For Japanese-American Joanne Aono, art was more than a means of expression as a youngster.
"My family moved to all different places across the country. Every every place we moved, I was a definite minority, and every time I sat down in a new school, all the kids thought I couldn't speak English," she said.
"I figured that the easiest way for me to communicate was for me to draw pictures, and that's how I made my friends. I realized that was a strong part of how I was to communicate from then on."
Exhibiting "In Other Words," a series of paintings and drawings, at South Shore Arts' Atrium Gallery in Munster through Oct. 10, Aono was reared in a creative household. Two of her three sisters also are visual arts and her father and a third sister have careers in architecture.
The Chicago-based Aono studied at the School of the Art Institute and received her bachelor's degree in arts from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
The painter, who resides in the Lakeview neighborhood, has exhibited her work at such acclaimed Windy City art shows as Around the Coyote and the Chicago Art Open and at venues such as the Woman Made Gallery.
"Words" is made up of 19 realistic oil paintings and colored pencil drawings, all which contain text intentionally challenging for viewers to decipher. An inspiration for the concept came to Aono from her attempts to navigate the language and lettering used by her grandparents, who came to the United States from Japan.
"That's part of my idea of how any subject matter, as much as you try to learn about it, the ability to retain the information is different for each person," she said. "I'm trying to capture whatever subject matter I'm writing about visually. I think that visually, you remember things stronger than what you can remember by words."
South Shore gallery manager Mary McClelland met the painter and her art when she entered the annual Salon Show in 2008. Aono was the recipient of their Founders' Award of that year's competition.
"I thought her work was interesting in both a painterly way and also because of her use of language within the work," McClelland said. "It was different. Different appeals to me. The work is cerebral, but relaxing. There is something about her work that when I look at it, it's like I can feel it wash over me or flow through me."
South Shore Arts' Atrium Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.