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The artist’s eye captures the moment in photographs at Fabulously Focused exhibi

Richard Perna, Misty Canyon II, digital photography.
Richard Perna, Misty Canyon II, digital photography.
in-situ by J. Kronika.

Capturing the moment in traditional and digital photography, the artists: Debra Parker-Sawyer, Colin Thomas, Patricia Wiseman, Marvin Wiltgen, CouSandra Armstrong, Marcia Babler, David Fitzgerald, Claudia McCarthy, Stuart Pearson, Richard Perna, and Janice Pratt participated in the latest juried exhibit at the Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery, Fabulously Focused.

Debra Parker-Sawyer is currently working to complete an Associate in Applied Science in photography at Prairie State College. She became a member of the Tallgrass Art Association in 2010 and was invited to submit to the jury for the Fabulously Focused Gallery Artist's Exhibition. Debra aims to work in photography professionally and artistically when she completes her degree.

Parker-Sawyer’s work is “emotionally and personally driven.” She says: “I tend to bleed my soul [into] my images … for [viewers] to relate to them in their own personal lives.” Sawyer’s work has been impacted by the “many losses and struggles [she has experienced in] the past few years… [reflecting on and healing personal] losses in her work is extremely rewarding and therapeutic” for the artist.

Sawyer’s current work deals with symmetric and multiple imaging. The To Which End series, from which she chose for her Fabulously Focused submission, “[reflects] not only [the artist’s moods or] emotional response but [satisfies her] visual response as well.” These works “shift and change like life”… [giving] the viewer [the opportunity] to ask …Which End is up and down or side to side.” Parker-Sawyer’s digital work, To Which End, reveals the charged form of electricity in a nebulous cloud of rich hues.

Colin Thomas of Homewood, Illinois has “always been a fan of nature and [of] taking pictures in nature.” He believes that “sometimes the best subjects are the ones you don't expect.” He said: “I can stay within 20 miles of my home and still give the world something amazing [with my photography].” A member of Thomas’ Photographic services, Thomas is known for his creative approach to portraiture, and his expert photo retouching of aging or damaged images.

Thomas poses his subject to highlight the merry attitude with which he sees the world. These charismatic strawberries dance to the photographers light. Thomas says of his subject: “ My garden gave birth to these 2 strawberries [that] would have been cast aside by most commercial growers… most people would never get to experience the odd shapes and fun [of] seeing them.” Thomas said that “they [also] tasted the best!" With his work, Thomas seeks to “show the viewer something right under their noses that they might never [notice].”

Patricia Wiseman of Burbank, states: “The lens of a camera sees and ultimately captures a moment in life.” She attended SaintXavier Universityas an adult student, pursuing an undergraduate degree and enrolling in a photography class. She “[expanded] beyond the ordinary snapshots of my life” through the many assignments in this class. Since then Wiseman has “enjoyed many travel opportunities including India, Costa Rica, Hawaii and National Parks in the United States,” where she “[used] the camera lens to document the beauty of nature and people.” For the Fabulously Focused exhibit, Wiseman submitted her photograph Sunset at the Taj Mahal.

Wiseman employs the sweeping dusk to silhouette her subject in this ambient take on classic architecture. The lone bird sweeping its wings across the sunset and the orb of the sun through the trees cast a sense of isolation in the falling night upon this oft depicted tourist spot.

Wiseman is “[intrigued] by is how images come alive with their odd shapes, lines and forms… [appearing] as sculptures with subtle silhouettes that take a life unto themselves.” She says that her “images of people, especially [those] of children, show life in its purest form… [capturing] an instance of our inner spirit.” Wiseman is excited when she watches an adult ‘stop and look’ at her work [for] “it is not the answer that enlightens, it is the question.”

Wiseman’s work is exhibited at the Envision Gallery of Flourish Studios, in Chicago, Illinois and Cowley Fine Arts of South Haven, Michigan. Envision Gallery at Flourish Studios® exhibits “artists whose work speaks to the process of personal change and/or promotes dialogue on community and world issues.” Jane Cowley represents over one hundred diverse and beautiful regional artists working in contemporary artwork, fine crafts, custom jewelry, and more. Wiseman has also exhibited at Lakeland Healthcare, in Saint Joseph, Michigan.

Marvin Wiltgen of Park Forest is captivated by nature. Wiltgen’s photography includes squirrels, hummingbirds, birds, especially cardinals and waterfowl, flower shows, dogs, cats, and wild animals, sunrises, sunsets and moonlight as subjects. Finding wonder and beauty in everyday subjects is a passion for this artist. For this exhibit, Wiltgen reproduced his photo Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White as a canvas print.

Wiltgen captures the rich hues and delicacy of petals and leaves on canvas in this large photo-painting. Diving into the blossoms, the viewer is invited to see the small on a scale that references artist Georgia O’Keefe’s explorations of flower structure.

CouSandra Armstrong is a nature photographer who “[marvels] at the beauty she finds each day.” Seeking the real in people and the nature of the land, Armstrong expresses her love of life in her work.

Armstrong has participated as an artist and curator in numerous shows, including as a co-curator, the Something Jazzy exhibit at Tall Grass Arts Gallery in February of 2010; as a participating artist, the Image Attitude Impression exhibit at Union Street Gallery in March of 2010; Things with Wings exhibit at Vogt Art Gallery in June 2010; the Sixth Annual National Self Portrait Exhibition at 33 Collective Gallery in the Zhou B Art Center and the Summer Sizzle Exhibit at the South Shore Cultural Center in July and August 2010. Armstrong also regularly participates in events at Salon Gallery and Studio in Park Forest, Illinois.

For the Fabulously Focused exhibit, Armstrong submitted her photograph, Swan Lake. Armstrong creates a collage of the swan’s dance upon water with her photography. The selected images evoke the solitary survival and the companionship of the swans. With an eye for contrast, Armstrong has captured the waterfowl’s grace in its natural habitat.

Marcia Babler received her education at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is a long time member of the Illinois Arts Council’s Arts-In-Education Artists roster, and a Ragdale Foundation Residency recipient. Babler is both a Juried Gallery Artist and a member of the Tall Grass Arts Association’s Program Committee. She is also a Juried Member of the National Association of Women Artists and the Illinois Artisans Program. Her involvement as a juror includes the CCT Gallery of the Visual Arts Committee at the Northwestern University Settlement Association and the Bloomingdale Park District Museum. Babler is also a member of the Chicago Artists’ Coalition.

Working in the media of digital photography, three dimensional media, acrylic and oil painting, Babler has been featured in several one woman exhibits at the Oak Park Conservatory, the Bloomingdale Park District Museum, Studio 37 in Glenview, Illinois, the Gallery at Holy Covenant Methodist in Chicago, Illinois, the Morton Grove Public Library, and Blue Moon Studio and Art Gallery. To date this year, Babler has participated in fourteen group exhibits. Ongoing exhibits include A Time and a Place, a juried group exhibition at the Bloomingdale Park District Museum running through August 2010, and the Algonquin Public Art Program in Algonquin, Illinois running through the year(2009 - 2010). Babler’s artwork is held in corporate, university and private art collections in North America and Europe.

Babler claims that “Art is my voice and my artwork is both time and concept-oriented with ideas coming from day-to-day observations. She “[explores] different techniques and uses of materials. About the addition of digital technology to her oeuvre, she says it “has provided another way for me to explore visual expression. My archival pigment prints are carefully composed and developed like paintings and I approach the medium from the perspective of a painter.” Babler “strongly [believes] art must reflect and record the influences of our society for future generations.” Several themes re-occur in her work, including “observing people’s expressions and reactions, [and the presence of] color and movement.”

Babler’s art is influenced by four primary factors impacting life “--communication, relationships, technology and time.” She “[puts] a twist on these concepts … with humor or a retro look to create tension while setting a visual mood.” Using color to “enhance a mood and energize… a composition,” and “through repetition of shapes or movement” Babler “reinforces the message” she seeks to convey. Babler feels that an artist must be a communicator, sharing moods and feelings through visual expression. Of Art, she says: “Art makes us smile…remember…dream. Art is what remains.”

Babler “enjoys traveling and incorporates her observations from far away places [into] her work. [She is a] storyteller with a sketchbook or camera in hand…People and contemporary life are the focal point of her art.” The harmony of musical interests influences the colors and motion visible in Babler’s art work. She plays the harp as a hobby, and regularly listens to “Spanish guitar, French torch songs and Gregorian chants as she works.”

In Babler’s submission for Fabulously Focused, “Give It Up”, the artist selected a contemporary subject and used composition and lighting to dramatize the image and theme. Babler’s social statement utilizes a somewhat ironic twist. The amused expression of her smoker, and the cunning way that the photographer has captured character and emotion play well together at inviting closer examination of the image.

David Fitzgerald employs irony and the unexpected in this work from a series. Placing a green piano in the center of our field of vision he draws attention to the color, placement and provokes questions with a wry sense of humor.

Claudia McCarthy has shown withUnion Street Galleryin Chicago Heights, Illinois, including participating in the The Positive Image exhibit in January and February of this year. She regularly participates in art competitions and her photographs have been published in the Best of Annual Photography from 2005 and 2007.

McCarthy has captured the curiosity and alertness of her white deer. Using digital photography she lets the light soften edges and imbue her outdoor work with a sense of the woodland air.

Stuart Pearson discovered photography when his “grandfather purchased a Kodak Baby Brownie Camera for [him] at the age of nine. After [Pearson] turned eleven, [his grandfather] bought [him] a kit of FR chemicals … to develop Black & White film and make contact prints. Elective courses in photography during high school allowed Pearson’s level of competence to grow. His senior class was “assigned to take most of the yearbook photos.” He went on to take photos for publications while attending Joliet Junior College. Some of Pearson’s photos were “[entered] in a contest sponsored by the Joliet Herald News and Eastman Kodak.” Three years in a row he “won numerous weekly awards, as well as winning Outstanding Achievement and Honorable Mention Awards on the National Level.”

Pearson enrolled in advanced Photography courses at Illinois Institute of Technology School of Design. During this time, Pearson evolved a personal style based on “how [he relates] to things in the world around [himself] and began a journey of continual learning within his medium. His history in photography includes stints as a freelance and staff photographer for many newspapers including: The JolietHerald News, Pro Sports Weekly,

Doings Newspaper of Hinsdale, Chicagoland Magazine, Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine Section, Crain’s Publications, Chicago Magazine, Online Today, The Farm Journal, Runners World, and other trade journals.

Over twenty-five of Pearson’s images were selected for use in a Multi-Media presentation called Here’s Chicago. His work was selected for inclusion in an ongoing exhibition called Portrait of Illinois in 1991 and is in the permanent collection of the new State Library in Springfield, Illinois. Pearson has been widely published in calendars produced by Browntrout Publishers. Recently, his work is appearing in international publications.

Pearson continues to do commercial assignments, but his focus has shifted “towards capturing nature images.” He shoots with a Zone VI Wooden Field Camera using 4” X 5” film. “The process… is very slow and deliberate, …[approaching] a meditative experience.” Pearson is “of the mindset that Beauty exists all around us. He hopes his images “share the serenity” of his experiences photographing nature with viewers and purchasers who “are caught up in today’s rush-rush world”…

Pearson’s friend and peer photographer, Columbia College Instructor Peter LeGrand described his reactions to Pearson’s work: “I’m awestruck! Eliot Porter would have been proud to make pictures this beautiful…It’s truly wonderful work and you have a right to be proud of it…” Eliot Porter was noted for his Intimate Landscapes, a style best described as a landscape that has no definite or dominant horizon.

Pearson has shown his work at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora during the Aurora Art Walk, and in several Juried Outdoor Art Fairs, but prefers to show his work in galleries. He has items displayed at the Tall Grass Gift Shop and Gallery of Park Forest, Illinois and in the Union Street Gallery and Gift Shop of Chicago Heights, Illinois. Recently his work was exhibited in the Gretchen Charlton Gallery in Kankakee and Gallery Seven in Joliet, Illinois. Pearson’s photographic work was recently in a solo art exhibit at Caffe Baci in Chicago, Illinois.

Pearson’s tight focus on the Queen Anne lace in the foreground of this traditional film photograph is balanced by the soft horizon line. Utilizing the camera’s ability to freeze a moment, Pearson takes us into the heat of the sunset. The shadowy silhouette of the Queen Anne lace reminds us of the cool to follow the setting of the sun.

Richard Perna began teaching art in 1974. He received his Master of Arts in Ceramics from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. While teaching Perna built his own studio and participated in various art fairs in the Chicago-land area. In the mid 1980s he added photography to the subjects in art that he taught. Much of his experience with photography was learned while he taught his students. He retired from teaching in 1995 and became a school administrator, and “never relinquished [his] interest and passion for photography.”

For three years he discovered digital photography. Through its many creative possibilities Perna has continued to learn and develop his craft. Perna explains: “Photography is all about light. In my images I look for drama and mood that can be expressed through color, tone, and contrast.” His “intended mood and pictorial drama is best achieved when there’s a cloudy sky when the sun is low.” Not an artist known for pretty pictures, but rather seeking the “tempest before the storm,” Perna works to achieve his vision. Misty Canyon II comes closest to the image he is looking for, but he says he will “continue to look for and compose [his] perfect image.”

Perna takes us deep into the cool subdued light of his misty canyon, where his technical mastery shares with us the hue and texture of the surroundings. From the foreground of natural debris to the vividly lit upper leaves of the cliff topping trees, Perna’s photography is honing in on light and form.

Janice Pratt received her Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in digital art from GovernorsState University, University Park, Illinois. She studied education and photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois and premed and psychology at DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois. She has been in numerous group shows over the last six years at the Tall Grass Arts Association, Park Forest, Illinois and four of the annual Self Portrait exhibitions at the 33 Collective Gallery in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. Her work has been shown in several Employee Artist Shows at the Metropolitan Planning Organization, in Chicago, Illinois. Pratt has worked as a substitute teacher for art in the Rich Township School District, of Olympia Fields, Illinois, and as an art teacher at the Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery, Park Forest, Illinois.

Pratt’s unique combination of “color and black and white narratives are constructed using computer processes”, and “photographs taken at various times in various cities and situations”. Pratt’s body of work focuses on children photographed in active poses. Pratt utilizes “images manipulated digitally to achieve the final image.”

Pratt captures the inimitable beginnings of a precocious child in her close up photographic portrait. The first stirrings of independent spirit are epitomized by her title.

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

Colin Thomas’s work can be viewed at:

Patricia Wiseman’s personal website: is currently under construction.

Wiseman’s work is also exhibited at:

Envision Gallery of Flourish Studios, in Chicago, IL:

Cowley Fine Arts, of South Haven, MI:

and Lakeland Healthcare in St. Joseph, MI:

Marvin Wiltgen’s work can be viewed at:

CouSandra Armstrong’s work can be viewed at:


David Fitzgerald’s work can be viewed at:

Claudia McCarthy’s work can be viewed at:

Stuart Pearson’s work can be viewed at:


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