Vesuvius Goes Pop

Dat Ass DoLast month I saw a fascinating exhibit about Pompeii at OMSI. The attraction was packed with artifacts on loan from Naples, including the famous plaster casts of people who died in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

I snagged some pics of the great ancient artwork on display, including the sexy athletic statue at the right. Talk about buns of bronze!

While subjects like Jupiter and Bacchus wouldn’t have been owned by a corporation, I think of them as the Mickey Mouses of their day: pop icons that decorated everything from wine jars to wall frescoes.

Odds ‘N’ Ends 6

Art Institute Chicago

DegasThe Art Institute has a wonderful Degas exhibit, which combines two subjects the artist explored extensively: horse races and ballet. Titled At the Track, On the Stage, we see action-oriented paintings of equestrian events and stage performances. There are also a couple odd-ball paintings, such as an imagined scene from Greek history, which the curators mean for us to contrast with the artist’s definitive work.

Another fascinating exhibit is Dionysos Unmaksed: Ancient Sculpture and Early Prints. Appropriately for a deity so much associated with contradictions, the sum of the work on display doesn’t so much define Dionysos as present his mysteries. Artists render him sometimes as a bearded adult, other times as a sloppy old glutton, still other times as an androgynous youth, and even other times as a playful infant. Each of these guises reveals something about the god of wine, theater and madness, and they reveal something about our own secret selves.

Dionysos Unmasked

horse with rider 2Although I’ve already written about the Charles Ray show, I want to mention that he also has a piece displayed outside for all to see. I didn’t know this piece existed until I stumbled upon it when I was out taking pictures for an upcoming art project. The Charles Ray show closes October 4, so see it soon if you get the chance!

charles ray ad

Interestingly, this piece had its own assigned security guard when I saw it. By default, the guard also had the job of explaining the sculpture to interested onlookers. There are no guards posted by any of the Art Institute’s other outdoor pieces, so I can only assume there are concerns about vandalism. As I explained in my first review, Ray is a divisive figure. I for one love his unflinching approach to nudity, but not everyone agrees with me. (In case you can’t tell, the outdoor piece depicts a clothed rider.)

Upcoming Art Show

Dean cutting mapsAs for the reason I was out taking pictures, I am collaging together recognizable Chicago structures with maps of Chicago. The photos serve as reference for drawings, and I turn the drawings into cut-outs.

I will be showing the final pieces at Natural Elements Salon, beginning with an opening on September 19. This is the show I mentioned ages ago, and it has been slowly gestating over the past 8 months. The date of the opening coincides with the salon’s 20th anniversary celebration.

Art on Ashland

map graphic 2I am also thrilled to announce that an art walk proposal I submitted to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has been accepted! They will help us promote the event as part of their specially-designated Chicago Artists Month.

Titled Art on Ashland, the art walk will take patrons up and down Ashland Ave between Chicago Ave and Milwaukee Ave. The neighborhood, East Village, includes ChiPRC. We will be showing artwork in our space along with other local businesses. I will also be one of the exhibiting artists.Chicago Artists Month vertical

Art on Ashland is different from our previous art shows in that it is a true collaboration between many minds. I look forward to working with and learning from the other participants.

I will have much more to say about this event in the months to come. For now, please mark November 7th on your calendar! Art on Ashland is one day only.

Framing Commission Update

Steadman piece on the wallFor my final update, I want to let you know that a poster I was recently commissioned to frame has found its home — and it looks great up on the wall!

If you have an idea for a commission, send me a request by writing to dean@deanjohnsonartstudio.com.

Sacred Heart Series – Part 1

I’m keeping very busy with commissioned artwork!  I feel very blessed this year with multiple projects scheduled out.  I will post my new work as I complete each project.

In general, I work during the same hours each day.  I set out to complete a specific portion of a project during those hours, such as all the flesh tones in a painting.  Occasionally, I have time left-over after I have completed my planned work.  Often, I spend this time putting in bids for freelance art projects online.

Today, I did all of those things and still had time left over.  Not quite enough time to work on a webcomic page, but certainly enough for a single image.  So I put some time into a series that I had been planning for several weeks: my own vision of the Sacred Heart.

Sacred Heart Series

In general, artists who work with this image have kept to the same highly simplified and stylized image of a heart.  Remembering my anatomically accurate (but still simplified) version of Ariadne’s heart (see below), I began to wonder how an anatomically accurate icon would function.

Dionysus and Ariadne

I started with a simple sketch of Jesus exposing his heart (below, left), just as Dionysus is exposing Ariadne’s heart.  I quickly realized that the inclusion of Jesus’ face, hands and body are unnecessary — so quickly that I didn’t even finish inking the sketch.  The heart functions better on its own, where we can focus on its suffering and storminess.

Sacred Heart sketchJesus with Sacred Heart sketch

Seeing the heart by itself (right) validated my experiment.  To me, everything the heart is supposed to symbolize came alive — a truly suffering heart that is at once aflame with love for humanity.  My version is no better nor more valid than the traditional one.  But it is a strong version, IMO.

The new drawing itself is quite large to accommodate all the details….

Dean with Sacred Heart

I refer to this work as the “Sacred Heart Series,” because I intend to produce a lot of different images based on this concept.  I have already created Immaculate Heart and Sorrowful Heart drawings based on this design, although they are not included in this post.  My goal is to explore all three images in a variety of media.

Today, I produced linocut prints based on the Sacred Heart.  (You can read about my linocut process here.)  I tried a few different paper and ink combinations.  I’m super-pleased with the results and can’t wait to continue this exploration!

Sacred Heart Black on Gray Sacred Heart Black on Pink Sacred Heart Red on Blue Sacred Heart Red on Gray

Speaking of series, this would be a good time to remind you of my Art With a Curveball workshop, coming up May 13th at 6pm.  We will be exploring the fine tradition of working in series, and we will even work together to evolve our art concepts.  Full details can be found here.  Sign up today!

Art With a Curveball flyer