Courtesy of The Pfister Hotel
The Pfister Hotel Artist-In-Residence Timothy Westbrook introduces visitors to Revierie by painter Consuelo Fould. The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wis. is home to the largest hotel collection of Victorian art in the world.
MILWAUKEE'S HISTORIC PFISTER HOTEL WEAVES THE PAST AND THE PRESENT WITH ITS ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE PROGRAM. Fabric Artist Timothy Westbrook lives in two centuries, using 19th century methods and 21st century materials as he works within a double-windowed studio on the ground level of Milwaukee's stately Pfister Hotel. Westbrook is The Pfister's Artist-In-Residence, the current participant in a four-year-old program that came into existence as a natural extension of The Pfister's long artistic tradition. The Romanesque Revival Pfister, opened in 1893 at the then phenomenal cost of more than 1 million dollars, was built to dazzle and had features uncommon in its time, like fireproofing, electricity and individual thermostat controls in the guest rooms. Builder Charles Pfister adorned the public spaces of his "Grand Hotel of the West” with art for the enjoyment of guests and neighbors alike, and a wealth of those portraits, genre paintings and statuary still decorate the hotel's resplendent lobby, its broad guest floor hallways and its capacious function rooms.
Commenting on the creation of the Artist-In-Residence program, Pfister General Manager Joe Kurth said, "For decades, The Pfister has hosted the much acclaimed Victorian Art Collection, the largest of its kind in any hotel in the world. We want to expand on our reputation as a destination for art connoisseurs by offering our guests and the public a glimpse into the world of art as it is being created – in real time, by amazingly talented artists.”
In his Pfister studio, Fabric Artist Westbrook uses a four shaft floor loom with six treadles, manufactured by Leclerc, outfitted with two 12-inch boat shuttles and works primarily with a 12-dent reed. While the exact provenance of his treadle sewing machine is uncertain, the style of the shuttle bobbin indicates it was manufactured between 1885 and 1895. Westbrook, who is working on a legacy piece to be added to The Pfister's collection, said, "While at The Pfister, I plan to weave cloth out of various organic and repurposed manmade materials, including items like cassette tapes, sculpting them into costumes and fashion, while pulling inspiration from the hotel and the Victorian Decorative Arts period. From my love of story telling and mythology, I will be bringing to life the woman who may have been the wife of Charles Pfister, who in truth was never married. The gown I leave behind will be for [this imaginary] Ms. Pfister.”
Westbrook enjoys meeting visitors at The Pfister and seeing how they interact with his work. He said, "We come into contact with fabric every day. We sleep with cloth, awake in cloth, dry off after bathing with cloth, to get back into cloth for the day. But my processes slow down the process as well as expose some of the mysteries of this everyday material. Many of the guests work grueling hours and are in the hotel for conferences to discuss how can they work more efficiently. Others are here for weddings that take an unimaginable amount of time to plan and organize. Seeing how many hours I work in the space on the loom and non-electric machine shows the intricacies of an industry that most see as an industry of immediate gratification. Today, only a hotel can offer that amount of exposure for sharing.”
In addition to creating his own fabric works, Westbrook serves as a docent for The Pfister's Victorian art, saying, "I enjoy the role of the collection's docent because I have so much to learn. Each of the guests is an expert in their own experiences and their perspectives are constantly shedding new light on the collection.”
General Manager Kurth said, "Timothy is a wonderful example of an artist who is growing daily through his experiences and interactions. The Pfister also is growing in our expansion beyond the visual arts and the previous painters, to Timothy's vision incorporating fiber art. I look forward to watching him continue to create his Victorian gowns over the next several months, and remain excited to see where The Pfister's patronage of the arts and individual artists takes us.”
The Pfister Hotel, which has received AAA Four Diamond status for 35 consecutive years, is located at 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, Wis. Meet Timothy Westbrook at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llFUfYK2rWs. Learn about The Pfister Hotel's collection of Victorian art at www.thepfisterhotel.com/art-book/index.asp. For more information contact (414) 273-8222 or www.ThePfisterHotel.com.
AND REMEMBER: "Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” — Jack Kerouac.
Susan Cohn is a member of Bay Area Travel Writers and North American Travel Journalists Association. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.