Do you know unassuming Elston Avenue, which lopes through the northwest of Chicago along the river? People have been going on it since before our civilization, as a high ridge trail through the onion-y swamp, then a plank road. Today it is called after an 1830s businessman and houses a menagerie of mysterious old bulky spaces. Life has been walked into this path, and it feels like an apt locale for the type of magic seeing needed to produce art. Indeed on the 3400 block we find (looking to each other across the street) a gallery and an art school/gallery.
What happened at that gallery last Saturday only?
For the length of last Saturday only, Arts on Elston gallery (3446 N. Albany Ave) hosted a double exhibition sponsored by The Art House and curated by Rebecca George: the first solo show of J. Faun Manne, and also a group show of artists from the Art House advanced studio course: “WORKS ON WALLS III”. A selection of art to observe the length of this afternoon only, fringed in July sunlight slanting through the windows.
Works of J. Faun Manne numbered dozens, all of fresh 2014/5 vintage, images she netted in the dark of recent nights. In a massed crowd of Manne’s visions, we witness her mind’s eye seeing similar types of images, her heart speaking in the same palette. (A tan tea-stain color into ocher – this earthiness, this sickliness – the heart goes somewhere out in this dense band of feeling, hashed over with the distant smokiness of memory — and how this color wears blue around it!)
Images of what? Ladies, bodies, mouths, hair. Often a solitary figure, but sometimes many more. Animated in acrylic, with playful grit of texture and fabrics. Sensuality hangs heavily to the figures — their curves shoot beams. But clearly the figures are totems and not people; they do not quite live in our world.
WORKS ON WALLS III, the other half of the exhibition, showcased the diverse artists of the Art House. These adult students of art study with Rebecca George, who supports the fruitful flow of their images. Their 2-D works, though of many dissimilar hands, had a coherent spirit of the passion and wholesomeness of emerging artists.
At age 80 Barbara Hopkins takes up the brush to paint realistic portraits of her grandchildren (an image of yourself from the past rendered in the hand of your grandmother and given to you by her as a gift: here is a magic object). Timothy Curtin brings wry humor, as a vision of the city in gray stripes of cloud; Bev Borum scratches in the paint, digging feelings into it with words. And Charles Echols goes between large-scale colorful abstraction, and gray-scale pop art, vectorized enough to look screen printed but in fact painted free hand. The joy and vividness of life sounded through the whole show, for this one afternoon only in the dog days of Chicago summer.