REVIEW: Far-Flung, Contemporary Art of the Midwest

Review by Stephanie Coate

December 10, 2015

FAR-FLUNG: Contemporary Art of the Midwest

This exhibition featuring 40+ Midwestern artists was a partnership event between The Art House and Arts on Elston and opened on Saturday, December 5, 2015. I went to the event alone, yet was approached and welcomed by many other individuals, curious to know who I was, and eager to converse. It was quickly made clear that this was a very welcoming space and just by being there you were friend/family. This welcoming environment consists of two living rooms with leather couches, a kitchen area where people of all ages casually conversed and introduced themselves, and five smaller surrounding rooms. Each of the rooms comfortably displayed a selection of the 40 artworks that were selected to participate in the exhibition, Far-Flung, Contemporary Art of the Midwest. Additionally, two of the surrounding rooms serve as studios for the two Artists in Residence of The Art House, Beth Borum and Christine Connor. Both had work on display which complemented the overall exhibition.

Rebecca George, founder and Director of the Art House, and Arthur Connor, Director of Arts on Elston uniquely partner their two spaces that are kitty-corner from each other on opposite sides of the Elston & Albany intersection in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. The two join their missions together to jury and curate exhibitions regularly, building the creative community. "These exhibitions are a lot of work for the few of us who take the project on, and as such, are a labor of love," stated Rebecca when asked about the selection and curatorial process. “As artists ourselves, we (Rebecca George and Arthur Connor) take artists very seriously and want to support frequent opportunities for the public to view the high quality work of these artists”.

The only requirement to submit work was geographic to the Midwest. "Many levels of experience are displayed. Some new artists, some developed in their career, are all juxtaposed together" stated Connor. "Not lacking in quality or originality." 

Upon entering the gallery, the variety of artwork is cleanly lined at eye-level across three walls in the front room. Works by Aurua, Il artist Domingo Parada, James Chrazn's "Self Portrait" and Margie Criner's, Felt Sculpture "Departure" were perfectly balanced together in a room of abstract styles.

Becca Homes’, "Birdcage" broke up the abstracts with a more figurative and surreal impact between the rooms just before entering the kitchen area. Featured in a recessed shelfRobert Skwarts’ "The Wish Box" was on display, made of glass and metals. A divine, transparent device. Just before entering the second living room of a more salon-style layout was a delicate drawing by Harnet Matzdorf titled "Sisters", complimented by an intriguing sibling portrait painted by artist and author, Carol Anshaw. Moving through the second living room, Chicago artist Lynn Basa was on display with a contemporary, thick, latex-like painting and vibrant colors with "Forget Me Not" among a lovely variety of paintings of dancers, abstractions, Radiohead tributes, self portraits and animals.  

When entering the back room my mood shifted from lighthearted, to curious and harmonious. Chicago artist Soo Shin, "Eye of the Beholder" had a large sculptural work with an open composition constructed of welded metal, and leveled weight and movement who's lovely counterpart to "Untitled" by Ann Blaas, a larger abstract painting with green and earthly palette. A meditative space was created between the two.

It was hard to leave the exhibition as I enjoyed walking into spaces and accidentally meeting artists during discussion over pie, or walking into various art-filled rooms where serious conversations about where the contemporary art world is headed took place. The art was both professional and approachable, filled with "color and balance", with the hospitality and character set by the space and curatorial decisions that enhanced the overall exhibition - very (Contemporary) Midwest.