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an intimate look at love lost

April 8 - June 11
At Var Gallery on 5th

Var West Gallery is pleased to present Before We Broke Up: an intimate look at love lost, curated by Andrea Guzzetta

"In many ways, painting is a form of adoration. To gaze for so long at a single visage and recreate it in tender brushstrokes is an act of love. What artists paint tells us what and who they esteem in the highest regard, and artists have always painted their lovers. From Wyeth to Schiele, there is an artistic tradition in recording the intimate vulnerability of a relationship and pulling viewers into the private lives of artists.


How much more vulnerable does that artwork become when the relationship has run its course? How much more fragile to view a piece of artwork created for a love that no longer exists? In “Before We Broke Up : An intimate look at love lost”, curators Josh Hintz and Andrea Guzzetta invite you to look upon loves lost from a slew of talented artists and dear God, please take them home with you because we simply can’t have them in our houses anymore."


Creature Comforts

19 June - 28 Aug
At Var Gallery on 5th

Var West Gallery is pleased to present Creature Comforts: Works by Carrie Gillen.

"Tactile comfort and material beauty are foiled with uncertainty and impermanence in this body of work. The reference to “home” always present in my work was challenged in new ways this year. Within isolation and confinement priorities come into sharp view. Much of 2020 felt like a vanitas painting played out in real time; a failed attempt to temper tragedy with alcohol, food, and pretty things.

My reflection on an inexplicable year has left me trying to understand our conflated relationship between material and materiality. Trying to sort through our distorted understanding of objects vs. experience. And trying to find value in a thing all the while understanding its futility.

Formally, this body of work expands on prior use of building and interior décor materials. New to these pieces is the addition of velvet upholstery fabric, and other textiles. The fabric serves as both a tool for abstraction as well as a domestic remnant. In some works it is stretched and pulled to create plush and concave compositions. This soft space is meant to hold the brittle abstractions painted within. In other works the velvet spills out of layers of sheetrock, wallpaper, and tile. Here, it is the underbelly, the exposed, a literal remnant of an inferred experience.

Each work combines notions of comfort and confusion. They are soft but ridged, broken but beautiful, stretched but strong. It is all an attempt to reconcile the experience of making and the inevitable outcome of objecthood. Inarguably, these works are a sum of beautiful and interesting material. But in spite of their sum of stuff reality they are also distilled actions and moments revealed."

Carrie Gillen is a St. Louis based painter, sculptor, scenic designer, and educator. She received her B.A. from Loyola University in New Orleans and her MFA from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Gillen is the recipient of the SIUE Jose Jimenez Public Art Award and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis Artist Support Grant. She regularly exhibits locally and nationally. Gillen is currently a member of Intersect STL a non-profit studio, gallery, and classroom supporting the south side neighborhoods of St. Louis.


366 winter, spring, summer, fall

X X - X X
At Var Gallery on 5th

Var West Gallery is pleased to announce 366, a solo exhibition featuring Milwaukee based artist Bela Suresh Roongta.

Bela Suresh Roongta is a Milwaukee-based artist, writer, and storyteller. Born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Bela became a United States citizen more than 20 years after immigrating with her family, graduated with her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Iowa College of Law, and practiced law for 10 years before becoming an artist. Bela’s art is guided by her immigrant experience and work as a lawyer and domestic violence advocate. As a lawyer, it was her job to listen, capture, and give voice to her client’s, often intimate, stories. Listening to and capturing these stories left her in awe of the human experience and our capacity to endure. It is this insight, understanding and sensitivity that Bela brings to her art practice. She makes art, writes stories and curates experiences that explore identity, dance with memories and tradition, captures the complexity and beauty of the human spirit and tells of the times we live in. As a recipient of the Governor’s Special Recognition Trailblazer Award for Women in Business and the Pfister Hotel’s most recent Writer-in-Residence, Bela has been recognized for innovation and success in business, art and storytelling. She has shown work in galleries and exhibitions throughout North America and Canada and is a published author, featured poet, community activist and owner of a boutique studio featuring her original hand drawn art.

"On January 1, 2020, I drew my 1st circle. On December 31, 2020, I drew my 366th. What began as a 30 day creative making marathon became a year long daily practice of drawing, writing, and creating. There were only three rules— to draw or write every day, to start with the same sized circle and drawing paper, and to never throw one away. Using a cup that is too big for my hand to hold, I traced the circle on either white or black 9 x 12 drawing paper. Then with either graphite, ink, collage or text I made my first mark. I borrowed from the intricate floral and geometric shapes of my East Indian ancestors to create small, intimate drawings. I cut and pasted. I scribbled over and layered under. I imagined and reimagined. I started over. I never threw one away." .


Sierra Vista

18 Sept - X X
At Var Gallery on 5th

Var West Gallery is pleased to present, Sierra Vista: A duo exhibition by Uriel Correa and Randi DrozdSierra Vista avenue in East Hollywood, LA is where Randi Drozd and Uriel Correa have lived and worked side by side over the past year. Their painting styles share similarities in color and concept while forming a connection on many levels. “Sierra Vista” encapsulates many aspects of Los Angeles from the griminess and pollution to the epic sunsets you see while walking around the neighborhood. Drozd creates an otherworldly dreamscape that is partially influenced by certain components of her surroundings. Inspirations for this series included LA’s deco architecture, succulents sprawling sidewalks, and the patterns of block paving. Correa captures the decrepit landscapes marrying them to the natural, surreal beauty seen from afar, while transforming the debilitated city streets into parallel dimensions. Together they created a dual reality of fantasy and fiction combined with their everyday observations.

harmony _ dissonance.jpeg

Harmony / Dissonance

1 Oct - X X
At Var Gallery on 

Reminiscing on my childhood as a first-generation, very shy, and super girly child in the 2000s, my work explores my rigid transition from girlhood to womanhood through the dualities of innocence, naivety, and comfort, to disturbance, grief and the grotesque. These themes are translated through color and personal symbolism that illustrate the complexities of my overall identity. I let myself go and think of the experiences that I have endured to embrace my identity today by reducing it to mindless brushstrokes and lazy yet intentional thumb prints in clay. I love the forgiving yet risk-taking qualities that clay has and the fluid, freeing qualities that painting offers; combining them together calls for an untraditional, rule-breaking freedom that I feel has somewhat of a relationship with the narrative I bring into my work. Combining my painting and sculpture allows for fantasy to interrupt reality in my work, thus allowing me to tell a narrative about girl power and embracing the unapologetic, ultra-feminine part of my identity.

Helena Baka is best known for her colorful, abstract paintings that often portray the dual themes of recognizable figuration and fantasy, as well as her rudimentary ceramic pieces. A first-generation daughter to Albanian immigrants, Helena’s work is inspired by the distance she’s felt toward her culture in her childhood and the complicated impact it’s had on her identity in adulthood, as well as themes of femininity, girlhood, and the grotesque. Along with ceramics, the mediums she uses range from acrylic and oil paint to chalk and oil pastels to communicate the complexity of the figures and personal symbolism in her work. Helena received her BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2021 and currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Anna Siemsen


Through my work I attempt to take aspects of my heritage and bring them into a modern context. Often, my inspiration comes from folktales, poetry, family photographs, and home videos. Having grown up as a Chinese adoptee, and living in a bi-racial family, I have spent years feeling torn between two cultures. This complex relationship has shaped my life in many ways and rests at the core of my artwork. The garments, photography, and video work that I have created for my Spring Summer 2022 collection allow the viewer to get a glimpse into my story. This collection reflects my complicated connection to Chinese culture, contrasted with my American Mid-western upbringing.

Anna Lu Siemsen is a 22 year old Chinese-American artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was born in Zhuzhou, Hunan, China and moved to the United States when she was 11 months old with her adoptive family. She graduated in May of 2021 from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design with a BFA in New Studio Practice. Her focus is in fashion design, videography, and photography.


Lindsey Yeager


They tell us it's our fault and we believe them. We do what we can to mitigate everything wrong with this earth, but what we do, ultimately, makes such little change. Our actions only seem to outstretch to a microcosm's width within this ether so boundlessly large. Is this wreckage ours or are we the ones who claim it?

They take and take and take until there's nothing left to take, because they believe that in order to have, they absolutely have to take. And they have to have absolutely everything. They hold an omnipotence they don't deserve.

Greed of a few leads to the fall of everyone.

We are not the ones who made this but we are the ones who have to carry it. Dust to dust.


I’m a fine artist and illustrator from Madison, WI and a recent graduate of Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. I primarily work in drawing, painting, and Risograph printing as of late, but I consider myself interdisciplinary. My work addresses collisions between identity, the self, society, and an entropic world through naturalistic and often personalized narratives. I seek to question the root causes of instability in the conditions we live under, pointing a finger at myself, at others, at the human race in general, and at something bigger than us. While my work usually does come from a specific point of criticism, I like my work to be a jumping off point for dialogue outside of my original intent. My work is meant to be a place of reevaluation for myself and for others, a checkpoint for complacency and for one’s own voice.

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