In Arts & Entertainment

Chris Krajniak, bathed in light in his Hanuman Studio.

In Arts & Entertainment

Steve Wirtz and his giant, soon to be recycled, musky.

Monsters of Art practices the art of collaboration

The old saying suggests that double means trouble, but not (necessarily) for artists Chris Krajniak and Steve Wirtz. The two Milwaukeeans have separate studios, but joined forces to create one collaborative artistic effort.

Krajniak operates Hanuman Art Studio and Wirtz' studio, which is next door, is called Cartuna Studio. The studios are on the fifth floor of Rosary Hall at the Marian Center, 3211 S. Lake Dr., and together, they create one gallery called Monsters of Art.

The building that houses the studios is old but in good shape. It was once a school and the hallway still has rows of lockers. The spaces have large skylights and occasionally, there are unidentifiable sounds.

"We're OK with friendly ghosts," says Krajniak.

Krajniak, who has been in the space since 1993, creates "abstract ideas of acrylic on canvas, wood and metal." Recently, he started creating abstract portraits.

"Some of the earlier works were a response to seeing carpet weavers in Agra, India. The studio has just started producing abstract portraits," says Krajniak.

Wirtz joined Krajniak five years ago – his space was formerly in Appleton – and he constructs paper mache sculptures of whimsical characters, including people, dogs, cats and a six-foot seahorse.

"I also do illustrations and flash animation," says Wirtz.

Krajniak studied art at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and at the Prado in Madrid, Spain, as well as in India, Jerusalem, London, Jordan, Milwaukee and Three Lakes, Wis. He is also a consultant to the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Racine and works with his wife, Anne Kuhry, who runs an acupuncture practice in Bay View.

Wirtz is a self-taught artist. "I have absorbed information about being a professional artist from many sources," he says.

The main goal of Monsters of Art, according to Krajniak, is to share the imagination. The studios offer workshops that invite students of all ages, from small children to parents, to come in for an hour or two to "just let it go" on canvas or with wire characters. Private and group studio time is available and interested individuals should contact them via their website.

Wirtz participates in the new Dabble program that allows Milwaukeeans to take one class for $20 in order to decide if they want to commit. He is also in the process of developing a new arts center in the Third Ward on Water Street that will feature artists' studios, gallery space and more.

"We're in the early stages. This is all I can say for now, but interested artists should contact me through my website," says Wirtz.

Recycling materials is important to both artists. They reuse metal to make frames, repaint over old canvases or barn wood with leftover donated paint and even recycle their own art into new art. Wirtz, for example, has paper mache eyeballs adorning his studio walls that were once part of a large float he created for the All-City People's Parade. He's also planning to redo a massive paper mache musky he originally made in the '80s.

"We like to mock the mundane," says Krajniak.

Krajniak's work will be featured in the West Side Art Walk, April 27-28, at the Flower Lady, 1460 Underwood Ave. Wirtz is involved in the Hatch Artist reception in Madison on April 13.

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