Lois Bielefeld – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Amaya, 2014. from Androgyny  photograph, 30x20"

Amaya, 2014. from Androgyny photograph, 30×20″

Briefly describe the work you do. 

The central motif of my work is the conceptual portrait. I focus on a connective idea that ties a group of people together and explores the human qualities that we all share. There are things we all do, eat and sleep for example, but the rituals surrounding those activities and how we define the spaces for partaking in them vary and can be telling. My goal is to explore the rituals that define us exploring what habits and personal spaces can reveal about our private selves. I do this through photography, audio interviews, installation and film/video pieces. 

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

I’m from Milwaukee, raised in a very religious family. My mom was a full-time homemaker, as she called it, and I watched my dad get laid-off after almost a lifetime with the same company due his field becoming obsolete. They never introduced me to the arts or really any pop culture but were encouraging with my interest in photography. My fairly typical midwestern upbringing influences my work as my work strives to study Americans and therefore completely relatable. We all eat an evening meal and sleep in some sort of bedroom. 

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

Until my most recent series, Androgyny, my work was completely environmental. It was as much a portrait about the person as it was about their space. I really only worked in the studio for commercial work. Sometimes I considered my studio space more so to be my office as post production is just as important as the actual shoot. For my portraits I do almost no retouching but there is always editing, scheduling, applying– so much time at the computer that that sometimes has become my studio. Just over a year ago when developingAndrogyny I rented my first studio space and have really loved having a consistent space to work out of. Sadly this is my last week with my studio which I didn’t anticipate being so torn up about!

Wednesday: Emilio, Rhonda, Benedetto, Skylrae, Jacomo. 2014 from Weeknight Dinners  photograph, 30x20"

Wednesday: Emilio, Rhonda, Benedetto, Skylrae, Jacomo. 2014 from Weeknight Dinners photograph, 30×20″

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

Often my curiosity about a subject will inspire a series. In 2011, when i first moved back to WI the law changed enabling conceal carry of handguns. This coupled with my coworkers invitation to go trap-shooting (I’d never touched a gun) really got me thinking– I wanted to know who was carrying and why and to hear their stories. This inspired Conceal Carry, 2012-2013, a series of 30 portraits and 15 audio interviews. I never imagined myself at a range shooting a handgun (researching the experience) or putting myself out on group boards like ArmedBadger.com in efforts to find subjects. I love that my work makes me examine and learn about something from many more angles than just my initial emotional reaction. 

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

I don’t have a best time honestly- I shoot commercially to enable all my personal work. So i cram all of my projects in between my 8-5 in-house shooting job (which i love by the way as an aside, as it gets me to work in many different ways than I normally would on my own). Some projects dictate the time such as in Weeknight Dinners (2013-current). But really, I rarely stop working- i’m always applying to something, doing post-production work, photographing, or concepting. Honestly, I feel best when I’m working on my work. 

Lisa and Pat, Smith & Wesson 642.38 special. 2012 from Conceal Carry photograph, 30x20"

Lisa and Pat, Smith & Wesson 642.38 special. 2012 from Conceal Carry photograph, 30×20″

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

I relocated from Brooklyn 4 years ago to Milwaukee to shoot in-house for Kohl’s. This had a tremendous change on my personal work because instead of hustling for client-work now i could just focus on my personal work. In the past 4 years I’ve gone to working on one long-term series The Bedroom (2008-2012) to pursuing several bodies of work. I started showing my work and found an incredible gallery rep, Debra Brehmer, at Portrait Society Gallery. I really have progressed in the past 4 years as an emerging artist developing photography, film/video, audio, and now installation.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

Definitely my family impacts my work. My daughter is 14 and I have been thinking a ton about adolescence and her development. I started a body of work on adolescence in 2013 but failed miserably on figuring out my approach with the series and shelved it- but i’m still mulling on it and hope to pick it up again when it solidifies. I find inspiration from travel and people watching- little interactions and the things we do. I adore Wes Anderson films…. and try to go to as many shows and openings as I can make time for. I’m also really inspired by the incredibly supportive and rich art community in Wisconsin and my peers. I also love fashion photography and find great story-telling and lighting aspiration from photographers like Alex Prager, Steven Klein, and Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott. And music! I can’t forget how inspiring music is on my work– from Grizzly Bear to Sumi Jo! 

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

Before I studied photography I considered going into environmental studies or urban planning as I feel a responsibility for the way we live and exist in this world and the generations to come. But honestly, I have no interest in doing anything else nor would I know where to start! 



Photo credit Sara Risley

Lois Bielefeld is a conceptual photographer and filmmaker who splits her time between fine art and commercial/fashion photography. She was born and currently resides in Milwaukee, WI with her girlfriend and daughter. Lois has her BFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology and from 2003-2010 she lived in New York City. Besides photography, she feels passionate about Scrabble, swimming, urban gardening and bicycling adventures.  She has two solo shows this fall: Room & Board at ArtStart in Rhinelander and Androgyny  opening at UW-Parkside in November.



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