Tom Berenz lives and works in Wisconsin in the United State. Accomplished painter and associate professor at the State University, Berenz uses chaos as a metaphor in his work to discuss personal, socio-political, environmental and ideological ideas. His paintings are as complex as they are beautiful, playing with space, perspective and pattern. In his work, Tom reminds us that at the heart of complexity lies a simple truth; that even in the throes of chaos there is always a discernible, perhaps even destined, order if you seek it.

Berenz’s paintings are full of disguised violence: collapsing buildings, car crashes, plane crashes, melting snowmen, hurtling flower vases, wounded animals, and simultaneously imploding and exploding picnics proliferate beneath the frenetic but impenetrable surfaces of his canvases. Many of these are common, easily recognizable anxieties, but others employ a personal code developed by Berenz. The snowmen, for instance, represent his father, the flowers his mother; both deal with his fears about their eventual passing. Cut depicts a childhood accident in which he cut off his brother’s finger with an axe. Everywhere you look, the trappings of happy memories appear to be disintegrating and dissolving like the cake in “November Rain.”

Berenz was a Mary L. Nohl fellow for 2018 and Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. His paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally and featured in multiple publications, most notably, New American Paintings and Huffington Post. Berenz recieved his M.A from Northern Illiniois University and his M.F.A From University of Wisconsin – Madison. Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing 2013-present Art Department, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, Wisconsin.


Noted for his bold, vibrant paintings, Tom Berenz revels in using pattern and color to animate his work. Previous works dwelled on chaos and destruction seemingly in the aftermath of terrible natural events. Socks #17 shows a more restrained, orderly composition as he  projects his interest in blurring the lines between realism and abstraction. Inspired by Philip Guston’s shoe paintings (which referenced the confiscated clothing and death toll of the Holocaust) Berenz takes a more light-hearted approach, acknowledging that for some, deciding what socks to wear can initiate a strange internal dialogue centered upon external perceptions; Berenz lacks that degree of self-refection and consequently his socks never match.

Graduating from Northern Illinois University in 2008 with a Master of Arts degree in painting, Berenz’s work immediately attracted attention with juried selection into the national New American Paintings periodical in 2008, 2010 and 2013. Regular exhibitions around the Midwest were followed by a Master of Fine Art degree in 2D from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2012. The following year he took the position of assistant professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside, where he is also now chair of the Art Department.   In 2018 he awarded a Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship for Individual Artists to create new work or complete work in progress, firmly establishing him as a painter of note in the Midwest and beyond.

Graeme Reid
Director of Collections and Exhibitions
Museum of Wisconsin Art


Tom Berenz’s paintings reside in an ambiguous realm between reality, memory, and imagination. They strike us first as vibrating abstractions, only before revealing themselves instead as being abstracted. Abstracted from where and what is the question that keeps us engaged. They slowly reveal subtle references to solid objects we recognize from our universe. In his recent body of work, “The Sitter,” the object is defined, but unclear from immediate observation. But eventually the impression of the seated and fractured subject resolves. Not in a moment of clear and decisive recognition, but as an accumulation of instances and prolonged connection with the work. The compositions develop fitfully, like memory itself, calling into question the nature of perception, observation, and recollected thoughts themselves. This purposeful denial of resolution brings into question the relationship between the artist as objective producer and the viewer as reliable consumer of the subject matter. This destabilization is further reinforced almost paradoxically by Berenz’s clarity of rendering, which emphasizes solidity and volume, but just as quickly pulverizes and distorts it. As firm and resolute as these narrative elements seem, they tend to retreat into a thatch of directional painterly passages almost as soon as they are recognized. The whole and the sum of the parts of his paintings are always in a tug-of-war. This keeps his work in a constant state of tension, at once central and balanced, and radiating and chaotic. The appendages of the sitter that snakes through these large-scale paintings appear elegantly arranged even while they seem nervously tangled. This balance finally suggests a compositional and formal deftness that seems purposefully intent to keep us guessing, toggling helplessly between formal arrangements and carefully composed broken narratives. Rather than forcing us to settle on one read or another, they finally leave us with a sense that the story is one about the ambiguity of painting itself–a story about the fantastic dimensional wormholes that art can open up, allowing us to travel back-and-forth between dimensions like time travelers, between types of content like shape-shifters, and between reality and fantasy like we’re in a waking dream.

Shane McAdams


2013 Associate Professor of Painting and 2D, Art Department University of Wisconsin
2012 Master of Fine Arts – 2D, University of Wisconsin – Madison
2007 Master of Arts – Painting, Northern Illinois University
2005 Bachelor of Fine Arts – Graphic Communications and Painting, University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh


2023 AHAF TAIPEI 2022 – Taipei, Taiwan
2023 TBD, Hong Kong, China (upcoming)
2022 TBD, Thomas Dean Fine Art – Atlanta, Georgia (upcoming)
2022 Looney Picasso – Gallery 1988- Los Angeles, CA
2022 AHAF TAIPEI – Taipei, Taiwan
2019 Solo Exhibition, Lakeland College, Plymouth, WI USA
2018 Heavy Socks, Haggerty Museum, Milwaukee, WI USA
2018 Lost Socks, University of Wisconsin-Marinette, Marinette, WI USA
2017 Icy Flowers, Mount Mary, Milwaukee, WI USA
2016 Towards The North, James Watrous Gallery, Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, WI USA
2016 Three Feet Under, The Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac, WI USA
2015 Towards The North, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN USA
2015 Presently Absent, Giertz Gallery, Parkland College, Champaign, IL USA
2015 Reflections on the North, Illinois Wesleyan University, Merwin Gallery Bloomington, IL USA
2014 Paintings (Tom Berenz), McHenry County College, Crystal Lake, IL USA
2014 Near the North, Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI USA
2014 Into The Woods, Emory and Henry College, Emory, VA USA
2013 Past and Present, Gallery 204, Monmouth College, Monmouth, IL USA
2012 Velvet Hammer, Robert Bills Contemporary, Chicago, IL USA
2012 Collapse, The Arrowhead Room Gallery, Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, IL USA
2012 Piles, Wisconsin Art Museum, West Bend, WI USA
2012 Remnants, Art Lofts Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI USA
2011 Recent Paintings, Farnham Galleries, Simpson College, Indianola, IA USA
2011 Disasters – Anoka Ramsey College, Coon Rapids, MN USA
2011 Recent Paintings, River Edge Gallery, Thiensville, WI USA
2010 Naturally Unnatural, The University of Wisconsin, Waukesha, WI USA
2009 American Disasters, Caestecker Art Gallery, Ripon College, Ripon, WI USA
2009 Natural Decay, Windhover Art Center-Fond du Lac, WI USA
2009 Of Course and Never, The University of Wisconsin, Fond du Lac, WI USA
2008 Shortly Aftermath, Polk Gallery, University of Wisconsin,Oshkosh, WI USA
2008 We Should Have Heard It Coming, 214 Gallery, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL USA
2005 Urban Invasion, Allen Priebe Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, WI USA
2005 Sprawl, Polk Gallery Library, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, WI USA


2022 ONE ART Taipei, Taipei, Taiwan
2022 FNG and Friends, Taipei, Taiwan
2022 KAIF Pulse, FNG ART, Seoul Korea
2022 Kawii Seoul, FNG ART, Seoul Korea
2022 Director’s Choice Exhibition – 19 Karen – Mermaid Beach, Australia2022 2022 Christmas Show, Galleri 47, Naestved, Denmark
2022 Group Exhibition, Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, NJ
2021 New Beginnings, Galleri 47, Naestved, Denmark
2021 Group Exhibition, 19 Karen Gallery, Mermaid Beach, Australia
2021 Group Exhibition, J Willott Gallery, Palm Desert, CA
2020 Wisconsin Triennial, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI
2020 Fundraiser Exhibition, Wisconsin Art Museum, West Bend, WI
2019 Indiana Green, 10th Year Anniversary. Cedarburg Cultural Center, Cedarburg, WI USA
2018 Narrative Figurative, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL USA
2018 Surfaces: Large Scale Contemporary Abstract Painting, Hardy Gallery, Door County, WI USA
2018 Hinternational Paper: The Birth of the Wisconsin Flat File Project, Real Tinsel, Milwaukee, WI USA
2018 Space Is A Place, VAR Gallery, Milwaukee, WI USA
2018 Mary Nohl 15th Anniversery, Haggerty Museum, Milwaukee,WI USA
2018 PLAY: An Iconography of Sport, Caldwell University, Caldwell, NJ USA
2018 SWEET, Golden and Delicious, Northern Illinios University Art Museum, DeKalb, IL USA
2017 The Contemporaries, Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, NJ USA
2017 Untitled, Hardy Gallery, Door County, WI USA
2017 NOW Figuration, Portrait Society, Milwaukee, WI
2017 UW-Parkside Faculty Exhibition, Foundation Gallery, University of Wiscosnin, Kenosha, WI USA
2016 Wisconsin Artists Biennial, Wisconsin Art Museum, West Bend, WI USA
2016 Wallflower, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee WI USA
2016 Luck of the Draw, Madison Central Library, Madison, WI USA
2016 Big Ten(t), Shim Gallery, Chicago, IL USA
2016 On or About: Rockwell Kent, Fountain Gallery, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN USA
2016 Exquisite Corpse, Feather and Bone Gallery, Appleton WI USA
2016 Lost and Found, Madison Central Library, Madison, WI USA
2016 ReMix, Gallerie C.O.A, Montreal CANADA
2016 The Colors I Am Inside, Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, NJ USA
2016 Big Ten(t), Arthelix Gallery, Brooklyn, NY USA
2015 Out of Madison, Wisconsin Art Museum, West Bend, WI USA
2015 28th Annual Northern National Art Competition, Nicolet Art Gallery, Rhinelander, WI USA
2015 CHROMA, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee WI USA
2015 Art-Inspired Music Project, McNally Smith College of Music, Saint Paul, MN USA
2015 Materiality, Aurora Public Art Commission, APAC Gallery, Aurora, IL USA
2015 UW-Parkside Faculty Exhibition, Foundation Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Kenosha WI USA
2015 Salon Show, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee WI USA
2015 Indiana Green, Frank Juaz Gallery, Sheboygan WI USA
2015 45 North2, The Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac ,WI USA
2015 The National Weather Center Biennale, Norman, OK USA
2015 DUCKS LA, Minotaur Projects, Los Angeles, CA USA
2014 45 North, The Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac ,WI USA
2014 Bloom, Usable Space Gallery, Milwaukee,WI USA
2014 De Composition, Allen Priebe Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, WI USA
2014 Face Melt, Circuit 12 Contemporary, Dallas, TX USA
2014 Forward 2014: A Survey of Wisconsin Art Now, Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI USA
2013 Wisconsin Artists Biennial, Wisconsin Art Museum, West Bend, WI USA
2013 The Landscape, Tellus360 Gallery, Lancaster, PA USA
2013 Fresh Paint – media wall on Commerce Square, Philadelphia, PA USA
2013 Escape Velocity, Mirus Gallery, San Francisco, CA USA
2013 The National Weather Center Biennale, Norman, OK USA
2013 Wild America, Commonwealth Gallery, Madison, WI USA
2012 Perfect Storm, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY USA
2012 Dream Continuum, Circuit 12 Contemporary, Dallas, TX USA
2012 Wisconsin Contemporary, Art Start Gallery, Rhinelander, WI USA
2012 Post Apocalypse – Gallery Project, Ann Arbor, MI USA
2012 Lighting Strikes Twice, Circuit 12 Contemporary, Dallas, TX USA
2012 Lighting Strikes Twice, Mary Tomás Gallery, Dallas, TX USA
2011 Suburbia, Platform Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA USA
2011 Rich and Creamy, MPAC, Saint Francis University – Joliet, IL USA


2018 Mary L. Nohl Suitcase Export Fund – The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund
2017 Established Artist Fellowship – The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund
2016 First Place Award – Wisconsin Artist Biennial
2015 Patron Award – Annual Northern National Art Competition
2015 Best of Show – De Composition – University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
2013 Best Painting Award – NWC Biennale
2012 Nominated -MFA Joan Mitchell Grant – University of Wisconsin-Madison
2012 Graduate Teaching Assistanship – University of Wiscosin-Madison
2011 Honored Instructor Award – University of Wisconsin-Madison
2011 Graduate Teaching Assistanship – University of Wiscosin-Madison
2011 Best Non Objective Painting Award – Wisconsin Biennial
2011 Short Listed – West Prize Collection Competition
2010 Finalist – William and Dorothy Yeck Award , Miami University Young Painters Competition
2009 Merit Award – Wisconsin Artist Biennial


2018 The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Award – exhibition catalog
2018 The Nohl Fellowship: Fifteen Years – exhibition catalog
2016 BIG TEN(T) – exhibition catalog
2016 Wisconsin People and Ideas Magazine – Tom Berenz – Workman Blue, Volume 62, Issue 5, Winter
2016 Wisconsin Artist Biennial – Wisconsin Museum of Art, exhibition catalog
2016 Rockwell Kent – Purdue University, exhibition catalog
2015 Staylight Issue – (cover artist)
2015 Gambling the Aisle – (featured artist)
2015 The National Weather Center Biennale, exhibition catalog
2014 Wisconsin Artist Biennial – Wisconsin Museum of Art, exhibition catalog
2013 Fresh Paint Magazine, – Issue 1 (cover artist)
2013 New American Paintings – MFA Annual, catalog 105
2013 The National Weather Center Biennale, exhibition catalog
2010 New American Paintings, – Midwestern Competition, catalog 89
2010 Flagpole Magazine – Water Under the Bridge, Brian Hitselberger
2010 New American Paintings – 15th Year Anniversary catalog
2010 Deluge – Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, exhibition catalog
2010 Wisconsin Triennial – Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, exhibition catalog
2009 Studio Visit – The Open Studios Press, Volume 7
2009 Wisconsin Artist Biennial – Rahr -West Art Museum, exhibition catalog
2009 The Triennial – Wagner Opera House – Art House Space, exhibition catalog
2008 New American Paintings – Midwestern Competition, catalog 77
2008 Dark Sky Magazine – Featured artist of the week, issue #9.1
2007 Space 900 – Inspiring Change, exhibition catalog
2007 60115 – Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, exhibition catalog



Sign Up!