Smile Politely

Comrades in Art spotlight community and courage

I’ve spent many days meandering through the wings of Lincoln Square Mall since I moved to Urbana in 1989. Long before the Art Coop moved in and the Art Mart moved out, Lincoln Square has been a comfort zone and a place for unique gifts and opportunities. I look forward to the renovation of Urbana’s Landmark Hotel and hope it proves fruitful for this beloved center of downtown Urbana.

Lincoln Square, one of the first fully-enclosed malls in America, is a unique space for art exhibits and I’ve always enjoyed the mall’s murals and the creativity in spaces like The Idea Store, International Galleries, and the Art Coop.

The Art Coop, long a staple of our community life, from its campus days on Green Street to its cozy home in Lincoln Square, oozes ingenuity and vision. The current exhibit in the store’s gallery, Comrades in Art: Looking In Looking Out is overflowing with that special something that is Urbana: color, possibility, and charity. Ten percent of the sales from the show will be donated to Courage Connection, a local organization helping victims of domestic violence and homelessness. The artists featured in the show are women from different backgrounds and with unique stories. Their brief bios are featured at the show and are worth reading when you visit the exhibit at the Art Coop.

Lynn Hawkinson Smith’s color pencil and graphite bird prints are reminiscent of familiar Audubon images but with a minimalist bent. The birds pop with lightly colored pencil stylings against a black and white background. Her Tufted Titmouse, with the hints of burnt sienna tucked under the wing, is a standout. Her work is featured in this exhibit, but is also available for purchase at The Vault in Tuscola, Illinois and at the Cinema Gallery on Main Street in Urbana.

Photo of Pat Baron Monigold’s Garden Goddesses of the Seasons, oils on canvas. Photo by Amy Penne.

Photo by Amy Penne.

Chicago suburb native Pat Baron Monigold’s oils from her series Garden Goddesses of the Seasons portray the joy and bright, bold colors of a Frida Kahlo painting. The strong two-dimensional images leap off the canvas and make a stunning display together on the far end of the gallery’s space.

One of the most striking elements of the show, as a whole, is (no surprise for Urbana), the variety of floral representations. From the spectacularly saturated magentas and violets in Martha Willi’s Maggie’s Peonies to the bright sunflower blooms in Judith Baker-Barrows Looking on the Sunny Side, flowers dominate the show as focal points or as part of the setting, as in Sara F. Taber’s oil Lost Corner. Similarly, Taber’s oil Late Summer Bouquet brings the viewer to the present moment and settles there, amidst the hydrangea blooms.

While flowers take center stage in many of the pieces, Midwestern prairie scapes make a striking appearance as well. Beth Chasco’s acrylic Sunrise at Gregg’s kept me lingering and taken in by her spectacular sky and enticing pond. I don’t know where Gregg’s is, but it felt like home. Melinda McIntosh’s plein air paintings are always a delight and are also on display at Parkland College’s Art and Design Faculty Exhibition. Her oil on panel Everyone Paints the Pond blends shades of greens, plums, and hints of periwinkle to make the pond ripple with color. And her oil on panel, Yellow House, with its inviting front porch, gave the exhibit a serenity, the serenity sorely needed in these difficult times.

Photo of Sarah Marjanovic’s Strata, mixed media on paper. Photo by Amy Penne.

Photo by Amy Penne.

I am naturally drawn to mixed media so it was no surprise that Sarah Marjanovic’s Strata grabbed me. The textures and threads swirl and invite further study. An artist, graphic designer, and illustrator in Champaign-Urbana, Sarah notes that “landscapes in flux are important catalysts in [her] art.” The natural fibers in her piece play in unique and abstract patterns.

Millstone Imprint #2. Hand altered giclee print with fist, bird, and nest components. Photo from the Comrades in Art Facebook page.

Photo from the Comrades in Art Facebook page.

While not overtly “mixed media,” Debra Bolgla’s hand-altered giclee prints Millstone Imprints 1, 2, and 3 hooked me and sent me down the internet rabbit hole of research into “hand-altered giclee prints.”  “The Covid pandemic,” Bolgla notes, “shattered normal to its core. In isolation we were forced to find new ways to communicate…to connect…to embrace through the void.” Her Millstone Imprints reflect ways our world was grinding to a halt and gave us “heavy mental or emotional burdens.”

All of the artists in this collection have put their heart and soul into the work and it shows. With a percentage of the sales going to Courage Connection, there’s every reason to head over to the Art Coop and pick out one of these beautiful pieces to display in your world. On your way in, or out, be sure to pause at the Art Coop’s storefront to remember that, thanks to the arts, everything will be okay.

Comrades in Art: Looking In Looking Out
October 4th through November 13th
Art Coop Gallery
150 Lincoln Square, Urbana
Hours: M-F 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sa 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Top photo by Amy Penne.

Arts Editor at Smile Politely

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