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Exhibition at Hawthorn Contemporary curated by MIAD alum

An illustration with a purple background of two unclothed figures resting and holding each other

“Langston Through Isaac” by Daniel Arthur Mendoza

​Monica Miller ’13 (Integrated Studio Arts) has their hands full, from opening and managing the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) new offsite Gallery at The Ave to keeping up with their own artistic and curatorial practice. Now, Miller will curate Grasping Tenderness: Explorations of Queer Joy & Freedom, In Spite of Everything at Hawthorn Contemporary in Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point neighborhood.

The exhibition features work by artists exploring themes of identity, access, love, agency and longing and offers a contemporary visual perspective on the lived experiences of LGBTQA+ individuals within the increasingly policed and politicized social and political climate. Using two-dimensional and installation works, Grasping Tenderness provides a lens through which queer joy, freedom, identity and community are visualized and contextualized. “I want audiences to consider some of the same questions I had when curating this exhibition,” says Miller. “What is joy in opposition to? How is care and love expressed through a visual means? Who is free to express that love and care or to seek it?” Participating artists include Borealis, Christian Bañez, Rosy Sunshine Galvan, Vaughan Larsen and Daniel Arthur Mendoza.

For Grasping Tenderness, Miller and Hawthorn Contemporary partnered with QKE, a collaborative effort uniting Milwaukee’s art galleries and institutions with the aim to hold space for queer art during Pride month. “It is important to me to reflect here both inside and outside of a queer lens, as a queer cultural worker myself, to see where there is overlap and difference within other personal experiences,” Miller continues. Several Milwaukee galleries will host exhibitions in partnership with QKE, and Miller hopes audiences will view Grasping Tenderness as one facet of a whole.

“I have always been fascinated about how humans move through space when art is present,” says Miller. As a student studying sculpture and fine arts at MIAD, they often explored this interaction. After college, Miller spent time as a gallery assistant at the Institute of Visual Arts (INOVA), where they began to develop and nurture their interest in curation. “I began to appreciate the value of supporting artists who are making a cultural impact on important topics,” Miller continues.

Miller’s passion for connecting creatives and working to develop spaces where artists can thrive shines through in their curatorial practice. Miller also employs their curatorial skills at the college’s new offsite gallery, the Gallery at The Ave. Supporting MIAD students, alumni, faculty and staff, the gallery provides a space to exhibit and sell work in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. Miller, who is central to the gallery’s operation, is in their element connecting and celebrating the artists with whom they work.

Grasping Tenderness is on view at Hawthorn Contemporary from June 9 – August 25, 2023. The public is invited to attend an opening reception from 6 – 9 p.m. on Friday, June 9, 2023, with a Gallery Talk at 7 p.m. the same night. Visit Hawthorn Contemporary or learn more about MIAD’s Gallery at The Ave.


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