Carthage alumnae return to H. F. Johnson Gallery of Art in ‘The Women of Carthage Alumni Exhibition’
Madeline Paakkonen ’21
H. F. Johnson Gallery of Art will open with its newest show, “The Women of Carthage Alumni Exhibition.”On Thursday, Oct. 31, the
Honoring 150 Years of Women at Carthage, exhibitors include recent graduates and long-standing alumni who majored or minored in studio art. A variety of work from Kaylen Boyer ’19, Mary England ’15, Missy Isley-Poltrock ’89, Andrea Lily ’90, BettyAnn Mocek ’78, Juliane Rae (Huley) Mueller ’76, Kimberly Pellikan ’14, Odessa Torrez ’17, Lisa Schreiner Traux ’01, Cristal Tucker ’12, and Paula Zinngrabe Wendland ’78 will be featured.
The exhibition hopes to encourage the conversation and storytelling that is essential to the 150 Years of Women Initiative while providing a warm alumni reunion and learning experience for current studio art majors and minors.
“It is an honor to be part of this exhibition and to help celebrate 150 Years of Women at Carthage,” said Ms. Wendland. “I hadn’t realized until now that I stand in such a long line of foremothers and daughters carrying our light into the future. I hope in a small way my work has done its part to carry the light forward too.”
The exhibition and opening event come after the 150 Years of Women Kick-off Celebration in mid-October, and focus on the generations of women who have broken barriers and championed positive change, something Ms. Lily hopes to highlight with a special guest.
“I think our female voice is important and needs to be heard, so being part of this show to represent the women of my generation is a great honor,” she explained. “I am bringing my 80-year-old aunt to the show. My parents are long gone, and she is one of my greatest female heroines. She did not have the advantage of school, but each day she is kind, generous, and lovely, and in her own way has been far more successful at this life thing than many other people I’ve met. I hope that she enjoys the show and is proud of what all the women in the show represent for all women.”
The majority of exhibitors plan to attend the opening reception and look forward to experiencing the nostalgia of their Carthage careers, including some of their favorite memories.
“I have a lot of amazing memories from my time at Carthage, but my favorite memories revolve around the print studio,” said Ms. Tucker. “I was always there until security kicked me out almost every night with my studio buddy Griffin. We kept each other motivated while blasting terrible music and printing the night away.”
Getting kicked out of the JAC studios seems to be a common bonding experience for most studio art majors and minors at Carthage, and is evidence of the influential relationships formed between fellow students and professors within the Art Department.
“Before Carthage, I didn’t even think of becoming a professor as a possible career for me, but Phil Powell made me see that that was possible,” said Ms. Truax. “I used my graphic design degree to work in the design field for five years while working on my portfolio to get into graduate school for ceramics. I am now an associate professor and teach art and design full time.”
Ms. Pellikan also experienced Carthage’s support leading up to her own career in graphic design.
“My time at Carthage has helped me be able to gain valuable knowledge in my field of study and lifelong connections that have helped grow and better my career,” she said. “It is exciting to be able to come back and exhibit my work at a place where I feel like a lot of my art education started.”
While not all exhibiting alumni have developed a professional art career since graduating, art is still present in all of their lives, cemented by the teachings and experiences they gained at Carthage and utilized within their own communities.
“I maintain my practice through painting, drawing, photography, and wandering the world looking for inspiration,” said Ms. Torrez. “I also volunteer for the Get Behind the Arts Studio Tour in Kenosha and Racine counties where patrons can experience art in the studio with local artists.”
As a political science student at Carthage, Ms. Torrez’s art minor gave her a creative outlet, strong community connection, and transferable skills.
“Carthage gave me a deep foundation of knowledge and refined my abilities to research and present my work across many platforms in civilian and military workspaces,” she explained. “I have gained lifelong friends and mentors, as well as confidence in myself as a scholar, researcher, and artist.”
This idea of developing interdisciplinary skills is reflected by Carthage’s liberal arts focus and was echoed by Ms. Mocek.
“Carthage was such a great place,” she said. “It helped instill in me that there were not just answers out there to seek and helped me realize life is about asking the right questions and being open to various diverse views. It celebrated curiosity and creativity. As an art major, I just loved having a studio at my disposal to work long hours outside of class. I liked the autonomy many professors were willing to give us in discovering.”
After Carthage, Ms. Mocek was accepted into the University of Minnesota’s Master of Fine Arts Program, where she focused on her practice within art education. She works as chair, professor of art, and gallery director at the University of Concordia while identifying as an artist, art advocate, and educator.
Many of the exhibitors have also developed an integral role within Kenosha’s community of artists after their graduation from Carthage.
Ms. Isely-Poltrock is a constant presence in local galleries, like Lemon Street and ArtWorks, and is a SoulCollag® facilitator working with community members in creative spaces to express themselves through collage. She attributes many of her skills to her time spent with professors at Carthage.
“Ed Kalke and Phil Powell were wonderful instructors,” she explained. “In our daily lives, we don’t always get to experience things like printmaking — litho, lino, etching, or working with stained glass. I still use things like drawing with my non-dominant hand in my work now. Things like that teach you to feel the line and let go of the results. Art for art’s sake. Ed also took us to places like the Chicago Center for the Print, where you could really feel the energy of so many print artists. Ed also got me really hooked on collage and that is excellent on infinite levels. I will be forever grateful for skills, experiences, exposure, and also super grateful for the friendships made.”
This passion for the craft and practice of creating works of art is shared by all of the exhibitors and can be felt from conversations about the artists’ pieces.
“It is truly an honor and blessing to be part of this celebration,” expressed Ms. Mueller. “As an educator, it is important for me to share art: it is a universal language! Come, look, take time to be present. See if you respond most to an artist’s use of color, line, shape, space, pattern, textures, or the lightness, darkness, or high contrast in the work. I believe your own personal response to an artwork added to the artist’s process completes a work of art.”
The show runs from Oct. 30 through Dec. 14 in the H. F. Johnson Gallery of Art with an opening reception from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31.