In Arts & Entertainment

A fresh canvas for Clive Promhows. (PHOTO: Royal Brevvaxling)

New space elevates local artist from depths of depression

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Eight weeks ago, artist Clive Promhows was lying on his couch in his Walker's Point studio called Live Artists Studio thoroughly depressed, miserable and wondering where he was going and what he was doing.

Promhows learned a year ago that, after 10 years in his home/studio space at 228 S. 1st St., he would have to move because the building was for sale. For the six months that followed after getting the bad news, Promhows put it out of his mind, thinking he had plenty of time to make something happen. But as the moving date got closer, Promhows realized he really didn't have a plan. Plus, he was feeling uninspired by his work and art.

"I was overwhelmed and lost," says Promhows.

Originally from Camberwell, England, Promhows lived in Miami before moving to Milwaukee. He thought about returning to Florida, but realized Milwaukee was now his home. And so he tried to buy a building, also in Walker's Point, but Promhows says the process felt like he was swimming upstream. In the end, he lost money and time and didn't get the building.

Two days after what he describes as one of his "darkest hours," he got a call from a woman who said she was renting a studio on 10th and National. Promhows went to look at the space and was immediately interested. The woman, however, had not actually secured financing for the building and later, when Promhows found out her request was rejected by the bank, he asked her if he could try to buy the building.

"Next thing I know, I was signing on the dotted line," says Promhows. "After so much struggle, it was just so easy."

Located at 1029 W. National Ave., this is Promhows' first purchased property. "I try to avoid responsibility as much as possible, but I guess there's a time and a place to get serious," he says.

After closing on the building – which includes 1,500 square feet of studio space on the first floor, a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor, a full basement and a fenced backyard – Promhows worked night and day to prepare for his first show.

For the past three years, Live Artists Studio hosted the thesis show for graduating University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee art students, and Promhows wanted to do it again – this time in his new space. But in order to do so, he worked 14 hour days, cleaning, painting, hanging lights and more.

"I'm a lazy bastard, I'll be the first to admit it, but when it's time to work, I do it," he says. "It's been really exciting but also total chaos. I've been having silent mental meltdowns for weeks now because I couldn't find anything."

Promhows refers to himself as a "creator," but he is primarily a painter whose public work includes the stenciled floor of the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel and a large painting of Rik Mayall from "The Young Ones" at Red Lion Pub.

"I didn't start painting until I was 34 years old," he says. "It took me a long time to call myself an artist. I put artists on pedestals and I didn't believe I was one of them."

Like his former space, Promhows' new digs provide a place for visual art shows and a lot more. Down the road his plans include having a makeup studio, space for photo shoots, pop-up dinners, book signings, live music and theater performances.

"Painting hasn't thrilled me in the last year or so. It hasn't been a challenge anymore and that was part of my depression: I was trying to figure out what is my challenge and now I realize it's this place. This is my new canvas," he says.

When Clive takes down the UWM show on Monday, aptly and almost cosmically called "Beginning After," he plans to fill the studio with a Christmas tree and his own art before the next gallery show.

"I am going to enjoy it all. I was in one of my darkest hours and all of a sudden something came along and it turned into one of the brightest hours," says Promhows. "At the opening last week there were 150 people in here and the biggest compliment was someone said 'this already feels like a Clive space.' This was truly meant to be."

Live Artists Gallery is currently open by appointment only. Call (414) 324-4114 for more information.

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