The Promega Spring Art Showcase will exhibit pieces over the next three months by three couples – six artists whose works have evolved as a result of their loving, enriching relationships.

The exhibit, titled “pARTners,” kicked off with a symposium in which each artist discussed their creative process Tuesday, March 10, at Promega BioPharmaceutical Technology Center, 5445 E. Cheryl Pkwy. That was followed by an opening reception hundreds attended — marveling at the various works adorning the building’s interior. The exhibit is displaying until Monday, June 1.

Exhibiting artists are couples Theresa Abel and Tim O’ Neill; Anette Hansen and Andy Rubin; and Cynthia Quinn and John Ribble.

Showcase curator and producer Daniel Swadener told the Star he wanted to highlight how cooperation and partnership is often the key to how an artist finds success.

The artists are all close friends of his, he said, and he wanted their work to tell the story of how their bonds have been enriched as a result of their joint love for the arts. And, of course, he wanted to highlight how their artwork has grown over the course of their respective relationships.

Abel and O’Neill split their time between Stoughton’s Abel Contemporary Gallery and their Madison based studios. Abel works in oil paint, silver point drawing and gilding and O’Neill creates furniture pieces with a modern twist, he said during the symposium.

Hansen is a photographer and ceramicist – exhibiting works from both disciplines at the showcase – and Rubin works in print. He said he manipulates and prints over historical images, re-contextualizing them to change the way the viewer might have perceived it.

Both Quinn and Ribble said during the event they have extensive careers as graphic artists, designers and instructors. But as Quinn experiments with textiles and hand-embroidery, Ribble paints en plein air landscapes, which is French for “in open air.”

Ribble said he started with oil paints, but later transitioned into pastels.

Ancient and modern

Abel’s paintings incorporate compositions that offer her own perspectives of modernism and medieval times.

O’Neill, on the other hand, blends his furniture pieces with a refined modern design, with which he combines solid woods and highly figured veneers, he said at the symposium.

The couple, as evidenced in their pieces, is inspired by all things ancient and new. Abel’s works tell stories with figures and elaborate patterns that draw heavily from her background in the Catholic church and through her love of medieval Italian paintings, she said.

In Abel’s painting titled “Love, Hate & Sorrow” for example,” three women stand in front of a gold leaf background. Their dresses feature geometrical patterns while their faces are reminiscent of medieval paintings with wide eyes and elongated noses. But their bodies are separated, fragmented by four rectangles. The piece hung on the second floor of the showcase venue.

Abel said during the symposium she uses her medium of art to question the foundations of religion and morality.

“When people consider their own morality, how might that influence their view of morality?” she asked the audience. “That’s what I think about all the time.”

O ‘Neills interest in anthropology and archeology has led to researching Mayan artwork, African textiles and Chinese sculpture, he said. That has inspired his usage of traditional woodworking techniques, such as carving and burning. He said he loves the contrast between the rich dark colors the fire leaves behind against the untouched wood.

Re-imagining the ordinary

Hansen, being both a ceramicist and photographer, makes forms that are crisp with soothing color schemes and vibrant glazes — as evidenced by the many of her exhibited pieces.

Her “Leaf and Small Bowls” ceramic is an example of such shine, the leaf a bright green and the bowls with the same green exterior and deep teal interior.

Like her partner, Rubin, Hansen has mastered the art of printmaking – the Spring Art Showcase website calls her a self-proclaimed “Jill-of-all-Trades.”

On the venue’s second floor, spectators absorb her three prints of her trash installation — various photos depicting wrappers, bottles and containers on concrete. During the symposium, Hansen said most of the images are from a single walk.

“People can’t be bothered to take a few extra steps to pick up trash,” she said of what inspired the installation.

Rubin has worked as a master printer for an extensive tenure, from 1989 to 2015 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Tandem Press, but he teaches printmaking at the university, a news release states. His interest has lately been illustrating history and time, but in a way that mirrors how we live.

“Fool’s Pillars,” is a monoprint and birch bark collage by Rubin.

It’s one of the many prints he has re-contextualized to reflect our impact on the environment, how we are related and how time wears down how we see the world around us, Rubin said during the event.

He added they reflect humor and human folly.

Inspired by nature

Quinn and Ribble have had similar career paths but have veered off to pursue their own studies of art.

It seems nature inspires both of them, as evidenced in their pieces.

It was during a remodel of the couple’s home studio when Quinn began experimenting with textiles and hand-embroidery, she said at the symposium, because she could work anywhere and didn’t need much space. She uses whimsical texture, embroidery threads, beads and hand-dyed fabrics to make her creations.

For example, “Foraging Crow” is a depiction of the bird on top of a deep blue background with some lavender embroidery patterns. The bird sits atop a beaded ground – the beads are of golds, blacks and silvers with strings adorning the piece’s bottom half. The crow seems to be searching for food.

She said it is especially when she observes the animal’s behaviors and in its natural habitat, she is more invested in what she’s creating.

“I can do a better job as an artist,” Quinn said.

Ribble used to use oil paints, but has transitioned to pastels for his en plein air pieces. He paints landscapes, illustrating the relationship between the sky, the land and the water and how it is all connected.

He said during the symposium he especially enjoys telephone wires and how they break the scene — his composition — into different pieces.

Ribble said it creates a lot of movement. He also likes old buildings and working by streams, next to “fabulous” varieties of plants, shapes and colors.

Email Emilie Heidemann at or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.