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July 6th 2024 - September 6th, 2024
Opening Reception: July 6th, 2024, 6PM-9PM CST

MILWAUKEE, WI – Hawthorne Contemporary’s Gray Area presents “Phantasmagoria”, a group exhibition led by the current interns of Var Galleries. This exhibition features the works of interns, Dylan Olive Dornfeld, Rita Jennings, Stella Koslowski, and Allie Painter; with guests Helena Baka, Asher Belangia, Chloe Lewandowski, and Debbie Wong.


Phantasmagoria invites these eight fine artists to embrace the fantastical, creating new perspectives through playful means; these works ask the viewer to question their version of reality. Each artist explores elements of the mythical and surreal in their respective practices through color, characterization, material, or concept. This common thread allows for a whimsical yet unified display of real and imaginary images, like those seen in dreams.

Exhibiting Artist Bios

Helena Baka is best known for her colorful, abstract paintings that often portray the dual themes of recognizable figuration and fantasy and her rudimentary ceramic pieces. A first-generation daughter to Albanian immigrants, Baka’s work is inspired by the distance she’s felt toward her culture in her childhood and the complicated impact it’s had on her identity in adulthood, as well as themes of femininity, girlhood, and the grotesque. Along with ceramics, the mediums she uses range from acrylic and oil paint to chalk and oil pastels to communicate the complexity of the figures and personal symbolism in her work. Baka received her BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2021 and currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Asher Belangia is a printmaker and multidisciplinary artist working in Milwaukee, WI. Their focus is on muddying the binaries of gender, the digital & natural, and the realistic & utopian. He is currently making 2D work with stone lithography and creating experiences using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.


Dylan Olive Dornfeld is a painter and printmaker working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They primarily focus on oil painting, portraying the complexities of dreamscapes and the beasts that inhabit it, relating back to personal ideology and identity. They have shown in several galleries, including Grey Area MKE, Some Fools Basement, the Fredrick Layton Gallery and are currently interning at Hawthorn Contemporary.


Rita Jennings uses a multidisciplinary approach that combines personal experience and desired aesthetics. Her creations are celebratory of her identity, and with the viewer, we explore stories of the mundane and her memories. Being an international adoptee, she examines the intricate relationship between her heritage, her Chinese and American identities, and the process of rediscovering her lost history. Jennings utilizes mixed media, with a particular focus on oil painting, constructing sculptures, textures, and illustrative work. Her fascination with storytelling, combined with multi-layered pieces, dives into her complex emotions, such as loss, melancholy, yearning, belonging, and celebration, which she collected during her self-discovery journey. 


Stella Koslowski is an artist from Milwaukee who focuses on watercolor, oil painting and textiles. Having majored in both Fine Art and Illustration at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Stella enjoys blending her styles and materials together to create bizarre stories from dreams. Stella is currently a Collections and Curatorial Intern at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, and an intern at Hawthorn Contemporary. She has exhibited her work at Richeson Gallery, Vanguard Sculpture Services for the Grilled Cheese Grant, and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She also minored in Art History and Humanities at MIAD, and will be attending Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London in the fall of 2024.


Chloe Lewandowski is an artist based in Milwaukee, originally from Minneapolis. Lewandowski's work frequently centers around the theme of the bedroom, aiming to evoke feelings of comfort and coziness. By focusing on intimate, personal spaces, Chloe invites viewers to experience a sense of warmth and familiarity. Her art often incorporates elements that are both visually and emotionally soothing, creating environments that encourage a deep sense of nostalgia and safety.


Allie Painter is a midwestern artist of the early 2000s. They create works using primarily acrylic and watercolor paint emphasizing texture, color saturation, and conceptual tone. Their work references the inner child through the lens of adulthood and retrospection, exploring the morphing of humanity as a response to social pressure and confinement. Painter is working toward their BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. They have also exhibited their work in Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, Art Intersections, and Gray Area MKE in Milwaukee, WI.

Debbie Wong, aka Beetlebob, is a self-taught artist and illustrator based in Chicago. Her artistic practice spans diverse mediums, including illustration, painting, wheat pastes, and murals, weaving a character-based narrative inspired by her bilingual, immigrant background growing up in Taiwan. Her works serve as a place to process and examine her own emotions, and the viewers are invited to reflect their own onto them. 

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