The Oak Park Art League Celebrates Frank Lloyd Wright at 150

Puebla DuPage Township  by Denise Bellezzo. Acrylic paint, graphite and ink on photographic paper. Photo courtesy of the Oak Park Art League. The Oak Park Art League pays tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright on the 150th anniversary year of his birth with the exhibition, Midwest Juried Exhibition: Elevating Nature, as well as other events centered on Wright and his reverence for the natural world. Elevating Nature  is a regional exhibition presenting 33 Midwest artists. Their artwork displays a rich variety of media (paintings, sculpture, mixed media and photography) that embody the progressive spirit of Wright and the essence of the Midwestern landscape. In bringing this exhibition to the Art League’s historic Carriage House Gallery, jurors Brent Fogt and Brian Ritchard selected 33 works from more than 400 entries by artists from eight Midwestern states, assembling an impressive and diverse group. The works on display include representational, conceptual, and experimental interpretations of nature themes. What is most striking about this exhibition is not only the diversity, but also the way these works come together as a whole ― each one flows effortlessly to the next. Each artist also evokes Wright’s sensibility with their creative interpretations of nature while avoiding the pitfalls of merely trying to mimic his work. “There is really a wide variety of nature themes in this exhibit. I feel that each artist was in touch with the progressive spirit of Wright while also capturing the essence of the Midwestern landscape,” said Julie Carpenter, Executive Director of the Oak Park Art League. Whether representational, surreal, or abstract, each work reflects key elements ― simplicity, harmony and connectivity ― that Wright also found in nature. “It is really interesting to see what artists are doing now with landscape painting and how they are pushing boundaries in new ways,” added Carpenter. Brian Ritchard explained the challenge that he and his colleague, Brent Fogt, experienced when choosing works out of the 400 that were submitted. “We were looking for structural elegance as well as for mature voices. We felt each artwork had to reflect how Frank Lloyd Wright approached his architectural and design practice. It was a very intuitive process when it came to choosing certain works. In the end, it was getting into the mindset of Frank Lloyd Wright."
Night Falls  by Jill Sutton. Oil and graphite on canvas. Photo courtesy of the Oak Park Art League. It is also worth noting that awards were given to some of the artists in two key categories. Most Innovative Interpretation of the Midwestern Landscape: (Best of Show) Dangle  by Karen Gubitz from Oak Park, Illinois. (Jurors' Award) Rain Clock  by Valerie Buynak from Canton, Ohio. (Jurors' Award) Seed Language  by Annette Barbier from Chicago, Illinois. Best Use or Representation of Natural Materials: (Best of Show) Night Falls  by Jill Sutton from Chicago, Illinois. (Jurors' Award) Puebla DuPage Township  by Denise Bellezzo from Naperville, Illinois. (Jurors' Award) Winter Tree  by Mary Trzyna from Frankfort, Illinois. Dangle  by Karen Gubitz. Natural material sculpture. Photo courtesy of the Oak Park Art League. Besides this exhibition, there are additional events centered on Wright at the Oak Park Art League: ARTifact: Incisive:  Merging history, art and modern machine, Rebecca Keller’s installation of laser cut oak draws inspiration from Wright’s writing about materials, including his essay and lecture, The Art and Craft of the Machine. Courtyard Exhibition: Resistance Architecture:  Built by Project Fielding students, Resistance Architecture is an adaptable structure intended for political encampments, designed in reference to student “survival” dorms at Wright’s Taliesin West School of Architecture. This exhibition runs from May through the end of October 2017. Maginel Wright: Landscape Yarn Paintings:  A small exhibition that displays a selection of fiber art landscapes by Maginel Wright ― artist, illustrator, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s sister. Reading Wright: Curious Furniture, Compelling Ideas Lecture:  This lecture will be given by S. Lloyd Natof, furniture designer, woodworker, educator and Wright’s great-grandson. He will discuss the visual energy and expressivity of Wright’s geometric designs and illustrate the ideas that animate Wright’s work. This lecture will be held on May 23, from 7:00 to  8:30 p.m. Midwest Juried Exhibition: Elevating Nature  is on view through June 2 at the Oak Park Art League (720 Chicago Avenue in Oak Park). Gallery hours: Monday through Friday ― 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday ― 1 to 4 p.m.  Phone: (708) 386-9853. For more information, visit
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Thomas Wawzenek