The Pfister Hotel Press Coverage

Niki Johnson named Pfister artist in residence

Niki Johnson, a sculptor and conceptual artist, has been selected as the Pfister Hotel’s sixth artist in residence.

In April, Johnson will begin a year working in the hotel’s artist studio, just off the lobby of the hotel at 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., and also will guide guests through the hotel’s Victorian-style art collection.

“The body of artwork I will be creating this year will involve sculpting six child-sized bathtubs out of oil clay, and then casting them in porcelain,” she said in a statement. “Each bathtub will depict heroines from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.”

Visitors to Johnson’s studio will be able to watch her at work, building and shaping elements of the tubs, including braiding yards of hair for the “Rapunzel” tub and dyeing feathers for “Snow White.” Johnson will mold, cast and fire the porcelain tubs in her studio at home, documenting the processes for digital presentation in the hotel studio. Johnson also plans to create a series of limited-edition commemorative plates depicting the stories of “Snow White,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella,” “The Princess and the Pea,” “Rapunzel” and “Thumbelina.”

Johnson teaches art courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. She made national headlines last year, including appearances on CNN, when she created a portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI from 17,000 colorful condoms. The political artwork was Johnson’s response to the former pope’s comments, suggesting that condoms could increase the spread of AIDS.

Johnson was one of six finalists. The public was invited to vote for their favorite via Facebook, text and in-person ballots. The winner of the popular vote, Dena Nord, will be given an opportunity to exhibit work at Gallerie M at the InterContinental Hotel. Johnson replaces the Pfister’s current artist, Stephanie Barenz. Past resident artists have included Timothy Westbrook, Shelby Keefe, Katie Musolff and Reginald Baylor.

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