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MIAD alumni exhibit at Overture Center in Madison

Two alumni from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) are exhibiting work at Madison’s Overture Center. Cassandra Smith ’06 (Sculpture) and Stacey Steinberg ’04 (Drawing) both have work on display in separate galleries at the performing arts space.

Smith’s work is on view in the Playhouse Gallery in a group exhibition entitled “Nature’s Kaleidoscope: Patterns of Fragility and Resilience.” Along with five other artists, Smith explores a deep connection with the natural world and human systems. “Nature’s Kaleidoscope” runs through March 3, 2024.

Steinberg, who currently works at MIAD as the executive director of Marketing and Communication, is showing work in Gallery I in a paired exhibition with Stephanie Barenz. “Un/Inhabited” explores the intersection of habitation and self and pairs the artists’ works to juxtapose scenes of Barenz’ natural beauty with Steinberg’s homes in flux. Visitors can view the exhibition through March 10, 2024.

For Smith, the theme of “Nature’s Kaleidoscope” fit perfectly with her artistic practice. “[T]he work is really varied by media and concepts within the theme,” says Smith. “I love the contrast in how each artist works with similar ideas but in very visually different ways. For example, my work is pattern laid directly on natural forms, while my fellow artist Heather Baker takes natural materials (seeds, plants, etc.) and uses them to create patterned scenes and mandalas. Opposite from my work in the show is Amanda Langer, who is also interested in juxtapositions in her work. She marries metal and fiber together, and the play between hard and soft textures is something I explore in my work as well.”

During her time at MIAD, Smith started developing her current artistic style of embellishing found objects. “My senior year at MIAD is when I first worked with taxidermy and I am still just obsessed with adding my own embellishments to the natural forms,” she explains. “I love the contrast of fur, feathers or scales with the unnatural paint, sequins and gems that I apply.”

As a student, Smith took advantage of the AICAD Exchange Program, which allows MIAD students to study for a semester or year in a similar degree program at one of the participating AICAD-member institutions. Smith spent a semester in Portland, Oregon at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. “It was such a formative experience for me because I got to learn about soft sculpture, things like quilting and dying and other fabric processes that MIAD did not have at the time,” she says.

Smith has remained connected to MIAD throughout her professional life. Currently, she has work on display and available for sale at MIAD Gallery at The Ave. “I have really been enjoying working with that space to promote my work,” says Smith. The successful artist has also shown work at places like the John Michael Kohler Art Center and the Milwaukee Art Museum and has been featured in publications such as Anthropologie and Harpers Bazaar. Coming up this fall, Smith returns to her hometown of Rhinelander, Wisconsin to install a solo show at ArtStart.

Keep up with Smith on her website, visit the Overture Center and learn more about MIAD’s Fine Art + New Studio Practice program!

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