Wednesday, September 28, 2016
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: debicornwall.com
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: filterfestival.com
Saturday, August 13, 2016
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: oakparkartleague.org 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
The entrance toThis 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.
The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions
at the Human Rights Institute Gallery of Kean University, Union New Jersey
The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions
at the Human Rights Institute Gallery of Kean University, Union New Jersey
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: BreakingCriminalTraditions.com
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, Thalassa, Acrylic monotype prints on recycled medical diagnostic film, [X-Ray, MRI film], staples 62" x 63"
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 Neukölln – 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
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 loucksgallery.com
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.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
The 4th Annual Bridgeport Art Center Competition opened last Friday night with an energetic, well-attended reception. The Exhibition—Juried by Mary Ellen Croteau and William Lieberman [Zolla/Lieberman Gallery]—is one of the best group exhibitions that I’ve seen in awhile. With a balanced array or imagery from abstraction to realism—including both two and three-dimensional work—the show presents a visual consistency with fluid transition from one end of the gallery to the other. The audience is engaged with each work-of-art offering a new adventure… yet—visually—connected to the pieces prior and post. Due credit should be given to Curator, Lelde Kalmite.
I was taken with the show from the moment I entered the forth-floor gallery. I did a quick scan of the room… said hello to some colleagues and then went off to explore. I circled the room once—to get an overview—then again, more slowly, to intently examine each piece.
Included in the exhibition is a wonderfully ornate canvas by Zachary Williams, titled “The Ocean’s Wide”. Combining the ideas of the horror vacui—reminiscent of Dubuffet—with the surrealistic melting clocks of Dali, Zachary Williams creates an elaborate composition of unrecognizable objects that make the unreal, real. An unusual seascape, Williams presents a tightly knit wall of mesmerizing elements that encourage the continued exploration of his unconventional world.
Zachary Williams, The Ocean's Wide-Detail, 2015, oil on canvas, 24" x 78"
Also included in the exhibition is a 40-inch square photograph [on canvas], titled “Adieu! [Greta Rupeika]” by Carol Estes. The image is startling, yet oddly beautiful. It presents a woman hovering in a shallow pool of water… her seemingly lifeless hand visible just below the surface. She wears elegant horns and dried foliage in her braided blond hair. The beautifully haunting image is reminiscent of a still from a Julie Taymore film.
Carol Estes, Adieu! [Greta Rupeika], 2015, framed photo on canvas, 40" x 40"
One of the more poetic works in the show is an untitled handmade paper, ink, thread, and fabric piece by Yoonshin Park. With a history of book art and creating works-of-art with paper, Yoonshin Park offers a series of conceptual pieces as metaphor for the chapters in a life… the ebb and flow of memories like waves in the ocean. From a recent artist statement, Park explains…
“…As the water rises and falls, pages of our daily experience add and subtract to and from our memory. Our daily life permeates our memory just as the ink is absorbed into each page and creates new shapes and patterns onto what once was a clean slate of a blank page.”
Yoonshin Park, Untitled 2, 2015, handmade paper, ink, threads, fabric, 16" x 10" x .5" [set of three]
The show includes some beautifully fluid sculptural works as well: A floating steel and chain piece by Michael Grucza, titled “Ball and Chain”, A burlap, wood and wire, wall piece, titled “Arpillers” by Marcus Alonso, and an intestine-like fiber piece titled “Polyps” made of steel, organza and plastic, by Molly Ann Wood. There are also two intimate hand carved limestone pieces by June C. Flnnegan that are exceptional. Both sculptures embrace the stone material of their creation and evoke a soothing visual sensitivity. “Grounded in the Garden” is the flatter of the two and “The Butterfly’s Garden” the more dimensional. These forms present the organic characteristics that are found in nature and tempt the caress of the onlooker.
The artists included in the 4th Annual Bridgeport Art Center Competition are: Anthony Abboreno, Macus Alonso, Iman Alsaden, Aviva Alter, Kristin August, Mike Bale, Pedro Basantes, Carol Block, Rose Blouin, Fred Camper, Javier Chavira, Rick Cortez, Jennifer Cronin, Eoin Cullen, Andrew Ek, Carol Estes, Arielle Estrella, June C. Finnegan, Alicia Forestall-Boehm, Tracy Frein, David Anthony Geary, Charles Gniech [myself… full disclosure], Michael Goro, Peter N. Gray, Michael Grucza, Daniel Guidara, Andrew Hall, Russell Harris, Clifton Henri, Marilyn Hollander, Jon Hook, Jesse L. Howard, Carolyn Cronin Hughes, Andrew Kim, Beth LeFauve, Judy, Lipman Shechter, Renee McGinnis, Jane Michalski, Shirley Nannini & Candace Wark, (collaborative), Jack Nixon, Yoonshin Park, Gerry Santora, Steven Schwab, J. Michael Taylor, Nancy VanKanegan, Noah Vaughn, Derek Walter, Rebecca Wolfram, Molly, Ann Wood, Reisha Williams, and Zachary J. Williams.
Charles Gniech, Symbiotic, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 40" x 40"
The 4th Annual Bridgeport Art Center Competition continues through April 1 and is located in the forth floor gallery at 1200 W. 35th Street, Chicago, IL 60609. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 8am – 6pm and Sunday, 8am – 12noon.
About the Jurors:
Mary Ellen Croteau received a BFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1990 and a MFA from Rutgers University in 1998. She has lectured and exhibited internationally. Croteau has won numerous awards and has been reviewed and reproduced worldwide in books, magazines and on television.
William Lieberman maintains the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in the River North Gallery District of Chicago. Since the 1970’s, the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery has been a top venue for contemporary art in the Chicago and Worldwide. Zolla/Lieberman Gallery is located at 325 W. Huron Street in Chicago.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Jordan Scott, "Old Glory" -detail, mixed media and resin on canvas, 36" x 60" 2016
The artist’s studio is a sanctuary. Maybe it’s just the voyeur in me but there is something intriguing about exploring another artist’s workspace. It’s enlightening… It not only offers insight into the artist and their inherent character but also their creative process.
With a long history as an exhibiting artist, gallery director, and exhibition curator, I visit artist studios regularly… always looking for unique work with substantial concept and meaning. Recently—on a sunny but very cold winter day in Chicago—I drove to the Ravenswood neighborhood to meet with Jordan Scott, an amazingly talented fine artist with a passion for life, meditation and the interconnectedness of the universe.
After breaching the steel door of a neighborhood warehouse building—converted into artist workspace—I was shown to Jordan Scott’s sanctuary. A wall of windows allowed the sun to drench the space with light, making it a wonderful environment to review some of his latest pieces. As I settled in, I scanned the room to find postage stamps everywhere… container after container, bowl after bowl. Mostly organized, the only mess was created by the few strays that had been discarded or had fallen to the floor beneath his easel.
With a love for unconventional materials, used out of context, Jordan Scott produces mesmerizing imagery through the repetition of postage stamps. He uses thousands of canceled U.S. postage stamps producing meditative surfaces that allude to communication and the interconnectedness of humanity. When seen from a distance, his technique produces beautiful surfaces of rich color, and as the viewer approaches the work, they are met with the surprising realization of unexpected intricacy.
Scott’s latest body of work introduces a meditative vertical grid-like pattern reminiscent of minimalist artist, Agnes Martin [1912-2004]. Like Martin, the imagery is comprised of a series of repetitive vertical lines that are produced with a monochromatic color scheme. The result is a soothing visual surface. Scott creates the lines by laying similar stamps adjacent to one another. Upon closer inspection, the viewer realizes that each stamp has a unique characteristic… the cancelation marks from somewhere around the world. The consistency of the stamps, contrasted with the uniqueness of the cancelation marks, become metaphor for our global population.
Jordan Scott "Amethyst" mixed media and resin on canvas 30" x 30" 2015
Jordan Scott has a fascination with Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious and the interconnectedness of the universe. In past artist statements, he references the exploration of the parts to understand the whole… a global view… and the interconnectedness of the universe. From Scott’s artist statement:
“The postage stamp collages [are] each composed of hundreds or thousands of similar elements, … [creating] an interconnected and interdependent whole much greater than the sum of its parts.” …An idea clearly represented in his work.With an upcoming exhibition at the Union League Club, Scott plans to exhibit two somewhat different bodies of work. The first is a single representation of the American flag—a theme he has revisited once each year, for the past seven years. With obvious references to patriotism, Americana and Pop culture, the iconic imagery gives a nod to the Abstract Expressionist painter, Jasper Johns [b. 1930]. The second body of work explores a patchwork randomness, which Scott defines as “landscape”. These pieces reference the farmland of the Midwest—as seen from above. Selected intuitively, the seemingly arbitrary color blocks also have a flavor bordering on American folk art… ironically, with a contemporary twist.
Jordan Scott "Old Glory" mixed media and resin on canvas 36"x60", 2016
Jordan Scott will present a solo exhibition titled “Canceled” at the Union League Club of Chicago, opening with a reception for the artist on Thursday March 3 from 5:30-7pm. That evening—at 6pm—he will discus his work as well as the pieces selected for exhibition. The exhibition will continue through April 1st. Keep in mind that there is a dress code at the Union League Club… it’s business casual, which means no blue jeans or gym shoes. The Union League Club of Chicago is located at 65 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago. Additional information can be found on the Union League Club web site at” www.ulcc.org
Also watch for Jordan Scott’s inclusion in a group exhibition titled “Words, Numbers & Symbols: An Exploration of Letterforms in Fine Art” at The Art Center of Highland Park. The group also includes work by Chicago area artists: Audry Cramblit, Katsy Johnson and Carrie Ann Bronkowski and Florida native, Tim Yankosky. Each of the exhibiting artists incorporates letterforms into their work to present a unique visual message. The Art Center-Highland Park exhibition will run from March 4 – April 7 with a public reception on Friday, March 4th from 6:30 – 9pm. The Art Center is located at 1957 Sheridan Road in Highland Park. Additional information can be found online at: theartcenterhp.org
Jordan Scott’s work is also available at Artspace 8, located on the third and forth floors of the 900 North Michigan Building on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Additional information can be found online at: Artspace8.com