NU’s Scientific Image Winners @ EPL

December 13, 2017

local art
“Black Hole Encounter” by Aaron Geller (1st Place)

The twelve stunning winners of Northwestern University’s 2017 Scientific Images Contest are making their annual EPL stop as they tour Chicagoland. Selected by a panel of local artists, scientists, and community leaders, the eye-popping images represent advances across a wide range of disciplines including astronomy, medicine, chemistry, engineering, and nanotechnology. As a bonus, this year’s exhibit also features artwork by ETHS students inspired by NU’s research-based images. Prints of the NU images are available for purchase, and you can catch the show at the library through the end of January. You can also learn more about the contest by visiting HELIX – an online magazine produced by NU’s Science in Society.

 


Local Art @ EPL: Arden & Lloyd Davidson

November 9, 2017

We are thrilled to welcome Arden and Lloyd Davidson back to the library for a brand-new Local Art @ EPL exhibit. After making their library debut in 2015 and returning for a 2016 show, the talented Evanston photographers have a fresh collection of breathtaking nature photography captured everywhere from Spain to the Chicago Botanic Gardens to the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California to Lighthouse Beach. You can preview the Davidson’s photos on their website, and you can catch their inspired show on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library through the end of November. Don’t miss it!


An Interview with Charles McCleanon

October 18, 2017

Charles McCleanon is a local photographer who is the latest to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. A Chicago native and a retired Dean of Information Technology at City Colleges, McCleanon’s appreciation of 35 mm film inspired him to begin his photography career 25 years ago. He formed the company CGMcPhoto and began shooting political campaigns, street fairs, weddings, and community events. He eventually channeled his skills into digital photography and now combines his talents with a passion for travel that’s resulted in countless breathtaking images. You can catch his show through the end of October on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library and meet him at a closing reception at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 25. We recently spoke with him via email about his artistic origins, creative process, and future photography goals.

Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist? How did you get started in photography What inspired you in the beginning? What inspires you now?

Charles McCleanon: My initial interest commenced when my best friend Lenard was drafted into the army and became a battalion photographer. Upon his return he continued to pursue his interests by shooting, printing and developing film. I helped him build a darkroom in his apartment, and my interest was peaked. I began studying and learning the basics including types of film, lighting, speed and composition.

After he moved to California, I purchased a camera and started a portable darkroom of my own in my kitchen. Having to set up and take down my equipment was a daunting task. Eventually, I transitioned to a stable and dedicated darkroom space. I purchased better equipment and devoted every available hour to improving my technique.

As my skills increased, I was offered work and realized this could actually become lucrative. I met a fellow photographer who worked for the City of Chicago whose photography interests were political. We hooked up, started a company and began shooting freelance for city, community and political events. We were pleased and honored to be hired for both of Mayor Washington’s campaigns and inaugurations.

Although I sought to earn a living (and quit my day job), I discovered my true calling and passion when I began to travel. Being able to seize the intangible beauty of nature or an iconic landmark for posterity is truly inspirational.

EPL: Can you give us a window into your creative process? How do you choose your subjects?

CM: The visual concept is everywhere; however, the art of shooting is to translate on to film and print what my imagination formulates. I am moved by symmetry, colors and movement. The simplicity of different lighting effects on a subject is fascinating. Sunrise and sunset are two of my favorite times. My mind’s eye visualizes how the photo will translate on paper, and I am ecstatic when out of 30 or 40 shots I successfully capture one of the precise moment I first saw in the viewfinder.

Local Art @ EPL

EPL: Can you walk us through the conception of a specific photograph?

CM: My thought process for each photo varies and is easily influenced by my moods. A perfect example is the truly surreal black and white series “cloud segment.” They were shot on a bleak, nondescript day when I was taking a walk on a North Shore beach without my camera. As I ran for the car to avoid the obvious impending storm, I spotted unusual cloud formations. Having my camera in the car (never leave home without it!), I was enthralled by the rapid movement of the approaching storm which changed in the blink of an eye. The transitioning shapes created movement like crescendos in a symphony. I was in awe and knew that I could only recreate these unique shots if I continued shooting.

Ironically these pictures were shot in manual mode and post production was minimal. I think they speak for themselves. I was able to capture and print exactly what I saw. The fact that they are black and white makes them one of my most accomplished and prized photo series to date.

EPL: What are your future goals and plans as an artist? Do you have a travel destination you’re eager capture on film?

CM: As I have found my niche in nature, my love of travel presents unlimited opportunities to explore the postcards of the world. My wife is a great lover of all things water related, as evidenced by my many waterfalls and coastal scenes. Our next vacation will be to Costa Rica, but I would love to shoot the Serengeti and the Egyptian Pyramids.

EPL: How do you find Evanston and the Chicagoland area as a place to work and exhibit as an artist? 

CM: I truly appreciate the creativity of my fellow artist. The Chicago scene is very competitive which further motivates me to find extraordinary subject matter and capture its pure essence through unique visualizations which will fascinate the viewer. If I can inspire and attract one’s interest for more than a fleeting glance, perhaps this will motivate people to see the world as it truly is, a never ending rainbow.

Interview by Russell J.


Local Art @ EPL: Charles McCleanon

October 3, 2017

Local Art @ EPLWe are excited to welcome Charles McCleanon as the next featured artist in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. A Chicago native and a retired Dean of Information Technology at City Colleges, McCleanon’s appreciation of 35 mm film inspired him to begin his photography career 25 years ago. He formed the company CGMcPhoto and began shooting political campaigns, street fairs, weddings, and community events. He eventually channeled his skills into digital photography and now combines his talents with a passion for travel that’s resulted in countless breathtaking images. You can catch his show through the end of October on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library and meet him at a closing reception at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 25. Also, don’t miss a featured interview with Mr. McCleanon later in the month. Stay tuned!


Local Art @ EPL: Delores Rix

September 5, 2017

We are excited to welcome Delores Rix as the next featured artist in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. She began to pursue her artistic dreams in 2005, and since then her wonderfully-detailed watercolors depicting flowers, cats, butterflies, and her travels have shown throughout Chicagoland including at Le Peep, Fireside Restaurant, the Roscoe Village Starbucks, and Mayor Daley’s Chicago Senior Fest at McCormick Place. You can catch her show through the end of September on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library and meet her at a closing reception on Thursday, September 28 from 6-8 pm. Don’t miss the work of this talented local artist!

 


An Interview with Evanston artist Jim Parks

August 19, 2017

Jim Parks is an Evanston artist who is the latest to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. In 2015 – after a long career in theater, radio, and television as the host of HGTV’s “New Spaces” – he converted his dining room into a studio and devoted himself “to producing the art that had been waiting inside all those years.” You can catch his exhibit The Bloomz Collection through the end of August on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library, and you can find more of his nature-inspired acrylic paintings by visiting his website. We recently spoke with Parks via email about his vibrant “botanical abstracts,” getting inspired by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and his dreams of the artistic big leagues.

Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist? How did you get started in art? Was there something specific in your life that sparked a need to create?

Jim Parks: I was always the kid with the pencil or paintbrush. In fact I was six or seven when I first heard the word “artist” applied to me. But since my working life was spent either in show biz or broadcasting, I was a doodler until October 2016 when, at the age of 65, I changed our dining room into a studio and got serious about painting. Since then I’ve been fairly prolific, working mostly on 40” x 30” canvases. Many of them are on display on the second floor of the library right now. There was no single insight that sparked a need to create. Rather, there was a constant observation of nature that was begging me — rather insistently — to represent it all in paint.

EPL: How do you describe your paintings? Do you see yourself as fitting in with any particular artistic movements or styles? 

JP: I’ve been describing my paintings as “botanical abstracts,” meaning they are based on flowers but with my own twist. When you get up close, it’s easy to lose the connection to the image of any particular flower and find yourself lost in an abstract, undefined world. In fact, when you examine the foliage that surrounds the star of the show (the flower) it will be like staring at the foliage in a garden and becoming aware of the complexity of activity in the shadows. I think that’s pretty cool, and I spend a lot of time trying to get the subtleties of the shadows right. The Impressionists were marvelous in their observation of nature and worked to express it in paint. I stand in awe of the symphonic use of color in a Monet water lily painting or the diversity of texture in a Van Gogh so I guess I identify most closely to Impressionism.

“Orchids #3”

EPL: Can you describe the techniques you used to create a specific painting?

JP: I work exclusively in acrylics. Acrylics dry amazingly fast – except for the newest generation, called “Open.” The downside is that I don’t have the time to work in other colors while they’re wet, as I would in oils. The upside is that I can apply many, many thin layers rather quickly, and this builds-up effects. The lower layers shine through the upper layers so there is a depth that can be achieved. I call this layering “maturing” a color because it isn’t a flat tone out of the tube. The layers give the original color more depth, more gravitas.

EPL: What are your future goals and plans as an artist?

JP: I want to develop a body of work that becomes accepted into the higher levels of the gallery world. I just started a series that takes a step beyond the pretty pictures I’ve been making for the last year and a half. The series will still be grounded in organic forms of nature but will add other elements. One of those elements is based on the work of stained glass artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany. The nature of stained glass is to isolate a shape — a leaf, say — in a framework of black leading, making the color of the leaf more dramatic as the light shines through. The leading that wraps around all the leaves, all the shapes, forms the overall structure of the piece: very solid, very defined. I like that structure, that drama, and I can approximate that in paint. We’ll see if the gallery gate-keepers salute.

EPL: How do you find Evanston and the Chicagoland area as a place to work and exhibit as an artist? What inspires you as an artist about the community where you live?

JP: I love Evanston; I’ve lived here since I was nine. At the moment, I’ve got paintings hanging in four different locations in downtown Evanston, so I couldn’t ask for more acceptance. Evanston as “Tree City,” with the lakefront and all the majestic trees, has always been inspirational.  Every walk by the lakefront yields a new idea. Chicago has the River North gallery district with its gravitational pull in the art world, and I’ve got my sights set on that world. And then there’s always the big leagues: New York. Stay tuned.


Local Art @ EPL: Jim Parks

August 3, 2017

“Orchids #1”

We’re pleased to welcome Jim Parks as the next featured artist in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. His exhibit The Bloomz Collection is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through August 31st. In 2015 – after a long career in theater, radio, and television as the host of HGTV’s “New Spaces” – Parks converted his dining room into a studio and devoted himself “to producing the art that had been waiting inside all those years.” His mission with his acrylic “botanical abstracts” is to share his “vision of flowers,” and he invites observers to lean in close where they’ll “see shapes and colors frolicking like children.” You can learn more about Parks’ paintings by visiting his website, and make sure to check back with Off the Shelf later in August for a featured interview with the artist himself. Stay tuned.


Talking with Evanston artist Melanie Deal

July 18, 2017

local art
“No Picnic” (paper collage)

Melanie Deal is an Evanston artist who is the latest to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. Inspired by her fascination with grids, tessellations, and repeated shapes, Deal’s striking paper collage and mixed media works “reflect both the humdrum and the humor of everyday living” and are “influenced by a lifelong love of comic books, paper dolls, gumball-machine trinkets, board games, television, literature, and music.” You can catch her exhibit Life on the Grid through the end of July on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library, and you can also find more of Deal’s work by visiting her website. We recently spoke with her via email about her ingrained love of grids, the meaning of her art, and the burgeoning Evanston art scene.

Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist? How did you get started in art? What are some of the comic books, board games, TV shows, and songs that most influenced you?

Melanie Deal: I was that child in the corner, always drawing. My mother carried blank sheets of paper in her purse so I could draw during church, for example. I made paper dolls, picture books, and comics. Because I loved to read comic books—from Little Lulu to Archie to Marvel Comics—I made my own comic books, with my own teen and superhero characters. As I got older, I made comic strips starring my friends and eventually moved into collage and mixed media.

EPL: Do you see your collage and mixed media works as fitting in with any particular artistic movements or styles? What is it about grids, tessellations, and repeated shapes that so intrigues you?

MD: I didn’t study art—I have degrees in English literature instead—so I’m not sure if my work fits into any particular style. Because I like to use repetition of images, some people have mentioned Andy Warhol as an influence. But really, I just do my own thing. Where did my attraction for grids come from? I grew up in Indiana, which was laid out in 6×6-mile townships in the late 1700s as part of the Northwest Ordinance. Everything is square and easy to navigate there, so maybe that’s ingrained in me. I like repetition because I find it funny—a mildly amusing image seems exponentially funnier and more absurd to me when multiplied.

local art
“Dusty” (mixed media)

EPL: Can you take us through your creative process for one of the collages you’re showing this month?

MD: “Creative process” sounds pretty lofty for what I do. I usually start with an idea, which may be as simple as a pattern or set of colors I’d like to work with. I plot it out on graph paper to figure out what size it will be. I gather my materials, such as paper, printouts, book pages, and cartoon word balloons. For “Dusty,” one of the artworks in my library show, I added doll-sized combs, brushes, mirrors, and hair rollers for fun. Sometimes I draw some of the paper pieces by hand. I cut out the pieces and glue them to gatorboard (like foam core, but sturdier), often in layers. It can be a painstakingly slow process, but I have no real reason to rush. And besides, I’m having fun!

EPL: What are your future goals and plans as an artist?

MD: I’m not sure that I have any specific goals as an artist, other than to keep working at it and showing my work when the opportunity presents itself. Although I’m not good at talking about my art, I do like hearing people’s thoughts as they view it. To me, an artwork “means” only what the viewer gets out of it—and each person brings his or her own experiences and perceptions to bear. Sometimes I’m surprised by what people find in my artworks—and that adds to the fun.

EPL: How do you find Evanston and the Chicagoland area as a place to work and exhibit as an artist? What inspires you as an artist about the community where you live?

MD: I used to feel I had to exhibit nationally to build up my resume, but my work is difficult to pack and ship—and that can be very expensive. So now I stick to the Chicagoland area. My favorite venue in Chicago is Woman Made Gallery, where I had my first solo show. Lately, Evanston has become a much richer source of venues than it was in the past, at least in my opinion. There used to be the Evanston Art Center and not much else. Now I always have work on display at Creative Coworking, which has been a real boon to local artists. The Evanston Made show at the EAC is a good opportunity. Besides the library, I’ve also shown work locally at Artruck, Gillock Gallery, As You Like It, Noyes Cultural Center, Gallery 4502, Blick, the Evanston Art Walk, Art Under Glass, and my workplace, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Interview by Russell J.


Local Art @ EPL: Melanie Deal

July 6, 2017

“INFJ” (paper collage)

We’re thrilled to welcome Melanie Deal as the next featured artist in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. Her exhibit Life on the Grid is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through July 31st. Inspired by her fascination with grids, tessellations, and repeated shapes, Deal’s striking paper collage and mixed media works “reflect both the humdrum and the humor of everyday living”  and are “influenced by a lifelong love of comic books, paper dolls, gumball-machine trinkets, board games, television, literature, and music.” You can learn more about Deal’s work by visiting her website, and make sure to check back with Off the Shelf later in July for a featured interview with the artist herself. Stay tuned.

 


Local Art @ EPL: Edward Ravine

June 2, 2017

“Yield and Overcome”

We are thrilled to welcome Edward Ravine back to the library for a brand-new Local Art @ EPL exhibit. After making his 2015 library debut, the Evanston painter has returned with Yield and Overcome – a fresh collection of gorgeous watercolors that embraces the words of the Tao Te Ching. Says Ravine, “To me it boils down to turning sorrow into kindness and fear into love. As I traveled to the Northwest, Utah, Southwestern Michigan and the sunrises each morning at our own Evanston Canal, I repeated the words [from the Tao Te Ching: 22], ‘Yield and overcome, be really whole and all things will come to you.’ I hope you have a quiet moment with the paintings I have shared.” You can catch this inspired show on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library through June 30, and you can meet Mr. Ravine at an opening reception on Sunday, June 4 at 2 pm. Don’t miss it!