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Brigitta Richter

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Warmth.  It emanates from visual artist Brigitta Richter’s work, and from the artist herself.  It’s hard to articulate exactly what draws me to her pieces, but part of it is the use of color (I’m not a fan of a neutral palette, in art or everyday life), the fluidity, and, well, what I mentioned at the very beginning--the warmth.

Brigitta Richter (photo credit: Joe Barr)
Visiting her at Mudhaus Studio one chilly autumn afternoon, that warmth radiated out again as Richter welcomed me in and offered me a hot cup of tea.  Mudhaus is a combination studio, teaching space and retail area that Richter opened with friend and fellow artist Vince Gedgaudas three years ago.  Formerly the home of a plaster mold manufacturing company, Mudhaus carries on the tradition in some fashion, with kilns in the lower level and some of the old plaster molds still on the shelves and partially used for embellishments on clay items.  The former owner of the plaster business rents the space to Richter and Gedgaudas, and she says it makes her happy when the children and grandchildren of the former owner come to Mudhaus and say that they feel at home and can reminisce on great  memories there.  Along with special events for adults and children, Richter hosts monthly “painting parties”, where anyone--with previous painting experience or not--can come in and complete a painting within a few hours.  Richter gives step by step instruction and guidance, patiently encouraging participants.  Mudhaus also serves as a sort of “drop in” work space; both Richter and Gedgaudas work on pieces there during open hours, and welcome other artists to bring in projects-in-progress too.

Some of the paintings that Richter teaches how to create during "painting parties"
Quickly getting engrossed in our conversation that fall day, I was surprised to find out that Richter hasn’t always been an artist.  She seems so at ease when she’s in front of a canvas, and her work has a depth and detail to it that makes it seem as if she’s been doing this for most of her life.

Richter was born in Munich, Germany, and has lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin for ten years.  She trained as a dental technician early in her career, something she credits as helping her in her work today.  The connection to her current work in clay, acrylic and oil paints and ink, she explained, is that the dental training she got helped to fine tune her spatial and technical abilities.  Having to create molds for dental work gave her the experience of working with pliable mediums, and having to pay close attention to sometimes minute details has aided her as well.

A sculpture the artist had just begun on the day I visited Mudhaus
Richter began her work as an artist largely while she was a stay at home mom.  She says that she’s the type of person who enjoys new experiences and trying new things, so she took up painting when her children were young and she had some time to devote to dabbling in it.  After moving to Kenosha, she joined the Kenosha Art Association (where she met Gedgaudas), and soon began exploring other media.  Painting is still a favorite, but the walls of Mudhaus are lined with mugs and other vessels that she’s created too.

Also a Reiki practitioner, Richter has made a series of ceramic chakra angel necklaces, each with the purpose of balancing energy in a specific area of the body.

Encaustic painting is the latest thing that Richter is trying her hand at.  This is generally done with raw pigment mixed with molten beeswax.  A heat source has to be passed over the surface after applying the mixture, and that melts the wax a second time and fuses it with the pigment.  Richter says that engrossing herself in the process has helped her to adjust to her daughter going off to college.  She explained that, with encaustic painting, there’s an element of having to just let the finished product come out however it will; you can only control the wax to a certain degree, and then, it’s left up to chance.

An encaustic painting in progress
Richter exhibits and has items for sale at Mudhaus Studio and the Pollard Gallery in Kenosha, and has entered pieces in shows and exhibits at other galleries as well.  But, she says, for her the enjoyment is in just creating, whether or not anything sells.  Her face practically beaming the entire time that we talked about art, creativity, and life in general, she verbalized what anyone who perceives the joyfulness in her work may have already guessed: “I feel so blessed to be doing what I do.”

To find out more about Mudhaus Studio and see more examples of Richter's work, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Mudhaus.