ZIA Supports McCausland Scholarship

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Andrew and Sandy McCausland, Sarah’s parents, visited the gallery along with Sarah’s dear friend Maxine

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John Vlahakis – Phantoms

Efforts to support the McCausland family in their aim to raise both awareness and funds for the annual Sarah McCausland Scholarship continue. More magnets of Iceland are again at ZIA Gallery, ready for distribution. One of John Vlahakis’s photographs of Icelandic horses sold, and his donation to the scholarship fund has been made. Three photographs are currently left in the edition. The horses entitled “Phantoms” continue to attract admirers, as does the rest of the display.

Fellow Iceland Inspired artist Jonathan Ricci is once again spending July at the artists’ residency in Skagaströnd making new paintings. More of his ceramic birds will be revealed this Friday and Saturday during Winnetka’s summer community sidewalk sale.

Ricci Cold Heat Midnight Rainbow 12x9 Acrylic and Mixed Media copy

Tonight Andrew and Sandy McCausland, Sarah’s parents, visited the gallery along with Sarah’s dear friend Maxine. We talked of Sarah, Iceland, and the upcoming trip to that beautiful country which was a source of much curiosity and inspiration to Sarah. The family’s visit to Iceland no doubt will be bittersweet, but our thoughts are with them along with hopes for a beautiful and rewarding journey.

To learn more about Sarah McCausland and how ZIA Gallery became involved with the family and their endeavours, please read the following article written about six weeks ago:

Sometimes the confluence of events brings a community together in unexpected ways. This is the case with ZIA Gallery’s recent exhibition Iceland Inspired and the untimely death of a much-loved, young woman.  Enthusiastic Bard College student and New Trier High School graduate Sarah McCausland embraced all things Icelandic. She took it upon herself to study the language in anticipation of visiting Iceland this summer. Tragically, only a few months ago, she and a friend lost their lives when hit by a drunk driver.   During the exhibition of Iceland Inspired, members of the Winnetka community approached ZIA Gallery and told us about Sarah, her family, and the desire and need of the community to share the story of Sarah and her fascination with Iceland. Provided by the family, a small display in the gallery window honors Sarah. Now a new display is underway to further honor Sarah and encourage support of her family in their newly established scholarship: The Sarah C. McCausland New Trier Performing Arts Scholarship awarded through New Trier High School.

On Thursday, June 5th, 2014, the first annual scholarship was awarded. 

As soon as Iceland Inspired artist John Vlahakis learned of the scholarship, he offered to donate to the fund 20% from the sale of the remaining available prints in the edition of his Icelandic horses photograph “Phantoms,” pictured above. John shares a fascination with Iceland and its natural features. These Icelandic horses are tough, sturdy, friendly animals unique to the island and protected by their country.  As word spread of the pending scholarship plans, other of the artists equally wanted to participate.  Jonathan Ricci spent 2 months last summer in Skagaströnd, Iceland painting his joyful, colorful abstractions he aptly refers to as COLD HEAT: Painting under the Midnight Sun.  In addition, his “Migration Project” of ceramic birds continues to grow and move through the Winnetka community, and around the world. He left ceramic birds in nooks and crannies of the landscape in Skagaströnd as a thank-you to the people of the town for hosting the residency. Now Jonathan requests to donate 20% to Sarah’s scholarship fund from the sale of his painting “Midnight Rainbow” pictured above. This summer Jonathan returns to Iceland for the month of July, again to paint and be inspired by this remarkable country.

Anne Hughes spent a refreshing 9 days in Iceland and returned with photos she calls “research materials” to be used toward the development of a body of work. “Variations,” pictured above, is one pastel inspired by the geological features of Iceland. Through directly meeting several of Sarah’s warm family members, Anne has been touched to learn about Sarah.

Anne Hughes - Variations

Anne Hughes – Variations

Sarah’s parents and sister will fulfill Sarah’s dream through traveling together to Iceland this summer, as intended. In addition, their determination and strength will bring good to a deserving student of New Trier High School through the Sarah C. McCausland New Trier Performing Arts Scholarship.

Donations to the scholarship fund may be sent directly to the high school, payable to:

New Trier High School

Add Sarah McCausland‘s name written in the memo portion of the cheque.

The address is:

385 Winnetka Ave.

Winnetka, IL 60093

Here is what Sarah’s family says about the scholarship:

Sarah C. McCausland New Trier Performing Arts Scholarship

 

$750 Annually

 

The Sarah C. McCausland New Trier Scholarship for the Performing Arts is a scholarship of which students apply and faculty selects a finalist. Eligible students are those who have participated in two, preferably three of the following arts departments: orchestra, choral, and theatre. The student should have a financial need and exhibit the following qualities:

 

1. Charismatic leadership

 

2. Individuality of character

 

3. Kind support of fellow arts students

 

4. Standards of excellence 

 

Sarah loved New Trier’s performing arts. Her scholarship affirms her singular personality, her quest for learning and her passion for life and friends.

 

ZIA Gallery is pleased to participate in this worthy cause. We extend our support and sincere wishes toward a successful campaign to fulfill the McCausland family’s goals in creating a positive legacy in their daughter and sister’s name: Sarah McCausland.

  

 

 

Toda’s Calming Infusion Of Color

By Shannon Gallagher

New York City artist Fumiko Toda’s paintings and prints launch the viewer into a enchanting, mysterious environment that is simultaneously calming and intriguing. The artwork is the result of an infatuation with color, pattern, and texture. Toda, who works from her light-filled home studio in Harlem, mixes elements of drawing, printmaking, and painting to create works that envelop the viewer with a sense of optimism and curiosity.

Toda A Letter To Canada 24x24 mixed media painting

Toda’s work is extremely intuitive, as she rarely begins with sketches. “Sometimes I have an idea, but most of the time, I don’t start with something specific in mind. Even if I begin a piece with one idea, it usually ends up as something else by the time I’m finished.” Recently, she has been experimenting with thicker layers of paint. Although Toda enjoys the quiet tranquility brought on by some of the flatter elements in her paintings, she said, “Lately, more than ever, I’m interested in making the work a little more sculptural. I’m in a place in my life now where I want to be excited more than calm, so I apply a lot of paint on the panel so that certain parts come out more than others.” Toda finds that push-and-pull exciting, and is delighted by the properties of the paint. “More than the actual image I’m working on, the paints I apply inspire me to continue working. I don’t know what my work is about, but the more time I spend painting, the more comfortable and confident I feel about the process of painting. I’m trusting the process more and more these days,” she stated.

Toda Background of a Dream 48x48 mixed media painting

That process, according to Toda, is crucial, even when she feels that what she is working on isn’t amounting to anything. “Even when I’m not inspired or motivated to work, I just have to stay in the studio,” she said. “I stay and experiment. I try to be open about what’s happening on the canvas, and I will play around with materials and mediums, and try to get inspired by what I discover.”

Toda Flowers in a Vase 35x30 mixed media painting

Toda grew up in the Japanese countryside, and spent a lot of time as a child near a pond burgeoning with biodiversity. The long hours of warm summer days in the countryside were spent collecting insects, leaves, and other pieces of the environment to combat feelings of isolation. Although New York City does not offer the same kind of environment thriving with various plants and animals, she does spend as much free time as possible in Central Park, and goes hiking whenever she has the chance.

Toda, who did not speak any English when she left Japan for NYC, found the cultural differences to be an exciting challenge. Although living in a large city does sometimes lend itself to feelings of disconnection, she also does not view isolation as a negative experience. “I think everyone deals with isolation at some point and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing,” she said. “It’s a part of our human experience, and working alone or being alone helps me to nurture myself and better understand myself and others.” She compared the role of an artist with that of a musician. “When I was in high school, I played flute, and I wanted to be a flutist. When you’re playing music, you jam with other musicians, but when you’re painting, well… of course artists can collaborate, but mostly you’re in the studio alone, and you talk to yourself, or your cat, if you have one,” she said, smiling.

Toda Leaking Moonlight 50x20 mixed media painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to spending her free time outdoors, she enjoys visiting museums like the Metropolitan Museum, and her personal favorite, Neue Galerie, a museum devoted to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design. The museum houses a large collection of Kandinsky, Klee, Schiele, and Klimt, the last of which is often cited by others as similar to Toda’s work. “I get that a lot,” she said. “It’s funny, but I don’t mind at all. For me, the most important thing is the process of making art, and while of course, the finished work does matter, it’s not as important to me. If the work looks like this or that, well… it doesn’t really concern me. “ Although she is always influenced by artists, there is not one in particular that she tries to emulate. “I recently started a flower series, which was inspired by Redon, but it’s not that I want to be like him.”

Toda Seiko's House 48x48 mixed media on panel

 

Although she now has her own printmaking press in her studio, Toda used to spend time working at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in NYC. She said that although she enjoyed working alongside the “wonderful community” of artists there, she loves the freedom that having her own equipment has given her- “I do whatever I want,” she said. Toda bought the press about three years ago, and also uses it to teach classes. Her favorite method of printmaking is etching, because of the quality of line that can be achieved. “I also cut [my prints] apart and collage pieces of them into my paintings,” Toda said. “I use it as a mixed media medium. The printmaking really forces me to be open and spontaneous, because there are a lot of ‘accidents’ that happen, and that is really exciting.”

Toda 1892 48x36 mixed media on panel

 

One thing she wishes she could do is work much larger. “There is a lot of physical work involved, I wish I could work ten times bigger, but I paint on panels, and I physically cannot lift such heavy things.” Recently, Toda completed a triptych, approximately 48” x 96”, but said that working on one solid panel of that size would be difficult. “I like the fact that it is a triptych, but wish I were a little more macho and I could deal with the physical part of it. If I could do that, I’d probably be sculpting, too. There are a lot of things I want to do. Sometimes, I get frustrated with my studio space, because I wish it were bigger- but at the same time, I’m very satisfied and happy to be working with what I have,” she stated.  As far as what the future holds for her, Toda said, “I have no idea where I’m going. I know that the painting is going to take me somewhere, but I’m not taking it.”

Fumiko Toda has an exhibition of new work opening at ZIA | Gallery on Saturday, September 7th, 5 -7pm. Her work will be on display in the main gallery from September 7th until October 12, 2013.

 

Richard Laurent – The Collective Unconscious

By Shannon Gallagher

Painter Richard Laurent possesses a natural ability to work with the metaphor, which he discovered while working as an editorial illustrator. “Working with subliminal or subconscious ideas has always come naturally to me. It’s not necessarily a 1-2-3 process, but these ideas and images bubble up in my mind. Sometimes I sleep on them and think about them more deeply, but I don’t have a specific concept in mind when I start a painting. It’s not like I’m saying, ‘I’m going to paint about poverty.’ It’s more of an, ‘I saw a film or read an article, and the idea is coming back to me.’”

Laurent is a largely self-taught painter who got his start in the fine art realm via illustration and animation. While working in illustration, he began studying the great American illustrators, which led to a seminal workshop in classical painting in 1990. “It changed my life,” he said. “I’ve been painting ever since.”  The artist, who incorporates surreal, dreamlike imagery straight from the subconscious, considers himself a product of the Jungian psychology movement. “When I was going through design school, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud were sort of ‘peaking.’ For one project, we were asked to do a re-design of the magazine Psychology Today, which involved many elements. Through this project, I became more familiar with the idea of the ‘collective unconscious,’ which really resonated with me. When we dream, we don’t dream in abstract symbols. We dream in terms of imagery, which has always fascinated me. I want to bring that sense of expectation or mystery into my paintings, so that I am, in essence, telling a narrative with a single image.”

Laurent keeps a number of sketchbooks. He describes these as essential tools to his artistic process, because the ideas collected in these books gradually start to gel into a larger concept. “It becomes less of a want, and more of a need to make a painting incorporating these thoughts,” he said. “Although it might not have a clear direction at the beginning, but I can allow the painting to evolve and grow as I work.”  Proper painting techniques are of the utmost importance to the painter. “With representational painting, for example, if you paint a hand, it has to be a good hand. As I tell my students, the audience will always look for the weakest element in the painting. I am a little obsessive about that, getting the images to “work.” The concept evolves on its own. The images start to come together on canvas. I begin to write the story in my mind, and then I solve any issues or ‘picture problems’ with the formal elements.” Laurent does not use computers or technology to aid his work, as many artists do these days. “Of course I collect references, but I have never worked with my easel next to the computer. Some landscape and cityscape painters do that, which is fine, but I don’t want to use additional tools or allow technology to influence my work. I previously worked as an illustrator, so I want to move away from that. I draw directly on the canvas with paint. I don’t transfer images, or use grids. This is my personal philosophy: There is energy in a work of art, and I do not want that energy to be diluted by computer technology.”

“Working with paint is totally different function than drawing. When you’re painting directly on canvas, it’s almost like sculpting, rather than creating a flat image, and then having to convert it to something three dimensional. As an animator, everything was pencil and paper, all about the line, and the ‘illusion of life.’ I spent a lot of time as an illustrator “stylizing” my work- illustrators develop a style and sell the product. This has been another challenge- in painting, you don’t recreate reality or even represent reality. It’s an image, but it’s still an abstract thing, an illusion. It has taken me a long time for painting to not be a struggle; I enjoy the process now. Once you learn to paint, you can basically paint anything, and at that point, it becomes about the choices you make.”

The door to Laurent’s studio space is shaped like a church door. One time, a small child came with her father for a studio visit and asked Laurent if the space was, indeed, a church. He replied, “You know what? This is my church. This is where I come to meditate.” He makes a concerted effort to always go in with a good attitude, and begin working as soon as possible. “I don’t sit out with a cup of coffee and read this article or that. I cannot wait to get on the canvas and start working. It’s important for muscle memory- you learn to hit a tennis ball a certain way, do it over and over, and you get the juices flowing by doing it. That’s what keys your memory and your mind in. Then I feel the groove, and it feels great.”  Laurent tends to enjoy painting most when he is in the studio at night. “I like when it is quiet. Nobody is going to bother me, and I have a good 3-4 hours just to paint. It takes me an hour to warm up, and I have good nights and bad nights. On a good night, the process is almost like I’m channeling something.” People often ask Laurent how long it takes him to complete a painting, which is difficult to answer because ultimately, it depends on how many of those good or bad nights he has. “If I’m on a roll, I might have a great painting in a few days, but if I’m struggling, conflicted over something, I have to disengage from the world in order to figure it out.” He is grateful for his former studio partner, Roland Kulla (who is also represented by ZIA) for instilling a real work ethic in him. “Roland will be in the studio from 9-5 every day. As a result of his presence, I was there more often, and it became more of a habit. A lot of young artists don’t work enough. They have the skills and talent. They’re just not in the studio as much as they could be.”

When asked what he finds the most frustrating part of being an artist, Laurent said, “The gallery system, and everything that goes along with it. It brings the element of business into the artistic process, which is difficult. The system is the naysayer, telling you, ‘That’s not right, you can’t do that, do it this way.’ It is a hurdle to overcome. If artists recognize that this is just the climate in which we try to thrive, and that it happens to every artist, it is a little easier to cope with. It’s almost like that American Idol moment, when you’re on stage, and you think you have something really great to contribute, and the judges say, ‘You’re not ready. Go home.’ At the beginning of my art career, I was crushed by this, and it made me angry. Then I started getting better. You develop an attitude, a way of dealing with the outside forces.” Laurent is careful who he invites to his studio. He has had curators drop by in the past, but prefers to bring his work to them, as to avoid any negative energy in his studio. “It’s not accounting, it’s another animal entirely. You must have your own particular goals and forget everything else. You just have to paint with your heart in it. There will be an audience for it, if it’s good enough, or feedback, if it’s ‘in development’, as I like to say. Some of the best feedback comes from the public.”

 

 

 

Kathy Weaver’s Energetic Visual Storytelling

By Shannon Gallagher

Kathy Weaver’s visually stimulating, imaginative mixed media artwork playfully juxtaposes colorful imagery with references to politics, violence, technology, personal relationships, and memory. She is a multi-media artist who often works on fabric, airbrushing and hand-embroidering the material to create intricate, multi-faceted works on satin, cotton, silk, and velvet.

Her work incorporates layers and multiple mediums, and she works in a variety of sizes. The large quilt pieces are generally a long-term process from conception to completion. “I quilt by hand because I find that I can get more gradation in color with this method. I often work 12-14 very long days on one quilt. It can be very labor intensive,” she said.  Weaver, who taught for over 30 years at all grade levels, admits that the brazen approach to her artwork is heavily influenced by children and their lack of defeatist attitudes. “Children just go for it. They never seem to say “I can’t do it.” A major influence, to me, is the ‘can do’ attitude of children; their spirit, zest, and total willingness to become immersed in their creation process. When the kids were ‘in the zone,’ they would literally be dancing as they were painting, just loving it!” However, the approach is not the only thing about children that inspires Weaver. “The use of bright colors lends happiness to the images, regardless of the subject matter. It draws people in. Also, children experiment. They just try whatever materials or media they have available until it works. Whether I use sculpture, clay, print, ink… it’s all the same. It’s all about trying to just make something. The very act of being in a classroom with a bunch of people making things is just an amazing feeling; it must be like what our ancestors felt like in a room making things for utilitarian or spiritual purposes.”

The artist fell into airbrush painting because she was working on a lot of robot imagery and wanted to render the “skin” of her robots without the presence of an artist’s hand. Airbrush offers a smooth, even coating of paint, but requires steady concentration. Of the process, she said, “It’s simply tedious. I don’t really enjoy airbrushing when I’m painting something from a sketch. When I have a pre-conceived idea of the image I want to get across, it’s a lot of mechanical and tedious work to make it happen. First I make the sketch, then I enlarge it, razorblade it out, and number the pieces like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You have to make it look like it is kind of spontaneous, and you have to remember the color as you go. On the other hand, if I start with a blank canvas and just begin painting with various layers of stencils, I’m working intuitively and I enjoy it a lot more. You don’t know where it will take you.”  Weaver’s work explores themes of humor, irony, human relationships, and contempt for society, although these themes sometimes manifest themselves subconsciously. “I often try to make deliberate statements in my work, but if I’m working on a blank canvas, I might have an idea in mind, but not know where it’s going to go. It’s similar to an author, who has a cast of characters, but not necessarily a story. There may be plot twists and surprise endings.”

When asked what she has learned about herself as an artist over the years, Weaver indicated that one of the most important lessons she has learned is to keep an open mind. “You have to just go for it, go as far as your imagination will take you. I’m constantly learning not to hold back or censor myself. I just try to keep following through with the ideas I have, to follow the little alleys of my mind and see where they lead.” One such alley led Weaver to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. One day, she just decided that she had nothing to lose, and contacted them. “I wanted to learn more about what they were doing with victims of traumatic injury, and specifically, war victims. I was really upset about it, and wanted to learn more. I had heard that they were using robotics and neural pathways to control prosthetic limbs, so I got in touch with them and asked if they would be interested in having an artist draw some of what they were doing in the lab.” She had first become interested in robotics as mechanisms after attending a world conference at Indiana University that discussed all of the different fields that go into the study of informatics (including physics, robotics, and cellular biology). After the conference, she had a whole new perspective on robotics, which are “doing both bad and good things in the world.”

The RIC was very interested, and has been very supportive of her. After getting to know some of the patients and staff, Weaver got the permission necessary from lawyers and patients to sketch them. “I’ve only had one person who requested not to be drawn. I have a form that they must sign, to make it clear that [my presence] in no way influences their treatment. I’m more of a witness. It has been pretty humbling, because some of what these patients are doing is physically difficult, and excruciating for me to watch. It has been a privilege to draw these people, and I always show the patients the drawings afterwards, as well as sending them copies of the sketches.”  When asked about the future, Weaver hinted at a future collaborative project about drones, an upcoming three-person show at Prairie State, and a new body of work concerning neural pathways. She plans to continue working on a series of large-scale drawings that she started during a recent artist’s residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. She also has no plans to stop working with the RIC. “I can really produce,” she said. “I’m a hard worker, but it is because making art is a joy to me. It is the one thing I absolutely just forget everything else and do.”

Kathy Weaver is represented by ZIA|Gallery in Winnetka, Illinois. She is exhibiting in a two-person show there, running from January 18th until March 2, 2013.

Karina Hean’s Interactions With The Environment

By Shannon Gallagher, MAM

Multi-media artist Karina Hean’s childhood in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, and various interactions with the environment, have greatly influenced her work. However, much of the landscape imagery in her work stems from a relationship with a variety of different terrains, including the California coastline, the deserts and mountains of New Mexico and Utah, national parks in Arkansas, and the rapidly changing weather in coastal Ireland.

Tidal 12.5" x 17" multi media

 

Hean’s work, although grounded in drawing, explores all aspects of the medium. She utilizes graphite, charcoal, and conte crayon, as well as watercolor, gouache, ink, and acrylic paint to create multi-dimensional, textural interpretations of the natural world. The work is intuitive, especially in her smaller pieces. She said, “The addition of one component might yield the need for other components to be added or adjusted. I have worked in this manner for over a decade, which creates a rhythm, but can also be predictable at times.” Hean finds that this creates a need to be open- although she may have a vision of what the piece will look like in terms of structure, how that might come into clarity (in terms of depth and color) is variable.

Hean’s pieces range from small and intimate (11 x 17”) to large and boisterous (52 x 72”). She describes the manner in which she works at various scales as widely different. “The large scale works require a lot of physical energy, space, and confidence- both to create the work and to really seeit. It is very gestural, and I must genuinely believe in the next mark I am going to make. The large pieces allow me to create a balance of being brash, loud, and rambunctious versus quiet, sensitive, and shy. The smaller work is a little more refined- each decision is carefully made, and I must edit the marks more thoroughly.”

Field Notes III 11" x 17" watercolor gouache graphite

Numerous artist residencies have provided Hean with an opportunity to conceive new work, as well as an invigorating experience to encourage the creation process. Travel and change have been a great source of stimulation and inspiration. “These residencies have been excellent, because they allow me to take the landscape in, and see new forms and structures. It prevents stagnation, because each place has something new to offer.”  Hean was able to spend a longer period of time in Ireland than other residencies, which made the experience more impactful. “The dramatic weather landscape there is a balance of drama and rationality, which resulted in a struggle to make reason with emotional weather or impassable landscapes. There could be gale force storms one minute, and sunshine and rainbows the next, which was great. The west coast provided plenty of space to spend all day wandering the rocky beaches. The beaches were strewn with kelp, piled up from the tides. The tangled heaps of kelp were vibrantly hued, visceral, and fleshy. The interweaving, repetitive network of forms inspired me then, and the photographs I took while I was there continue to inform my work. I saw tidal pools rich with life, sea anemones, and amazing ranges of hues. This really hit a palette note, and birthed a brand new brazenness with color in my work, as I had previously worked in a more monochromatic manner.”

Hean also utilizes physical activity, music, and other forms of art to stimulate her creativity. “When all is right in the world, I get to run every day and hike a few times a week. That’s a big part of the work, and Santa Fe is a great access point for these things. The work benefits from this because it creates a sense of motion. I play music, purely as an amateur, and reading poetry and literature also comes into play. Other forms of art tend to feed into both what happens in the piece and how I come to understand it.”

Tangled Up I 36" x 72" on paper

Karina Hean’s organic, abstract works evoke polar feelings of chaos and calm by juxtaposing imagery derived from landscapes, weather patterns, and colors in the natural world. The color palette and physical structure present in her work, combined with a layered composition, result in exciting, enigmatic mixed media drawings and paintings that leave the viewer intrigued and aesthetically stimulated. Her work is display, along with paintings by Charles Gniech, through November 24, 2012 at ZIA Gallery.

 

The Surface World Of Charles Gniech

Charles Gniech finds inspiration in surface. His latest work explores the quiet, meditative qualities of prehistoric stone circles in Great Britain.

Subtle Breeze 36x72 acrylic on canvas

Many of these monumental stone structures possess fluid surface-patterns that convey a feeling of harmony and tranquility. The color schemes began based on observations of color in the natural world, and their calming effect on the human psyche. Gniech’s paintings can be interpreted in a variety of ways. He says of his work, “I have taken some artistic liberties, in the replication, manipulation and abstraction of the surface patterns found on these massive stone slabs, yet the work continues to convey the serene qualities regularly associated with nature and inner peace.” This series varies significantly from Gniech’s earlier work, which consists largely of portraits and figures with a strong sense of light.  For Gniech, the artmaking process is as reflective and soothing as the visual product that results from it. His ethereal acrylic paintings give the viewer an immersive sense of calm, while simultaneously stimulating the viewer’s sense of curiosity and wonder. Whether the color palette is cool, warm, earth-toned, or bright, each of his paintings possesses a spiritual quality.

Striation Red 24x24 acrylic on canvas

I spent some time talking to Gniech to get more insight into his inspiration, process, and the end result. When asked what the most indispensable tool in his studio is, Gniech said, “So many things are necessary for what I do. Obviously if the basics disappeared (brushes, fluid, paint), I wouldn’t be able to work, but there are other crucial elements. My studio space and the books I keep write in are necessary to my artmaking process. I have a tendency to spend a lot of time thinking about why I’m doing what I’m doing. I keep records of what I’m working on or thinking about, so that when things get hectic and I have to step away, the documentation allows me to glide back in seamlessly. I have a futon in my studio where I can just sit and think, in the middle of my process. If I distance myself a bit, I can really seeit. It can be a very eye-opening experience.”  To Gniech, the most fulfilling aspect of painting is the time spent creating in solitude, which is a very contemplative and meditative practice for him. He spends endless hours painstakingly creating his pieces, and often loses himself in the process. “It is comparable to runner’s high,” he said. Conversely, the most frustrating part of painting is when life gets in the way and Gniech has to deal with other things, rather than being in the moment. “However, if you think about it in terms of divine intervention, it probably means that you need to get away from [artmaking] anyway, at least momentarily.”  Artists who expel a lot of energy and soul into a work sometimes find it difficult to part with the finished product. Gniech, however, enjoys sharing his artwork and seeing firsthand the effect it has on the person who buys it.  “Most of the time, people who purchase the work become a part of my life. For instance, there was a woman who walked into a gallery where some of my work was on display. She was retired, probably in her mid-sixties, and had never bought a piece of original artwork before. She stood in front of my painting and cried, and knew immediately that she wanted it to be hers. She wanted to meet the artist, so I drove to her house and hung the painting for her. The woman didn’t live in an extravagant home- cozy and welcoming, yes, but it was very middle America. Many people who purchase artwork are a little more well off, and the art often becomes a piece of furniture. I was pleasantly surprised that somebody with a modest income had made a real investment in a piece of artwork, and all because she fell in love with it. It gave her so much joy. That whole experience was very moving to me.”

Cornerstone II 24x24 acrylic on canvas

I wanted to know which contemporary artists inspire Gniech. Often, knowing which artists another artist is moved by (even if their work is nothing alike) lends some insight into his or her thought process. Agnes Martin is an artist whose work provides great stimulation and encouragement to Gniech. He enjoys her linear, repetitive, serene works on paper, and would love to be associated with “that kind of meticulous detail.” It is obvious when comparing the two artists that their work possesses similar styles and aesthetics. Gniech is also a fan of Robert Lostutter’s large, extremely detailed figurative watercolor paintings. “He paints these huge watercolor pieces with a thin, small paintbrush. They’re somewhat grotesque, almost monstrous, and I find them really interesting.” One may not connect Lostutter’s paintings with Gniech’s current body of work, but having seen his earlier figurative work, it is clearer to see why Lostutter’s art piques Gniech’s interest.  It is fascinating to discover the way in which an individual ventures into a career in fine art. Some know from childhood that being an artist his or her destined profession. Others fall into it in a more happenstance manner, or switch occupations later in life. “I do not believe that artists choose to pursue this avenue of work, it just kind of happens. There’s often no way around it,” Gniech said. After graduating high school, he went to a junior college. His father wanted him to take business classes, but Gniech was more interested in the fine art courses being offered. So, while doing what he was “supposed” to be doing (taking core classes in subjects like management and computer software), all of his elective classes consisted of art. It was there that he truly discovered his calling.  While completing his MFA in painting at Northern Illinois University, Gneich got a scholarship. In exchange for teaching two drawing classes each semester, he was given a stipend, which provided enough income to live alone in an apartment off campus, as well as an off campus studio in which to paint. He describes these two years as some of the best of his life. “There was so much freedom, so much energy,” he said. Communicating with other graduate students and professors about art, and having time to simply createprovided Gniech with an incredible and invaluable experience.

Red Surface 24x24 acrylic on canvas

In the early 90s, Gniech took his first trip abroad, which led to his current body of work. He got the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Great Britain, and wound up spending some time on his own at Stonehenge.  “The meditative atmosphere of Stonehenge and other rock formations in Great Britain possesses amazing power and energy. My earlier work is a more figurative visual expression of the rock formations. While my current body of work deals with the same content, it focuses more on the surface forms.” Great Britain continues to provide a source of inspiration, as Gniech has been back to visit numerous times since his initial experience overseas.   This time spent abroad proved to be a very enlightening period for Gniech, as he was able to do some soul searching and meet some invaluable friends along the way. “Traveling the world in your twenties and thirties is a great way to learn more about who you are as a person and figure out what life is about. I recommend seeing new places as often as possible,” Gniech said. It is not always a matter of money, either, according to Gniech. He spent a lot of time traveling with very little currency, and believes in divine intervention. “As long as you don’t push back, the universe will give you what you need,” he said.

In addition to creating work and exhibiting at the national level, Gniech also teaches, consults, and freelances. He is both a Professor of Art and the Exhibition Curator for Gallery 180 at the Illinois Institute of Art- Chicago. His upcoming exhibition at ZIA Gallery opens on October 19th, 2012, with an opening reception from 5:00-7:30 pm.

By Shannon Gallagher, MAM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dula And Wier At ZIA

Opening September 7th ZIA Gallery presents photorealistic paintings by Rick Dula and interpretive photographs of Outer India by Nevada Wier.

With works in private and public collections such as the Denver Museum of Art and Oakland Museum of Art, Rick Dula receives on-going recognition for his light and mood-filled depictions of American industry and urban landscape. In both subject and composition, connections can be found between Dula’s current works and those of the formidable Charles Sheeler. For both artists, photography is a tool in the building of a painting. Like Sheeler, Dula leans toward strong positive and negative shapes, environments devoid of people, and a distinctive feel for American industrial landscape.

While in the 20th century Sheeler extolled the clean, precise forms and power of the machine and industrial age, in the 21st century Dula expresses a fascination with decay of those 19th and 20th c. structures. He sees his depiction of the now rusty and corroded structures as expressing an American equivalent or kind of nostalgia for the beauty of crumbling “Old World” surfaces.

Nevada Wier’s photography reflects an obvious sensitivity to texture, surface and living history, but a fascination with humanity forms the core of her work. Her images of people and cultures from remote areas of the world inspire wonder and curiosity. Wier states: “As a photographer, my imperative is to witness and record my creative interpretation of the people and places I encounter. However, it is not enough to photograph an interesting person; I have to create an interesting image of an interesting person or place. India easily provides the interesting people! They are everywhere and willing to be photographed! A photographer’s perfect dream.”

Wier methodically, yet quickly, composes her photographs. Noting the lights, darks and forms around her subject, Wier may direct an individual to move slightly this way or that, but once she has captured the photograph, none of the content is altered or photo-shopped. Her careful eye results in distinguished bodies of work published in GEONational GeographicOutside and Smithsonian among others.

The levels of skill and interpretation of Nevada Wier’s photographs and Rick Dula’s paintings hold special depth and rewards to those lucky enough to study the works in person. Contrasts: Rick Dula (Paintings: American Industry and Urban Landscape) and Nevada Wier (Photographs: Outer India) are on view at ZIA Gallery September 7 – October 12, 2012. Visitors are invited to meet artist Rick Dula at the opening reception September 7, 5-7:30pm. Then on October 5, 7-8:30 Nevada Wier will be at the gallery. She will begin a talk at 7:30 followed by Q and A. The public is invited to meet this distinguished photographer.

Artists Supporting Human Rights

Artists are some of the most generous people and that’s why art and fund-raising go hand in hand.

Roland Kulla, “Ben Franklin II”, acrylic on canvas, ”60 x 36”

The Art of Human Rights, A Fine Art Invitational Exhibition brings together the generosity of artists, ZIA Gallery, and curator/artist Chuck Gniech to support the humanitarian efforts of Heartland Alliance, an organization that believes everyone deserves the opportunity to improve his or her life. “Each year, we help ensure this opportunity for more than one million people around the world who are homeless, seeking safety, or living in poverty. Our policy efforts strengthen communities; our comprehensive services empower those who strive to rebuild and transform their lives.”

Audry Cramblit, “Paris”, bronze, 7” tall

Chuck Gniech has compiled the work of some amazing artists for an exhibition to raise funds to support the work that Heartland Alliance does to ensure that everyone has a roof over their head, access to health care, and the opportunity to earn income to support themselves and their families and be treated justly. The Art of Human Rights will be presented at ZIA Gallery from August 27 through September 1, 2012. There are twenty-two exhibiting artists: John Benedetto, Jenny Chi, Frances Cox, Audry Cramblit, Jane Fulton Alt, Sheila Ganch, Charles Gniech, Andrea Harris, Paula Kloczkowski Luberda, Deanna Krueger, Roland Kulla, Richard Laurent, Maggie Meiners, Rebecca Moy, Didier Nolet, Nancy Pirri, Ted Preuss, Nancy Rosen, Lorraine Sack, Jim Tansley, Michael Van Zeyl, and John Vlahakis.

John Vlahakis, “Sanctum”, photograph, edition of 5, 15” x 15”

With a variety of imagery and objects from elegant sculpture to thought-provoking painting and inspiring photography, this group exhibition offers something for everyone. Priced from $450 to $18,000—the sale of these pieces will directly benefit the charity. We encourage you to come out, enjoy the art and support a worthy organization. There will be a reception on Thursday, August 30, 5-8pm with delicious appetizers donated by Avli Restaurant and beverages donated by the artists. But don’t wait until then to come by ZIA Gallery. You’ll want to the first to have a chance to purchase your favorite pieces!

Benefit Of The Arts

It is not difficult to identify the positive effects of the arts at both the individual and community level. Arts and culture do more than bring disparate groups of people together for the sake of sharing a common experience; they excite the imagination, provoke discussion, and provide an alternate point of view. Simple audience participation in the arts has numerous benefits. At the social level, it brings together groups of people that otherwise might never interact, thus promoting diversity and acceptance. Arts and culture also strengthen the community and increase civic pride, as well as attracting revenue. At the personal level, cultural events relieve stress, increase the scope of participants’ social networks, support creativity and innovation, and foster trust between individuals.

These are only a few of the reasons why ZIA Gallery is dedicated to promoting the work of emerging and established artists from all over North America. In addition to sharing our love of aesthetics, we also want to encourage community members and local businesses to participate and/or collaborate with us on future events to support area involvement in the arts. It seems that this sentiment is echoed by numerous members of the community, as the topic of neighborhood involvement in the arts was on the forefront at the opening of our current exhibition, Superheroes and Vignettes of Day-to-Day Life on June 22nd. The exhibition, on view until July 28th, features the fine art photography of award-winning artists Dulce Pinzón and Maggie Meiners. It was a very exciting night for us, as we entertained nearly 150 guests throughout the three-hour opening reception.

Several guests who had not previously visited the gallery noted that they were ecstatic to have discovered a progressive art gallery within Winnetka that evokes the feeling of being in Chicago or New York City. Visitors also expressed their fondness of the festive atmosphere surrounding the opening, and a desire for increased numbers of Winnetka businesses to work together to participate in cultural events that encourage community and family interconnectedness. To illustrate this point, a local artist and gallerist who was present at the opening on the 22nd recently returned to ZIA Gallery with her two sons because she wanted them to not only enjoy the visual appeal of the show, but she felt that the ideas being addressed were part of a necessary dialogue about identity and culture that she wanted to share with her sons.

By Shannon Gallagher, MAM

 

The Curious Amalgam Of Anne Hughes

Some people plot out every move whether in life or in art.  Anne Hughes is not one of those people.  Her life and art is a journey of twists and turns where she takes advantage of an opportunity, a gesture or serendipitous coming together of color and marks from which she jumps into an adventure.  Born in Canada of American parents, Hughes grew up outside of Montréal, Québec.  Exposure to cultural diversity, along with curiosity and fascination in subjects from geography, literature, nature and the environment and, of course, art led to an early realization that art is a means to explore any interest.  She received a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal and embarked on a short archeological stint in California.  Then a number of artist residency fellowships and the Brucebo artist travel scholarship allowed her to continue to explore her art and other areas of the world.  Graduate School in Illinois and Ohio led to MA and MFA’s in art and unforgettable studies in Bali.  All along she has exhibited in Canada and the States.  Hughes now makes her home in the Chicago area although still not rooted there. Her work is based in painting, drawing, sculpture and amalgamation of the three.  This can be seen in her current showing at ZIA Gallery.  

Anne Hughes’ assemblages feature a jubilant expression of life, as she seeks “to evoke the wonder and precarious state of our interconnectedness.” Continental Drift, an impressive shadowboxed polygon, contains a juxtaposition of sharp and soft nature-inspired elements where irregular green flames of swirled glass along with painted-Masonite contour forms rise and descend outside the frame. The multi-dimensional piece captures the complexity of life and relationships between humans and nature.  Continental Drift features several unique uses of materials including glass tubes of varying widths and lengths each topped with a marble. The merging of hemispheres, represented in undulating forms of cool and warm colors reminiscent of jet stream winds, is punctuated by a humanlike figure diving right through the center of the piece. A fantastical universe of events unfolds as if recreating a dream sequence of one of life’s definitive moments, such as birth or death. Hughes establishes a continuity that holds all the pieces together and promises richer levels of understanding upon repeated viewings.  Hughes inspires awe and curiosity. The duality of life presented in Continental Drift provides a stimulus for viewers to consider relationships in their own life. Bringing a sense of beauty and grace to the unyielding truths of life is no easy task, yet Hughes does exactly that as Continental Drift acts as a mirror for the self. This is quite a significant accomplishment, and worthy of attention and consideration within and far beyond gallery walls.