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Intensity and detail in paint and drawing at Tall Grass Arts

Conglomerate, by Richard Benoit, acrylic on canvas.
Conglomerate, by Richard Benoit, acrylic on canvas.
J. Kronika

Working in acrylic, oil, and watercolor painting and such drawing materials as graphite and colored pencil, are the artists Ann Goldsmith, Jeanine Hill-Soldner, Angela Redmond, Richard Benoit, Joan Bulf, RexAnne Coad, Maureen Hubbard Cribbs, Linda Curl, Suzanne Dreher, Orgean Freeman, David George, Doris Gibson, Mancefield Muata Harris, Selma Lisit, Mary Ann Trzyna, Patricia Moore, Maureen O’Toole, Roger Paris, Charlotte Sasser, Leon R. Wade, Claire Wiest, Peter Carl Wilhelm, Elmira Smith Wilkey, Marikay Peter Witlock, Janice Miller, Margie Glass-Sula, and Richard Schmidt. This group of member and newly juried artists came together in the recent exhibit, Fabulously Focused at the Tall Grass Art Association Gallery in Park Forest, Illinois.

Ann Goldsmith entered her work titled “Fourth of July”, an acrylic painting on canvas. The bright colors of Goldsmith’s large scale abstract ebb and flow in dynamic organic forms. Ann also presents her work at the website Later Impressions, along with fellow senior artists.

JeanineHill-Soldner earned a Master of Art in Art Education in 1995 from the University of Illinois, at Champaign Urbana. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education in 1978, from the University of Florida, at Gainesville. She earned her Associate of Arts in 1976, from Florida Community College, in Jacksonville. She also attended courses at BrowardCommunity College, in Fort Lauderdale and Sante Fe Community College, in Gainesville, both of Florida, and Columbia College of Missouri.

Hill-Soldner’s works are in Public Art Collections in Illinois including: the Charles S. Dole Portrait, at the Dole Historic Mansion, in Crystal Lake; the McHenry County Government Center, in Woodstock; the Algonquin Area Public Library, in Algonquin; the McHenry County Historical Society, in Union; and Saint Margaret Mary School, in Algonquin.

Working as a fine artist and art educator, Jeanine Hill-Soldner teaches painting classes that cover beginner to advanced levels in her spacious studio in Lakeside Legacy Arts Park. Jeanine entered her work “Awe Inspiring, Tourists in Vatican,” an oil on canvas for this exhibit. Jeanine readily captures the expressions of her subjects and the detailed corbels of the Vatican arches with her skilled handling of oil paint.

Angela Redmond is a twenty-three year old from Maywood, IL. A figurative artist, Maywood has been “intrigued [with] art for many years.” Her portfolio includes works in painting and drawing, and a few prints. Redmond found her “enhanced interest in creating art really sparked within her final year of high school.” A recent graduate of Albion College in Michigan, Redmond crafted her series on African American hair entitled Crown and Glory, as a final project for her undergraduate studies.

“The Crown and Glory series focuses on the negativity often connected to Black hair. The negativity derives from the belief that Black hair at its natural texture is considered bad or degrading in society. It is when Black hair has been straightened via flat iron, relaxing (perms), or by hot combs is when it is valued as acceptable.” The series includes paintings and drawings. Redmond explains: “My work is inspired by personal experiences, especially the daily battles with my hair. I use my personal narrative to connect to something shared and familiar in others. The viewer may be reminded of similar events in their own lives.”

Through paintings of the figure, Redmond expresses the message she is portraying. “African American hair has for centuries been referred to as nappy or just bad hair because it does not fit the standards of White American beauty,” she says. She quotes Bertram D. Ashe’s article, Why Don’t He Like My Hair: Constructing African Americans Standards of Beauty, on the relationships between African Americans and society where the author states: “African Americans, with traditional African features, have always had an uneasy coexistence with the European (White) ideal of beauty.” Pivotal to the issue is the fact that European (White) ideals of beauty such as light skin and long straight hair are features that the majority of the Black race does not have.

Redmond“[illuminates] the falsehood of that stereotype… by painting the hair of an African American person.” She “[incorporates] negative words that have been associated with Black hair” into her works. Redmond hopes that “the viewer will see the negative word juxtaposed with this person and realize that the two do not match.” Having a different texture hair than the majority of society does not make a person nappy, too ethnic, or ignorant. Redmond’s series “[gives] viewers the opportunity to challenge their original notions on black hair.”

Redmondskillfully combines charcoal underpainting and oil on canvas to depict the reality of African American hair, and the subtleties of racial prejudice. Her handling of the media reveals her strong drawing skills and a manipulation of the paint to sculptural intensity.

Now in graduate school at the Knowledge Systems Institute in Skokie, Illinois, Redmond is continues to paint while exploring digital art and animation. She expects to complete her Masters of Science in the Digital Arts in May of 2012.

Richard Benoit is from Kankakee, Illinois. A “self-taught artist with a degree in photography,” Benoit “works in a full complement of subjects using pastel, charcoal acrylic paint and mixed media.” For Benoit, photography is primarily a medium to take visual notes for his paintings and drawings. His work is “included in the Illinois Institute of Art and Governors State University’s permanent collections, the Bourbonnais and Bradley Public Libraries, Aventis Pharmaceutical, Riverside Medical Center and many private and public collections throughout the United States. [Benoit] is a member of the Chicago Artist’s Coalition and is an artist member of the Tall Grass Arts Association, Park Forest, Illinois.”

For Benoit, “paintings are like poetry… meaning will rustle about like dried leaves and eventually come to settle. At that moment when the meaning comes to light one gets a sensation of peace and recognition, a glimpse of the universal.” His “best paintings are… flexible vibrant things that bring a fresh feeling each time they are viewed.” Benoit “[treats] the painting surface … a place for something to happen.” His “art is a random collection of chance and intent with the underlying belief that art can be a transcendent experience.” Benoit leaves evidence of the process in the form of dribbles and brush strokes “to celebrate the act of communication.” During the process, “art is a quiet place of introspection and repose” for Benoit, resulting in “memorable art [that]is a refuge” for the viewer.

For the Fabulously Focused exhibit, Benoit submitted, Conglomerate, an acrylic on canvas. Benoit skillfully handles his media in this diptych. His sculptural handling of the acrylic creates hollows for the eye and scumbled washes to sink into. Utilizing abstract forms and groupings of rings, the artist creates a pleasing dynamism for the viewer to explore.

Richard Benoit will be featured in an upcoming exhibit the Artists' Marks, taking place at Union Street Gallery. This survey of the drawings, paintings and prints of artists Richard Benoit, Akiko Matsuoka-Thorson and Gary Thomas focuses on the individuality of mark making. The press release states: “these three artists are concerned with and are often identified by their own personal technical processes of transforming a blank work surface into a meaningful image.” Curated by Claudia Craemer, this exhibit is ongoing through Friday, September 24, 2010, with an Artists' Reception on Friday, September 10, from 6 -9pm. The artist will be present at the reception to give a presentation about his work.

Joan Bulf’s interest in art began “as soon as [she] could hold a crayon” and she “can't remember ever not drawing or painting.” She says that “in the late 50's and early 60's, [she] took advantage of an oil painting class at the adult education program at the local Chicago Junior College. She painted for many years in oils, and only recently switched to watercolors. She studied the watercolor medium with Sam Hageman and Claire Wiest.

Bulf ‘s skillfully rendered watercolor brings to the fore a sense of movement. Captured in the dramatic sweep of diagonals in the background, the contraposition of the figure on the horse, and the flying ribbons, tail and mane, we are brought into the rider’s moment. A pause to look back, suggesting the search or being followed adds much to the narrative quality of this work.

RexAnne Coad’s work is a search for personal vision and beauty, “based in a truthful observation of [the subjects of her] painting and in the idea of expressing … observations in relation to and in harmony with the whole composition.” For Coad, “color harmony, rhythms of values and relationships of edges and how [she] can manipulate those are … themes of the work regardless of the subject matter.” She “[uses] oil colors both opaquely and transparently” and “[works] using natural light and from life rather than from photographs.”

Influenced by both the American impressionists of the "Boston School" such as William Paxton, and the French painters like William Bouguereau and Henri Fantin-Latour, Coad was trained in the Classical Realist tradition at Atelier Lack in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This studio-school of fine art is patterned after the ateliers of 19th-century Paris and the teaching of the Boston impressionists. She continued her

studies in art history at the University of Minnesota. Coad lives and maintains a studio in Frankfort, Illinois. She is a juried member of the Tall Grass Arts Association and a Guild Member at the Union Street Gallery. She recently participated in the Pairs exhibit at Union Street Gallery in Park Forest, Illinois. RexAnne Coad will be teaching a portrait class this Fall at Tall Grass Arts Association.

Coad’s still life of zinnias in a vase draws attention to the little things that bring beauty to our everyday life. Her brush draws out the subtleties of single petals, the surfaces of vase and table.

Maureen Hubbard Cribbs works in painting and printmaking. Born into a family where “art making was as natural as walking”, the artist has a lifelong commitment to art. She graduated from DePauw University with a Bachelor of Arts, and completed a Master of Arts in painting and printmaking at Governors State University. Cribbs continued her studies at The Art Institute of Chicago, the OxBow School of Art at Saugatuck, Michigan, and at the Santa Reparata Graphic Art Center in Florence, Italy with Karen Kunc in a program coordinated by the University of Kansas.

Cribbs was a founding member of and artist participant between 1993 and 1998 at Matrix Gallery, located at 1255 Wabash Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois. Cribbs has taught art at all grade levels, most recently presenting courses at Robert Morris College [now University], Governors State University, and Chicago State University. Cribbs has demonstrated her woodcut printing techniques in an hour long Channel 4 video. Cribbs is a member of the Chicago Artist’s Coalition, a presenter for the Art Insights Program at the Art Institute of Chicago, and a member of the Mid America Print Council.

Concentrating for the last decade on printmaking, Cribbs work is carried by The Steeple Gallery, in St. John Indiana, The Sanctuary Gallery, in Clifton, Illinois, and the Tall Grass Art Gallery, in Park Forest, Illinois. Her work is in many collections in the United States and abroad including the permanent collection of the Amity Foundation, in Woodbridge, Connecticut, prints in the collections of the Navested Cultural Center and the Museum of Denmark. During this year, Cribbs has participated in the Tall Grass Arts Member’s Exhibit and acting docent at the Manilow Sculpture Park, in University Park, Illinois.

Cribbs “creates uniquely original paintings and very small edition prints,” utilizing handcut and printed woodcut plates. The images Cribbs creates have a “poetic sensibility” and are “infused with her personal sense of color and space”. Fascinated by the immediacy of woodcut printing, and the limits of a small edition, Cribbs has a multistage process. She says that “the initial excitement of presenting an idea is followed through by cutting the blocks, layering colors, finding beautiful papers and further appropriate embellishments, as well as experimenting with processes and media to develop each piece to its fullest… [this] can involve me for a considerable amount of time.” A current experimentation is “[creating] prints which use non-toxic materials.”

Cribbs introduces an idea of layered time with her rendering from the studio. Her whimsical touch is present in the details with which she shares her view of the Self. This rare painting reveals that the subtleties of process that mark her printmaking are present in her paintings also.

Linda Curl’s art reflects her life’s journey. Molded from experiences, her creations “depict all the places [she has] been and all that [she has] been through, like freezing a still frame.” Curl says that “sometimes the destination is a complete surprise.” She loves to experiment with different colors, mediums, the contrasts between abstract or more tangible forms. Curl’s favorite phrase is “but what if I can?”

Ideally viewers will be “drawn in… to become lost in their own thoughts… to relate to [the] art [via] their own unique conceptions.” The shared experiences, that resonate with the artist’s journey made concrete on canvas, inspire and move Curl to share her art.

Curl shows us how to play with her festive Red Cabin in sheer flower strewn hills. The animation that shines from this work gives evidence to her love of the craft.

Suzanne Dreher invites us into her personal landscape with this photorealist painting. Suggesting the artist’s own peaceful connection with the space, we are invited to join her for a leisurely amble in nature. Working in acrylic, the artist culls from the canvas the hills, lush vegetation, and towering trees of her Serenity.

Orgean Freeman works in a variety of media, including oils and acrylics on canvas, watercolor on paper, and mixed media. For his subjects, Freeman often works with landscapes, still life and portraits. The works Freeman creates explore the experiences of his life. A colorful life calls for the vivid hues and while muted colors express the subtleties. Using “realistic, surrealistic and expressive approaches[, Freeman] captures the freshness, spontaneity, fluidity, and creativity of his experiences.”

Freeman has audited courses in art at the Daley Center, in Chicago, Illinois, Governors State University in University Park, Illionis, and the Beverly Art Center. Orgean Freeman has taught for 15 years at the Beverly Art Center.

Freeman’s work has been exhibited at the Tall Grass Art Gallery, with the Chicago Artists Resource, at the Chicago Cultural Center, the South Shore Cultural Center, the South Side Community Art Center, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Beverly Art Center.

Freeman’s included work is a feast of color and the suggestion of forms. This combination of abstraction and the surreal invites interpretation.

David George has drawn for as long as he can remember. From the time he was given a set of oil paints at about age seven or eight until his mid-twenties he painted in oils. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech.

About the time George was ready to retire from engineering, he started watercolor painting and took some classes at Tall Grass Arts Association. He is currently attending classes at Moraine Valley Community College. George is a member of the Tall Grass Arts Association and the Gretchen Charlton Art Gallery where he has exhibited his work. He also has exhibited at Moraine Valley Community College. His work has been featured and reproduced on show postcards.

George explains: “My main interest, for the last 60 years or so, is fly-fishing. The art tucks in around the edges.” Working primarily in watercolor landscape, George paints first for himself. None of his paintings are for sale.

George plays with the context of self-portrait in a new way with his skilled watercolor. The composition utilizes heavily filled and contrasting open space to backdrop the figure and places the artist squarely amidst a collection of his works and representations of his hobbies.

Doris Gibson studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago, the American Academy of Art, Prairie State College, and Columbia University, in New York. Her works of poetry and her illustrations have been published. She is affiliated with the Chicago Artists Coalition, the Northern Indiana Arts Association, the Illiana Artists, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tall Grass Art Gallery, the Town and Country Art League, the Vogt Art Center, Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts, and the Union Street Gallery.

Gibson incorporates the bust of a brass goddess, the flowing folds of a multihued robe or blanket and a background of subdued leaves in this masterful oil painting.

Mancefield Muata Harris is an artist and photographer, born in Chicago, Illinois before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Raised by his grandmother, he was encouraged to draw with available materials including pencil on paper bags. Harris’s art world influences include Jacob Lawrence and Pablo Picasso. He devoted his time to painting and photography after a full career in the military and upon entering retirement. His work is exhibited in shows and galleries throughout the state.

Harris work bridges color field and figurative work. Within the grid of color his mother figure holds two children lovingly. Faceless, they could be any mother, any children, but the portrayal of Love lies evident at the golden center of this painting.

Selma Lisit shows her work with the Later Impressions online, a website for senior artists. Lisit is a member of the Senior Artists Network, a not-for-profit organization committed to addressing the needs and concerns of artists age 50 and older that presents an annual non-juried Members’ Show, sponsors workshops, publishes a newsletter and promotes opportunities for artists to show and sell their work.

Lisit’s delicately rendered amaryllis in watercolor falls in rich carmine folds down the page. Her intuitive handling of positive and negative space and her deft handling of contrast makes this work a delight to the eye that almost evokes the scent of the blooms.

Mary Ann Trzyna has been a Gallery Artist at the Tall Grass Arts Association, in Park Forest, Illinois since 2008, and an Artist's Guild Member at the Union Street Gallery, in Chicago Heights, Illinois since 2009. Trzyna “never stopped making art but … spent a lot of years letting it take a back seat to family and work.” Previously strictly a dedicated oil painter, Trzyna finds herself working mostly with pastels now. She is “delighted by the intense, rich color and… finding [her] art changing as [she learns] more about the medium.”

Trzyna works in oils and pastels, configuring her still lives against interesting fabrics in the studio. She is “fascinated by the shapes and colors available in the produce department and the addition of patterned fabric added not just a challenge (the original intent), but a way of seeing that has expanded as I notice pattern & rhythm in landscape paintings.” She has “starting doing more landscapes and [drawing] en plein air…[and her] landscapes and garden paintings are also sometimes based on [her] photos and sketches.”

In addition to her still life and landscape paintings, Trzyna has “always loved drawing from the model and currently [attends] the figure drawing workshops at Tall Grassin Park Forest, Illinois,” where she primarily uses pencil for quick sketch and watercolor or pastel for longer studies. With these works, Trzyna aims to capture “light, color, balance, rhythm, and the poetry of the human figure.”

Trzyna’s studio is located in Frankfort, Illinois, a southwest suburb of Chicago. Mary Ann also run’s Tryzna Graphics, her business branch, which offers logos, print and website design, illustration and photographic services. On Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19, Trzyna will be showing at the 55th annual Park Forest Art Fair, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the Village Green in down town Park Forest.

Tryzna captures the sentinels of seven tall trees in the long light of the midmorning or early afternoon. Their shadows pull in strong diagonals across the amber hue of fallen autumn leaves. Diffused light embues the clouds in a rich blue sky with fluffiness and mass. Working masterfully in pastel, Tryzna brings us into the landscape.

Patricia Moore’s studies have included attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During her career, she has been the Gallery Director of the Playhouse Gallery, Galena IL and has devoted six years as Director of the Tall Grass Arts Association School in Park Forest, IL. She was also Director of the Park Forest Art Center prior to its renaming as Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery. Patricia was a board member of the Chicago Southland Visual Arts Coalition from 1995-2005. She is the founder (in 1989) and director of Salon Artists Gallery in Park Forest.

She founded the “Art in Action Program” in 1989. Patricia has been an instructor at the Park Forest Art Center, Northern Indiana Art Association [including her work with the outreach program which brings workshops in art to students- from letter of recommendation by Renee Nordstrom], Crete Park District, Village of Park Forest, Village Artists of Flossmoor, and Project Sam-ITC Theater, as well as other positions [including Victory Center of Park Forest].

She has exhibited her work in solo shows at the University of Chicago, Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana, The Town Gallery in Munster, IN, Gallery North Art Barn in Michigan, Vision Quest Gallery in Hyde Park, Chicago, IL, Marina City Tower Gallery in Chicago IL, Gallery Play House in Galena IL, Northern Indiana Art Association, Munster IN, and Willoughby Tower Gallery, in Chicago IL. Patricia Moore’s “Star Gazer Lilly” rendering was selected for an Easter Seal Society stamp, and distributed to 14 million households in February 1998.

Moore’s work is in permanent collections including Amoco Incorporated, in Oak Brook Illinois, National Bank Corporation, in Florida, California, and Texas, Catherine Blair Collection, Park Forest, Illinois, Specialty Physicians Offices, Germany, Northern Illinois Gas Company, Aurora, Illinois, Aetna Insurance Company, Peoria, Illinois, Camille Hatzenbueler, Chicago, Illinois, Klein Thorp & Jenkins Ltd. Chicago, Illinois, American Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois, ICG Railroad, Chicago, Illinois, Janie Petkus Interiors, Hinsdale, Illinois, Recording for the Blind, Texas, Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, Dyer, Indiana, A. Spenny & Associates, Tampa, Florida, Orland Square Association, Orland Park, Illinois, Gatx Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, Landscaping Ltd., LaGrange, Illinois, and more. In 2009, Patricia Moore received an honorable mention at the McCord Gallery, and her image was represented in the annual calendar and exhibited in a “Best in Show” exhibit.

She curated the Prairie State Exhibit “Out of the Box” [at The Christopher Art Gallery] in 2007 and the Jacobsen Exhibit Salon Artists Gallery in 2009. Moore says of the Prairie State Exhibit Out of the Box [at The Christopher Art Gallery] in 2007: “We all occasionally create work that seems to come from an unknown place within us… a work of art is “out of the box” because it is so different from the [other] art work that we are creating at the time… When I was asked to curate a show at the Christopher Art Gallery, I thought it was a great opportunity to give artists a chance to exhibit their more unusual work.”

Park Forest Historical Society Hall of Fame award winner 2005, “Patricia Moore began taking art lessons at the Park Forest Art Center as a youth and has given lessons there as an adult… [She has been the gallery director and director of the now Tall Grass Arts Association Art School.] She arranged the school’s move to down town and increased its scope so that as many as thirty classes were offered. She has also arranged for professional art work to adorn downtown windows as a part of the holiday art sale for the last twelve years… Pat was selected as one of the “Best Muses for Children” in the 2004 “Best of Chicago” issue of Chicago magazine. To quote the magazine, she “has fanned the creative spark of thousands of south suburban kids.”

According to an article titled Art Association Honors Local Artist, in the Times Staff Report in the West Lake Local Times, from Saturday March 23, 2002: “Moore enjoys sharing her work with adults and especially with children. Teaching art to children has become a major part of her life…She has classes for children as young as five. Pat says, “kids are very creative, so in their classes she begins with the basics of composition and creativity through storytelling that requires the children to draw accompanying artwork. For all the children she introduces art history, discussing artists whose work hangs in the Art Institute because they may see these works on school field trips. Her classics go from the basics to drawing and painting using mixed media, oils and acrylics. Moore has taught classes at Tall Grass Arts Association [since] the 1970’s. Moore was the force behind the art school from 1995-2001.”

In ArtLook, a column in the Southtownstar newspaper, on Thursday, July 10, 2008, the staff writer called “Moore … a mixed media artist, a teaching artist of children and adults, and what gallery officials call a “tireless” supporter of the arts.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Southwest spotlight article Life as Art: Patricia Moore paints with a passion and shares her passion with children by Marilyn Thomas revealed the life of the artist. “For me, I eat, sleep and breathe art. I work on my art every day, and its and all-encompassing thing,” Patricia Moore says. “Over her thirty-six year career, Moore has made it her business to share her art and her passion for it as well… she especially believes in sharing it with children.

When her son Gary, now 17 was in grade school… Moore used her talents to paint murals at his school, Talala in Park Forest. The dancing bears, jungle creatures and astronauts floating in the galaxies she painted more than a decade ago continue to delight children… Nine years ago, she … organized Art in Action, a daylong program that offers children the chance to learn about art by watching its creators… Moore… sets up about eight Art in Action presentations annually in communities that stretch from Park Forest to Northwest Indiana… Moore says, “Seeing a pot thrown, a fabric made by a weaver, as silkscreen design come to life, those are very action-oriented projects for kids”…

“I am a painter who does teaching and I just love kids,” she explains. “They have such vivid imaginations that it doesn’t take as much work with a child as it does adults. Kids are really very creative.” …[Moore] can teach it all because she has done it all. [She] sold her first piece at fourteen and has gone through all phases of art- from realism to impressionism to abstract-at her Park Forest studio. [For Moore]…her art changes because [she is] looking for a challenge. “I’m always experimenting.”…

In her role as an arts advocate Moore also teaches at Village Artists, an arts association in Flossmoor, and at the Northern Indiana Arts Association in Munster. She helped organize the second annual Art Trek program last fall that took visitors to various art venues in the south suburbs and serves on the Chicago Southland Visual Arts Coalition board, the organizer of the trek. … Debbora Lightfield, a teacher at Mohawk and Blackhawk Schools in Park Forest…[reveals] “I think in the arts community she’s known as the [Energizer] Bunny. She’s got so much energy that she just keeps going.”

Moore’s painting medium is acrylic and mixed media, chosen for their ability to reveal “vibrant expression and warmth in depiction.” She paints on such substrates as canvas, linen, or premium quality papers from domestic and imported sources.

Moore focuses upon the sheer fall of her subject with animated brush strokes. The rich hues she chose for the earth and surrounding greenery serve to highlight the cool blues and frothing whites in this painting. Hints of gold leaf trace through the warm hues of earth and the distant sky.

Maureen O’Toole grew up in Park Forest in a family of 1st and 2nd generation Irish Americans. She started drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil and began painting after a summer course at SAIC at age thirteen. She started selling paintings and doing occasional commercial art at age fifteen. She is a member of the Salon Artists Gallery, Tall Grass Arts Assn, and frequent exhibitor at the Tall Grass Arts Fair. She also exhibits at Art for Alzheimer’s in Country Club Hills and The Art Barn in Valparaiso, Indiana. She is a published poet and seeking a literary agent to publish her first novel. When not painting, Ms. O’Toole is a caregiver for the elderly and disabled.

O’Toole asserts: “Painting is a part of me, part of my DNA.” O’Toole crafts a deep realism in acrylic paint that suggests the depicted objects could be reached with the hand through the window of the frame. This cozy still life suggests the best of the everyday, with its references to home and touches of beauty.

Roger Paris received his Bachelor of Arts in Art History, with “a heavy minor” in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and earned a Master of Arts in Media Communication with a concentration in Photography at Governors State University, in University Park, Illinois. He has worked in continuing education as a manager at Governors State University, in University Park, Illinois, as director of the Tall GrassArts Association School and acting director of the Arts Association in Park Forest, Illinois. His work has been shown “in galleries from the East Coast to New Mexico.” He has appeared in gallery shows and in print and on-line publications nationally and internationally.

Paris“[believes] it is important for an artist to continue to grow. He only recently began using pastel. The work, Birch Bark Canoe, which Paris is exhibiting in Fabulously Focused is the first time the artist is showing a pastel. Roger Paris has produced fine art photographic images for more than 25 years. He also edits the online journal Flashquake.

Paris deftly handles the pastel to bring us into his birch bark canoe, nose to blossom with the water lilies that grow nearby. Extending his artists eye and continual learning to this media, Paris tackles pastel with enthusiasm and his appreciation for the medium shines through.

Charlotte Sasser received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a certificate from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, both in Chicago, Illinois. During 2010, Sasser participated in shows at the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society, the Northbrook Public Library, in Northbrook, Illinois, the Polish Arts Club of Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois, the Watercolor U.S.A. exhibit at the Springfield Art Museum, in Springfield, Missouri, Harper College’s 33rd National Arts Exhibit, Small Works, in Palatine, Illinois (where her work is in the permanent collection), the Spring Benefit Art Auction, at Evanston Art Center in Evanston, Illinois, and the Robert Morris Gallery, in Springfield, Illinois. Her work has been published in the Chicago Art Examiner, the Springfield Art Museum Newsletter, and will be published in the 2011 Watercolor USA Honor Society Newsletter. She is a member of the Watercolor Honor Society.

Sasser explains her work as a “fascination with nature's minutia [that] has opened [her up to] an unseen, mysterious and fascinating world of artistic investigation.” Her works are “part animal, part plant…hybrid images that… represent the constant metamorphosis of the natural world.”

Sasser evokes the minutae of the underwater world with her softly fleshy watercolor forms. Dramatically oversized the detail of the forms cluster and overlap in the original work and the limited edition print offered for the gallery raffle.

Leon R. Wade is a native of New Orleans. He attended the University of New Orleans, the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, John McCrady’s Art School and Delgado Community College. For 30 years, he worked as a graphic artist and geologic draftsman for Shell Oil Company. Wade also artistically participated in the Shell Oil Company Partnership Program with the New Orleans Public School System. In 1989, Wade received a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Wade has exhibited work in several shows in the New Orleans area including Art under the Oaks sponsored by Dillard University, The African American Congress Art Show sponsored by Tulane University, and Art for Art’s Sake sponsored by the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center and the Amistad Research Center. His work has been displayed in the Westin Hotel in New Orleans, the Mostly African Market in Natchez, Mississippi, and the Watercolor Society exhibitions in San Diego in 2001 and Mississippi in 2002. Internationally, Wade’s exhibited in The Blackie in Liverpool, England. In 1999, Wade participated in an art show with the National Conference of Artists in Accra, Ghana and Kimasi to honor Jack Jordan and Claude Clark.

Wade has crafted art with several different mediums including watercolor, acrylics, print using woodcuts and pen and ink. Wade stated that “he became an artist so that he could express his creativity. He says, I enjoy recreating nature…[and] especially human beings.” Most of his work depicts people because “people are the highest expression of God’s creativity”.

Wade explores the rich coral and deep green tones of the rose bramble in this untitled work. Laden with layers, this watercolor bursts with the full blossoms.

Claire Wiest was born in Boston, Massachusetts and her early education, occurred in Lomma, Sweden. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Massachusetts College of Art. Wiest completed extension work at Harvard University and watercolor workshops at Purdue University. She studied with commercial artist, Vincent Edwards, in Boston Massachusetts. She has worked as an art editor and illustrator for Baby Post magazine of New York. She is a painter, teacher – focused on watercolor and book making, a book and magazine illustrator, and an author. Her work has been exhibited in numerous locations throughout the US and internationally. Claire Wiest is represented by the North Indiana Arts Association in Munster, Indiana, the Park Forest Art Center, in Illinois, the Virginia Hand Craft Gallery, in Lynchburg, Virginia and the Westum Museum in Racine, Wisconsin. She is a member of the Illinois, Wisconsin and Midwest Watercolor Societies, MENSA, and the National Museum of Women’s Art in Washington, D.C. Her works are held in public and private collections in Illinois, Wisconsin and the greater US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Holland, West Germany, Australia, and Brazil.

Wiest’s “direction in watercolor painting is influenced by Japanese haiku, a form of poetry.” Her paintings are based on a specific season, harmony, inner contrast, or a response to nature’s moods. The “windows through which the viewer may respond” include series such as buttons, timepieces, cityscapes, and sepias. There are also the sculptured walking sticks she collaborates on with her husband to design and carve. Books by Robert and Claire Wiest include: KI, Sixty Pages, Milkweed and Things, Some Frogs Have Their Own Rocks, Hedgerow, There’s One In Every Bunch, Down The River Without a paddle, and Small Winter.

Wiest captures a moment of introspection with her oil painting, Figure in Blue. The loose brushstrokes capture a wealth of personal details. The graceful curve of fingers clasped upon a bag, the heavy lids of eyes, and the depth of fabric folds are rendered in a soft style that manages to reveal a deeply personal moment.

Peter Carl Wilhelm had the “good fortune to grow up in a creative, liberal family and knew the joys of intellectual experimentation and freedom of artistic expression.” His parents, Paul & Patricia Wilhelm, are a poet and visual artist respectively. No matter how desperate their financial circumstances were during Peter’s youth, his parents did all they could to expose all of their six children to higher cultural and philosophical concepts. His sister Persis Alisa was herself an artist, a published author, a filmmaker and a teacher. Until her death in 2002, Persis had a profound impact on Peter’s creativity. The siblings “explored all possible directions of creative expression, inspiring and collaborating with each other as teenagers.” Peter dropped out of high school after completing all the visual art offerings at his school. He was “determined to pursue a life long discipline of artistic experimentation.”

To this day, he continues to habitually write primarily philosophical ramblings for his own amusement. He took private piano lessons as a kid, and jumped at the opportunity to privately study music theory and composition with his piano teachers sister - eventually attending two years of music theory courses in high school. The musical compositions of Cage & Schoenberg influenced Wilhelm. He plays piano, clarinet, acoustic and electric guitar. Wilhelm eventually played in a “terrible, loud, garage band with some buddies [with his] my candy apple red, Gibson Melody Maker and a small Marshall stack.”

Wilhelm has “a life long love of music, literature, and performance”, but “visual art is and always has been [his] primary form of expression and fulfillment.” Among the artists who have been direct mentors for Wilhelm, he names: Michael Piazza, Mark Allen, and Reyull Ho, all Chicago artists. His formal education includes attending the Art Institute of Chicago’s Young Artist Studios and the Mechanical Drafting School, of the Army Corp of Engineers, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Wilhelm crafts a sense of deep space with his perspective and imbues his more abstract work with the ambience of urban landscape. Working in acrylic and oil this artist draws the viewer into created place where the title is only a guide on the journey. Using hard and soft grid lines, wet and crisply defined, the layers of framing draw the eye inward.

Elmira Smith Wilkey was born in Kankakee, Illinois, to Dorothy (Schilling) and Edmond Smith. She is a descendant of the founding families of New France/Nova Scotia. At the age of six, Wilkey took private art lessons from Sister Epfraim, at the Congregation of Notre Dame. In 1958, Elmira graduated from Loretta Heights College at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, with a Bachelor of Arts. She also took courses at Loyola University in Chicago. She studied watercolor with Nita Engle at the American Academy of Art, in Chicago, Illinois, and serigraphy with Corita Kent, in Washington D.C. With David Sanders, she studied wood engraving. She has attended the Womens' Studio Workshop, and studied print making and book arts in New York.

Wilkey taught at Kankakee High School and at MacNamara High School, both in Kankakee, Illinois. She also taught as an adjunct professor at Kankakee Community College focusing on art and literature and at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, where she focused on art. She has illustrated five commissioned books, consulted on and designed two books. Wilkey has participated on an art advisory board; as an art judge, an arts essayist, a show coordinator, a workshop instructor and lecturer, and as a school and library presenter on her art, books and ongoing process. Wilkey sketches and paints portraits, buildings and landscapes in the US, Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Hasaii, and Canada.

Wilkey founded The Bronte Press with her sister in 1976. Their first book was an herbal with original wood engravings. The Bronte Press produces limited edition miniature books with hand water-colored original illustrations. In 2001, She founded the Studio Sans Serif imprint as a division of the Bronte Press. The current book, produced in 2010 is an edition of thirty-five miniature books called Perfectly Picnic. Wilkey researched, conducted interviews, edited and illustrated Rockville, the Ordinary and Extraordinary History and Folklore of Rockville Township for the Bicentennial Commission of Kankakee County in 1976. Wilkey has written book reviews, profiles of notable persons, and served as a motivational speaker.

Wilkey has participated in numerous juried exhibits, invitational group and solo shows locally, regionally, at state and national levels in the United States and Canada. Her most recent solo show was at the WI Gallery, in New Harmony, Indiana in 2009. Two of her signature pieces from the Straw Series art in the permanent collections of Kankakee Community College, in Kankakee, Illinois and the Teacher's Retirement System collection in Springfield, Illinois.

The artist is best known for her Straw Series (I, II and III) artworks. Jane Blaffer Owen, visionary, art collector, and figure in the movement for World Peace owns a work from this series. Wilkey says she “[finds] challenge and excitement in pursuing [her] signature work, the Straw Series…which uses a technique [she calls] media "weaving"… influenced by handmade objects woven in straw or natural fibers, by people around the world…[including] the straw dollies of England and the historic haycock poultry top knots once created by New England farmers, to decorate their harvest sheaves.” She “began with selective animal, bird, insect subjects, then explored the addition of people.” This series involves the “translation of [subjects]…woven in ink, pastel, [prismacolor pencils] and acrylic media.”

In the Queen of Hearts, Wilkey’s submission to Fabulously Focused, “the facial features are purposely muted in blue [prismacolor pencil]. The artist says she “often [uses] this muted approach or [leaves] off facial features entirely in [works that] depict people. This approach allows the identity of the character to remain unfocused and open to interpretation.

Wilkey opens up the two dimensions of a familiar icon, the queen of hearts playing card. With prismacolor and ink she gives the queen alternate tools to the traditional scepter, and softens the features to allow us to imagine anyone Queen. With her alternating vivid and muted tones, Wilkey displays the versatility of her medium and her skilled draftsman’s touch.

Marikay Peter Witlockreceived herBachelor of Fine Arts fromMillikinUniversity, in Decatur, Illinois. She studied art history at the University of Georgia, in Athens, and studio arts at the University of Maryland, in College Park. She has been a volunteer curator and coordinatorfor the Chicago Southland Visual Arts Coalition’s Art Trek and Union Street Gallery’s Studio and Gallery Walk from 1995 through 2000. She has been on the curatorial staff, an active board member, and a speaker on Careers in the Arts for the Chicago Southland Jr. High and High School Districts.

Witlock’s work is represented in corporate and private collections throughout the Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic regions. She teaches pastel painting at the Village Artists, in Flossmoor, Illinois and teaches private students in pastel painting and graphite drawing in her studio at Union Street Gallery, in Chicago Heights. She held a visiting workshop February through March of 2009 at the McCord Gallery, in Palos Park, Illinois.

She says: “Let the earth speak for me. Let the earth tell my stories, express my sense of awe, my sense of loss, my sense of rejoicing. The earth holds my memories and dreams.”

Marikay Peter Witlock, completed a project she calls Journal without Words in 2009. Witlock explains that, “For [the] Journal I [committed] to [making] thirty drawings in sixty days…to drawing every day, being fully engaged in the process and less focused on final product. [She asserts] that commitment is an intangible aspect common to all artwork…[and affirms] that [her] commitment is renewable and inevitable as [she finds herself] wooed by a force common to all who call themselves artist.”

Witlock delicately handles the soft pastel to bring the hues and textures of the Autumn Garden to light. A white seat rests among the fallen leaves inviting us to sit a while in this retreat.

Janice Miller received her degree from The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California. She has a particular passion for drawing. Miller got her start as an artist working at Weir-Quiton Studios in Los Angeles. Mostly known for her Soft Realism works, primarily done in colored pencil, she was the owner and curator of Zoë Gallery in Joliet, Illinois until July 2009. She encouraged a revival of the arts movement in Joliet. Currently, she maintains a studio in Park Forest, Illinois. She is a member ofthe Tall Grass Artist Association Gallery in Park Forest.

With a delicious richness of hue, Miller brings this still life to bold dimension. The variation of size and tone are skillfully depicted in the bowl of berries. The accompanying ewer of milk, vase and bunch of lilies on stalks, and bowl of flowers are vividly present and show an appreciative awareness of the panoply of color that occurs in natural subjects.

Margie Glass-Sula received her Master of Arts in studio drawing and painting from Governors State University, in University Park, Illinois. She is a juried artist of the Tall Grass Arts Association, Park Forest, Illinois, a member of the Gretchen Charlton Art Gallery, in Kankakee Illinois, and the Union Street Gallery in Chicago Heights, Illinois.

Glass-Sula shows work at the national level and has works in public and private collections. She has solo exhibitions at the Laura A. Sprague Fine Arts Gallery, located within Joliet Junior College, in Joliet Illinois and at the Brandenburg Gallery, located within Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois, during September 2010.

She “is the founder of The Gutter Dog Project, [which produces and sells] fine art to fund the rescue of neglected and abused dogs. Glass-Sula “[explores] the quiet simplicity that nature can captivate us with and intends…her imagery to counter the constant onslaught of hurried visuals and ugliness that society tends to create and focus on.” Her organic forms and fantastical abstractions feature the subtle application of color.

Glass-Sula brings the hollows and veins of the lily gently to the surface of her paper with tinted graphite. Depicted larger than life and treated as the lace of the plant world, Glass-Sula has gifted this Lily’s Remains with honor of its fragile beauty.

Richard Schmidt is originally from New York and moved to Illinois in 1987. He has been painting for over 40 years. In New York he was a member of the Mamaroneck Artist Guild, the New Rochelle and the Mount Vernon Art Associations, where he served on boards and participated in gallery programs. Richard has been juried into and won many awards in shows such as Salmagundi and the Hudson Valley Art Association. He studied under several teachers in New York. While living in Illinois, he has participated in shows in Park Forest, Oak Park, Homewood, Wheaton, Tinley Park, Frankfort, St. Charles as well as Griffith, Indiana and New York. Richard currently participates on the Program/Gallery Committee for the Tall Grass Association, and is a member of the Illinois Artisans Program.

Richard works from sketches and from reference photographs of visited places. He paints in oils or watercolor and the paintings are always completed in his studio. Some “reference photographs are taken when he is moving quickly in his travels, but he prefers to work from sketches done on the spot.” He interprets the colors and light of his subjects using a “modified pointillism style.”

Schmidt is drawn into the upper crown of the tree and our eyes travel each sculpted knob and branch, each gathered cluster of leaves. With deft handling of color and value, the warmth of the sun and the clarity of the sky are imparted in this pointillist watercolor painting.

The Tall Grass Gallery is located at 367 Artists Walk, adjacent to Village Hall in Downtown Park Forest, between South Orchard Drive and Western Avenue, north of Indianwood Boulevard. The gallery and gift shop are open to the public, free of charge. The Association also offers a variety of art classes for children and adults. Gallery hours are 11:00 am. through 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

For additional information or directions, call the gallery at (708) 748-3377 or check the Tall Grass website at

Ann Goldsmith’s work can be viewed at:

Jeanine Hill-Soldner’s work can be viewed at:

Joe Pankowski’s work can be viewed at:

Angela Redmond’s work can be viewed at:

Richard Benoit’s work can be viewed at:

For more information about the Artist’s Marks exhibit at Union Street Gallery:

RexAnne Coad’s work can be viewed at:


Suzanne Dreher’s work can be viewed at:

Doris Gibson’s work can be viewed at:

Selma Lisit’s work can be viewed at:

Mary Ann Trzyna’s work can be viewed at: her full artist's statement is at:

Roger Paris’s work can be viewed at:; &

Roger Paris edits the journal:

Charlotte Sasser’s work can be viewed through the Lake County Discovery Museum (featuring some of her postcards) at: www.teicharchives.orgOr

Elmira Smith Wilkey’s work can be viewed at: Bronte Press:

And an interview with her about the history of her family is available at:

Marikay Peter Witlock’s work can be viewed at:

her Journal without Words of 2009 can be found at:

Margie Glass-Sula’s work can be viewed at:


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