Though RAW:Natural Born Artists landed in Madison just last year, it has quickly built a community of upstart artists and other creative types, from hairstylists to musicians to hip-hop dancers. Now in 66 cities throughout the country, the organization strives to give artists in the first 10 years of their career the tools and exposure they need to thrive.
The local chapter's "Discovery" event packed the High Noon Saloon with photos, paintings and high-concept fashions last night, but that was just the beginning. Some of the most alluring elements were performances, which ranged from body-painting demonstrations and aerialist stunts to film screenings and live rock 'n' roll.
View this slideshow for a taste of the event, and peruse the notes below to learn more about some of the artists.
Notes on the slideshow:
1. Photography filled much of the High Noon's upstairs.
2. Eric Tobias' photos explore textures and patterns found in nature.
3. Sarah Smiley's photos channel glamour, romance and a tinge of rebellion through an array of pretty faces. The sign by her display reads "My camera only borrows your soul."
4. Painter Leticia Castillo conveys nuanced emotions through careful rendering of her subjects' eyes.
5. Sparkles meet gloom in a mixed-media work by Emma Dehlinger.
6. Barb Easton's handmade jewelry has an antique vibe.
7. The imposing characters in Ryan Robinson's paintings look out for fashion designer Rachel Frank as she readies a model for the runway.
8. Jewelry designer Barb Easton builds bracelets from ceramic beads and bone carved into flower shapes.
9. Hairstylist Candi Robbins and makeup artist Katrina King create dramatic looks for the runway.
10. Creating an intense look for one of the evening's models.
11. Locks and faces were some of the evening's most popular canvases.
12. RAW helps young artists network in addition to giving them a place to display their work.
13. Bailey Wallace, 22, made the trip to Madison from UW-Platteville, where she minors in photography. Though she's young, her love affair with cameras has been going on for quite a while. It all started when she snapped some photos on a whim her sophomore year of high school.
"I really love landscapes and flowers and macro anything," she says. "Macro is cool because you can get a really close look at details. I absolutely love details."
14. In addition to being RAW participants, Christopher Sheehan, 33, and his wife, Aurora, own the Baraboo art space Eleven:Eleven Visionary Arts Gallery. Christopher creates visual art and tattoos, and Aurora makes music. At "Discovery," their table was filled with Christopher's works, which range from custom-painted hats to elaborate paintings and posters.
The couple spends a lot of time thinking about consciousness and the ways it can be opened and altered. Christopher says his work is in the vein of psychedelic artist Alex Grey. Others, such as one of the evening's musicians, describe it a little differently.
"Whoa, I bought your poster at a head shop in Oshkosh. I love that thing!" she says, pointing to an elaborate black-and-white drawing that centers on a brain. Its title? "Conscious Existence," of course.
Christopher explains that many of his drawings take at least nine months to create since they're composed of hundreds of tiny dots, a technique known as stippling. Since the brain poster, he's moved toward compositions filled with elaborate patterns and bright colors reminiscent of certain types of Himalayan art.
15. Chelsea Z. of Lion's Mouth shares a song with an almost-full house.
16. UW-Madison art student Stephanie Krueger, 21, sits beneath a painting of her brother that doesn't look like anything else at the event. It's in the style of Chuck Close, a contemporary artist known for using gridded photos to create hyperrealistic paintings.
Krueger says RAW is her first big art show. She's still finding her own style, she admits, but figuring out how to present her art to the world is important as well.
"I don't really know anyone here, but I've met some really interesting people," she says. "It's fun, and it makes you feel like you're sort of part of a community of people who make art."
17. A model tantalizes the crowd during the fashion show.
18. Fashion designer Rachel Frank's creations reflect her dream of becoming a costumer.
19. Some of the evening's most impressive gowns illustrated the beauty of fluid movement.
20. One gown seemed like an elegant rendering of outer space.
21. The fashion-show participants gather for a group pose.
22. Dark, futuristic eveningwear was the focus of the fashion show.
23. Emcee Emma Dehlinger greets the audience.
24. Nicole Rae of the Traveling Suitcase pairs emotive vocals with precise drumming.
25. The Traveling Suitcase's traveling suitcase looks ready for a trip.
26. Barb Easton, 52, found out about RAW from a fellow jewelry designer who won an award at the organization's national competition. Though she sells her creations in shops such as Lake Mills' Sweet Lips, RAW represents a way to quickly reach a big audience filled with art and fashion lovers.
Her designs are an extension of something she holds dear: uniqueness.
"Everything I make and sell is one of a kind," she says.
Her display's backdrop is painted a pale turquoise, the same hue that covers her kitchen at home. Easton says she likes to share this color with others. It has slowly crept into some of her jewelry as well, such as a ceramic-bead bracelet, giving visitors a chance to feel as content as Easton does when she admires this beachy blue-green.
But this isn't Easton's favorite piece. If she had to choose, she'd pick a necklace made of antique brass chains, semiprecious pearls and small pieces of bone.
27. Fashion designer Rachel Frank, 26, landed a spot in the prestigious Chicago Fashion Incubator after graduating from the School at the Art Institute of Chicago. After serving as a RAW judge last year, she decided to show off some of her couture eveningwear in Wisconsin, where she grew up.
"When I was a kid, I used to cut apart my Barbies' dresses," she says. "Then, in 2002, I discovered Alexander McQueen, and I thought, 'Wow, somebody actually is making the kinds of things I want to make.'"
Frank describes the style of her designs as "futuristic juxtaposition," but her pieces are also about blending contrasting textures, such as silk and leather. They also tell a story in an unconventional way.
"Every piece I design is based around a character," she says.
28. The evening's visual artists take a bow.
RAW's next Madison event will be held at the High Noon Saloon on Wednesday, April 24.