Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christie Chew-Wallace Paints Tough

Anthropological Red

Christie Chew-Wallace says of oil paint, "It is a tough paint, and I like to paint tough." Her unabashed tenacity in personality translates through her work into starkly raw, vibrant abstraction that speaks to the unapologetic strength of the human spirit. Pieces like Anthropological Red reveal a complexity of content in the array of thickly layered jewel-toned hues.  Celebratory and calamitous, alluring yet slightly pandemoniac, the work relays an uncompromising vivacity that urges authentic feeling in the viewer.  

In contrast to Red's robust color scheme,  The Dull Flame of Desire utilizes soft flesh tones and textured punctuations of red-orange, deep purple and sky blue brushstrokes. The warm beige color that engulfs the majority of the canvas may articulate the landscape of a soft beach or a warm body. A rust-colored, abstracted flame form is present, illustrated with expressive and mysterious sensitivity.  It is obscured and softened, though its strength is evident with burning embers. 
The Dull Flame of Desire

Chew-Wallace's Blood Alcohol Limit in Three Fingers marries alluring romanticism with a threat of risk. The piece is geometrically and texturally engaging with monochromatic finger forms harmoniously interrupting the richly vibrant ruby tones of the background. Are these fingers fondling a cocktail or do they grasp something more sinister? Is this a splattering of cranberry juice from a spilled drink or a menacing image of spilled blood from a late night gone awry? Chew-Wallace plays with these tensions between desire and danger, the atmosphere of lustful and chic nightlife versus the potential debauchery of inebriated mistakes. 

At the essence of these works is a raw honesty and strength of the human condition. Living in Chicago requires a tenacity against brutal cold winters and a durability of spirit amidst urban dangers and desires. 

Fortunately, Chew-Wallace paints tough.

Blood Alcohol Limit in Three Fingers
See Chew-Wallace's work at Lacuna Artist Loft Studios at 2150 South Canal Port Ave. 
Chicago, IL 60608

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Exhibition of Sculptural Painting by Connie Noyes 9.19.2014

Join Connie for light refreshments at the second floor lobby of Chicago's Prudential Building (130 East Randolph Street) from 12 to 2 for a reception on Friday the 19th of September. In conjunction with EXPO CHICAGO, we celebrate Noyes' exploration of deconstructed idolized beauty and the complex operation of transforming forgotten and found materials (mirror, packing peanuts, tar and chrome) into visually enthralling sculpture on canvas as a metaphor for the evolution of the human experience.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Jason Karolak's Neon Grids and the Chemistry of Opposites

Untitled (P-1013)

Jason Karolak’s layered neon grids in aqua and fuchsia float in a stark, cosmic darkness, the artist exploring a tension between the containment of the form and the expanse of the subject’s atmosphere. Aside from the aesthetic engagement these pieces require of their reader, they inspire reflection on structure as a concept. Chemistry of opposites is visually engendered between vibrant color and darkness, connection and disconnection, transparency and visual weight, empty and structured space, organic and artificial creation, growth and stagnation. I find myself reflecting on the structure and limitation of existence and the chemistry between yet to be understood life forces.Pretentious philosophical bologna? Perhaps. But Karolak achieves what few painters can—he engages the viewer’s mind as successfully as he engages the eye. He pushes the limitations of connection in opposites and, if you don’t buy the intention, his work is still damn original. 

Untitled (P-1326)

Chicago West Loop gallery Kavi Gupta represents Brooklyn-based SAIC MFA grad Jason Karolak. 

Untitled (P-1006)

Untitled (P-0805)

“I am invested in the fundamental materials and languages of painting, and take very seriously the process of building form and space. Largely my studio days are spent thinking about the formal elements of the paintings—line, geometry, space, and color. But this is a starting point, not a reductive location at which to arrive. I am more interested in abstraction as a porous language, one that has the ability to gather and absorb. I want to tweak or bend the geometric so that it feels organic. More malleable and relaxed. And I want the architectonic framework to feel more lightweight. I consider what I can bring into the work implicitly, such as light, heat, weight, even sound—elements from my experience. So the painting, and by extension the studio, becomes this place of filtering, or distilling.” 

Above is his artist statement posted the blog, “Painter’s Process” in May of 2013. 

Untitled (P-0814)

Untitled (P-1301)

Photos courtesy of

Saturday, September 6, 2014

BLACK and WHITE--an achromatic exhibition at The Nevica Project featuring artists Richard Serra and Priscilla Mouritzen

Join friends, scholars, and collectors at The Nevica Project’s opening reception of Black and White—the achromatic inaugural exhibition of the remodeled space featuring globally collected artists Richard Serra and Priscilla Mouritzen. Serra’s colossal and towering textured etchings compliment the delicate pinched porcelain bowls of Mouritzen in a visual conversation on contrast, minimalism and the complexity of line.  Both artists explore the perception of visual weight, Priscilla’s patterned pots gleaming translucently against light and Serra’s etchings gracefully commanding the entirety of the gallery walls.  

Collector’s hour from 5-6 followed by an open reception from 6-9 on Thursday, September 11th at 3717 N. Ravenswood, Unit 115W, Chicago.  Works exhibited from Septempter 11th to October 7th 2014.  Other work available for viewing include artists Darrell Roberts, Tara Donovan, Cy Twombly, Peregrine Honig, Warren McKenzie, and Peter Voulkos.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Interview with "Use Your Seaside Voices" Artist, Lindsey Claire Newman

Join the Elephant Room, Inc. gallery for Chicago-based visual artist Lindsey Claire Newman's mixed media show, “Use Your Seaside Voices!” exhibiting August 22nd through September 20th, 2014. Enjoy wine and rumination at the opening reception on Friday, August 22nd from 5 to 8pm. Chat with Newman at her artist's talk on Thursday, September 18th at 6pm. Elephant Room is located at 704 S Wabash Avenue in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago.

You've mentioned Kurt Vonnegut's writing and observing sea life on its "personal journey of dying." Can you elaborate on these thoughts as they relate to the tone and content of your paintings?

Literature has always been a large piece of the conversation that happens during my creation process. I often talk about the world that my paintings are drawn from, which is very real as well as fantastical. I think I could describe it best as a world perceived with a completely open mind. Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, as well as others, have had a part in my defining and confirming this world. I am constantly elaborating on this mental image of this existence, and I find it absolutely amazing when I find this place being described to me, in accurate detail, in a novel, or as with the Blue Footed Boobies, I find myself literally standing in the midst of a story I've read. These writer's are just writing about their experience in the world. I just want to paint mine.

Can you talk a bit about your series of artfully altered books and your inspiration from literature?

The books relate more to my appreciation for beauty, even when it isn't fully understood, than my love for literature. Directly, the idea comes from my experiences in bookshops around the world. Often, there was nothing in them in a language I could understand. I found myself pouring through these foreign books anyways. There is so much I love about books aside from the words, or the stories. I love their weight, their smell, their wear from being read over and over and over. I also had a lot of fun messing around with dictionaries while traveling. You'd think a dictionary definition is a pretty standardized thing, but they're not. They change in the language you read them in, they change from book to book, even in English. I started writing down words I meant to look up and over time just started making up the definitions on my own. I got home and had all of these pages of conflicting and poetic definitions and I kind of lost track of which ones were real. My favorite was climacteric: the heart rate of fruit just before full ripening. I'm pretty sure that was from an actual dictionary too. In the Oxford book climacteric is way less exciting : ) The whole situation kind of ended up being a comment on everything in the world just being someone's interpretation anyways. That makes me feel more confident in my own interpretation of things. I wrote this poem a day or two after I got back home, while sitting at my parents house. I feel like it really encompassed the surrealism of my adventure around the world while still being an honest account.

The piece "My other-world counterpart" depicts a young girl holding hearts on a kabob amidst dangling apple cores and compass-like geometrical forms. Can you explain some of this context?

Ha, I didn't read these ahead of time : ) Like that poem, this really happened! My paintings are, in my eyes, an unchronological series of events and experiences that shape themselves, much like my human brain. It's funny, the things that stick in the forefront of your brain. You can't possibly remember everything, but somehow it all integrates itself into your personality. I prefer not to give a direct explanation of my paintings, because for me, the painting is the explanation. I know a painting is done when all the colors are balanced out and I really feel like it solves some part of myself.

I will say, that this painting is the truest self portrait I've accomplished thus far. And, that the compass forms are a reference to the fact that we (humans) have absolutely zero grasp on what this existence entails. There were a few days in Turkey, where I was sitting in trees picking olives and listening to podcasts all day, where I came across a podcast about Brian Greene's multi-universe theory. It ends discussing that it is more possible than not that we exist in a synthetic universe. I didn't believe in anything for days and I actually despised looking at the stars. It wasn't just this podcast but I  feel like some reset button got pressed and after that I really stopped believing in the things I had taken for granted. That was pretty monumental for me.

You've talked about a desire to forge a feeling of connectedness between viewers through your mixed-media pieces. How do you hope to achieve this goal?

I'm not interested in actually forging this feeling of connectedness. I believe the question that that was the answer to was 'what do I want viewers to get out of my work.' I have a hard time with that question because my work is very personal. It is ultimately my expression and my way of going through life. My mom is an artist. This is how I grew up. I was taught to sort things out through art and journaling. The fact that people enjoy looking at my work, and have their own reactions to it, is absolutely thrilling and insanely humbling. I brought up the feeling of connectedness because when I see art out there that blows my mind, it's that feeling that I love. Like, you can see someone's art and completely relate to their expression of something without ever knowing the person or even how they felt about anything. Even if the artist and I are not even close to talking about the same thing, something got zapped in me. The passing along of information, no matter how accurately translated, is really important in my eyes. That's how a culture grows. I think the best part about making and showing art is that I'm doing what I do and throwing it out on the table. It's everyone else that comes around and has their own experience with it. I absolutely love that.

A sincere thank you for sharing such personal memory and reflection with your visual audience.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kenrick Mcfarlane Paints Raw Vibrancy and Race in Chicago

"White Face"

Jamaican-American artist Kenrick Mcfarlane is currently pursuing a BFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  After three solo shows in 2012, Mcfarlane was selected to participate in the EXPO Chicago exhibition “Eclectic Coherence.”  When interviewed, Mcfarlane repeatedly expresses gratitude and humility for the support of his work and welcomes contact from other young artists in the hopes of building a community of professional support and comradery within the field of studio art.

Mcfarlane stresses the aesthetics before the politics in his painting; he hopes to visually engage his audience before they tackle the content of racial or socioeconomic tensions in the work.  And visually engaging they are.  His unique color pallet keeps the eye traversing through layers to process how the colors compliment and converse with one other.  His deeply engaging portrait work relays a sense of candid identity--the viewer feels immediately and intimately acquainted with the human on the canvas.

"untitled (fashion study)"
Reminiscent of Francis Bacon and the Fauvists, Mcfarlane’s work is vibrant, fleshy, luminous, and raw.  The oil work “Jason Robinson the Saint” radiates light and energy from the canvas--I find myself desperate to know this man’s story.  Fashion study (pictured) is somehow both audaciously stark and still humanistically vulnerable, a complexity rendered in very few strokes of the brush.  “White Face” is simply my new favorite painting.  Mcfarlane succeeds in his endeavor to captivate my eye and activate my mindfulness with this striking image.

Kenrick Mcfarlane clearly possesses a distinct interest in and gift for painting as a craft.  Contemporary art critics have claimed he exhibits “the makings of greatness,” (H.A.S. magazine).  In this critic’s opinion, he is already exhibiting great things.

"Jason Robinson the Saint"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Follow-Up Conversation with Artist Hillary Miles

"Far Away"
Photo courtesy of Hillary Miles
-You mentioned an interest in children's books and sci-fi stories.  What particular fantasy characters and tales have inspired your work?

There’s a beautiful economy of structure and wealth of symbolism in children’s stories and old myths that I find completely appealing.  And while I love the range of possibility that science fiction and fantasy stories have to offer, I am especially compelled by the way their boundarylessness is always tethered by a camouflaged truth—I try to evoke that tension in my characters. 

Three great female characters that I admired growing up were cartoon “Princess of Power”, She-Ra, the neutrally-aligned witch character of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” played by Bernadette Peters, and Sarah from Jim Henson’s “The Labyrinth”.  I also adore Jim Henson’s proclivity for making friendly monsters, and other unconventional creatures that are never quite what they seem to be.  Though I read and was read to a lot as a kid, many of my favorite stories are actually movies, and I think I’m especially drawn to the coming-of-age tale and the emphasis on duality and transition.  The characters in these stories have an inherent liminal quality to them that feels kind of mystical to me.  Most of my female characters are young women who are inhabiting two, or multiple, realms of possibility at once.

-Can you talk a little about the special bundles your monsters carry?

I started giving the monsters their bundles after reading the Popol Vuh, a Quiche Maya origin text that mentions sacred bundles in several of its stories.  There was this vague implied association between the bundle and the (Jungian) Self that really interested me, but also, I responded to the gesture of carefully wrapping and protecting your most sacred and treasured objects, thereby fortifying their power.  The beautiful thing about painting these bundles is that the viewer gets to breathe a whole complex narrative into the monsters by imaging their very own sacred objects and ideas inside of the bundles, reinforcing the power of their own personal myth.

-What can you tell us about the diverse, emotional expressions of your "Grumpy Butterfly" series? 

The “Grumpy Butterflies” are the ridiculous result of doodling my feelings out.  I seem to deal better with sadness and rage through a veil of humor, and I love that the butterflies can be totally unrestrained even when I can’t be. 

-"Pretty Girl" is such a compelling, vibrant piece.  Are you commenting on the social behaviors of human flirtation?

"Pretty Girl"
Photo courtesy of Hillary Miles
This one began as a simple character study, but became a strong statement about the sexualization of girls and the infuriating and destructive messages dominant culture sends to young women about their bodies.  That is, the emphasis on physical beauty, and the narrow definition of those terms, and the idea that as a woman you are obligated to be “pretty” for other people, and that the sum of your worth is embedded in your ability to preen yourself to ridiculous and harmful standards.  It makes me beyond grumpy!

-What's next for your adventurous, quirky women? 

I would love to see them in the pages of books for young people to digest.  Even better, to eventually transition to the world of motion pictures—that would be the biggest dream come true of all.  For the moment, I will continue to paint them, venture further into the realm of 3 dimensions, and do my best to assure they continue to tell important stories.

"Space Girl"
Photo courtesy of Hillary Miles

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Artist HILLARY MILES Gifts Chicago Quirky, Confident and Adventurous Women

Art Institute of Chicago graduate and self-declared sci-fi and fantasy fan, Hillary Miles utilizes her broadly-minded, mythical creativity to forge a new kind of heroine.  Her piece “Slither” features a young woman serenely coddling a live snake; another painting, “Samantha” portrays a girl calmly acquiescing to the enveloping embrace of a large, cantaloupe-colored monster.  A collector favorite, the “Space Girl” series, depicts women astronauts in bold eye shadow and pearls amidst vast and placid cosmos.

Miles' other work in gouache painting includes monsters, “Grumpy Butterflies,” and other enigmatic animals in a milky and candy-toned palette.  These creatures translate a surprising depth of personality and will perhaps inspire more girls to be like “Samantha” and befriend the monsters under their beds rather than fear them.

Miles’ women are all a bit quirky and convey an innate, confident strength. They are role models to foster an adventurous spirit in women of any age.  

My gratitude for this work goes on for Miles. 

See Hillary's paintings and follow her saga at

(photo courtesy of the artist)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Martyrs and Heroes: Hebru Brantley at the Chicago Cultural Center

Over this past week, the Chicago Cultural Center has been holding exhibitions of some of Chicago's best artistic talent. Among the artist being shown, the most famous is arguably Hebru Brantley, whose show, Parade Day Rain, currently dominates the Yates Gallery at the 4th floor of the Cultural Center.

The use of the space and the way Mr. Brantley's artwork is set up provides a spacious yet intimate setting for the viewer to properly engage with the art. If you go see this show (which will run until September 23), be mindful of your wristwatch because Parade Day Rain has a unique way of making one lose the sense of time. Parade Day Rain is so captivating because it holds a conversation that resonates with everyone, but Chicagoans especially.

Mr. Brantley communicates to Chicagoans with his instrument of choice, his trademark cartoon figures of child superheroes, the flyboys. Superficially, this may seem like a bit of a paradox. How can a child be a superhero? But if we think about it a little longer: how could a child not be a superhero? Who else carries a stronger sense of idealism, or a conscience freer from prejudice and corruption? Are these not the required traits for a superhero?

They are, but as Mr. Brantley demonstrates, they are increasingly under threat. While some of his paintings and floats depict these little heroes in the full glamor of triumph, many give us a more tragic picture, child superheroes defeated by the negative forces of our modern world: noise, violence, or garbage of any kind. Whether the connection was accidental or intentional, these flyboys (most of them of darker skin tones) represent the predicament that surrounds the youth of our city's most neglected neighborhoods.

This is why I think Mr. Brantley's work is so successful, because it conveys a serious message through a medium that everyone can understand. And the message is simple: Chicago's hope rests on the youth, but the youth's space for growth is quickly being expropriated by hostility. We are sinking our own life boats. What is impressive is that Mr. Brantley communicates this not through a graphic narrative, but simply by expressing the tension between the real and the ideal. Who ever thought cartoons could be so forceful?

Chicago is lucky to have him.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The "Modern Abstractions" of Spencer Rogers

Spencer and Dana Rogers, the dynamic duo of creative portrait photography in the South Loop, have refurbed their extensive Printer's Row studio space into a contemporary yet comfortably labyrinthine visual art gallery. This past Friday (June 6th), Spencer christened the new space with 20 spatially demanding and visually vibrant works in oil and acrylic for the exhibition, "Abstractions." The complex, layered works range in color from sunset reds and oranges to warm and playful fuschias to electric, otherworldly teals, but all works communicate cohesively in a conversation on defying barriers and exploring the liberating unknown. 

These paintings are worthy of the contemporary art viewer's attention and study, but the real story is in the "Modern Abstractions" pieces themselves--macro photographs of small sections of Spencer's painted works enlarged and printed on museum-grade plexiglass acrylic. The effect is hypnotizing, the shimmer of the acrylic texture transporting the print and the viewer into a meditative calm akin to feelings rendered when getting lost in the visuals of a crackling fire or sunlit Caribbean shoreline. 

Only 25 prints will be made of each acrylic photograph, and, as of this date, there are only 15 original works left for acquisition. Visit the gallery on Thursday, June 12th from 3-6 or Saturdays and Sundays from 11-3 before the show closes on June 21st. Contact Dana Rogers ( or gallery consultant Kimberly Atwood ( for a private viewing at Edenhurst Studio, 739 S Clark St, 2nd floor.

(photo courtesy of Kimberly Atwood)