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June 9, 2023 – August 27, 2023


Hawthorn Contemporary is pleased to announce the exhibition opening of Grasping Tenderness, featuring contemporary artists that explore queer joy and freedom, in spite of everything. The exhibition, curated by Monica Miller, is in conjunction with QKE, a city-wide collaboration uniting MKE’s art galleries and institutions to platform, exhibit and hold space for queer art during Pride month. Participating artists include: Borealis, Chris Banez, Vaughan Larsen, Daniel Arthur Mendoza, and Rosy Sunshine.

In an increasingly policed and politicized social and political climate, Grasping Tenderness emerges to celebrate and honor the profound importance of visible queer identity and community. The exhibited artists explore themes of identity, access, love, agency, and longing, offering a contemporary visual perspective on the lived experiences within the current political challenges that confront LGBTQA+ individuals. With a focus on both two-dimensional and installation works, Grasping Tenderness aims to provide a lens through which queer joy and freedom are vividly visualized and contextualized.

Christian Bañez (he/him) explores themes of self-discovery, reflection, and narrative in his practice. Utilizing methods of journaling and introspection, he creates scenes and imagery that symbolize the themes he’s exploring such as his queer identity, the immigrant experience, and his upbringing in the rural Midwest. By showcasing his thoughts and sharing his past he wants to establish a connection with others with a similar lived experience.

Christian was born in Cebu City, Philippines and raised in rural Missouri. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY after receiving his BFA from Missouri Western State University in 2022. He’s completed artist residencies with the New York Academy of Art and the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU).

Borealis (they/them/beau/bo) co-produces works rooted in the queer art of care. Beau is a trans, disabled social artist, full-spectrum careworker, and member of artist collective Solarpunk Surf Club. Learn more about their work at

Rosy Sunshine Galvan (she/her/ella) is a Queer, Dominican-American artist from the pre-gentrified, Lower East Side of Manhattan, currently residing in Baltimore. Her art centers vulnerable conversations and healing. The bright colors, sharp lines, and animated dots conjure joy and connection for liberation while compassionately representing the desire to mask mental illness and complex trauma. Sunshine's work is designed to lift the vibrational frequency of its viewers as an antidote to oppressive stifling forces that dull our shine and keep us in a state of shame. Her paintings are purposefully textured for an interactive, sensory, and tactile experience, inviting the audience to touch the pieces and break traditional barriers between subject and viewer.

Vaughan Larsen received their BFA in Photography from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Later that year, they placed First in the Getty Images 2019 International Creative Bursary Award, first prize in the Amsterdam Pride Photo Award, and was named a 2019 Fellow by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation's Mary Nohl Fellowship. Their work has been shown throughout Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Pratt MWP’s campus gallery, and Europe. Their work has been written about in several publications, including Humble Arts Foundation. Larsen has presented at the Paul Brach Lecture Series at CalArts in 2021. They are now preparing their first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Larsen is a co-founder of FxG Church, a DIY queer party in Milwaukee. They are also the founder and curator of That Way, an online platform and printed zine started in 2018, featuring the work of LGBTQ+ artists globally. In 2021, Larsen was the sole-organizer and co-curator of Queering the Cream City, a month-long exhibition taking place on 12 billboards in Milwaukee replacing advertising with LGBTQ+ art.

Daniel Arthur Mendoza (b. 1989, Sacramento, California) received his MFA from UC Riverside in 2022. In 2013 he received a BA in Studio Art at UC Davis, and attended the Chautauqua Institution Schools of the Fine and Performing Arts in Chautauqua, New York. His work has been exhibited at The Mistake Room (Los Angeles, CA), Human Resources Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA), Southern Exposure (San Francisco, CA), Rivalry Projects (Buffalo, NY), Guerrero Gallery (San Francisco, CA), and Incline Gallery (San Francisco, CA) among others. He is based in the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area.

Hawthorn Contemporary, located in the historic Walker’s Point neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is an art venue dedicated to presenting experimental and exploratory contemporary art.
Monica Miller (she/they) is an artist and cultural producer based in Milwaukee, WI. With a passion for bringing creatives together, Monica's work revolves around the accessibility and creation of equitable, collaborative environments for artists. With extensive experience in gallery and public art curation and management, Monica has a strong background in professional development, creative entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, and event planning.

Monica has over five years of facilitation experience, working with diverse groups and organizations. Since 2017, they have served as an educator, coach, and mentor for both emerging and mid-level career creatives, advocating for individuals to pioneer and sustain their own businesses. They specialize in working with artists, designers, and other creatives, as well as womxn/femme and non-binary individuals, and queer communities. Monica has held various leadership positions within arts and culture non-profits, including the former Institute of Visual Arts (INOVA) gallery, the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network, the Greater Milwaukee Committee's Beerline Trail Neighborhood Development Project, Wormfarm Institute, and more. She currently works at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design as the Manager for MIAD Gallery at The Ave, the college’s first off-campus gallery aimed to support students, alumni, faculty & staff.

Combining their expertise in cultural production, curation, and education, Miller continues to make a profound impact on the art community in Milwaukee and beyond. With a strong belief in the power of collaboration and equity, Monica strives to create spaces where artists can thrive and contribute to a more vibrant artistic landscape.

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