Meet “Mags.” She’s the colorful waitress/artist at the center of Christine B. Miller’s work of art titled “Hi, I’m Mags, I’ll Be Your Waitress Today!” currently on exhibit at the Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, 2519 Northwestern Ave.

Mags is a complex character — one whom Miller has created as a detailed patchwork of everything from organic shapes and everyday objects to written words, using media including ink, acrylic marker, color pencil and collage.

Yet Mags represents the average person — one whose struggles can be seen in things like the blue Band-Aids that seem to hold her face together, as she runs from one table to the next trying to make sense of the world around her, according to the artist.

“She wears her heart on her sleeve and she’s happy in her own skin,” said Miller, a Milwaukee native who lives in Whitewater and is a member of the Racine Art Guild.

Judge’s choice

Mags is one of a variety of characters who can be found among the 104 works of art, by 75 different artists, that make up Wustum’s “Watercolor Wisconsin 2017” show, running through April 21 at the museum. And she definitely caught the attention of the exhibition’s judges, as they chose Miller’s piece to receive the First Award for the show. The Second Award was given to Lisa Englander for her “Vessel Series #9,” and the Third Award went to Patrick Doughman for his “Meeting in Chetek.”

“Watercolor Wisconsin” is a juried exhibition organized each year by the Racine Art Museum that draws work by a wide range of artists from throughout the state. Judges for the 2017 show were Christina Haglid, senior paper conservator and manager for the Art Conservation Department at Chicago’s Joel Oppenheimer Gallery; and Tom Herzberg, a freelance illustrator for more than 30 years and a longtime member of the U.S. Air Force Art Program.

Together they considered 261 works, submitted by 148 artists, for inclusion in the exhibition, which features both two- and three-dimensional pieces, created in aqueous media such as acrylic and watercolor and focusing on a range of subject matter from animals and flowers to landscapes, figurative studies and abstracts.

Miller — who also earned the Third Award for her piece “A Space-Cowboy Adventure ... Rocket Rodeo Round-up!” in “Watercolor Wisconsin 2016” — said that just having one’s work chosen for this show is an honor.

“Last year, when I received the third place award, it was really exciting,” she said. “And this year I was just blown away.”

Personal connection

Her winning piece is part of an ongoing series that Miller — who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in painting and drawing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — said she is creating. Each piece is like a “visual novelette,” with its own story to tell, she said. And viewers are encouraged to look closely at the work, which offers a lot to see in its many layers of overlapping imagery.

Miller said she hopes people will see the sentiment and humor expressed in her artwork, and will feel connected to it in a personal way.

“If people see more in it, that’s great, too,” she said.

Mags’ story is one of many to be explored throughout Wustum’s galleries in “Watercolor Wisconsin 2017.” Visitors will also find portraits of a variety of people, as well as everything from seasonal landscapes and city scenes, to still life paintings, social commentary pieces, artists’ books, assemblages and much more.

Racine County artists whose work is shown in “Watercolor Wisconsin 2017” include: Gillian Graffy of Burlington; Robert W. Andersen, Sarah Andersen, Eileen Black and Doug DeVinny, all of Mount Pleasant; Regina Baker, Jerry Belland, Karen Broman, Lisa Englander, Karen Mathis, James McFarland, Nate Mortensen, Christine Patten, Lance Raichert, Suzanne Schackelman, Phil Schultz, Dina Walker and Kelly Witte, all of Racine; and Norman Abplanalp and Linda Gerard Dzik, both of Waterford.

The Wustum Museum of Fine Arts is one of two campuses of the Racine Art Museum (the other is in Downtown Racine). Wustum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free.

For more information, go to www.ramart.org or call 262-636-9177.

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Features Reporter

Lee Roberts is the features writer for The Journal Times, covering a wide range of subjects, from the local arts scene to profiles of interesting people and places in our community. She is also a part-time page editor.

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