A Triad of Artists

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Photo credit – Joe Barr

by Dominic J. Cibrario

The public is invited to view the paintings, photographs, and sculptures of Karen Gulbransen, Frank Husemann, and Nick Cibrario, on Saturday, February 19, 2011, at the Rhode Center of the Arts, 514-56th Street, Kenosha, Wisconsin. The doors will be open from 9:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served in the Mezzanine from 2:00-6:00 p.m. with music by Greg Milo. The show will be open on weekends until March.

Upon going up the stairs to the Mezzanine, you will immediately see a dramatic black and white painting, Caverns of Ulthar. You may recognize the smiling woman wearing a two piece bathing suit. It’s a self portrait of Karen Gulbransen. Don’t be alarmed by Medusa’s snakes writhing from her head and the ferocious tiger about to leap from the painting. Notice how the beast’s tail curves around the Roman column in the caverns.

To the right is Karen’s Crimson Solstice, a solitary polar bear crossing the snow while the setting sun unveils shades of red and blue. Next is her painting, Up a Tree, where the bold trunk, with branches and green leaves, soars into a serene sky. Beside it is US-16 Travels, a haunted main street of a deserted town with advertisements for 7 Up and Coca Cola.

To the right of the entrance above the showcase is Karen’s floral masterpiece. She said “I diverted from my usual portraits to paint something from my backyard. My composition has three irises surrounding a large daisy with tiny daisies in a lush green and aquatic background. Being a horror movie lover, I decided to call my picture, Feed Me Seymour from the Little Shop of Horrors, but my close friend thought it wasn’t an appropriate name. When a co-worker saw the painting she wanted to hug the flowers, so I named it, Embracing the Daisies.”

Karen was the oldest of seven children. She grew up in Kenosha, where she attended the local schools. She said, “I was able to draw animals and people at an early age; everyone said I could capture their eyes – their soul. After being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of ten, I spent a lot of time in the hospital and visiting doctors. Since I had so much quiet time, I drew people and animals. That ability led me to sell quite a few animal portraits.”

While attending Bradford High School, Karen was highly influenced by Mrs. Lipke, who taught her color theory, concepts, and perspective. After graduating Karen received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Computer Science from Carthage College with only one credit short of an art minor. Her favorite artists are Renoir, Mary Passat, and Winslow Homer. She also enjoys Andy Warhol and Georgia O’keefe, with a special attraction for Egyptian art, cave drawings and Native American subjects.

Later, after suffering from eye hemorrhaging related to Diabetes, Karen said that she got depressed from worrying about going blind. She took courses at Kenosha Art Association, studying painting with Peggy Bozon, who encouraged her to relax and slow down. Even though her eyes are sometimes a problem Gulbransen continues to do what she loves most…Graphic Design and art work.

Across the room visitors get a glimpse of Frank O. Husemann III’s paintings and photography. His largest painting, Art, is beautifully crafted using enamel. The abstract composition could be an alley at night, or Street Art. The black and red circles might be cats’ eyes. His black images suggest cockroaches and spiders while the streaks of green, grasshoppers. The large word, ART, painted with light blue letters across the painting has the letter ‘R’ in reverse. When Frank was asked to describe the painting in detail, he responded, “I strive to make my paintings open to the individual’s interpretation.”

Husemann has three framed photographs of guitars. The first picture is called Bridge, revealing only a segment of the instrument attached to strings. The second is Curve, with strings flowing like a river across the curved aperture. The last photograph is called, Husemann I, with a guitar resting against an elevated chair on the wooden floor of an empty room. Frank said that his interests growing up were music, art, and girls. He was the best guitarist for a number of years in the early 1980’s.

Frank’s oil paintings create a mood and are expertly crafted. Unlimited, has charcoal and black cubes with elongated bands of vivid colors. Aftermath is the result of an ecological disaster or maybe a nuclear war. A red sun hangs from the blue sky over a scorched beach with dead trees rising on the shore of the lake. Untitled is a cubist composition with four panels. The east and west rectangles are the colors of a sandy beach. The sky rises from the central panel while a barren tree surfaces from the blue water, invoking loneliness.

Frank said, “When I was a child, I went to school, but I wasn’t happy about it. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but grew up in Milwaukee, my hometown.” Because of health issues, he needed to stay home to rest. His mother brought him cardboard silhouettes from work, and he would draw on them. Frank spent a lot of time with his friend’s father at the Milwaukee Art Museum, strolling the halls and learning about art. He later studied graphic art at Milwaukee Area Technical College and then took classes at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, eventually attending the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. After becoming an established artist, Husemann exhibited his work in over 200 places ranging from Chicago to Milwaukee to Minneapolis.

Frank mentioned that he enjoys color and emotions the most. He gets his ideas from everywhere – from life. His best inspiration is life and death, time and emotion. Husemann’s favorite artists are Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Black Sabbath (an English rock band formed in 1969). He said, “They’ve made bold statements, even though some people didn’t consider them to be real artists in their own time. They tried new things that no one had done before.”

The middle section of the gallery contains Nick Cibrario’s paintings, beginning with Liza and Pets, based upon a portrait of Liza Minnelli that appeared in the newspaper. Liza is reclining in blue water, wearing a fur coat with a cheetah on her left and a faithful dog on her right. The pets represent the conflict between her animalistic nature and domestic values. The famous actress made her debut in the musical, Cabaret, in 1972. Her song, Life is a Cabaret, and Paul Robeson’s Old Man River from Showboat in 1936 are among Nick’s favorites.

Cibrario painted Marilyn & Her Pets in Tom Hoffman’s studio class at Wustum Museum in Racine. The central figure is Marilyn Monroe, who is preoccupied with a baby tiger and a lion’s cub and unaware of a rhinoceros approaching her.

The focal point of another piece, Farm Animals, is the mother cow and her calf with a boy on a tractor coming towards them. This painting reflects the artist’s childhood since he was raised on a farm in Kenosha County with his four brothers and his sister. His father, John, was of Italian descent although his mother, Adeline, came from an Austrian family.

Nick recalls drawing pictures of animals in his grade school art classes at Whittier. After graduating from St. Joseph High School, he took a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, with an English major and psychology minor. While at the university he enjoyed studying art history, art appreciation, and taking studio courses. Cibrario did graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania in South Asian Studies before beginning a 30-year teaching career at William Horlick High School during which time he obtained his master’s degree from the College of Racine.

After retiring from teaching, Cibrario took classes with Sandra Nowicki at Kenosha Art Association, where he painted the watercolor, Tale from India. This allegorical composition has three panels beginning with the birth of the hero, who was saved by the Goddess of the River. She drowned her other seven babies. In the second panel the boy, Bhishma, grows up to be a warrior, trained by his mentor. The third panel deals with the battlefield, where warriors armed with bows and arrows ride on war elephants. The scenes are from the Hindu epic, The Mahabharata.

Nick’s most recent painting, Elephants in the Himalayas, has a reclining female elephant keeping a watchful eye on her baby while the bull elephant crosses the river going toward the foothills and snow capped mountains.

Cibrario’s interest in South Asia began as a Peace Corps Volunteer (1962-64) in Nepal when John F. Kennedy was president. He returned to Kathmandu on a sabbatical (1976-1977) to write his first novel. Since that time he has published The Garden of Kathmandu Trilogy and Secrets on the Family Farm. His four novels may be purchased during the show on February 19. He is nearly finished with his fifth novel, Murder in the Mountains, expecting it to be published this spring.

Prior to leaving the gallery be sure to see Nick’s sculptures. He is grateful to his teacher, Gerhard Kroll, for being supportive of his work. Tribal Chief is located on a table beneath one of his paintings. The Jester and the Lady, Opera Singers, Evolution of Male & Female, and Three Faces are displayed on the glass cases.

Finally, behind the three sculptures is Gene Kemen’s painting, Through the Fence. Gene, now deceased, was an active member of Kenosha Art Association for many years.

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