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Artist Khari Turner explores identity and history through water and paint

Museum of Wisconsin Art
Artist Khari Turner

Milwaukee is a city built by and through the water. For artist Khari Turner, this relationship with the water would come to be a defining part of his work. Turner’s work mixes paint and water from places of historical significance, cascading over canvas to reveal, define and seemingly obscure human bodies and features.

His premiere exhibition, called “Mirorring Reflection,” is currently at the Museum of Wisconsin Art through July 10.

Turner grew up in Milwaukee and he says his relationship with Lake Michigan informs his work in a lot of different ways. "Water becomes the connection between a lot of different people, and so the connection between me and water is kind of meditative."

"The water has its own kind of life force," he says. "... It has its own kind of history, and so the work captures the history of that water before it evaporates."

The ocean, lake and river water that he uses in his paintings stretches from across the United States to Africa.

Incorporating water from these various places creates a connection to history, and particularly, to the history of Turner's family migration to the north.

"I have all of this history, all these different things and all this like metaphorical stuff, but then, at the end of the day, like when you look at the image like I want you to feel joy or nostalgia in one way or another," says Turner.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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