MILWAUKEE — “So I’m going to keep going with my Queer Mythology.”
That’s the series Nykoli Koslow, the artist in residence at the Pfister Hotel, is developing. He is the first transgender person to be part of the residency.
“I’m going back in history and trying to find all the trans and queer deities and gods that already exist, and if they don’t exist, I’m creating my own.”
Nykoli takes characters from different myths and religions to create something unique. These gods and deities are depicted by the smooth strokes of Nykoli’s paintings and sketches. He said his art celebrates and normalizes queerness. His gallery is a place for conversation.
“I want to repaint the devil in a positive light and make him trans, and then have like his scriptwriter there, like we're rewriting the script.”
By doing this, Nykoli is converting these negative stereotypes and turning them into something positive and powerful.
But getting to this point was a long process. He was chosen as the artist in residence last year. He was supposed to start in April 2020, but the pandemic delayed that.
“Everything that was happening was way more important than being an artist.”
The Artist-In-Residence program is in its 13th year. The selected artist is expected to work at least 30 hours a week at the hotel art studio where their art will be on display for all guests to see for free. They will also participate in all four Gallery Nights and other events. It's a time for the artist to have their work showcased in a historic hotel and work on their craft for an entire year.
Nykoli had to take a step back from art. He didn't immediately enter the studio space as places began to shut down. From April 1, 2020, he was the official artist in residence at the Pfister but didn't occupy the space full-time.
Ultimately, that had a positive impact on his creative process.
“So I had more time to spend with myself, which made my work more authentic and sincere.”
One year later, Nykoli is officially a full-time artist after moving into a studio and gallery inside the hotel in April.
"I have an income to make what I want to make and to build a series and to communicate with people, and that’s huge," he said.
He said his art celebrates and normalizes queerness.
"So rather than having a religion that is not talking about that, I'm creating a religion that centers on queerness and makes it normative and celebrated," he said during an interview with TMJ4 in March 2020.
Nykoli is there Wednesdays through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to his website.