Chasing Waterfalls With Fred Stonehouse

The gallery will be on display at the end of May.

Fred Stonehouse has been painting for decades, but in preparation for his upcoming show at the Tory Folliard Gallery, he had to address a challenging subject: painting running water.

“Painting moving water as something static is a little tricky,” says Stonehouse. “I always do it in sort of a stylized way – I’m not concerned about the reality of water, I’m more concerned with the idea of it.”

In this new collection, called “Falling Waters,” Stonehouse takes his signature mythological characters and places them in the foreground of cascading waterfalls along with more natural-looking wildlife. A human body with the head of a bear drools as it tightly grips a watermelon, unfazed by the nearby snake. A devil-like boy sweats profusely and spews water from his mouth as a solar eclipse plays out above.



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“Waterfalls are a symbol of passing time, and they’ve been used to symbolize death – they kill people,” says Stonehouse. “There’s this element of beauty and danger and life and death.” 

Stonehouse, one of Wisconsin’s best-known painters, has enjoyed an illustrious career. His work has been celebrated around the world, and some of his pieces are in the personal collections of celebrities such as Sheryl Crow and Madonna. His style is immediately recognizable – characters are often disproportionate and tattooed, featuring a mash-up of human and animal qualities.  

Stonehouse’s personal favorite from “Falling Waters” involves a stylized, Korean-art-inspired tiger pawing at an airborne fish. “[The fish] is the most naturalistic image in the whole show but it’s paired with this very unnaturalistic tiger,” Stonehouse says. “It’s something that I haven’t done quite exactly before.”

“Falling Waters” runs through May 28 at the Tory Folliard Gallery (233 N. Milwaukee St.).


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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