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It’s been seven months since Todd Mrozinski became The Pfister Hotel’s artist in residence and he has already created more than 100 paintings. Mrozinski, who currently produces primarily shadow paintings, traces peoples’ profiles and then paints them, creating portraits which look uncannily like the model despite the lack of detail.
"The shadows give us just enough, and the viewer’s mind completes the rest," says Mrozinski.
The shadow painting models are usually Pfister guests and staff or friends and colleagues of Mrozinski’s. "It’s a collaboration between myself and whoever is sitting and loaning me their shadow," he says.
He also paints shadows of flowers, chandeliers and other things that he observes in the hotel.
"I am painting the light and soul of The Pfister," he says.
Recently, Mrozinski painted the shadow of a Pfister security guard, James. "He was the stillest person I have traced," he says. "He said, ‘that’s 14 years in the military for you.’"
Another time, he traced Victor DeLorenzo and Janet Schiff from the band Nineteen Thirteen. "We had so much fun in the studio. We just played," says Mrozinski. "I traced Victor four times."
People like to be a part of the shadow painting project because the process is quick and, if they choose to purchase the painting, the work is affordable.
"People often tell me they feel giddy and joyful – like a child – when I am tracing their shadow," says Mrozinski. "That comes out in the painting."
Many of the portraits are currently on display in "People," a show in The Pfister’s pop-up gallery located in the front of the hotel, that also features portraits by Fred Bell, Demitra Copoulos, Bennie Higgins and Della Wells.
Mrozinski also paints The Pfister’s fresh flowers, which are rotated often. "I like to play with the surface and texture of a painting, the immediacy of wet paint and how that resonates with our emotions and mood," he says.
The Pfister is one of the only hotels in the country that has an on-site, paid artist – as well as a writer. The application process for the 2016-17 artist is already underway.
"I enjoy the space here," says Morzinski. "Even though it is very public it feels very private."
Mrozinski, who graduated from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, also works from a studio in The Nut Factory located in Riverwest.
Collaboration is extremely important to Mrozinski and he uses his studio to showcase the work of other artists, too. During the last gallery night, he had the work of seven other artists on display with his own. Adolph Rosenblatt’s sculpture remained in the space for weeks after, and inspired Mrozinski to create a more textured painting.
"I was unconsciously inspired by Adolph’s piece," he says. "I am going to miss it when it’s gone."
Although he’s painted so many shadow paintings, Mrozinski says he’s more inspired than ever. Because it gets dark earlier, the light in the hotel has changed and Mrozinski is enjoying how that affects the shadows in The Pfister, particularly the opulent Imperial ballroom.
"I plan to do some larger paintings in there soon," he says.
As for the future, Mrozinski is going to go with the flow. "I know I will be painting and selling paintings," he says. "I don’t question that anymore because it becomes a creative block. Instead, I live in a constant flow of creation and just let it all happen."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.