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Milwaukee’s Influences: Senior Exhibition 2024

Amidst the many standout works at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) Senior Exhibition, one piece is especially striking—and interactive. “Milwaukee’s Influences” by Isaic Pulliam ’24 (Fine Art + New Studio Practice) is an oil on canvas triptych housed in a handmade wooden cabinet that viewers can open and close.

“When I was younger, my parents and guardians really helped me, guided me through whatever interests I was in,” says Pulliam. “And I felt like that was very important in my development. So I kind of want to share that experience with the community.” “Milwaukee’s Influences” reflects three community members who interact with and impact Milwaukee’s younger generations: teachers, parents and athletes.

Parents, explains Pulliam, can be any occupation but have a significant impact on kids. “Athletes are more of a popular figure that I think really inspires children to be working hard and practicing,” continues Pulliam. “And [including] teachers is more highlighting education around the community, trying to just better in front of kids that way.”

Pulliam was deeply inspired by Renaissance and Baroque paintings, especially triptychs. “I studied artists like Caravaggio for the paintings, and Jan van Eyck,” he says. He researched woodworking techniques from the Renaissance to construct three custom frames out of basswood, pine and butternut wood. “The custom made frames that I use, [I make] the trim and baseboard and I glue them all together. That’s how they did traditionally back then,” he says. “I carve into their face custom symbols that correspond with the paintings.”

During MIAD’s Pre-College program, which Pulliam attended during high school, the painter developed an interest in color. “The Pre-College class that I took was Figure in Color. That was my first time really using color, and I haven’t looked back since. Ever since I attended the pre-college program, I just felt like [MIAD] was the spot to go to,” he says.

Now, Pulliam will continue exploring his painting practice at the Anderson Ranch Center during a short residency where he will study narratives in oil painting with artist Reginald O’Neal. In addition to continuing his education and developing another body of work after graduation, Pulliam will be completing work for the ThriveOn King collaboration, a project representing the revitalization of Milwaukee’s Bronzeville.

Reflecting on MIAD’s 50th anniversary, Pulliam knows technology will have a big impact on whatever happens next. “MIAD is going to keep introducing new technology that will create different types of artwork, whether it is digital or traditional. I hope that they don’t stay away from traditional art, that’s my favorite!” he says, finishing that he hopes MIAD stays community-oriented through the changes.

View Pulliam’s work, along with that of over 200 other seniors, at MIAD’s Senior Exhibition April 19 – May 11, 2024. Keep up with Pulliam on Instagram and learn more about MIAD’s Fine Art + New Studio Practice major!

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