Art Stories

When I first started experimenting with college classes, I took an art 110 class - basic drawing.  And that class taught me A LOT about light and about paying attention. And then I was done taking art classes.  So everything after that point has been self taught. And by self taught, I mean, I google everything about technique and materials and I pay really close attention to what other artists are doing. I learn from everyone who has come before me and from every artist who has the courage to put their stuff out into the world.

I love other artists.  And as a beginning muralist (it's really only been a couple of years), right now I'm paying REALLY close attention to the work of other muralists. I don't know what I'm doing (as usual), so what better way to learn than watching others who are amazing?

Anyway, the point of this whole blog post is to tell you that because I'm always looking for really cool art, I'm going to start sharing it with you every week. And this week I'm sharing 3 artists from Peoria, Illinois! I chose these three artists because, although they each have their own style, they all have pieces that are just a tiny bit (or a lot of bit) surreal. They're all strangely beautiful works.

First, Nikole Cooney. 

Nikole has an exhibit that's currently in the third floor gallery at the Contemporary Art Center. Lucky for you, it's there until June 24, 2016, so you have time to see it.  And you should go see it.  It's incredible. I feel horrible that I'm going to share this with you via my terrible cell phone pictures, but really, that should just be more encouragement for you to go see it yourself.

This piece is immediately to your left when you walk in.  As soon as I saw it, I had one of those "holy shit, this isn't like anything else in Peoria" moments. I mean - it's really just beautiful.  It's this surreal fantasy come to life.  And the detail is amazing.  I was especially struck by the barnacles that encrust the bottom of the boat...and then, when you look up at the balloon, you see a tiny little piece of honeycomb with a bee coming out of it. At first, I couldn't figure out why it was there...until I looked to my right and saw this piece...

I wish I had a better picture of this. The girl is not only covered in nature, with sticks and flowers in her hair, but she is nature. Her body is becoming a beehive, with her chest and back made partially out of honeycomb, honey dripping from her fingers, and bees everywhere. The walls are becoming home to the bees as well...except for the ones who traveled across the way to the hot air balloon.

This is a detail of a nine foot sculpture that includes a main figure, as well as a sort of "forest" surrounding her. The entire sculpture is breathtaking, but the detail on this piece was what struck me. Her hands are carefully woven (not shown) and her dress holds these little ...secrets? It's hard to see, but this cave like area within her dress actually holds a nest, with eggs inside of it, and moss all around.

Hummingbirds dangle from disembodied hands, while wolves jump at them in this piece entitled "Remember Your Wings." One of the strings that once held a hummingbird is broken,as though someone grabbed it and pulled it off. But if you look up, you see that the hummingbird has broken loose, with part of it's string still attached, and is feeding on the flowers.

This one made me cry.

There are a few more pieces on display, each one just as beautiful and amazing as the ones I shared here. Please go see this exhibit - you have until July 24th!
(If you want to know more about Nikole and her process, she was interviewed by the Journal Star in this article.)

Next - Alec DeJesus.  

Alec has shown a few places around town and I've been fortunate enough to work with him on two mural projects and see how his work comes to life.  I'm also lucky enough to own one of his pieces. It's one of those that, as soon as I saw it, I knew it was supposed to be with me:

I think this piece is about 4 feet tall and it hangs right above our staircase landing. I can't tell you exactly what it is about his work that speaks to me, but I love it. It's just the right combination of bizarre and totally normal. In addition, the way that he creates people is really amazing. They have so much depth and character in their expressions.  Despite being oddly shaped and looking like they come from some other universe, they're figures that you can relate to. Alec creates people who I would consider "my people." The odd and beautiful weirdos.

Alec has an upcoming exhibit in November at the Ear in the Envelope. I promise I'll post about it as it comes nearer!

Finally - Lowell Levene Sims

Lowell and I actually had the opportunity to sit down and talk about some of his work the other day. Lowell has been painting for a while, but it wasn't until recently that I started feeling a connection to it (which we agreed is normal with art - sometimes you connect to it, sometimes you don't). His last two exhibits have changed a lot from the work that came before, and his latest pieces seem to have more emotional depth. Lowell agrees that his work has changed and says that he likes what he's creating these days and feels more connected to it himself. Some of it is inspired by his sleeping moments, filled with odd and apocalyptic dreams, that he brings to life on canvas when he wakes. I'm also lucky enough to own one of Lowell's pieces - it hangs in my living room:

This is another piece that, as soon as I saw it, I knew it was supposed to come home with me. Unfortunately, at the time I saw it I was totally broke.  But fortunately, Lowell was willing to do an art trade, and so we traded pieces. Everybody wins!

Here are some pieces from Lowell's current exhibition at The Art Garage:

Lowell's work will be at The Art Garage through the month of June.

Stay tuned - next week we're going to talk about murals - murals from around the world and a brand new mural that I'm going to be working on in a really well known spot in Peoria!

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