Lisa A. Frank: ‘One Long Conversation’

By Shannon Gallagher

© Lisa A. Frank Feared Loved 40x40 Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, Feared Loved, Digital Photography

Lisa Frank, whose intricate, layered digital photo collages combine her passions for the environment, the outdoors, and photography, began her art career in a different vein. At the young age of 22, after completing her degree in Art Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Frank moved to New York City and pursued a career as a working artist. First, she worked as a scenic painter for theater and opera, later moving on to more decorative, surface paintings for high-end restaurants and other hospitality venues, as well as wallpaper and textile design. “In 1988, there was a stock market crash. People started spending less money on decorative painting, which tends to be a luxury item. At that point, I saw the need to retrain myself, because digital imaging was quickly overtaking the need for hand-rendered design,” she said. Frank attended the School of Visual Arts in NYC and took courses in Photoshop. She bought a camera and a scanner and taught herself how to use them.

© Lisa A. Frank Wildnight Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, Wildnight, Digital Photography

“Everything I do basically comes down to drawing and painting,” she said, “but throughout the decades, the context and scale have changed. Technology has changed; my interests have changed, as has what I am physically able to do. Working in theater is very physically demanding. If I was doing that now, I’d be able to do nothing else.” She described her evolution as an artist as “one long conversation.”

© Lisa A. Frank Specimen with Eucalyptus Turtle Shell Honeycomb Digital Photograph

© Lisa A. Frank, Specimen with Eucalyptus Turtle Shell Honeycomb, Digital Photography















Upon the completion of her undergraduate degree, Frank moved to NYC for an internship at Juilliard followed by graduate school at the Yale School of Drama . “I stayed on the east coast for 25 years, and then decided that I wanted to be closer to my family. I have nieces and nephews that I really love. My sister’s family is here [in Madison], as are my parents. My brother’s family is in Chicago.”

© Lisa A. Frank Mushroom Diorama Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, Mushroom Diorama, Digital Photography

In terms of how she began to work photographically, Frank adopted a German Shorthair Pointer puppy 14 years ago. “He had a tremendous reserve of energy, and in order to live with him, I had to spend a lot of time outdoors. It is fun because I love the outdoors which is good for both of us. He has been a very patient photographer’s companion,” she said. Although spring and fall are her favorite times of the year, she takes photos in the woods during all four seasons. Several of her works feature patterns comprised of images of icicles. “I don’t go out when it’s below 10 degrees,” she said, “but all other times, I go out with my dogs. I don’t stop taking photos.”

© Lisa A. Frank Spiderwort and Prairie Smoke Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, Spiderwort and Prairie Smoke, Digital Photography

The artist, who spends countless hours exploring nature and taking photographs, visits several places for inspiration. “In Wisconsin, there’s a national trail that has similar status as the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Segments of the trails are nearby, and I go there regularly. The Nature Conservancy owns some truly wonderful wilderness areas within an hour from Madison. I also go to an arboretum and conservation park close to my home.” The artist listed Olbrich Botanical Gardens as another favorite spot. “Wherever I go, I take my camera as a course of habit. Lately, I’ve also been going to a lot of zoos, because I’m beginning to use more animals in my work.”

Lisa A. Frank These I Sing In Spring Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, These I Sing In Spring, Digital Photography

When asked to describe what she finds frustrating about the artistic process, Frank listed technical problems. “It mostly has to do with printing, color management and having enough memory space for the work that I do. My work is very layered, complicated, and large, so in order to do versions, which I do, it takes up an incredible amount of memory. I’m always up against this task to create enough space for it, backing everything up, and protecting myself adequately,” she said. Frank also has an archive of over 30,000 photographs which can be difficult to organize. “The taking of the photos and the actual making of the work is something that I love and it feels like a truly authentic part of me,” she said. “Organization and getting it to the point of putting it out in the world is where it can get problematic.”


Conversely, the most rewarding part of the artistic process for Frank is when people tell her something in her work resonates with them. “Also, I love being able to bring attention to things that many people cannot or do not see.” For instance, Frank often finds herself in the woods, closely examining the environment. “I take photos of mushrooms, moss, and rocks,” she said. “Not everyone is able to go out and explore like that, so I am very happy that I can use those objects as subject matter and show people that they exist.”

© Lisa A. Frank Jack-In-the-Pulpit Berries with Bolete Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, Jack-In-the-Pulpit Berries with Bolete, Digital Photography

Last summer, Frank was accepted to and attended a prestigious residency at the MacDowell Colony, located in New Hampshire. The residency is over 100 years old, and has been host to some very successful artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and architects. “It was intimidating to be on the same property as some of these people,” she admitted. Frank went there with the intention of working on a specific project that she proposed during the application process. “I had a wonderful studio in the woods,” she said. “I worked and hiked and took a lot of pictures.”

© Lisa A. Frank Farmers Market Madison WI Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, Farmer’s Market Madison WI, Digital Photography

There were about 25 people in residency – writers, architects, artists, etc. We had communal dinners after which everyone took turns giving presentations.” The goal of the residency is to give creative people an opportunity to work on their projects in a way that is undisturbed. “It’s beautiful there, and the solitude is quietly enforced. At noon, they deliver picnic baskets so that you don’t have to take a break to find something to eat. It was wonderful, just an incredible opportunity,” she said. Frank also takes pride in having been an instructor at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. “In a similar kind of way, it was a wonderful chance to really focus on one thing,” she said.

© Lisa A. Frank In My True Love's Hands Digital Photography

© Lisa A. Frank, In My True Love’s Hands, Digital Photography

As far as future plans and projects go, Frank is working on several interdisciplinary projects that include virtual reality content. In addition, this summer she will be teaching a course about exploring nature through technology at Peters Valley in New Jersey.

Lisa Frank’s work is currently on exhibit at ZIA Gallery. See for more information.

Of Marvel And Mystery: The Art of Anne Hughes


“Migrations” 36x24x6 Pastel on cut or torn paper © Anne Hughes

By Shannon Gallagher

Anne Hughes’ artwork embodies a sense of marvel and mystery. The viewer is left awestruck by her imaginative 2d and 3d works, which use a rich color palette and employ a variety of mark-making techniques. Hughes describes the process of working on a piece of art as meditative. “That’s what I feel when I’m absorbed in my work. I get lost in the act and watching it evolve. I lose all sense of time,” she said. “I never want to be pinned into one way of working,” she went on. “I like the idea of being able to break so-called rules, that it is possible to resolve difficulties and make something work. Challenge is enjoyable. If, in the end, I achieve a sense of wonder and mystery, of being surprised, then I am happy.”

"Plato's Cave" 52 x 30 x 6 pastel and cut paper ©Anne Hughes

“Plato’s Cave” 52 x 30 x 6 pastel and cut paper ©Anne Hughes

Much of her art revolves around ideas of nature, ecosystems, wonder, and the element of surprise. “We think we’re in control. We aren’t. Life and nature are so complex,” she said. From both an environmental and global point of view, the artist is greatly inspired by variety, diversity, and interconnectedness. “As humans, we don’t necessarily know how we effect the next person and the world, but connections are everywhere.”

"Formations 2" 5 x 5.5 pastel and sequin © Anne Hughes

“Formations 2” 5 x 5.5 pastel and sequin © Anne Hughes

The artist, who has traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Indonesia and Iceland, is unsure as to whether her travels influence her art or her art makes her more inclined to roam.

"Red Formations" 7 x 7 pastel ©Anne Hughes

“Red Formations” 7 x 7 pastel ©Anne Hughes

“To me, it’s both. I don’t know what comes first, because they go hand in hand. I like being exposed to new environments, learning about different cultures.” She enjoys educational travel, and isn’t one to lie on a beach soaking up the sun. “That’s boring to me,” she said. “I’d rather walk along the beach, be in the water, and observe the environment- that’s what I find fascinating.” When asked where she would like to travel to next, Hughes laughed and said, “I’m not so choosy. I try to take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way.” She would love to visit the Sequoia National Park in California. “I saw redwood trees in Muir Woods in California, and they’re amazing. It’s just stunning. The hush of the park -so peaceful- and the fragrance, unforgettable!”

"L'Opéra" 49 x 42 x 4 Oil on Panel and Wood ©Anne Hughes

“L’Opéra” 49 x 42 x 4 Oil on Panel and Wood ©Anne Hughes

This vested interest in the world originated from Hughes’ childhood. She considers herself lucky to have been able to grow up outdoors, in all seasons, exploring the woods near her house and playing games with friends.

"The Garden" 24 5/8 x 17 3/8 Pastel ©Anne Hughes

“The Garden” 24 5/8 x 17 3/8 Pastel ©Anne Hughes

“I have always valued play. A lot of teenagers are eager to leave play behind. That is unfortunate. Valuing play is where the sense of wonder comes from in my art. I’m curious, and curiosity feeds my work.” Hughes was the type of student that really enjoyed school, every subject from literature to history, government and philosophy. She found that art was a way to tie all of her interests together. “Anything can be a direct or indirect inspirational source.”

"Mutable Sphere" 25 7/8 x 18 1/8 Pastel © Anne Hughes

“Mutable Sphere” 25 7/8 x 18 1/8 Pastel © Anne Hughes

Hughes’ work can be described as dreamlike, and she works on an intuitive wavelength. “I might start with a kernel of an idea or image, but I don’t know where I’m going to end up. I like to break out and let process take over,” she said. Working in this manner has allowed her to surprise herself and enjoy the journey of making a piece of art.

"Pull of the Moon" 30" x 23 7/8 Pastel © Anne Hughes

“Pull of the Moon” 30″ x 23 7/8 Pastel © Anne Hughes

“But working intuitively doesn’t mean that you avoid making choices or being critical. At the beginning, I allow myself more freedom. I don’t make hard and fast decisions too quickly to avoid stymieing myself.” Often, while working, she will begin to see little connections, which lead to a heightened consciousness of what the work is about. “Sometimes a title will pop into my head. When that happens, I know I’m not far from the end,” she explained. Once Hughes is beyond that point, she begins to eliminate weak areas and emphasize strengths in the work. When she does not have any particular image in mind, she sets out to simply make marks. “You just start putting color down,” she said, “and see where it leads.”

"Molotov Cocktail" 54 x 34 x 4 Oil on Panel, graphite on wood © Anne Hughes

“Molotov Cocktail” 54 x 34 x 4 Oil on Panel, graphite on wood © Anne Hughes

She gravitates towards painting on panel, because she can re-work things in ways that would be impossible to do on stretched canvas. “I rub it off, scratch into it. If I’m working with pastels on paper, I apply color, wipe it away, then add more. I attack the surface.”

"Yo-Yo" 12" x 12" Oil on Panel © Anne Hughes

“Yo-Yo” 12″ x 12″ Oil on Panel © Anne Hughes

The artist uses abstraction, realism, and stylization, sometimes all within the same piece. When painting, she uses brushes, rags, and her fingers to apply or remove paint. Several years ago, her dentist gave her some dental tools to use when sculpting with clay, but Hughes has taken to using them in painting, somewhat like a printmaker would use an etching needle- she will go into the surface of the paint with the fine point, draw into the paint, or scratch it away. As for the type of paint she uses, Hughes tends to stick to oils. Acrylics dry much more quickly, and can change color once they do so. “I’ve been more of a purist lately with oils,” she said. “I like to be able to have some working time, so that I can wipe away paint, work thinly, and add layers.”

"Dance" 6 7/8 x 6 7/8 Pastel © Anne Hughes

“Dance” 6 7/8 x 6 7/8 Pastel © Anne Hughes

When drawing with pastels, she prefers to use a small-tooth paper to avoid the texture of the paper becoming a dominant feature of the work. “I prefer to control it, to create texture rather than allow the paper to determine it,” she explained.

Installation view of some of Anne Hughes' work, currently on exhibit at ZIA|Gallery through April 18, 2015

Installation view of some of Anne Hughes’ work, currently on exhibit at ZIA|Gallery through April 18, 2015

Hughes has a surplus of ideas to work through within her artwork, so many that she could never delve into them all during her lifetime- although many of the thoughts she explores become recurring themes throughout her body of work. Having a unique artistic style allows the viewer to immediately identify the work as hers, while also unifying the collective grouping. “Once you’ve touched your core and you have a certain confidence in what you are doing,” she said, “that’s what starts to determine your individual style.”

Anne Hughes’ work is currently on display at ZIA Gallery.

The Evolution of Matthew Schofield

By Shannon Gallagher

Matthew Schofield’s work has been in a constant state of evolution throughout his career. The small-scale oil paintings he creates now are quite different from the large scale, psychological, figurative paintings he created in college. “When I was in school, I always wanted to paint from life,” he said. “It was generally taught that painting from photos was taboo, and I agreed with that concept.” However, he later stumbled across some photo albums that belonged to his grandmother, and found himself enamored by the grouping and point of view of these images.

"Organ Sale Booth" 4" x 4" Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

“Organ Sale Booth” 4″ x 4″ Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

“I found the placement of the photos in the book interesting. It told a larger story, even though it wasn’t meant to. You viewed them together, and it gave you a richer tapestry of the narrative, where the photographer’s interests lie,” Schofield said. When he found the book, he began to paint in a more abstract way, focusing on the spaces between the people in the images, the space between the photos, and the human touch. “It was an area of interest to me, because it mean someone held it and placed it there. Is it haphazard, crooked, or placed with reverence? How does it frame the whole painting?”

"Canadian Couple" 5" x 5" Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

“Canadian Couple” 5″ x 5″ Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

Schofield found himself intrigued by the idea of gesture, the physical act of someone scrapbooking family photos. It was then that he began to paint small, because he started to work wet into wet, and had only a short time frame to complete each work. In 2006, he completed a series about the evolution of our time being managed, called (almost) everything, in which the artist focused on the things we think about or see when we’re distracted, or waiting in line, or what we see when we acquire our first smart phone- the constant bombardment of information and images that occurs in our daily lives. “I did a strip of small paintings that wrapped completely around the gallery. The images didn’t really relate, so I was essentially scrapbooking, doing the thing that I found interesting before. I really liked working small, and I liked the idea of the scrapbook, and so I started to look at who was holding the camera and used that as a portrait,” he explained.

"Red Car" 4" x 4" Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

“Red Car” 4″ x 4″ Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

Schofield then started to look at photographs taken by his grandmother and his father and began to examine what their interests were when taking the photo. “It showed their idiosyncrasies, what was important to them. I learned what they found worthy of a snapshot. It was naive and refreshing, because it wasn’t a contrived composition.” He also noted that the one to one scale is not meant to fool the viewer, but simply to reference the original object.

"Concrete Deck" 4" x 4" Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

“Concrete Deck” 4″ x 4″ Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

Although his grandmother is no longer living, Schofield’s parents have come to his exhibitions and given him further insight into what was going on in the photographer’s mind when various photos were taken. “I like that I get to talk to them about the imagery. I could see my dad starting to think about how he composed a shot. My mom told him that she didn’t like the way he took photos because he’d step back and take the full frame; she wanted to see the personality of the people in the images,” he recalled. “This meant that I was on the right track, as far as exposing the idiosyncrasies, the portraiture of the person taking the photo. They are the masters of the world you’re being exposed to.”

"Casting a Long Shadow" 4" x 4" Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

“Casting a Long Shadow” 4″ x 4″ Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

Schofield loves the curatorial aspect of his work. “The painting is enjoyable, but the installation is my favorite thing. I get great satisfaction from it, the challenge of concept to completion. Maturing as an artist, knowing why you’re doing what you are, and thinking of the next step, and what you want to accomplish with this. What’s my end game? How can I expand on this? These are thoughts that run through my head. Some artists can focus on something forever, but it doesn’t seem like much change, they’re very gradual. Sometimes, it’s a matter of a reaction to looking at older work, and in those moments, you can discover something that interests you, and chase after it. Now I’m at the refining stage, I want to go bigger now (in terms of installation), but it can’t be forced, because then it becomes contrived,” he revealed.

"Summer Vacation" diptych 6" x 4" Oil on Mylar on Panel

“Summer Vacation” diptych 6″ x 4″ Oil on Mylar on Panel

"Summer Vacation" diptych 6" x 4" Oil on Mylar on Panel (part 2)

“Summer Vacation” diptych 6″ x 4″ Oil on Mylar on Panel










In regard to his series Supernumeraries: repurposed, a collection of small (1” x 1.5”) oil paintings on glass, he, in a way, pays homage to visual effects matte painters at the end of the 19th century. Schofield also, is doing post-production in film, for which he has been nominated for both a Primetime Emmy award and an Oscar. However, what he does for that line of work is largely done on computers. Before the digital age, matte painters painted giant (as large as 4’ x 8’) works with oil on glass to create backdrops for movie scenes when building an actual set would take up too much time, money, and materials. Many films, including Star Wars, were filmed this way. “It was crazy,” he said. “It’s more amazing what these artists did as individuals back then than what an entire studio can do today.” Schofield found himself thinking about what it would be like to paint on glass, and decided to give it a shot. “I was happy to try it, and I needed a reason to do it. I thought I was getting too tight as a painter, so I tried a different medium and scale.

"Supernumenaries 04" 1.5" x 1" Oil on Glass

“Supernumenaries 04″ 1.5″ x 1” Oil on Glass

Glass is slippery and slick; it was difficult at first. It was also a challenge to paint that small. I decided that I was going to work at that size because I was taking found photographs and finding the characters in the backgrounds of paintings and making them the primary characters- it’s a matter of importance, not scale. I focus on them instead of the person smiling. The series is called Sumpernumeraries, because that’s what background characters on set are called. This series loosened me up, and I might continue doing it on a larger scale,” he said.

Matthew Schofield's "Supernumeraries 08" 1.5" x 1" Oil on Glass

Matthew Schofield’s “Supernumeraries 08″ 1.5″ x 1” Oil on Glass

In the series, many of the images feature dark color palettes, which have nothing to do with the idea of looking at a slide without a projector. “It’s just that the photos I’m using are dark because they weren’t metered to the background. I try to paint verbatim, one to one. I like a technical challenge, like, ‘Can I paint this in the exact same color space?’ Sometimes it’s too dark, overexposed. That’s where I’m clearly referencing the original object,” he explained.

"Dinosaur" 4" x 6" Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

“Dinosaur” 4″ x 6″ Oil on Mylar on Panel by Matthew Schofield

Schofield spent the bulk of last year working on 80 pieces for a major show at an art gallery in Ontario, so he’s happy to have a bit of a break right now. “After some time off, I’m going to try to conceive something for next year, to fill a bigger space,” he said. “It’s a tall order, and I’m happy to have the freedom and luxury of not having to think about it for a little while. After a major series, I need time for introspection, to let things percolate. I don’t want to water [the work] down.”

Matthew Schofield with some of his artwork at his opening reception at ZIA|Gallery.

Matthew Schofield with some of his artwork at his opening reception at ZIA|Gallery.

As far as the direction in which his work may be headed, Schofield said that he is thinking of working on a larger scale, in terms of installation. “When you have 80 small works, it becomes its own composition,” he said. “Each viewer picks different pieces to zoom in on; you can’t focus on a single image. It’s overwhelming, and it’s hard to choose something to look at. I’m building on the same theme of distraction.”

View to demonstrate scale of Matthew Schofield's "Canadian Couple"

View to demonstrate scale of Matthew Schofield’s “Canadian Couple”

Matthew Schofield’s work is on display at ZIA Gallery from March 7th through April 18th, 2015.

Beverly Zawitkoski’s Process Toward Beauty

By Shannon Gallagher

Zawitkoski Figure-Red 43 mixed media on paper 7 x 4.25

Zawitkoski Figure-Red 43 mixed media on paper 7 x 4.25

Beverly Zawitkoski got her introduction to fine art through a career in design. She was first interested in fashion design, and then theater design. She worked in theater after graduating from Concordia University in Montreal, and continued her theater design studies when she won a Commonwealth scholarship to the Slade in London. During her time there, she was working directly next to the printmaking department, which piqued her interest, and she was simultaneously growing a bit weary with the hours associated with working in theater. “The lifestyle is very difficult,” she said. “I love the design aspect, and it’s a very sociable lifestyle, but it takes you away from home for 14-18 hours a day sometimes, which was inappropriate for me, because I’m a homebody.”

Her last theater project at Slade evolved into a printmaking project because of both the proximity of the printmaking studio to where she was working, and her fondness for the medium. “I love printmaking- the quality of ink on paper and the deep richness that can be achieved.“ Printmaking led simply to creating works on paper, using a variety of media. She has a fondness for charcoal and pastels, particularly chalk pastels. “The matte quality reminds me of printmaking, and I love the powdery earthiness of the pigments.”

Zawitkoski Figure-backview(6) mixed media on paper 8.25x6 LowRes

Zawitkoski: Figure-backview 6, 8.25″ x 6″ pastel and mixed media on paper















As Zawitkoski turned to working more and more in painting, she looked for other materials to suit her needs.

Zawitkoski- "A Passing Moment" 17 x 36 Acrylic on Mylar

Zawitkoski- “A Passing Moment” 17 x 36 Acrylic on Mylar

“When you are putting paint down and removing it, paper is not the most logical choice. I switched to Mylar because I liked the idea of translucency. I was first introduced to the material at a Jim Dine exhibition. He had a few works on Mylar, and I thought to myself, ‘What a wonderful paper for me to experiment with.’ I was using a lot of watercolor and gouache at that time, so I had to change my painting medium as well, which is how I got started in acrylic.” Zawitkoski, who now does a lot of painting on Mylar, calls it again “transitional” as she added working on rag papers to Mylar to canvas and hard board.

Zawitkoski "Sail" 36x46 Acrylic on canvas

Zawitkoski “Sail” 36×46 Acrylic on canvas

Zawitkoski "Gestural Rhythms" 36 x 48 Acrylic on canvas

Zawitkoski “Gestural Rhythms” 36 x 48 Acrylic on canvas

Zawitkoski uses a variety of tools to achieve the marks in her work. She utilizes paintbrushes, squeegees, and scrapers to get the initial marks down on the surface. “That’s the key- I don’t usually have any idea in mind other than an ambiguous visual, which is not very tangible. By putting down marks on the canvas or paper, it allows me to start developing the image,” she said. “Of course, it doesn’t look anything like the finished product, it’s a stepping point to set me off in the direction I need to go in.” She describes illustration as “controlled because it has to work with the manuscript.” Moving from that vein to abstraction was an adjustment.

Zawitkoski "Draped In Red" 6.75 x 6.75 Acrylic on Mylar

Zawitkoski “Draped In Red” 6.75 x 6.75 Acrylic on Mylar

“My work flows best when I completely let go and avoid thinking about what I’m going to paint- I just get my paintbrush or scraper and put paint down on the surface, move it around until it looks interesting, let it dry, repeat. It builds, and I push and pull the paint to develop the image. Sometimes, you have to let go of those beautiful, spontaneous marks that you started with in order to benefit the whole.”

Zawitkoski "Break Away" 40.5 x 27.5 Acrylic on Mylar

Zawitkoski “Break Away” 40.5 x 27.5 Acrylic on Mylar

The artist admits that she sometimes has difficulty letting certain pieces go. “There are times when I finish a work and it encompasses a world I’ve tried hard to achieve, and when that happens, I want to hold onto it forever. Those pieces seem like a mystery to me, and their evolution is almost cryptic.”

Gallery installation view of "Changing Spaces" and "Fall"

Gallery installation view of “Changing Spaces” and “Fall”

Sometimes, the works become reference studies for future paintings, and others she keeps because they have successfully captured the mood she so desperately strives for. “My goal as an artist is always to create my idea of beauty, in whatever form that may be. My painting process and finished works are an escape from all I see as being harsh, cold, and sterile in the world. My objective is to intuitively develop ambiguous worlds that, through imagination, encapsulate that experience and vision into one that hopefully connects with others. When a work transports me on many different levels, it becomes difficult to part with.”

Zawitkoski "The Little Stream" 24 x 36 Acrylic on Mylar

Zawitkoski “The Little Stream” 24 x 36 Acrylic on Mylar

Making art can sometimes cause frustration, as Zawitkoski is familiar with. “My inability to just trust on a daily basis causes some issues,” she says. She conjures an image in her mind, and feels the need to pursue it and bring it to fruition. “Sometimes, in process, the painting sends me in a completely different direction. There’s some part of me that finds it hard to be free enough to just trust what comes out, but the work is more successful when I don’t think, just do.”

Zawitkoski "Entrance" 6.75 x 3.25 Acrylic on Mylar

Zawitkoski “Entrance” 6.75 x 3.25 Acrylic on Mylar

Conversely, the moment that the image is actualized creates a feeling of elation within her. “When it all pulls together, which doesn’t always happen, and you’ve worked so long on it and achieved what you intended, it is magical. There are rare days when I pick up my brush and it feels as if everything is out of my control, the brush is moving and it’s just as much a mystery to me as it is to any viewer. Those days are amazing.

Ted Preuss’ Timeless Aesthetic

By: Shannon Gallagher

Photographer Ted Preuss’ work has a timeless aesthetic. Although he has recently begun to shift from the figurative photography, for which he is known, into more landscape and seascape imagery, the goal is the same: to create simple, enduring, beautifully shot images in black and white that expose the natural elegance of the subject he is working with.

Otter Cove

Preuss: Otter Cove, 36×30, Archival Pigment


He is acutely interested in lines and shapes present in the composition, regardless of whether the image is of a nude figure or the rocky terrain of a seaside cliff.


Press: Flow, Platinum Palladium print

As the focus of attention varies, the approach to photographing must change as well. When he plans on photographing outdoors, Preuss often scouts out the places he’s interested in capturing on film, in order to create his vision. “When I’m working with natural elements, I often have to just sit and wait for the right moment, the right light, etc. Sometimes I wait for the waves to come crashing in a certain way, or if I want there to be fog in the image, I just have to be patient- I have no control over it. When I am shooting figurative work, however, I can direct the model, conduct the shoot to go the way I want it to.” Preuss said that while it is difficult to choose a particular series of which he is fondest, he does greatly enjoy shooting landscapes and seascapes. “It’s very calming, and I get to enjoy the natural world.”

Muir Woods

Preuss: Muir Woods, 10×8, Wet-plate Collodion Tintype
















One challenge of working with the natural environment, aside from a lack of control of the elements, is the tintype process that he often utilizes. He keeps his darkroom chemicals in his car when he is out photographing nature, because the procedure must be immediate. “Often, when I go hiking, I’ll pull over to the side of the road and shoot, then use the portable darkroom in my car to develop the image,” he said. Preuss pours collodion (a substance used during the Civil War to suture wounds together with linen bandages) onto a piece of glass, tin, or aluminum. Once the collodion is tacky he dips the plate into silver nitrate for three minutes. Then, while it is still dripping wet, he must insert it into the camera, take the shot, and then process it. He only has about five minutes before the collodion dries and is no longer useful. The results are hauntingly alluring black and white images with beautiful imperfections indicative of the tintype process.


Preuss: Acadia, 8×10 Silver Gelatin

In his series The Sea, Preuss has employed a long exposure time to capture soft, ethereal images of flowing water that feel quite different from the uncontrollable, rushing water that exists in reality. “In actuality, [the sea] is full of vitality and life, and it’s not calming at all,” he said. The five-minute exposure time lends a dreamlike quality to the images.

Preuss Pacific Grove  28x36 Archival Pigment

Preuss: Pacific Grove 28×36 Archival Pigment

Every year, Preuss and his wife spend a month in Maine, and he does a lot of shooting in Acadia National Park, the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River. He described the scenery as “incredible, with lots of cliffs and waves constantly crashing into the shore.” The park encompasses mountains, an ocean shoreline, lakes, forest, and islands, and provides a wealth of inspiring scenery worthy of photographic documentation. He also frequents the Point Lobos State Park of Central California’s Pacific Coast, and plans to return this year as well. 


Ted Preuss with his camera and works: Otter Cove and Pacific Grove

Preuss, who typically works on a smaller scale, is enjoying the large scale of the new photographs currently on display at ZIA Gallery. Some of the pieces are as large as 3 feet across, and present an environment that the viewer can feel as though he or she can step into and be a part of. He is also delving into the idea of working with some negatives that he found from 1917. The photos were taken with a 4×5 camera by his great grandfather while he was traveling throughout the United States, in places like Yosemite National Park and Niagara Falls. “I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with that yet, but it has been fun to explore,” he said.

Yosemite 1915

Ted Preuss’ great grandfather Albert A. Jeaneret’s Yosemite 1917

Ted Preuss’ work is on display at ZIA Gallery through February 28, 2015.  These works range in imagery and technique from large archival pigment prints, to 10” x 8” tintypes, 16 x 20 silver gelatin works, and small, beautifully subtle platinum palladium photographs including some printed on a leaf skeleton. Preuss’ fascination and mastery of various techniques are clearly evident in the current exhibition.


Preuss: Subdue, Platinum Palladium Print on Skeleton Leaf



Artist Tim Liddy Interview

By Shannon Gallagher

St. Louis-based artist Tim Liddy has had several exciting projects on his hands in 2014. He recently concluded a large project outside the luxury boxes at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tim Liddy In His Studio

Tim Liddy In His Studio

The Hunt family, who owns the Chiefs, commissioned Liddy to create ten football related board game paintings on copper. Members of the Hunt family had seen his work at the Dallas Art Fair and thought it would be fun to do a survey of football related board games of various types. The imagery is based on real board games from the 20th century, ranging from 1914 to 1991, the latest being a John Madden Sega game. “Some were games that I used to play with as a kid,” said Liddy. “It was fun doing research and trying to replicate these games. I bought the actual games and looked at the boxes, trying to represent them as faithfully as possible. ”

Tim Liddy Circa 1960

Tim Liddy Circa 1960

In typical Liddy fashion, however, each game has a bit of fiction in it. The time frame of this project was about four months, which is not a lot of time for the painstaking detail and work that goes into each painting. “Ten pieces in four months really wore me out to my core,” he explained. “I had assistance in the studio, which I normally do, but they were there full time for this project. Liddy, who is also a professor of art at Fontbonne University, began the project with a month left in the spring semester, and worked diligently throughout the summer and had to forego his family vacation to complete the works. “I think this was a really beautiful venue for these works, because it’s a different type of fan base,” he said. “These are football fans who walk by and might not even know the pieces are paintings unless they take a closer look.” The first time Liddy showed his work was in New York at OK Harris, and they had to put a plaque under his name that said “paintings on copper.” He found watching people’s reactions to the work fun. “There’s a fine line between making them look exactly like a replica of the box top and making it really kind of about the viscosity of the paint. I want to paint to have a role and play it’s precarious line. It’s as much about the paint as it is about the image- there’s something very important about it to me, something that transcends any of the images,” Liddy explained.

Oil on Copper

Oil on Copper

Another very impressive project that Liddy recently participated in was the opening of a new exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum, which opened in 2011, was spearheaded by Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. The exhibition, called State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, focused acutely on providing a venue and a voice for living and working artists in the United States. The Museum’s curatorial team spent a year on the road, visiting art fairs and galleries, conducting studio visits, and meeting with nearly 1,000 artists in every region of the country, talking face-to-face with them about their work, ideas, and processes. “From what I understand, [the curators] had seen my work before and were aware of it, they knew that I was located in St. Louis and the gallery I am affiliated with there. Their decorum was to go through the gallery for most of the artists. It was also easy for them to find me through my website ( Their first list had about 6,900 artists, which they then narrowed down to 1,000 studio visits, and ultimately, down to about 100 artists for the show.” Along with the exhibition, there was a 3-day summit, with speakers and guests in various backgrounds and businesses from across the country, including Bill Clinton, Maya Lin, Moshe Safdie, among many others.

Tim Liddy with President Clinton

Tim Liddy with President Clinton

Liddy was asked to give a talk at the summit. “I never asked how I was chosen to speak,” he said, “but a handful of artists were chosen from the 102 that are in the show. The panel that I was on discussed the personal experience in one’s work. I talked about how I came to be an artist and how that transpired into what I’m doing now.” Liddy  relayed the feelings of going back and forth about being an artist, even now that he is well established. He recalled creating a drawing at the age of 5, and having someone say “Oh, you’re an artist!” and then at age 8, being frustrated by drawing bones in biology class and feeling that he had failed as an artist. “Then, at 13, I was an artist again,” he said. “It was up and down, there are doubts of what you’re doing and why, and then there’s a revelation, because it’s important, or cathartic, or whatever, and then you might drop the affirmation that you’re an artist again, and go back to, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ I have these bouts of reality sometimes that I might rather be doing something else or something I might deem to be more important. It was a very frank and personal panel that was, at the core, about heart and who you are as an artist. It was very eye-opening. The curator wanted everything to be really natural, so he didn’t give us any way to prepare for it. He raised a few questions at the beginning, but it was not rehearsed in any way, very off-the-cuff.” The presentation was well-attended, and many people afterwards approached Liddy, giving feedback and asking him to elaborate on things he had discussed.

Liddy At Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Liddy At Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Liddy went on to describe the summit as a whirlwind of meeting people, dinners, panels, and lunches. “It was crazy how many people I met- influential people, funders, collectors, curators, directors of museums, architects, Hollywood producers and directors, etc.” Liddy attended some of the other lectures, noting that he found David Adey’s talk particularly fascinating, as well as a presentation from funding organization Creative Capital. “It was interesting to learn about how they chooses artists to fund grants for, how they continue to raise money for these artists’ grants, David Adey being one of the recipients.” He also described a “beautiful” talk by Maya Lin, and a great presentation by Bill Clinton on the state of art today. “He had a talk prepared, but felt that he couldn’t follow up Vanessa German’s discussion on inner cities and violence and her experiences going through those things, so he went off-the-cuff and talked about how he experiences art, things that relate to art, what he considers the state of art. It was really powerful; he has so much charisma. That was one of my favorite parts of the summit.” Clinton discussed his relationship to artmaking, what art is, the artists that he knows. “He told a story about artists in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake- he was with his entourage, and they stopped where there was a group of artists selling paintings. He told his group, ‘I want each of you to buy at least three paintings from these people; this is their livelihood.’ As they were leaving, an artist approached him and said, ‘Mr. Clinton, you bought some paintings from me many years ago. I lost my entire family in the earthquake. This is all I have left.’ The former president found the situation to be very powerful, and bought several more works from the man.

Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges

Liddy describes the summit as an odd experience. “There were a lot of collectors of my work there, and other influential collectors. It was great to see Beth DeWoody and be able to spend time with her, but the experience, as a whole, was also very strange because there were so many very important people at the summit. The first night, we went to dinner, and this very nice man was sitting next to me. He was extremely nice to me, and I figured he worked at Crystal Bridges,” Liddy said. “I asked what his affiliation was, and he said that he was not affiliated with the museum. He said, ‘I’m the president and director of the Walton Foundation.’ Most of the people there were so down to Earth,” he said. “The wealth that was there, the people that have some kind of influence in our world- it was surreal. It was a small group of people, 150 tops, but the people that were asked to be there are influential, and made an effort to be there because of the show- and that’s incredible.”  Although Liddy enjoys creating the game box paintings, and he still has a lot of other ideas in him (especially since he invents many of them- all of the paintings at Crystal Bridges are fiction), he has a lot of totally different ideas in his head that he’d like to explore in the future.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

“I try to change things up about every five years. I don’t want to back myself in a corner of a certain style, I try to let the ideas filter through and let the medium I use be best to fit that idea. To me, as an artist, it’s important not to let myself fit only one mold. It’s too limiting. In my studio, I’ve developed many different techniques and styles. I’ve gone back and forth. I started as a sculptor, and I see the game box paintings as much about 3D design as they are about painting.”  Liddy says that he has many ideas in the works for future projects, but it’s more about finding the time. He often finds himself getting pulled back into another show or another project pertaining to what he’s doing now. “Eventually, I’ll need to drop what I’m doing here and move onto the next big thing.” Tim Liddy’s work is represented by ZIA Gallery, located at 548 Chestnut Street in Winnetka, Illinois. He currently has work in the gallery and will be having a featured exhibition opening Saturday, June 13th, 5 – 7pm, running through July 25, 2015. Check out for more information.

Resonance and Sustenance

What mysterious melding of components lead to resonance in art?

McDonald  -  Lake Flaccid 14x17-Mixed-Media.

McDonald – Lake Flaccid 14×17-Mixed-Media.

In the case of one of Brian McDonald’s artworks “Lake Flaccid,” it is his playful blend of symbols and words: a Christmas tree, the cartoon imagery of two sporty characters, a wounded arm, a sweet heart imprinted on a chest, a limousine filled with “friends,” along with the word “Dave” and the letter “C.” The chance encounter of these details with the life experience of a particular individual conspired to attain quixotic transcendence no artist could foresee. Still it happened, and the perfect work landed in the hands of the perfect recipient!?  In another example, it is an Icelandic horse’s magnetic gaze caught in the photographer’s pristine composition that speaks to viewers. Original prints of John Vlahakis’ “Bylgia” so quickly found homes, only one remains, waiting for its destination.

Vlahakis - Bylgia 20x30 archival photograph.  Edition of 5

Vlahakis – Bylgia 20×30 archival photograph. Edition of 5

During the process of juggling an infinite amount of choices to arrive at some unforeseen cohesion, an artist can slip into a form of meditation – as can the viewer when pulled into an intellectual and spiritual journey.  As the year enters its festive period, experience the wonders of art with an exhibition of such range and diversity, there is much to enjoy and to discover in contributions by more than thirty gallery and invited artists from disciplines including sculpture, painting, photography, drawing, jewelry, printmaking and beyond.

Sustenance abounds!

11-2014 Group Exhibition Postcard

Works pictured are by:

Karina Hean, Tim Liddy, Melissa Jay Craig, Brian McDonald


Zoriah Miller, Roland Kulla, Bob Krist, Richard Laurent


Kathy Weaver, Jonathan Ricci, Mary Burke, Lisa Frank, Michael Cutlip


Carl Wilen, Beverly Zawitkoski, Clyde Butcher, Anne Hughes, Rick Dula



Ted Preuss, Fumiko Toda, John Vlahakis, Matthew Schofield, Bob Rehak


Specially invited guest artists include:

Michael Bond, Barry Cain, Vicki Cook, Diane Ferguson

Mark McMahon, Corinne Peterson, Amy Taylor, Lisa Williams

The Year End Group Exhibition open Saturday, November 22nd, 5 -7pm at ZIA Gallery and continues through January 10th, 2015. In December the gallery will be open Sundays until the 25th. Check for complete holiday hours.

Brian McDonald Urban Folk Hero

By Shannon Gallagher

Brian McDonald’s playful, layered collage paintings evoke a sense of humor within the viewer, playing on words and imagery while simultaneously delivering commentary on society, politics, and modern life. The characters and worlds he creates are reminiscent of outsider art, street art, and Dadaism, while maintaining a style that is uniquely his. McDonald, whose self-described visual aesthetic is “urban folk art,” said that his driving force is the feeling that art is the perfect vehicle for processing the world around him. “To me, it’s about making sense of the chaos of a dense, urban, consumerist society- finding a truth and a beauty in the messiness of life,” he explained.

Booby Trap 15x19 Mixed Media

Booby Trap 15×19 Mixed Media


In terms of creating the work, McDonald’s objective is linked to communication and spirituality. “My intention is to create a type of elusive visual poetry, one that reveals itself to the viewer over time and acts as a schema to inspire the viewer to make their own connections based on personal associations.” He relates making art with expression of one’s soul. “It’s like when I hear a particularly beautiful piece of music or read a really great book, or experience any kind of work that deeply resonates with my being… it touches something inside of me, and I almost feel like it’s a connection to God, in a spiritual and not a religious sense,” he said.

 Drive Thru 12x10 Mixed Media

Drive Thru 12×10 Mixed Media


McDonald, who studied languages (French and Italian) in college, always felt a creative urge, but was unsure of what it was. “I thought maybe I wanted to be a writer,” he said, “so I tried writing. But that wasn’t what I wanted. Then I tried making furniture, but that wasn’t it. One thing led to another, and eventually, I took a painting class. Within the first few days, I was hooked. It was like making magic,” he recalled.

McDonald My Heart Is Full 37x43 Mixed Media copy


One of the artist’s first main influences was the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. “He really influenced a playful, urban, messy aesthetic that I totally embraced. In my work, I see elements of music’s influence, too. There’s a lot of depth, structure, movement, pattern, and rhythm present. Sometimes, I’ll be listening to music and I will think, “That’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve,” he said. McDonald also lists cartoons and dreams as major influences in his pieces. “Sometimes I think that I get my offbeat humor from watching cartoons, and also the idea of creating individual, self-contained worlds. The Simpsons was my favorite for a long time, and right now I’m watching Archer and Adventure Time,” he said.

 Slippy 11x11 Mixed Media

Slippy 11×11 Mixed Media


Ideas are sparked from “constant collecting of images, text, and ephemera that I find interesting, funny, and/or quirky.” McDonald said that he never knows how, when, where, or even if an idea will be used. “Often times, I will make something, a figurative drawing, for example, thinking I will use it for a certain idea, but then it doesn’t really work for whatever reason, so I will scrap the idea, and repurpose the drawing in another piece.” The artist rarely has a finished idea in mind when he starts a new painting, preferring instead to work intuitively and let the piece guide him in the direction it wants to go.

Swedish Hangover 11x11 Mixed Media

Swedish Hangover 11×11 Mixed Media


When McDonald sets out to create a new work, he starts by collaging the entire surface of the painting with things that he has collected, including pieces of junk mail, old to-do lists, pages from books, and things he finds on the street. Next, he adds a few layers of paint on top of the collaged background to begin building texture and depth. Then, he begins to create a central composition by playing with various figurative drawings that have been cut up. “From there, it is a kind of push and pull as layers of paint and collage are woven together to create a dense network of narrative possibilities,” he explained. The most indispensable tool in his studio is matte medium. “I love that stuff. I use it because I collage elements. I use it to glue things down, I use it as a sealant, and to give my paintings a uniform finish. I also recently discovered how to make acrylic transfers of photocopies using layers of matte medium and peeling off the backing.”


The offbeat humor in McDonald’s work certainly makes people laugh. “I think that’s a great compliment,” he said. “I definitely have a lot of little jokes and visual puns in my work. I do purposely try to make it funny.” As far as political and social commentary is concerned, the artist also includes observations of society’s exploitation of animals for human consumption and exploitation of natural resources and people for material gains.

One thing that the artist continues to learn is how to deal with challenges in the painting process. “The most frustrating thing about art is letting go and trusting that a piece that is stuck and sitting idle will, at some point, be resolved. I want to feel that I am in control, but that is not always the case. Some pieces need to stew for awhile, sitting untouched for months or even years, before I see it differently, leading to resolution,” he said. He noted that it’s easy to sometimes perceive the work as a failure, rather than thinking of it as a puzzle that a piece might be missing from. “But I will find the piece,” he added. The sense of satisfaction when he finishes a painting is the most rewarding part of being an artist, in McDonald’s eyes. “I never know exactly how a piece will turn out. I might have a kernel of an idea of what I think I’m going to do, but I’m most happy when it pleasantly surprises me at the end- it delights me when that happens.”


McDonald, who is from suburban Los Angeles but has lived in San Francisco for the past 24 years, is influenced by the hustle and bustle of the city, but also gains inspiration from another kind of business- that of the natural world. “One of my favorite places to go is the Cayman Islands. I really love Little Cayman the most because it’s the smallest of the three islands. The population is about 150 people. The times that I’ve spent there have been in the summer or the fall, which is the slow season- so there are barely any people, and it’s a wonderful place to connect with nature, get away from people. I love to go exploring, scuba diving, and on long bike rides. Yet it’s a hustle and bustle of a different kind- of insects and birds, lizards and fish. It’s different because it’s very spacious, there’s not a lot of people- but at the same time, it’s very dense, and almost chaotic in its own natural way.”


Brian McDonald’s paintings are now on display at ZIA Gallery.



ZIA Supports McCausland Scholarship


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


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.




Vlahakis’ Composition Of Movement

By: Shannon Gallagher

John Vlahakis’ artwork acts as a vessel, transporting the viewer’s mind to the center of the dramatic landscapes depicted in his photographs. His goal is to capture movement in the composition, for the viewer to imagine the salty air blowing off the coast, the feel the magnitude of a mountainous terrain and moving glaciers, or to hear the sound of a rushing stream or river. He has traveled the world with his camera. In the upcoming Iceland Inspired show at ZIA Gallery, several of Vlahakis’ works that were taken in the country will be featured.ziaJVSurf

When asked what drew him to visit Iceland, he mentioned the notion of a ‘bucket list.’ “As a photographer, the allure of the extremes in light and dark was enticing,” he said. “The winters have only 2-4 hours of sun, while the summer can provide as many as 21 hours of light.” This contrasted light is especially prevalent in several of the black and white photos in this grouping. Vlahakis, who first learned black and white darkroom photography, has a fondness for the medium. “The excitement of seeing an image emerge from the development process is enthralling, so I’ve never given up on black and white. It provides a tonality that color cannot provide.” Perhaps his fascination with black and white also stems from his dreams as a youth. “One of my passions as a kid was the idea of being a photojournalist. I had fantasies of globetrotting to hot spots and winning a Pulitzer,” Vlahakis mentioned that as he gets older, he still ponders pursuing the dream. “That would be a great way to go out,” he said.JV019Phantom20x30

The photographer is not done checking off items on his bucket list. He has a very strong desire to visit the Falkland Islands, which are located in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a group of islands that are in contention between England and Argentina. “There are very few people who live there,” Vlahakis explained. “There is a large bird population, including penguins, and many species use the islands as a migratory point.” Although he said that the landscape is perhaps harsher than Iceland’s and getting there is difficult, he believes it would make an interesting trip because it would allow him to shoot landscapes, and due to the political history of the region, it could lead to a black and white photojournalistic opportunity.JV018Stormcoming40x60

The first time Vlahakis visited Iceland, he immediately noticed a plethora of differences in the landscape of the Iceland versus the United States. “One thing that is immediately noticeable is the lack of trees. It is not all ice, as the name implies. There’s a lot of green there, but it’s not in the way of trees. The country has a remarkable topography, and the weather is in a constant state of flux, but it’s not the cold, forbidden place that it has the reputation of being.” The photographer was particularly drawn to the moving glaciers and volcanic activity (Iceland boasts one of the top three largest volcanoes in the world). “In some respects, the landscapes in Iceland are primeval- you can imagine what it looked like prior to man. Nature puts a force of power around the island; the waves crash, the climate changes. One minute it’s sunny and warm, then all of a sudden, there’s sleet, hail, snow- and that can all happen in fifteen minutes. Nature puts on an amazing show.”glac3 (1 of 2)

Vlahakis is particularly excited to be showing some large scale pieces from his travels to Iceland. He credits the country with giving him confidence to pursue his images on a larger scale. These works are in an area of Iceland near a town called Vik. “The ocean shots, in particular, are outside of this town. There is a very rocky promenade, and the power of the waves is awe inspiring. It’s the kind of power in the sea that clearly makes you think, ‘Stand back.’”

Compositionally, Vlahakis spends a lot of time waiting for the right shot. “I look for motion. I don’t want to show everything in a state of stationary existence,” he said. He takes a lot of time evaluating the light and contrasts that he observes. “I’ll take different angles, walk around, come back to it, and visualize it in different perspectives, different lenses. I’ll decide if it justifies a wide angle or more of a cropped shot. The way I work isn’t technical, it’s more emotional. I see something that moves me and makes me want to photograph it.”Nov lava beach-iceland

“I want the viewer to see it as more than a stationary snapshot. My aim is for the work to convey a broader sense of our existence. So from an aesthetic standpoint, I like to see, in my landscapes, a sense of life.” Life, which Vlahakis notes, is constantly evolving. “That’s something I want to evoke with my imagery, the change in life and the impact man has had on the landscape. I want to capture the raw power of nature transforming.”

A powerful drive in Vlahakis’ life is his fondness for the environment and his ongoing efforts to be kind to it. It is natural, then, that this passion for the earth compels his artistic vision. Initially, he thought of his landscape photography as something that adds to his blog writing but has since evolved into a fine art, and a method for furthering his devotion to protecting the environment. “I’m trying to communicate the majesty that we sometimes take for granted. I want to remind people of the grandness that nature offers us, and I hope that my photography can inspire me and others to treasure these landscapes and protect them.” He notes that his reason for often working at a large scale is to allow the viewer to be immersed in the photo, to “see what I saw, and appreciate the natural wonders that we can (but don’t always) experience.”prock


In addition to the volcanoes, waterfalls, and lagoons that dot the country, Vlahakis enjoys many other aspects of Icelandic culture. He describes the Icelandic people as “warm, interesting people” and is fascinated by their architecture, cuisine, and folklore. Interestingly, elves are widely believed to be real within Icelandic culture. “People build what look like dollhouses in their backyards, which are meant to be homes for the elves as they travel. One mountain that stands alone, almost a large butte, surrounded by fencing, is the mountain where the queen of elves resides. The Icelandic government has a minister of elves and a department which needs to be consulted with prior to any construction project, in order avoid interrupting the lives of the elves,” he said. The entire country runs on geothermal power, gasoline is only imported for vehicles, and the water quality is excellent. Icelandic wild horses also roam freely throughout the country. “Of course, they’re looking for a handout, but they’re very friendly animals. They’re not afraid of people,” he said.oneway1 copy

Vlahakis’ two visits to Iceland have been during colder months, once in February and once at the end of March. Although he would like to visit during the summer months, the advantage of shooting in winter is that the island is less populated with tourists during the winter. “Lack of humanity is something that I look to take out of these images. I need to visit in the summer, but I really dread going at the height of tourist season. One of the funny stories they tell you in Iceland is that when you pass another car on the road, you’ve just experienced your first Icelandic traffic jam. I love that aspect of visiting the country,” he stated. “I’ve found that personally, when I’m out shooting alone in a wilderness, a few things happen. Beyond the serenity of the moment is this amazing recognition that the world’s problems have disappeared, I’m in the moment, and I’m not thinking of anything other than what I’m experiencing. Sometimes that can be nothing- it’s a thickness in the air that you have to experience to understand. You realize how insignificant you are when you look out and see nothing but endless landscape and wildlife. You’re there for the moment, surrounded, a small passing in this earth’s life, and it puts things very much into perspective.”

Several of John Vlahakis’ works will be on display in the Iceland Inspired show at ZIA Gallery, opening on Saturday, March 22nd from 5-7 pm.