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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, Interim Chief Curator and 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 ArchitectureMagnetic North: The Landscapes of Tom UttechAccidental 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 was the inaugural Ann S. and Samuel M. Mencoff Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts. During her tenure, she co-organized and co-authored Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago, co-authored For Kith and Kin: The Folk Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, and oversaw several installations. Before her work at the Art Institute, she was a research assistant in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Obniski received an MA in design history from the Bard Graduate Center and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with the dissertation Accumulating Things: Folk Art and Modern Design in the Postwar American Projects of Alexander H. Girard (1907– 1993). She taught art history at UIC and Columbia College; has received fellowships from the Wolfsonian–Florida International University and the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design; and has published scholarly articles and contributed to publications, most recently to Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe (2016).

In Milwaukee, Obniski organized the exhibition How Posters Work (2017) and oversaw the reinstallation of the modern and contemporary design galleries (2015). She is currently working on several special exhibitions, including Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America (2018), co-organized with the Denver Art Museum, and Scandinavian Design and America (2020), co-organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The position of Demmer Curator of 20th- and 21st-Century Design is underwritten by the Demmer Charitable Trust.

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 RembrandtThe 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 has previously 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 PhD from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The position of Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art is underwritten by Isabel and Alfred Bader.

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. At the Milwaukee Art Museum, he is responsible for the recent reinstallation of the American art collections, and he recently completed an exhibition and catalogue on Winslow Homer’s time in England.

Ruud holds a PhD in American art from the University of Illinois–Chicago and an MA from the Department of Art and Art History at George Washington University.

The position of Abert Family Curator of American Art is endowed by Barbara Tooman in honor of her parents, Donald and Barbara Abert.

Catherine Sawinski, Assistant Curator of Earlier European Art

Catherine Sawinski has been the assistant curator of 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. The exhibitions she has curated include Intimate Images of Love and Loss: Portrait Miniatures (2010), Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Painter-Etcher (2016), and Gods and Heroes: Classical Mythology in European Prints (2017). She has also assisted with organizing several exhibitions, including Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London (2012). Sawinski is charged with researching the Museum’s collection of ancient and European art 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, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts

Lisa Sutcliffe came to the Milwaukee Art Museum in January 2013 from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where she served as assistant curator in the photography department. Before working at SFMOMA, Sutcliffe was the Koch Curatorial Fellow at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Sutcliffe has organized several exhibitions since joining the Museum, including Postcards from America: Milwaukee (2014), for which she partnered with Magnum photographers; Rineke Dijkstra: Rehearsals (2016); Penelope Umbrico: Future Perfect (2016); and Paul Druecke: A Social Event Archive, 1997–2007 (2017). She has also brought in the film and video work of Charles Atlas, Anthony McCall, James Nares, and Ryan Trecartin. Sutcliffe oversaw the development of the Museum’s Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, in conjunction with the reinstallation of the photography and media arts collections, in 2015.

Among the exhibitions Sutcliffe organized at SFMOMA are Naoya Hatakeyama: Natural Stories (2012), developed in association with the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and The Provoke Era: Postwar Japanese Photography (2009), the first survey of SFMOMA’s internationally renowned collection of Japanese photography.

Sutcliffe has worked with internationally acclaimed artists for film screenings, lectures, and panels and has written for contemporary art and photography publications and artists books. 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.

The position of Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts is underwritten by the Herzfeld Foundation.

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.