Tonia Klein – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Melissa 2012 Screen print on Reeves BFK 13.25” x 16”

Screen print on Reeves BFK
13.25” x 16”

Briefly describe the work do you do.

My work is fairly representational and colorful.  Painting, printmaking, photography, and collage are central components of my practice.  Recently, I have been combining each of these methods.  I digitally create large areas of complex and specific patterns from my photos and use them in my screen prints.  By making my own digital patterns I have a greater control over the metaphors within my work. My most recent work involves having the patterns I create cut out of vinyl, which I then install on gallery windows, walls, or Plexiglas sheets.

At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?

As a child I was always very creative. I didn’t just draw; I made all types of things and had many creative hobbies. It wasn’t until the end of my high school career that I started to identify myself as an artist.

Cumulus Migration 2013 Vinyl on Plexiglas 60” x 30”

Cumulus Migration
Vinyl on Plexiglas
60” x 30”

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I grew up in Wisconsin, but traveled a lot. I have always loved to read, and been interested in fairytales and mythologies from all over the world.  Reading allows me to travel in my head when I can’t travel in real life. It also allows me a glimpse into what people where thinking about hundred of years ago. I’m very interested in history and archaeology, and which I feel connects with my interest in how mythologies begin and evolve.

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

My work is influenced by fairy tales and world mythology.  I use these as a basis for sharing personal stories.  I concentrate on the role of women in society, drawing correlations between the past and today. The images I create contain metaphors, which relate to archetypes from fairy tales.  I use animal and human figures to create unexpected patterns and new narratives that are both of this world and not.
Sofia 2012 Screen print on Reeves BFK 13.25 x 16”

Screen print on Reeves BFK
13.25 x 16”

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?

If I have an image in my mind that I really want to create, then I manage to make a lot of time to be in the studio. If I don’t have something already in mind, I do research. My research often involves reading and investigating the names for things and where they come from. Word etymology has been providing a lot of creative fuel for me lately. I also spend time looking for exhibition opportunities. This gives me deadlines that help motivate me.

What artists living or non-living influence your work?

Sally Mann

Kara Walker

Arthur Rackham

J.W. Waterhouse

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in? 

Reading and gardening. Plants have been playing a larger role in my art, as well as the folklore related to them. 


ToniaKleinTonia Klein received her Bachelors of Fine Art in Painting from Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2007. She had her first solo international exhibition “Recurrence” at Flash Atoyle, in Izmir, Turkey in January 2013. She received a Mary L Nohl Travel Suitcase Grant for this exhibition. She has also participated in several national exhibitions. Tonia Klein lives and works in Milwaukee, WI. 


Tonia in her studio

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 


About Frank Juarez

Frank Juarez is a gallery director, award winning art educator, artist, author, presenter, and arts advocate living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Organizing local and regional art exhibitions, community art events, facilitating presentations, supporting artists through professional development workshops, use of social media and networking has placed him in the forefront of advancing and promoting local artists and attracting regional and national artists to collaborate, network and exhibit in Wisconsin. Let me be your guide into the Wisconsin art scene.
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