Flowers by Livija is a collaborative project by Milwaukee photographer James Brozek and the Portrait Society Gallery, directed by art historian Debra Brehmer. Fifteen years ago, Brozek was given a box of slides by an apartment manager clearing out the residence of an elderly tenant. Taken during the 1950s and ‘60s by Livija Patikne (1911-2001), they included hundreds of hauntingly beautiful still-life compositions, self-portraits, and images of the floral arrangements she created for her husband’s grave.
Click here to read an article on the photography of Livija Patikne in the Summer issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas.
Only fragments of information could be unearthed about Patikne, whose photographs often include traditional embroidery and other objects alluding to her Latvian heritage. Rendered in Kodachrome’s gently grayed hues, Patikne’s images evoke the texture of her modest yet stylish domestic life, tinged with playfulness, bravado, and a lingering melancholy. Brozek's prints of Patikne’s slides pay tribute to her private art practice.
Lon Michels’s large, lavishly detailed figure paintings, landscapes, and still lifes are rich with art historical references, but their primary subject is his love affair with color and pattern. Although he works from life, Michels’s saturated palette, bold outlines, and overlapping patterns create stylized images that transcend ordinary reality. His work is an unabashed celebration of beauty and the power of art to awaken the senses.
Michels became serious about art as a young boy and describes painting as his first language. In 2004, he was devastated to find that a retinal infection had left him virtually blind. Determined to continue his studio work, Michels underwent two years of specialist treatment to regain his sight and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s MFA program as soon as his recovery was complete. A native of Marquette who lived for many years in New York City and Key West, Florida, Michels currently resides in Lodi. All works in the exhibition are lent courtesy of Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee, which represents Michels's work. A portion of the proceeds from sales of his paintings will be donated to ARCW Aids Resource Center of Wisconsin and ABCD After Breast Cancer Diagnosis.