Union Street Gallery's spring show takes viewers into nature

2012-03-04T00:00:00Z Union Street Gallery's spring show takes viewers into natureBy Tim Shellberg Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 04, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Jessica Segal, gallery director at Chicago Heights' Union Street Gallery, thinks their "botanic/organic" spring salon show will introduce viewers to a fresh perspective of science and the great outdoors.

"We wanted to do something that was a little deeper and dove into nature's inherent processes," she said. "There's biology. Botany. Cell structures. There are some traditional landscapes in this exhibit, but they really fit in with the theme to the exhibit as a whole. It's a really diverse exhibit."

Continuing a tradition for the gallery for more than a decade, "botanic" is the gallery's 2012 annual spring national show. To be considered for inclusion in the show, artists must be 18 years of age or older, live in the United States and submit original artwork in any medium.

According to Segal, the works for this year's juried show also had to be inspired by nature. She credited the committee of Union Street Gallery studio artists for coming up with the theme and concept for the 2012 show.

"There's this trend we're seeing in the art market where a lot of artists are focused on organic materials and atmospheric cell structures and macro views of life, and we wanted to play on that," Segal said. "We wanted to do an exhibit that was inspired by nature but was not necessarily a typical landscape exhibit — not park scenes or water scenes."

Wishful thinking, Segal said, also played a role in their choice for the subject of the show as well as its scheduling on Union Street's annual itinerary.

"Some of our artists were trying to scare the winter away," she said. "The timing couldn't be better for this show."

Elizabeth Whiting, exhibit curator for Chicago's Union League Club who has taught art at Columbia College, Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago, was selected by Union Street's studio artist committee to serve as the juror for "botanic."

More than 100 artists nationwide submitted original works for inclusion in the show. From that, Whiting selected 59 pieces, from paintings to sculptured to mixed media works to photography to fiber art, from 52 artists.

"What she brought to it was this fresh, contemporary view," Segal said. "While some of them are classic, for lack of better words, many of them are innovative interpretations of the exhibit title ... We knew that she would bring that contemporary, fresh sensibility. She blew us away with her choices. It's beautiful, but it's not typical."

A $500 first place prize was awarded at the "botanic" reception March 2, with $350 given to the second place selection and $150 awarded for third place.

"They're gorgeous," Segal said of the exhibit as a whole. "There's works that you have to go up to and look at very close, and there are works where you have to stand back to really get everything."

"While (traditional) landscapes are beautiful, we just want people to see something else that's beautiful," she added. "It's not scary. It's approachable. It's accessible."

Crown Point–based artist and instructor Javier Chavira is one of a handful of region based artists selected by Whiting for "organic." Reared in Joliet, Chavira received a master's degree of art from Northern Illinois University and teaches painting and drawing at Governors State University in University Park, where he received his bachelor's degree.

Chavira has exhibited at Union Street in the past and is also currently showcasing a series of works at Indiana University Northwest; his show, "Iconic," is running there through mid–March. His work is also featured in a traveling art exhibit sponsored and created by Bank of America.

For "organic," Chavira, who customarily paints in oil, is showing a mixed media piece. Titled "Tumbleweeds," Chavira's creation is a figurative work made from wood, which he scorched and drew in features with ball point pen and white charcoal.

Finding inspiration in tales of Mexican immigrants dying trying to cross over into the States in Arizona, Chavira said "Tumbleweeds" is characteristic of his approach to his art.

"I thought my work fit with their theme," he said. "Most of the work that I do has this organic, natural dimension. There's always an element of nature in my work, and (the exhibit) is something that I gravitated to and wanted to be a part of."


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