Photography by Sam Li
Kristina Rolander believes in small contributions of beauty. The world is vast, she admits, but beauty is possible. Sometimes, it’s just around the corner.
“There is so much magic if you pay attention and are open to it,” the Milwaukee artist says.
“On some level, I try to mimic this sentiment in my work. I transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. I create magic, just with my hands, a paintbrush and some paint. It’s my small contribution to a beautiful, but sometimes very sad world. Jim Jarmusch said 'it’s a sad yet beautiful world.' This resonates with me deeply.”
Rolander is just one of the many talented artists who lent their talents to the vibrant Bayshore project, managed by Artist Uprising™. As an installation artist, Rolander transforms ordinary spaces into something extraordinary. She uses multiple mediums, but always utilizes painting in some form.
Before Bayshore, Rolander spent about 2 years creating large-scale, hand-painted backdrops for bands in and around Milwaukee. Those gigs landed her her first festival as a featured installation artist. In 2017, she was one of the official artists at the Eaux Claires festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, creating and installing a design for the stage upon which Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and The National's Aaron Dessner debuted their Big Red Machine collaboration. Since then, she’s traveled to Canada five times to create installation art for multiple music festivals.
“I miss live music and festival life so much,” she says. “I also really miss traveling and discovering new communities of like-minded and beautiful people.”
Those festivals also gave her something she desperately needed: An outlet for celebration after weeks of intense work.
“Typically, I spend about a month creating work in the studio, then I travel to a festival for a very quick-n-dirty install,” she says. “There’s a lot of intense stress in a very short amount of time. I cry and want to give up. Then I pull myself together and power through. About an hour or two after it’s completely installed, I get to go to a big party and celebrate with a bunch of live music and dancing.”
There wasn’t much live music and dancing after Rolander completed her Bayshore mural, but the project was still a fun challenge. The artist had two 80-foot walls on opposite ends of a parking garage, the kind of structure that doesn’t typically scream “beauty.”
“My paintings in the garage are there to spark joy and brighten up a once mundane and probably overlooked space,” she says. “Wall murals are permanent and creating them is physically exhausting. I spent day-after-day in the same place, working on the same piece until completion.
It was also very public.
“Instead of the solitude of my studio, I was on display for everyone to witness my painting process. Typically, I listen to music or podcasts while I’m working in order to pass the time, but people kept stopping to talk to me. They had so many questions! Most of which were, ‘What is it supposed to be?’"
Photography By Sam Li
Now that Rolander has had some time to think of it, she knows exactly what her creation is “supposed to be.”
“I want it to feel like you are driving or walking through a portal, kind of like a color explosion,” she says. And I wanted it to spark joy and awe. Something larger than one’s self. Rainbow motifs play a pretty big role in my current work. I love to twist them, melt them, glitch them, and play with different color combinations.
“Rainbows are so wild if you think about it, because they just show up unexpectedly, like a little reminder that life and the world is so much bigger than us.”
You can see more of Rolander's work at Bayshore, along with several other local artists, sculptors, animators, and installations made by Milwaukee's best artists!
Visit www.thebayshorelife.com for more information or to apply to join the Bayshore Art Project.