Life Lines: The Drawings of Charles Steffen

June 4 - August 28, 2010

Curated by Eugenie Johnson

Life Lines: The Drawings of Charles Steffen

Left: Charles Steffen, The White Rose Garden (detail), 1994. Mixed media on brown paper, 17" x 23". Collection of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; gift of Jan Petry. Right: Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1994, Mixed media on paper, 23" x 17". Collection of Tim and Stacy Bruce.

This retrospective features 30 pieces of Charles Steffen’s work, covering a variety of imagery he knew in his limited sphere: neighbors, his mother, flowers and plants from the yard, a woman he once loved, and scenes from the Elgin State Hospital. More fantastical drawings show his experimentation in creating human forms merged with plants and distorting or combining male and female features.

Born into a family of eight children, Charles Steffen (1927-1995) studied art at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the late 1940s. While still in school, he suffered a mental breakdown and spent the next 15 years at the Elgin State Hospital where he began to make art. Upon his release, Steffen lived with his sister and spent most of his time creating, usually producing two or more drawings a day.

Shortly before his death, Steffen went to live in a small room in a men’s retirement home on the north side of the city. Instead of throwing away the remainder of his drawings and photographs, Steffen decided instead to place them with his nephew, Christopher Preissing. Preissing had shown an interest in his uncle’s work and received¬†over two thousand works. Intuit is proud to present Life Lines: The Drawings of Charles Steffen, a collection that could possibly have been lost forever.