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Artists define "Beauty" at Jackson Junge Gallery in Wicker Park


Depictions of beauty as danger, obsessions, myths and more line the walls and perch on pedestals in Jackson Junge Gallery, 1389 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wicker Park, in the new exhibition, Beauty until February 28. 

Last year Jackson Junge Gallery challenged artists to depict "beauty." The response was overwhelming. "Amazingly, the majority of the images were classical views of the theme," explained Scott Renfro, who was the lead manager for this well displayed show. From those respondents, pieces were chosen from 10 artists for this new exhibition.

Greek mythology
James McNeill Mesplé, who has several pieces in the show, weaves a wonderful story around a two-piece set Arachne and Pallas Athena in egg tempera and oil on linen. 

"The story from Greek mythology is about Arachne, who was a famous weaver in Athens, the best weaver in all of Greece. She was very beautiful and very vain. One day an old crippled woman came up to her and said, 'What beautiful weaving, my dear. How did you learn to do this?' 

"She replied, 'I taught myself.' The old woman said, 'Don't be too vain, don't you owe something to the goddess Athena, the goddess of craftsmanship?' 

"'Absolutely not, in fact, if she were here, I would challenge her to a weaving contest.' 

"The old women grew to ten feet tall and the golden Athena said, 'The challenge is taken.' 

"After setting up looms, they wove for three days and three nights, with all of Athens gathering around them. 

"Athena wove the gifts of the gods…music, theater, dance. Arachne wove the tricks of the gods. And, at the end of the three days the Greeks voted. 

"They thought Arachne's weavings were more exciting and voted her the winner over the more staid work of Athena. 

"Though she won, challenging a goddess is dangerous. Athena went to Arachne and tore her weavings into shreds. All the Athenians laughed. The very vain Arachne was embarrassed, she lost face and was mortified. 

"She went into the next room, put a rope around her neck and was going to kill herself. Athena came in with her spindle, tapped Arachne on the forehead three times and said, 'No, my dear, you are not going to die, you're going to live forever and weave and spin for eternity.' She tapped her three times and she turned into a spider [an Arachnid]." 

All of Mesplé's pieces are very detailed with images tucked in throughout the pieces. On this set, high up on the paintings, he has "woven" another story. 

On the Arachane piece, there is a small view of the Chicago skyline, while on Athena, New York is represented. What do they represent? 

"Very often great things are created in Chicago. I use Arachne as Chicago and Athena as New Your," explained Mesplé. "Very often the beautiful things are made here in Chicago then a lot of our Chicago talent ends up being taken to New York where it is claimed as a New York invention." 

Mesplé has wonderful stories around his work, if you have the opportunity, engage him in conversation. It is a charming experience. 

While his works are in oil and egg tempera, the other artists' pieces range from etchings, collages, water colors and ink to sculptures. 

More classic themes
A watercolor and ink piece by Lilia Dent is a laughing lady in a dress of fungi. Named Tlazolteotl, she represents the Aztec mythological goddess of filth (sin), vice and sexual misdeeds. 

But two of Dent's other pieces are very different in style and medium. Maguro [tuna] is a lino-cut painted with pastels, while Sweet Nothing is oil on canvas. 

Robert Tolchin offers a series of out of focus images of women, each entitled "Damaged Beauty…

Francine Gourguehon's three sculptures are textural delights. Banded Venusand Derierre sparkle with feminine allure while Sea Muse exudes regal stature. 

The other artists represented are Bruce Adams, Amalia Kouvalis, Kevin Connaughton and Léon 47. 

Curated by Gallery Director Chris Jackson, Assistant Director Scott Renfro and artist Laura Junge, 

Seeing the show will brighten up your day or evening, I suggest you take time to view all the pieces up close and personal.

Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday


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