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Artist in residence Krista Allenstein at Sidney Woodland Preserve

Krista Allenstein: Artist in Residence at Sidney Woodland Preserve

August 9, 2020  |  Topics: featured artist

The Natural Realm presents Krista Allenstein, who is one of 12 artists participating in a year-long residency program called ARTservancy, a collaboration between Gallery 224 in Port Washington and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. The mission of ARTservancy is to promote the visionary work of both the artists and conservationists. Each artist has selected a preserve to spend time in and to engage with.

Artist Statement by Krista Allenstein

Although raised in a small town, I have always felt a strong connection to urban settings.  I attended college in New York and later resided in San Francisco, Chicago and finally Milwaukee.  The green spaces in these cities were life rafts in a sea of concrete, especially in the summer.  I cannot imagine a NYC without Central Park or the small park on which I lived, Gramercy Park.  As I stepped into these spaces, my heart would settle and my senses would focus on something other than the distractions of the busy city.  For this reason, I selected Sidney Woodland Preserve in Glendale as my ARTservancy land trust site.

Reaching. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020

Sidney Woodland Preserve is a small (3.75 acres) triangle of land situated between a residential neighborhood and railroad tracks. Unlike my beloved city green spaces, with their manicured paths and engineered landscape, Sidney Woods is intended to grow as it will and certainly not at the comfort or convenience of humans.  Indeed, the neighbors who campaigned to have the area preserved when it was for sale did so because they enjoyed having the untouched parcel of land as a buffer between their homes and the railroad.

Krista in Sidney Woods
Krista in Sidney Woods. Photo by Eddee Daniel

In the autumn, winter and early spring, I enjoyed roaming Sidney Woods freely.  There was little evidence of people other than the occasional neighborhood kid or dog walker seeking a quiet path.  The woods contain a few areas of wetlands and I loved watching them change with the seasons.  I am not educated in native plant species and my knowledge of trees is limited, so my appreciation of Sidney Woods was one of color, shape and texture.  I love that Sidney Woods is a small slice of wild for the kids in the neighborhood to roam. These children will not have to pretend to be explorers because every week will present a new patch of growth to investigate.  It is also wonderful to know that fauna can truly be undisturbed and hidden within, from the bustle without.

Because You Are
Because You Are

A few have noted that my work is wholly indicative of a different focus. This is not without reason.  I exclusively paint neon signs, which are typically not found in the woods. Thus, ARTservancy was a challenge for me.  I wanted to find a way to honor Sidney Woods while staying true to my artistic voice and I enjoyed finding a way to meld the two.

Lightbuds. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020

The surface on which I paint in oil, is hardboard covered by vintage maps.  In each painting, I attempted to feature the location of Sidney Woods on the map with a circle.  These circles also serve as a way to establish a common thread throughout the series.  It was entertaining to choose which element of Sidney Woods to transform into neon or lightbulb.

Tangles. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020

 I am calling this series, SIGNS OF SIDNEY WOODS.  While traditional neon signs serve the purpose of attracting the attention and the potential business of customers, these Sidney Woods Signs seem to say, “Come on in, enjoy me, but please don’t touch a thing. Oh, and if you don’t mind, I am going to make it pretty difficult for you to walk around, because…well, I can.” 


Common Ground
Common Ground
Nest. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020
Stand. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020
Turkey. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020
Good Karma
Good Karma
Cattails. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020
Tree. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020
Growing Bulbs.
Growing Bulbs. Sidney Woodland Preserve 2020


Krista Allenstein in Sidney Woodland Preserve.
Krista Allenstein in Sidney Woodland Preserve.
Photo by Eddee Daniel

Krista Allenstein finds objects with a past life fascinating. She enjoys giving old items a purpose and an opportunity to exist in a new way. In an effort to find a new use for her collection of vintage maps, she began to use them as the foundation of her paintingsof mid-century roadside neon signs, their wording altered to transform the signs into positive and encouraging beacons. Because the designs of the original signs–motel and liquor stores, diners and drive-in theatres–attracted customers during a time when not all customers were welcome, Krista wants to reinvent the purpose of these signs to attract and welcome everyone.  A graduate of the School of Visual Arts (NYC), Krista has enjoyed a warm welcome into the Milwaukee art world. Opportunities have included exhibitions at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts, Oconomowoc Arts Festival, Frank Juarez Gallery, Gallery 2622, 2020 Wisconsin Artist Biennial, and the current 2019-2020 ARTservancy appointment. 

Sidney Woodland Preserve is owned and managed by Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy. For more information about Sidney Woodland Preserve go to the MALC website.

This is the latest in our series of featured artists, which is intended to showcase the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, click here. The work of the current ARTservancy artists in residence will be exhibited monthly at Gallery 224 beginning in September 2020. To meet the other ARTservancy artists in residence, click here.

All images courtesy of the artist, except as noted. The featured photo at the top of the artist at Sidney Woodland Preserve is by Eddee Daniel.