Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cairn & Cloud at the Oak Park Art League

Opening tomorrow—along with the "Behind the Wall" exhibition at the Oak Park Art League—is an installation directed by Corinne D. Peterson. The installation—referred to as the Cairn Project—focuses attention on the collective expression of trauma transitioning to hope. Created within workshops directed by Peterson, the participants consisting of adults, teens and children, produce "rocks" and "cloud pieces" during Shaping Life Workshops. The concept is to create clay rocks incorporating memories of trauma and porcelain tokens to represent the inner light. The installation presents the two formats together as metaphor for the transition and transformation of experiences as a collective healing. The imagery is beautiful.

Join me at the Opening Reception, tomorrow from 7-9pm. The Cairn & Cloud installation will be on view through November 4th. The Oak Park Art League is located at 720 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois. Learn more about the Cairn Project at

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Behind the Wall at the Oak Park Art League

Chloe Beltran “Haunting Sensations”

When I was asked to act as Juror for the Behind the Wall exhibition at The Oak Park Art League, I knew that I would be confronted with some difficult choices regarding the content of the work. With a history of creating various approachable exhibitions addressing human rights atrocities, I was eager to explore the entries alluding to the specific topic of domestic violence. I found a variety of work filled with raw emotion and ultimately made selections that would speak to a diverse audience—work that would tell a story through emotion, generally without the use of a specific narrative. These pieces teeter at the edge of a subject that is difficult to publicly address and challenging to visually represent.

As I repeatedly reviewed the submitted imagery, I found deeply emotional mark making, tortured surfaces and fragmented figurative forms. The powerful visual elements of dripping pigment, with scratched and scared veneers—imply physical and mental abuse in a way that words can’t approach.

“Haunting Sensations” by Chloe Beltran is a wonderful example of the conceptual use of raw emotion through the layering of aggressive marks, surface manipulation and wet media dragged down by gravity. In this beautifully constructed composition, a figure emerges from darkness created by layers of scraped and scratched oil. The complimentary color palette only seems to add to the abrupt drama of the arrangement.

One of the most literal images in the exhibition, “Victim 3”, is a distressed photographic image of a child, produced by Beverly Poppe. The image presents the cold and emotionless face of a child—a witness to the atrocities of their environment. There is sorrowful honesty here—a pain that the child will carry throughout their life… a pain that may never be verbalize.

The submissions included imagery that focus on confidence, survival and empowerment. Sheila Ganch offered a multi-figurative sculpture titled “Diversity”. The piece presents a group of eight majestic female forms standing together in unity. Made of ceramic stoneware, aluminum and limestone, the figures are scared and distressed yet stand poised and confident.

Kathryn Scott’s “Her Spirit Never Leaves Her” is another example of hope. This beautiful black & white photograph presents the silhouette of a woman strolling along a waterway… emerging from shadow into the sunlight. The water flickers with glistening reflections, evoking the idea of rebirth.

The most amazing works of art have multiple interpretations as to their content. This idea holds true for all of the works included in Behind the Wall. Each piece—in some way—references the personal horrors of domestic violence, yet a positive interpretation can be construed in each. The viewer holds the key.

The exhibition opens this Friday October 14 from 7-9pm at The Oak Park Art League located at 720 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois. The exhibition continues through November 4th.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Debi Cornwall at the Filter Photo Festival

The 8th Annual Filter Photo Festival took place this past weekend in Chicago. Attracting fine art photographers from around the country, the event offered a variety of workshops, artist lectures, portfolio reviews and social programming. Participating periodically since 2010, I was again asked to take part as one of the event’s portfolio reviewers. I spent this past Sunday meeting some amazing artists, discussing various visual concepts and exploring some wonderful imagery.

The event organizers sent each reviewer a list of the photographers who had scheduled a time slot to meet with them. From the very beginning of my participation, I found this helpful. With the use of the Internet, the list offered me the opportunity to review each artist and the history of their published work—providing me a bit of insight… an extended context to review the work. During my research, I found that many of the artists had been creating work focused on human rights issues. I was intrigued since these atrocities have been my curatorial focus for the past decade.

The imagery of one artist is still seared into my mind. That is the work of Conceptual Documentary Artist [and Former Civil Rights Attorney], Debi Cornwall. Debi Cornwall’s work documents life at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. Cornwall’s project, “GITMO at Home, GITMO at Play” explores the grim absurdity of life for those displaced to Guantanamo Bay after 9/11, as well as the soldiers who guard them.

Sixty-one men are currently being detained at Guantanamo Bay—many of who were cleared for release years ago. They are being held as “unprivileged belligerents.” Cornwall’s conceptual photographic documentary project is powerful but a second series of photographs titled “Beyond GITMO” is—to say the least—heart wrenching. Cornwall presents a view of the alleged terrorists after they have been cleared of charges and released. Hundreds of these men were held for years without being charged or tried. When they were released, they returned home or were displaced to foreign countries. Cornwall’s imagery presents them within their environment. She creates powerful portraits replicating the same regulations required of her while photographing at GITMO—concealing the identity of the subject. The situation is horrifyingly offensive and Cornwall’s imagery is powerfully moving.

This March, a book documenting Debi Cornwall's GITMO Bay Project will be published. You can learn more about the upcoming book release as well as the coinciding exhibitions at:

I hope to see you, next year, at the 9th Annual Filter Photo Festival, which will be held again at the Millennium Knickerbocker. The dates are: September 21–24, 2017. You can learn more about the event at:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Art for Social Change...

This October—presented at the Oak Park Art League’s historic Carriage House Gallery—the Art League will partner with Sarah’s Inn for a fine art exhibition that brings awareness to issues surrounding domestic violence. The exhibition—titled “Behind the Wall” —references the isolation, suffering, healing and recovery experienced by victims of this human rights issue.

I will be the acting Juror for the exhibition—looking for work that best defines the themes surrounding domestic violence – with both conceptual and literal interpretations.

The exhibit, which will take place during Chicago Arts and Humanities Month, will be on view for a large audience. The Oak Park Art League is one of 200 confirmed sites, participating in this year's “Open House Chicago” on October 15 & 16. More than 1,000 visitors per day are expected to visit the exhibition.

Entry information can be found on the Oak Park Art League web site at: Deadline for submission is August 31st.

Sarah’s Inn services and initiatives focus on ending relationship violence through domestic violence crisis intervention, community education, and violence prevention programs for youth. Sarah’s Inn works throughout the socioeconomically diverse region of Chicago’s West Side neighborhoods and Western suburbs.

Founded in 1921, the Oak Park Art League is one of Illinois’ longest, continually running non-profit visual arts organizations, serving Chicago’s western suburbs as an exhibition site for artists and a center for high quality art education.

“Art for Social Change” programs and exhibitions are sponsored in part by the Oak Park Area Arts Council, Rotary of Oak Park/River Forest and the Illinois Arts Council; a State Agency.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Breaking Criminal Traditions at the Human Rights Institute Gallery of Kean University

The entrance to
The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions
at the Human Rights Institute Gallery of Kean University, Union New Jersey

This past March, I had the honor of speaking at the United Nations, Commission on the Status of Women-60th session. The session—Chaired by social activist, Cheryl Jefferson—was titled “Change Artists: Using the Arts to Leverage Change” and the ideas that were discussed were based on an always evolving traveling fine art exhibition titled “The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions.” As the Curator for the exhibition, my contribution to the discussion focused on the conception of the show, my curatorial selection process, and the project’s evolution over the past three years.

Earlier this week, I installed the latest version of “… Breaking Criminal Traditions” at the Human Rights Institute Gallery of Kean University in Union, New Jersey. The show consists of more than 50 works-of-art —painting, drawing, prints, sculpture, photography, and mixed media—created by twenty-two artists from around the country. A video tour of a past show—featuring Cheryl Jefferson—is projected to an adjacent outside public space… sparking interest and inviting onlookers into the expansive exhibition space.

The content of the exhibition calls attention to ongoing ancient rituals that continue to kill or maim millions of people each year—yet are not considered crimes. The interpretative content addressed violations such as honor killing, child marriage, human trafficking, and acid violence. Using the beauty of high-quality fine art pieces, the intent is to raise awareness of human rights issues and—in doing so—open a dialogue that may encourage change. The exhibition is designed to begin an exchange of ideas—raising social consciousness, which is the first step in preventing the continuation of these horrific acts.

The substance of each show is reevaluated, re-imagined and then chosen for each specific venue. With various human rights issues in mind, I select work that is approachable, yet makes a visual connection to the atrocities. Many of the exhibiting artists never intended that their work define these subjects. The work that is included is selected to allude to the issues—the meaning ultimately decided by the interpretation of the viewer.

An Opening Reception for “The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions” is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4th from 5-8 pm. The College Hour, Pre-Reception Programming with Cheryl Jefferson, will begin at 3:30. The Human Rights Institute Gallery is located at 1000 Morris Avenue in Union, New Jersey. The gallery is roughly fifteen-minutes via Uber from the Newark airport. Gallery Hours are Monday thru Wednesday: 11:00am–6:00pm, Thursday: 11:00am–4:30pm, and Friday: 11:00am–4:00pm Exhibitions are free and open to the public. Additional information on this project can be found at:

The exhibition includes works of art by: Carol Brookes [Chicago,IL], Corinna Button (Chicago, IL), James Deeb (Evanston, IL), Sheila Ganch (Chicago, IL), Claire Girodie (Baltimore, MD), Charles Gniech (Chicago, IL), Sergio Gomez (Chicago, IL), Andrea Harris (Chicago, IL), Teresa Hofheimer (Chicago, IL),  Lelde Kalmite (Chicago, IL), Paula Kloczkowski Luberda (Naperville, IL), Richard Laurent (Chicago, IL), Kathy Liao (Seattle, WA), Chandrika Marla (Northbrook, IL), Zoriah Miller (New York, NY, Paris, France), Joyce Polance (Chicago, IL), Nancy Rosen (Chicago, IL), Lorraine Sack (Tucson, AZ), Dominic Sansone (St. Charles, IL), Valerie Schiff (Evanston, IL), Barbara Simcoe (Omaha, NE), and Anne Smith Stephan (Wilmette, IL)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Deanna Krueger: Shards

Deanna Krueger, Thalassa, Acrylic monotype prints on recycled medical diagnostic film, [X-Ray, MRI film], staples 62" x 63"

After living on the planet for a while, life begins to fall into a comforting rhythm—until that repetitive beat gets unexpectedly disrupted. In that startling moment, everything seems to freeze. Once breath reenters the body, there is reassessment, reinvention and an attempt to continue forward. The disruption acknowledges fear and mortality and yet offers an opportunity to explore human resilience.

These thoughts are triggered by the fascinating works created by Chicago Fine Artist, Deanna Krueger, currently on view at the Olympia Centre, located at 737 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. I’ve known Krueger for a number of years and have exhibited with her on numerous occasions. The surfaces that she creates are both abruptly haunting… with shards joined by thousands of staples—and peacefully mesmerizing as the multi-faceted surfaces, glisten like a tranquil lake in the moonlight.

Krueger works in metaphor. She offers the viewer an unspoken narrative with her large-format wall pieces that exist somewhere between a two-dimensional painting and three-dimensional sculpture. She alludes to a storyline, simply by her choice of materials. Utilizing medical diagnostic film—an obsolete material that was used to obtain detailed sectional images of the internal structure of the body—now extinct due to the technology of medical digital imagery. Krueger applies loose layers of paint over the film and then shreds the visual evidence of the medical findings. The aggressive invader—that has been caught on film—is disguised and denied. The film is painted, torn, repositioned, and then stapled together to create beautifully semi-reflective multi-faceted surface. The final piece is so much more then the sum of the individual parts. The shimmering surface creates a mesmerizing, gem-like appearance reminiscent of the flickering mosaics. Krueger implies a life torn apart and pieced back together—better than it began. The work implies both a physical and psychological transition.

But is this truly the artist’s intention or just an observer’s projection? Sometimes the viewer can only bring to a work of art, their own experience. Sometimes you have to look elsewhere to be able to comprehend the realities of life.

If you’ve never experienced the work of Deanna Krueger—or met the artist in person—here is your opportunity. “Deanna Kruger: Shards” which opened to the public in March, continues through May 31. A Reception for the artist is scheduled for Thursday, May 12 from 4:30 to 7pm. Olympia Centre is located at 737 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago… Enter via 151 E. Chicago Avenue. The exhibition is free an open to the public. The space is open everyday from 8:30am to 7pm. This is a “must see” exhibition.

Deanna Krueger, Thalassa-detail

Michigan born, Chicago Artists, Deanna Krueger has exhibited at the Museum of Santa Severa – Italy, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago, Berliner Liste, Aqua Art Miami, Rockford Art Museum, Gallery UNO Projektraum in Neuk├Âlln – Berlin, and numerous other venues. Her work has been included into corporate, private, university, and museum collections around the United States and in Europe. She received her BFA Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan in 2002, MFA from Eastern Michigan University in 2004, and studied abroad in Italy in spring 2003. She has received several awards, professional development grants, and has completed residencies at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts in Saratoga, Wyoming, The Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois, and at Contemporary Artists Center in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Redefining Americana

 Maggie Meiners "The Truth about our Parents"

In December of 1956, the cover of The Saturday Evening Post presented an image of a shocked young boy in his pajamas—after apparently riffling through his Father’s bedroom dresser drawer and finding a Santa Clause suite. Clutching the beard of the costume in one hand and the furry cuff of the jacket in the other, it seems that the child has come to the realization that Christmas will never be the same again. The image is a coming-of-age story—one that we’ve all experienced, at least conceptually.

Norman Rockwell created this illustration—one of hundreds that adorned the cover of The Saturday Evening Post over a period of forty-seven years. Beginning in 1916, Rockwell’s iconic imagery of Americana was etched into the public’s mind. He painted moments that were understood, whether it was a child’s visit to the principal’s office or the obligatory family photo at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Rockwell was skilled at creating timeless snapshots of life with which most of society could identify. But for better of worst, our world has changed drastically over the past century. And with those changes, our societal development has become fodder for a new perspective on Americana… Enter contemporary Photographer, Maggie Meiners.

Maggie Meiners latest collection of photographs, titled “Revisiting Rockwell”, explores and reinterprets America in the 21st century. With a series of sixteen photographs, Meiners addresses how our society has evolved. She uses complete honesty and—as Rockwell did—clever humor when defining the commonplace moments within our lives.

In Meiners’ updated version of the boy discovering a Santa Clause suite, a subtle change in the props seems to be enough for Meiners to make her point. The remnants of a bottle of bourbon, a partially filled glass and some pill bottles replace the smoking pipe that are found on top of the dresser from the Rockwell version. The irony here is that not much has really changed… it’s just that Meiners is transparent with her depiction of our self-medicating society.

 Maggie Meiners "Freedom from Want"

But Meiners does take on more controversial subjects including Same Sex Marriage. She explores a new twist on Thanksgiving dinner, sidestepping the socially accepted family to present the more realistic, modern family. Using Rockwell’s Thanksgiving image titled “Freedom from Want,” Meiners replaces Rockwell’s hosts—an elderly man and women—with a middle-aged gay couple… And yet the guests at the dinner table look like any other genetically related family. With ten percent of the population being homosexual, Meiners again is pointing out the obvious, preverbal “elephant in the room”.

 Maggie Meiners "Cock, Bang, Repeat"

Current events seem to emerge throughout the exhibition—as Meiners addresses the topic of gun violence. She compares the escalating terror found on the streets of Chicago with the fears that confronted society during World War II. Meiners transforms Rockwell’s "Freedom from Fear" of 1943 into her contemporary image titled "Cock, Bang and Repeat". With areas of the city being transformed into war zones, it’s common for the evening news to lead with a series of stories on inner-city gun violence. Meiners’ makes an obvious comparison to the fears that parents feel in keeping their children safe during turbulent times.

The Rockwell version presents both parents tucking in the children for the evening... allowing them a reprieve from the daily reality of war. The parents concerned for the safety of their children. In Meiners’ version, a single Mother stands over the children, holding a copy of the Chicago Tribune Newspaper—the story reporting on the latest’s series of shootings. Meiners points out…
“I am not sure what the solution is, but I am sure that if we embrace the idea of humanity, foster discussions about our similarities and differences, and listen to one another's personal stories, perhaps we can find a way to respect the lives of one another despite resentments, anger, stress and misunderstanding.”
The Anne Loucks Gallery in Glencoe will be presenting the complete collection of “Revisiting Rockwell” created by photographer, Maggie Meiners—opening with a reception for the artist on Thursday, May 5th from 5-8pm. The exhibition continues through June 10. Anne Loucks Gallery is located at 309 Park Avenue in Glencoe, Illinois. For additional information, visit

Maggie Meiners tends to see form and art in something most people would not, and brings it to light in a photograph. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the subject is, but whether or not it is open for interpretation. Her compositions are direct, to the point of appearing minimal, while her subject matter, conversely discloses significant complexity. Her work appears in numerous collections, some of which include, The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, Harrison Street Lofts, and Wheaton College. Additionally, she has been recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including the 2009 Ragdale Prize.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Maggie Meiners had a suburban upbringing, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from University of Colorado-Boulder, and a Master of Education degree from De Paul University in Chicago, Illinois. She now resides outside of Chicago.