The Northern Illinois University Art Museum opens three exhibitions that consider narrative artwork and imagery Tuesday, January 12.

The exhibitions examine artworks’ ability to chronicle or present narrative themes that relay a series of events, subjects, or use storytelling through images. The exhibitions feature: the memorial tribute to local figurative artist Ellen Roth Deutsch and her expressive stories of self and other women; Chicago author and illustrator Landis Blair’s darkly humorous tales with absurdly gleeful imagery; and a curated national group exhibition of works referencing motifs found in oral traditions, fairy tales, fables, myths and legends. From the Mind of Ellen Roth Deutsch; Mirth and Mayhem: Landis Blair Selections of Drawings and Books; and Storied References all open January 12 and run through February 26 with a series of public virtual events presented online.

From the Mind of Ellen Roth Deutsch features Deutsch’s work from several decades in which she revisits various complex themes through symbolic characters and metaphorical imagery. Deutsch tackles experiences of sexual abuse, depression, illness and death through imagery that caricatures, digs in and dramatizes. Notable museums and galleries including the Newberry Library, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, State of Illinois Gallery in Chicago and the National Museum of Women in the Arts have exhibited Deutsch’s work.

Mirth and Mayhem: Landis Blair Selections of Drawings and Books contains illustrations from books by Landis Blair, whose stories contain elements of taboo, nihilism and whimsy. Blair’s black and white imagery evokes inspiration from Edward Gorey and often includes dark and absurd humor, lulling the reader through rhyming descriptions of vignette scenes. On view are illustrations from The Envious Siblings and Other Morbid Nursery RhymesThe Progressive Problem and The Regressive SolutionA Toasted Passion; and Whetting Engines.

Whetting Engines

Landis Blair, Whetting Engines, 2019, Sastergoodment Press, Chicago. Drawing, 2018, (6 x 8 in.), Pen and ink.

Storied References is a group exhibition curated by invitation and from a national call for entry featuring artwork that grapples with the harsh truths of contemporary reality while employing familiar narrative motifs found in oral traditions, fairy tales, fables, myths and legends. As humans we have always sought to understand ourselves and the world around us through the stories we tell each other. Artists translate verbal and literary narratives into visual language, sometimes retelling stories from a new perspective: mashing them up, stripping them down or retelling them through the lens of feminism, cultural or personal experience.

Storied References features artists: Kamal Al Mansour, Aodan, Michael Barnes, Brandin Barón, Sarah Bielski, K. Johnson Bowles, Kathy Bruce, Patricia Constantine, Ross Everett, Richard Gessert, Ronald Gonzalez, Heidi Jensen, Andrew Ellis Johnson, B. Lynch, Firoz Mahmud, Sarah Martin, Joseph Miller, Kel Mur, B. Quinn, Amy Schissel, Aaron Sizemore, Jason Tannen, Rhonda Urdang, Lauren Woods.

These exhibitions contain mature content and may not be suited for all audiences. We recommend visitors contact the Museum before organizing visits with children or sensitive audiences.

Virtual Programs and Events

Thursday, February 4,
Hatched Stories Landis Blair Artist Talk
6:30 p.m., Virtual Event – Register online

Sunday, February 7, 2021
Gallery View
A glimpse into From the Mind and other work by Ellen Roth Deutsch
2:00 p.m., Virtual Event – Register online

Ellen Roth Deutsch

Ellen Roth Deutsch, Will the Leopard Return?, 2008. (24.5 x 25 in.), Colored pencil, ink, collage – also referred to as The House of Ellen’s Mind.

Register for all virtual events online at niu.edu/artmuseum/events. Additional programs will be added throughout the exhibition’s run. Please continue to check our events page regularly or sign-up for email notifications at niu.edu/artmuseum/about/subscribe.

COVID-19 Visitor Information

Programming and gallery hours are subject to changes or cancelations during COVID-19. Feeling sick or unwell? We ask anyone feeling unwell to postpone their visit for another time. Visitors are welcome on campus, but we ask that you take the same precautions we ask our students, faculty and staff to protect yourself and others. Face masks are required whenever inside campus buildings; gallery capacity is currently limited to 6 people per gallery; timed entry can be scheduled online for your convenience and safety www.niu.edu/artmuseum; physical distancing is encouraged, please maintain 6 feet of distance from others; limited gallery hours remain in effect.

About the NIU Art Museum

Serving Campus and Community by Balancing Traditional and Contemporary Art to Explore the Connections Made through Visual Culture. Part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts‘ vibrant and active arts community on campus, the Northern Illinois University Art Museum is a resource for the NIU campus, local community and beyond.The NIU Art Museum is located on the first floor, west end of Altgeld Hall, at the corner of College Avenue and Castle Drives on the main campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. Parking is available in the Visitor Pay Lot located at 200 Carroll Ave.

Limited metered and accessible parking spaces are available in front of Lowden Hall with accessible aisles and route to Altgeld. Campus parking is free on weekends and after 5 p.m. weeknights. To request disability-related accommodations for museum programs, please contact the museum at least one week in advance. Northern Illinois University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution. NIU is an EO/AA institution.

The exhibitions and programs of the NIU Art Museum are sponsored in part by the Illinois Arts Council Agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; the Friends of the NIU Art Museum; the NIU Arts and Culture Fee; and the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Season Presenting Sponsor Shaw Media.