead. So beyond the wonder of it all…nature and life…we are very aware of our and nature’s mortality. But that in no way removes the beauty and joy that Katie shares with us from the natural world. And there is a painting or two that includes a skull as well…if you are a dyed in the wool Momento Mori purist.

UNFAIR ADVANTAGE : photo courtesy of The Tory Folliard Gallery

Katie’s work has often depicted individual subjects or small complementary groupings and those who have been following her work will recognize it instantly. Accurately delineated grasses or wild flowers…depictions of birds that are essentially portraits…and insects that you expect to take off and flee at our approach. But instead they all submit to our intent and careful examination.

ROBIN : photo courtesy of The Tory Folliard Gallery

But there are a few things here that seem new to me. Some of the larger works are more complex and detailed and are even more mesmerizing than the other works here or earlier works that I recall. One of those pieces is JOANNA POEHLMANN’S BIRDS, the image that I have shared above to open this response. Joanna Poehlmann is a long time respected avian artist from the Milwaukee area. And when Joanna decided to give up her collection of birds, it was appropriate the Katie become their caretaker. So it is a joy on two levels to see this homage to Joanna’s Birds and Katie’s ability to share them with us.

NO MATTER WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES : photo courtesy of The Tory Folliard Gallery

Although I kept coming back to Katie’s paintings of butterflies again and again…this painting just behind the gallery’s front desk turned out to be my favorite:

LIFE CYCLE OF THE AMARYLLIS BULB : photo courtesy of The Tory Folliard Gallery

Bone To Pick runs through April 15, 2023 at The Tory Folliard Gallery at 233 N. Milwaukee St., Milwaukee, WI

FALL : photo courtesy of The Tory Folliard Gallery

P.S. circle back to 2020 and view Katie Musolff Paints An Egg!

PSA: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s 2023 – 2024 Classics Season

On Friday, I received a much anticipated email from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announcing their classics season for 2023 – 2024. At the time of this writing, the complete schedule isn’t yet available on line. I will add that when it is available. But in the meantime, from the email, here are some of the stand out concerts in the coming season.


Friday, September 22 at 7:30 pm   
Saturday, September 23 at 7:00 pm    
Sunday, September 24 at 2:30 pm   

Music Director Ken-David Masur opens the season with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, “the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man” (E.M. Forster). This unforgettable program, co-curated by the MSO’s 2023.24 Artistic Partner, bass-baritone Dashon Burton, includes Daniel Kidane’s mid-pandemic reflection on the quiet of passing time, Be Still; Eleanor Alberga’s song cycle The Soul’s Expression, which sets poems by George Eliot, Emily Brontë, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to music for strings and baritone; as well as a selection of beloved vocal gems by Schubert.


Friday, November 17 at 7:30 pm       
Saturday, November 18 at 7:30 pm

Ruth Reinhardt returns to conduct Brahms’s bittersweet Fourth Symphony; the composer seems to look back on this life with solemnity before facing the future with joy. Shostakovich brings his own contemplative mood to his Second Cello Concerto, performed here by Andrei Ioniţă, “one of the most exciting cellists to have emerged for a decade” (The Times).


Friday, March 8 at 11:15 am

Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 pm    
Sunday, March 10 at 2:30 pm 

“My purpose here is to portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere,” said Gershwin of his rowdy An American in Paris. Jader Bignamini, Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducts this perennial audience favorite along with Bernstein’s boisterousepisodes from On the Town – which conjure the excitement of love and adventure found in New York City. Pianist George Li joins the MSO for Ravel’s playful, jazz-tinged Piano Concerto in G to complement this vibrant program.


Friday, June 7 at 7:30 pm        
Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 pm      
Sunday, June 9 at 2:30 pm   

Composer Carl Orff based Carmina Burana on two dozen poems – but far from odes of love, these verses deal in lust, gambling, drinking, and the fickle hand of fate (“O Fortuna!”). Artistic Partner Dashon Burton and the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus lend their voices to this bawdy cantata. Pairing well with Orff’s epic is Carlos Simon’s Fate Now Conquers, which refers to a notebook entry written by Beethoven and explores “the unpredictable ways of fate.” Between these, the MSO showcases its own Principal Trombone Megumi Kanda in Tan Dun’s Three Muses in Video Game, a daring and spiritual concerto which challenges the trombonist to evoke three ancient Chinese musical instruments.  

Music Director Ken-David Masur