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Director and Curatorial Biographies

Marcelle Polednik, Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director

Marcelle Polednik is the Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director of the Milwaukee Art
Museum. She holds a PhD in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and
has curated numerous exhibitions, including Marking Time in Photography and Film (2013) and
Abstraction over Time: The Paintings of Michael Goldberg (2013). Among others, she authored
“In Search of Equipoise: Hofmann’s Artistic Negotiations, 1940-58” for the Hans Hofmann
Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2014) and “Making History: Watchtower II
and Photography” for the Sigmar Polke retrospective by the Museum of Modern Art in New
York. Recently, she co-curated an exhibition entitled Hans Hofmann: Works on Paper and
contributed “Hans Hofmann: A Life on Paper” to the accompanying catalogue, published by
Yale University Press.

Prior to joining the Milwaukee Art Museum, she was the director and chief curator at MOCA
Jacksonville. Previously, she was the chief curator at the Monterey Museum of Art and an
assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.


Margaret Andera, Curator of Contemporary Art

Margaret Andera has a history of over twenty years with the Milwaukee Art Museum. She began her tenure in 1989 as a curatorial intern, assigned to work on the newly acquired Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art. She joined the staff full-time in 1993 as a curatorial assistant and advanced her expertise in contemporary art and the art of untrained artists.

Andera since has facilitated several important acquisitions of contemporary and self-taught work for the Collection, and has been instrumental in establishing the Milwaukee Art Museum as a leading American institution for modern self-taught material. Among the exhibitions she has curated are On Site: Andrea Zittel and Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art, as well as Vito Acconci: Acts of Architecture, Magnetic North: The Landscapes of Tom Uttech, Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection, and Currents 36: Dirk Skreber, whose accompanying catalogues are but a few of Andera’s several publications.

Monica Obniski, Demmer Curator of 20th- and 21st-Century Design

Monica Obniski came to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2015 from the Art Institute of Chicago, where she began as a research associate and exhibition coordinator in 2007. During her tenure, she co-organized and coauthored Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago, coauthored For Kith and Kin: The Folk Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, and oversaw several installations, including new galleries of twentieth-century decorative arts and designed objects.

Before her work at the Art Institute, she was a research assistant in the American Decorative Arts department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Obniski has taught at various universities including Columbia College, University of Illinois at Chicago, The New School/Parsons, and the New York School of Interior Design.

Obniski has an MA in the history of decorative arts and design from the Bard Graduate Center, and a BA in art history from Loyola University Chicago. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Illinois at Chicago with the dissertation “Accumulating Things: Folk Art and Modern Design in the Postwar American Projects of Alexander H. Girard.”

Tanya Paul, Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art

Tanya Paul came to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2013 from the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among the exhibitions she curated for the Philbrook were Scenes from the Low Countries: Dutch and Flemish Prints in the Age of Rembrandt, The Sinuous Line: Jacques Callot and the Rebirth of Printmaking in Early Modern France, and Precious Possessions: The Art of Portrait Miniature. The exhibition Elegance and Refinement: The Still-Life Paintings of Willem van Aelst, which Paul organized while she was at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was based on her 2008 dissertation on the Dutch painter. The exhibition later traveled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and received excellent reviews in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

In addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Paul previously has worked at the University of Virginia Art Museum (now the Fralin Museum of Art) and the J. Paul Getty Museum. She received her MA and her PhD from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Paul’s position at the Museum as curator of European art is funded by Alfred and Isabel Bader, longtime supporters of the Milwaukee Art Museum and collectors of European master paintings.

Brandon Ruud, Abert Family Curator of American Arts

Brandon Ruud came to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2014 from the Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he had served as the curator of American art since 2010.

Ruud’s twenty-year museum career includes the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, where he began as assistant curator in 1998, and then the Art Institute of Chicago, where he worked for ten years, five of them as assistant research curator of American art.  At both Joslyn and the Art Institute, his primary focus was on the reinstallation of the American collections.

He has organized dozens of exhibitions, including Poetical Fire: Three Centuries of Still Lifes (2011) at the Sheldon, Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago at the Art Institute (2009) and A Faithful and Vivid Picture: Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints at the Joslyn (2002), and is the author of over ten permanent collection and scholarly catalogues; his publication, Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints, was awarded a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times in 2005.

Ruud holds a PhD in American art from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an MA from the Department of Art and Art History at George Washington University, and a BA, magna cum laude, from the Department of History at the University of West Florida.

Catherine Sawinski, Assistant Curator of Earlier European Art

Catherine Sawinski has been the assistant curator of earlier European art at the Milwaukee Art Museum since 2008. She joined the Museum staff in 2001 as a curatorial intern and was promoted to a curatorial assistant in 2003. She has assisted with organizing thirteen exhibitions, including Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London, and curated the exhibition Intimate Images of Love and Loss: Portrait Miniatures. Sawinski is charged with researching the Museum’s collection of ancient and European artwork before 1900 and regularly writes for the Museum’s blog Under the Wings.

Sawinski has an MA in art history with two certificates in museum studies from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and a BA in art history and classics from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Lisa J. Sutcliffe, Curator of Photography and Media Arts

Lisa Sutcliffe joined the Museum in January 2013 from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where she served as assistant curator in the Department of Photography. In Milwaukee Sutcliffe has organized Postcards from America: Milwaukee (2014) in partnership with Magnum photographers.

Sutcliffe has a wide-ranging curatorial record from her time at SFMOMA. She organized the SFMOMA presentation of Naoya Hatakeyama: Natural Stories in association with the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. In 2009, she organized The Provoke Era: Postwar Japanese Photography, the first survey of SFMOMA’s internationally renowned collection of Japanese photography, and Photography Now: China, Japan, Korea. Additionally, she served as assistant curator for Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, co-organized with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2012), and Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Since 1870, co-organized with Tate Modern (2010).

Sutcliffe has organized film screenings, lectures, and panels with internationally acclaimed artists at SFMOMA and other Bay Area institutions; written about contemporary art and photography for diverse publications; and contributed to books for artists including Penelope Umbrico and Sean McFarland, and a forthcoming publication with Naoya Hatakeyama.

Before working at SFMOMA, Sutcliffe was the Koch Curatorial Fellow at the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She holds an MA in the history of art from Boston University, where she specialized in the history of photography, and a BA in art history from Wellesley College.

David Russick, Chief Designer

David Russick joined the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2012 from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where he was the chief designer and a key participant in the museum’s reinstallation and special exhibition designs. He started his career at the Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago before moving to Indianapolis, where he was director/curator at the Herron Gallery, Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University. He received his MFA from Northern Illinois University.