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!