Narrative art exhibition suite opens at NIU Art Museum Jan. 12

Narrative art exhibition suite opens at NIU Art Museum Jan. 12

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.

Researching the Reverse Glass Painting Tradition Across Buddhist Southeast Asia with Dr. Catherine Raymond

Researching the Reverse Glass Painting Tradition Across Buddhist Southeast Asia with Dr. Catherine Raymond

Catherine Raymond, Director of the Center for Burma Studies at NIU and Professor of Art History in the School of Art and Design presented an online lecture for the NIU Art Museum, November 19 titled, Researching the Reverse Glass Painting Tradition Across Buddhist Southeast Asia.

The unique Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University encompasses one of the best assemblages of Burmese reverse glass painting from the 19th to 21st century outside of Southeast Asia. This imported art form —which originated earlier in Europe and was highly refined there— became very popular throughout Asia in the 18th century; first among the ruling elites, and then as an important cultural commodity, initially for an export market and subsequently for serving local religious purposes. In this lecture, Catherine Raymond will retrace her journey as an art historian researching the arrival and evolution in Mainland Southeast Asia of this challenging and evidently vanishing technique, yet finding it still widely produced in Burma for devotional artifacts in service both to Buddhism and the cult of the Nat Spirits.

Professor Raymond’s research was funded by a Rakow Grant from the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY

River Weaving walking tour rescheduled for Oct. 3 and 11

River Weaving walking tour rescheduled for Oct. 3 and 11

UPDATE: The River Weaving walking tour has been rescheduled for two dates, Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 11. Both will be held at 2 p.m. and attendees can pre-register for free at go.niu.edu/riverweaving. The walking tour and discussion will begin at the “River Weaving” site on the College Street bridge near the east side of the Music Building.

Thirty-four years ago, John Siblik was an NIU art student drawing up a concept for an environmental sculpture to be placed in the Kishwaukee River where it flows past the lagoon and the Music Building. Now, Siblik finds himself standing in that same river, in that same spot with a team of students and alumni installing that very same artwork.

Siblik is an associate professor in the School of Art and Design where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, and this is the sixth time he’s created and installed a version of this project. It is the second time in Illinois. The first was in Lockport’s I&M canal in 2014. But this current version is particularly special. “River Weaving” is part of NIU’s 125th Anniversary year-long celebration, and a chance for Siblik to complete the vision he first had in 1986.

“The project commemorates the Kishwaukee River as an important feature of the landscape that helped influence state officials to select DeKalb as the site for NIU prior to its founding in 1895,” Siblik says. “Earl W. Hayter, in his history of Northern Illinois University ‘Education in Transition’ tells a wonderful mythic tale of the residents of DeKalb going without water for two days so that the city’s water supply could be diverted into the Kish and have it appear to the commissioners that the Kish was in fact a mighty river. For those of us that are alumni of NIU it’s been stated that if you dip your toe in the Kish you will never leave, at least in our hearts.”

The installation features 90 elements placed in the water made of willow, steel and stone. Each is six to eight feet in length and placed onto a base that is four feet wide and two to four feet tall.  The design is flexible and portable to adapt to different rivers, and strong enough to hold up to flooding and currents.

“The most basic way to think about this piece of environmental art is that it is weaving as sculpture,” Siblik said. “The wood elements make the warp and water flows through and creates the weft, and that’s what makes ‘River Weaving’ a fitting title. The environmental significance is that the piece reminds the viewer that we cannot think of the environment as disconnected from ourselves. It serves as a reminder that all aspects of nature and society are connected and interwoven.

“As the water level in the river rises, “River Weaving” is activated and serves as a filter collecting litter and debris. Some of the items collected so far include a mattress, tire, shoe, fishing pole, COVID-19 mask, as well as several bags, wrappers, bottles, and cans., It starts as a beautiful, elegant sculpture. Then, after a heavy rain, River Weaving reveals that we dump too much trash into the water.”

But while installing the sculpture in the Kishwaukee River, Siblik said he was encouraged. “The water quality appears to be improving, and we found delicate arrowroot plants, crayfish and mussels, signs of a healthy waterway.”

His team includes Myel Simmons, an NIU art student and illustrator who is serving as the project manager, Jose Vazquez, an environmental science major, and business student Jared Norton.

There are also three alumni helping with the project. Arin Whitmore is a 2020 BFA drawing graduate, Mark Mattson, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s in English from NIU is the business development manager at Creative Therapeutics in DeKalb, and Ken Olson holds a degree in physical therapy from NIU and is a physical therapist and principal partner with Northern Rehab in DeKalb.

Support for the project has come from the NIU 125th Anniversary Committee, as well as material support from local businesses. Dimco Steel and Metal in DeKalb donated more than 3,000 pounds of rebar. Wagner Aggregate provided more than 14,000 pounds of locally sourced limestone from a quarry in Fairdale which is used to weigh down the sculptures, and R&B Services in DeKalb hauled and delivered the stone.

Siblik estimates the sculpture installation will be in place until Oct 15, 2020, depending on weather.