Art Exhibit: Eco Stars - Shelly Rosenquist

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Thursday, 07 July 2022
Art Exhibit: Eco Stars - Shelly Rosenquist

Local artist Shelly Rosenquist will display her art exhibit 'Eco Stars' at the Urban Ecology Center Menomonee Valley later this July. Everyone is welcome to the opening reception on July 22 from 5-7 pm. 

Shelly Rosenquist says, “My subject matter ranges from what influences me in our world, but I tend to take much of my inspiration from nature and the organic. I believe that in our hectic human existence, we have strayed from what makes this world a beautiful place. I like to use my work as a tool to remind people to look around them, breathe the air, to appreciate the detail and miracles of nature. I express myself by taking the neglected and twisting it into something unique that cannot be ignored. 

I call this show 'Eco Stars,' because these paintings and their subject matter deserve their moment to shine.”

Urban Ecology Center: Shelly, tell us about your work. What inspired the ideas behind this exhibit? 

Shelly: Taking things in the world and making them beautiful in a unique way is something that really interests me. Of course, nature provides so much obvious beauty, but it's sometimes taken for granted or even ignored completely. I like to amplify elements of my subject matter. My goal isn't to be realistic, but to create a new way of focusing on the topic by providing a new angle, a different color palette or another unexpected spin. 

UEC: Tell us about the paintings - are there any specific stories or memories that inspired these pieces? 

Shelly: I take a lot of pictures in my daily life. If you scroll through the albums on my iPhone, you’ll see things that inspire me that have nothing to do with anything! I get intrigued by things in my environment, whether that be in a city full of buildings and people, out in the ‘burbs with house-lined neighborhoods, or walking with my dogs in fields and the woods.

When I find something that intrigues me, I capture it with my phone and archive it in a special album called “inspiration.” I oftentimes utilize an image from this album as a point of departure for my next piece of artwork. I’ll think about the original photo and what inspired me about it and consider how I want to portray it or what I want to say about it, and most importantly, how I’d like to make it shine in a new way. I consider the things it relates to normal and sees if I can link it to something unexpected or take it out of context to make it even more interesting.

2020 PoinsettiaLeft

Words inspire me as well, so as soon as I am intrigued by a photo, I start thinking of names and researching words related to the subject matter. Sometimes my pieces are named before they are even started and that name guides my process and ultimately, the outcome. Sometimes a clever name is all I need to get the creative juices flowing.

UEC: Can you describe your art-making process?

Shelly: I have a degree and career in graphic design/creative & art direction and marketing, so this background is a huge influence in my life, including making artwork. I feel like although my current works are acrylic paints on handmade wooden canvases, they have quite a graphic feel to them with bold black outlines and pops of vibrant color.

I get bored just painting what I see and I really believe my background as a designer has driven me to take my artwork to the next level. Design is all about pushing the envelope and communicating in fresh ways, and I’ve taken that same approach in my artwork. 2019 Understory

My husband is also very involved in my creative process, as he handmakes all of my wooden canvases for me. He loves creating as well, especially woodworking and most recently, some metalworking (he has been experimenting with knife making!), and I feel like we inspire each other. Teaming up and having him make the bases of my artworks is so special to me and really makes the pieces that much more interesting. My son will be 16 this summer and he has also been helping out making my handmade canvases, which makes me so proud too.

I love the rigidness that working on wood provides compared to working on standard stretched canvas. There’s something so strong and permanent about working on a handmade wooden canvas with nice chunky edges to carry the artwork onto.

UEC: What are you most excited about right now in your studio practice?

Shelly: Honestly, it’s hard for me to find the time to make art at the rate I would like to be making art, but that is one of the things that pushes me to keep doing it. When I do find studio time, I embrace it and try not to take that time for granted.

What I’m most excited about currently is finding a more permanent solution to a creative space for my husband and I. We’ve been searching for a unique space to invest in where we can level up that creative process. We have some big plans for our future, so keep checking in with us (and if anyone has any connections to unique spaces for sale in Milwaukee County, please reach out!).

UEC: Tell us about your family/personal life: 

Shelly: I work full-time as a creative manager for Children’s Wisconsin, I am raising two beautiful kids (Vivienne, who is 10 and loves tennis and gymnastics and is a talented artist herself; and Nolan, who is almost 16 and is a kind, caring person and an amazing multi-sport athlete). I spend time with my two studio/office dogs, Loki and Luna, both Labradoodles and have been happily married to my husband, Lynn Rosenquist, for nearly 19 years.

UEC: At the Urban Ecology Center we connect people in cities to nature and each other. Our vision is to inspire generations to build environmental curiosity, understanding, and respect. We restore hope and heal our urban natural world, neighborhood by neighborhood. How does art play a part in our lives and this mission? What do you hope visitors to the UEC will take away from this exhibit?

Shelly: There is no stronger tool than art to bring people together. Art breaks down barriers, sparks interpretation and imagination, it creates conversations and connections and it forges unique and unexplored paths.

Like the UEC’s mission to connect people in cities to nature and each other, I truly believe that art-making, viewing, and appreciating can heal people, neighborhoods, and cities.

Supporting local artists and letting people from all walks of life express themselves only brings strength and understanding to communities. I love how the City of Milwaukee and its surrounding neighborhoods/suburbs are showcasing murals, sculptures and other public artworks on our buildings and in our environments. It brings a human touch to what are sometimes cold, concrete jungles.

Understanding one another begins with appreciating what makes us unique. I always tell my kids to be weird. PLEASE be weird. Better weird than boring, any day.

If you run into my 10-year-old, Vivienne, please ask her this question: “Better weird than what?”

She will answer this: “Boring.”

It’s sort of our house motto.

I hope people enjoy my “Eco Stars” show and if they leave having had a good conversation, have gained a little inspiration or even just thought things were a bit weird, I would be very content with that. 


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