Freaks and Flash

September 11, 2009 - January 9, 2010
Curated by Anna Freidman-Herlihy

Gallery installation view with decals and freakshow banner of tattooed woman flanked by green curtains seated under banner with text “TATTOOED Wonder”

Freaks & Flash featured artwork from the heyday of tattooing as a Western folk art, combining tattoo flash (the design drawings for tattoos) with sideshow banners depicting tattooed performers and acetate stencils used for transferring tattoo designs on to the skin. From the early days of tattoo shops at the turn of the twentieth century until the beginnings of the tattoo "Renaissance" in the late 1960s and early 1970s, tattooing reflected a wide range of styles and motifs from the mundane to the extraordinary. From the work of "scratchers" to those who bridged the boundary between folk and fine art, the exhibit offered a glimpse into the multi-faceted history of inscriptions on human skin through the artifacts left behind. Many of the pieces had not been on public display since they were taken down from the walls of the shops in which they originally resided. The exhibit featured artists with long Chicago or Midwestern careers, rounded out with a variety of other artists working across America and beyond.

Click here to view this exhibition on Flickr.

Culprits, Innocents, and Outsiders: Heartland Visions

April 29 - August 29, 2009
Curated by Kevin Cole

Carved stone sculpture of nude woman holding her breast

Self-taught and outsider art is a worldwide phenomenon. America’s Heartland boasts some of the most distinct, recognized and collected artists in this genre – as well as some whose talents are not so recognized. This exhibition featured art by venerable artists William Hawkins (1895-1990) and Elijah Pierce (1892-1984), plus works by lesser-known artists Mary Borkowski (1916-2008), Mary Frances Merrill (1920-1999), visionary Morris Ben Newman (1883-1980), David Pond (1940-2001), and stone carver Ernest “Popeye” Reed (1919-1985). Inspired by accounts of the 1986 exhibition, 1 + 3 from Ohio, curator Kevin Cole culled several stellar Midwest public and private collections to produce an exhibition that reflects the rich, innovative and diverse work of these artists. Whether notable or newly exhibited, the work of these artists reflects a creative spirit and expression that is very often moving and poignant; impressive and worldly, sometimes humorous, and always personal.

Click here to read the exhibit guide.


January 16 - April 18, 2009
Curated by Jan Petry

Photo of gallery view with five colorful sticks installed on a shelf

Self-taught artists compelled to create often use whatever materials are available to them. Jan Petry curated this exhibit celebrating those artists who have picked up a stick and made it their own. Tree trunks, branches, twigs, roots…telephone poles, matchsticks, toothpicks…transformed in the hands of those with the vision to see in the humble stick what others do not. The work of well known artists Keith Goodhart, Kevin Sampson, LeRoy Person, David Philpot, Bessie Harvey, D. Bill, Wayne Kusy, C.P.Ligon, and Emory Blagdon joined that of unknown makers who express themselves in a stick of wood.

Click here to view photos of this exhibition on Flickr.