By Colin S. Smith
October 7, 2017
A big block of letters spell out “ART” along the glass window of a storefront turned gallery in Avondale. Inside, nearly three dozen pieces of art hang on just about every wall, featuring a wide range of work by seven local artists who comprise a significant core of the dynamic community at The Art House.
The Art House featured the group show entitled “Modified Trajectory” on September 30th at their partner space Arts on Elston, located across the street from The Art House on Albany and Elston in Chicago. The exhibit debuted new works by artists who study painting with founder and painter, Rebecca George.
The colors and textures of the largely abstract expressionistic pieces ignited conversations. Dozens and dozens of people mingled along the art throughout the evening and night, interacting with the exhibiting artists, including participation in tours of the two on-site Artist in Residence studio spaces.
One Artist in Resident of The Art House, Ken Hogrefe, said it’s been an especially exciting year. They’ve added two new artists’ in residence, Julie Tierney and Stasi Bobo-Ligon, who he said both bring energy to the group with their diverse perspectives and fresh practices. He said it’s inspiring to see them grow, citing that they have made a serious commitment to daily practice.
Julie Tierney's work combines drawing and painting, a restrained palette juxtaposed with whole body marks in line and shape. Both Tierney and Bobo-Ligon also exhibited a variety of small scale oil mono and relief prints. Stasi Bobo-Ligon’s abstractions explore surface-quality, incorporating collage and found objects with strong movement and gestural compositions.
Hogrefe has undertaken challenges, too. In one displayed work, Territory, he painted on a larger surface, which helped him sidestep old habits and tricks. Instead of relying on familiar approaches, he used an earth toned palette inspired from his youth, growing up in New Mexico and stripped away the work with broad, bold strokes. He said he wanted to keep things simple, which he attributed to The Art House and his teacher Rebecca George. “She helped me see that the painting is showing me what it wants to be.”
Following intuition is a reoccurring theme with The Art House Artists.
Christine Ann Connor is in her third year as a Resident with The Art House. “Rebecca changed the way I paint,” she said, citing her application techniques — of actually physically picking up and moving around the painting after applying paint, for instance — particularly on her suite of works she created after she lost her mother earlier this year.
Both Hogrefe and Connor almost sounded like jazz musicians who let the notes carry them away. “The Art House has helped me stay out of my head and realize the painting will guide you,” Connor said. “The environment of painting in The Art House community has changed my life, too,” she continued, “I would consider myself a serious, dedicated painter now because I finally can call [creating] art part of my life.”
Commercial illustrator Michael Coon is familiar with this transformation into an artist, too. Coon exhibited several portraits in the group show. He finds studying painting with Rebecca George gives him the space to step away from his purpose-driven and goal-oriented work. Instead, he’s able to contemplate themes and practice painting daily. In a more figurative piece based on a photo of his mother when she was a child, he reflects on mortality — after all, he’s never met or known that child.
Neither completely figurative nor abstract, exhibiting artist Tim Curtin’s work explores composition and color in pieces inspired by Chicago, like shapes of Alex Calder’s Flamingo in the Federal Plaza. Since he’s sandwiched between the more figurative Coon and Leah Hattendorf’s tonally vivid abstractions, Curtin said “this is a group that is both supportive and one that pushes you.”
Artist Leah Hattendorf, exhibiting for the first time in Modified Trajectory, has spent more than the past year in prolific art-making, generating a significant body of abstract oil paintings during classes at The Art House and in independent studio work. Her work explores a wide range of application techniques, with each communicating a different mood through her handling of color and shape.
At The Art House, you don’t just look at paintings — you engage with them. You talk to the painters. You walk into their studios. You see their paints and their brushes. “Modified Trajectory” is the latest display of work done by artists from The Art House community, and the works show finesse, technique, and contemplation.
Colin S. Smith is a freelance journalist in Chicago who’s recent projects include Editor @Roots of Success, Communications Consultant @Illinois Humanities, Auditor @Newcity.