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Join us all winter long as we celebrate local artists from Champaign County.  We are turning one of our galleries over to these artists to showcase their amazing art from right here in  Champaign   Champaign  County.   Their works of art will be displayed for the month with an open house scheduled for the second Thursday of each month.  We hope you will join us in celebrating their outstanding work and continue to celebrate the long history of local art in our county.

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December 2022 - Beyond the Prairie Landscape. A Tribute to Harry Breen

Opening Reception on Thursday, December 8 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Beyond the Prairie, Landscape is an exhibition to celebrate one of Champaign’s most celebrated artists and longest-serving art educators in the 20th and 21st centuries. Champaign County History Museum is so proud to present this exhibition selected from Harry Breen’s lifetime paintings, sculptures, and ceramic art. Harry Breen was born in Chicago in 1930. He completed his undergraduate study in art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his graduate study at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). From 1959-1985 he was a member of the faculty at the School of Art and Design at UIUC. Breen has participated in many competitive and invitational exhibitions in the United States and abroad and received multiple awards. In 1993, Harry Breen and his wife Diane were awarded Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medals by Pope John Paul II. Several years later, Breen presented His Holiness with his painting Agony in the Garden on behalf of the congregation from the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Breen has had 32 solo exhibits including Harry Breen Retrospective XXV at Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, Peoria, IL in 1978. Breen is listed in the book “Who’s Who in American Art” and his work is included in over a thousand private collections and fifty-eight public and corporate collections. Among these are the Butler Museum of American Art, The Illinois State Museum, The Krannert Art Museum, Lakeview Center for Art, The Union League of Chicago, Illinois Bell Telephone, The McDonald Corporation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Busey Bank, The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and the Vatican Library. For seven decades, Breen had drawn inspiration from the rural landscapes of Illinois, particularly the rich farmlands of the central prairie in Champaign County. The wide vistas and patterned fields, dominated by dynamic skies, have been worthy and expressive subjects for this master artist. As Breen stated: “The forms, spaces, colors, patterns, and textures found in nature have provided me with a rich vocabulary for my art. As a representational artist, I am especially interested in composing the illusion of three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional space. In my recent paintings, I try to extend the illusion of a three-dimensional landscape into real space by moving the composition beyond the frame’s inner black liner into the slightly concave surface of the outer frame. It is the seemingly limitless boundaries of the prairie landscape with its ever-dominant sky, and its land shaped by the human presence that I find so expressive and poetic.” In addition to prairie landscape paintings, Breen was known for his ceramic animals. His ceramic animal sculptures reflected his love of animals. Whether cows, pigs, or horses on his grandparents' farm; the abundant wildlife on his property in southern Illinois; rescue dogs and cats in his home; or wild animals viewed on NatGeo Wild or at a zoo, he felt animals had a special place in art. To him, animals’ forms and movements hold strong aesthetic appeal and symbolize qualities with which human viewers can identify: nobility, ferocity, dignity, and silliness, to name a few.

More than fifteen years ago, Charles Wisseman invited me to visit his home art studio in his basement. I was sort of shocked to see that almost any type of material that came to his hands could be turned into art. He uses any material that seems best suited for the project at hand — including forged steel, metals, wood, ceramic, paper, plastic, found objects and even dead bugs. It was also in that visit I learned that his academic profession was medical pathology rather than art. Charles Wisseman comes from the Baltimore/Washington area. He went to Harvard (chemistry) for undergrad, University of Pennsylvania medical school and medical internship, US Public health service officer working at CDC and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Duke University for pathology residency. He came to CU in 1982 to be staff pathologist at Carle, serving as department head for his last 10 years. Clinical Associate professor and lecturer at the old UIUC medical school (now replaced by the new Carle-Illinois engineering based College of Medicine). Blood Bank board member for 15 years. As a pathologist, Charles Wisseman became used to seeing the world in cross-section and with trans-illumination. After retiring in 2005, Wisseman had more time for arts, service, travel, singing in the Unitarian church choir, and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He volunteered at the University library conservation lab repairing books. This led to an interest in book arts and papermaking. He started attending Paper and Book Intensive workshop in Michigan regularly, and built up his papermaking and binding studio. He helped get papermaking restarted at U of I. When CU Woodshop opened, Wisseman built up his woodshop and took classes in woodworking. He has always had a darkroom, and still enjoys black and white film processes, especially alternative processes and liquid silver gelatin emulsions on handmade papers. Other classes include metals at Parkland; metals, bronze, hot glass at U of I; and workshops in various media at Penland, Arrowmont, John Campell craft schools According to Charles Wisseman’s Artist Statement: “As a pathologist, I spent most days analyzing the layers of pattern revealed when light trans-illuminates slices of life mounted on laboratory slides. The study of disease focuses awareness on time and change, on the range of variation of natural patterns, and on the complementary information apparent at different levels of observation. I am intrigued by contrasts of order and disorder, and by the influence of chance in our optimistically-planned lives. I approach this complexity by using a variety of materials and processes in mixed media constructions, often based around a common theme or by juxtaposing varied presentations of a single image. I have experimented with wood, copper, forged steel, handmade paper, stained and fused glass, plastics and resins, ceramics, fibers (including silk painting), and photography using alternative processes in the darkroom and on the computer. Biomorphic and disease-related forms arise naturally, especially in paper and clay. My house is full of found materials looking for new life. Retirement has allowed me time to think about which processes and forms to emphasize. Experimentation with materials and process is what keeps art fresh for me, though, so each piece tends to be very individual.” “As my body ages, I am letting go of more physical processes like blacksmithing, but there is an endless supply of new materials and processes to experiment with. After a couple of dark years due to Covid-19, I have been playing more with glass and epoxy with light effects. LED panels make this much easier now.” As an important part of curating an art exhibition, I always try to have a personal conversation with the artist to learn as much as possible about the artist in general and to find out the artist’s art philosophy, theory, concept, technique, media and how a piece of art was created in particular.

January 2023 - Made in CU – Materials in art by Charles Wisseman

Opening Reception on Thursday, January 12 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


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February 2023 - Joan Stolz’s - Skin in the Game

Opening Reception on Thursday, February 9 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Joan Stolz is a Professor of Art and Design at Parkland College. She holds her MFA from the Hoffberger School of Painting, Maryland Institute College of Art. Her work has been exhibited in New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Illinois, and Paris, France. Her paintings are in collections at the University of Illinois and the University of Maryland. These small oil paintings on wooden panels represent areas of faces of people in the last administration, their media and financial sponsors, and others who were influential within that administration. I’ve always been a news junkie, but I’ve been obsessed with politics these last several years, and I chose to work out my obsession in a visual way. Aside from the political content, I’ve always loved painting people, but I’m not interested in narratives or straight portraiture. So it was both fun and interesting for me to choose parts of people’s faces and concentrate on the color of their skin, the color of teeth, the color of lips, and the whites of eyes, as well as the facial expressions affected by emotion, light, or an untimely photograph. Many of these people the viewer will recognize, but probably not all of them. That’s part of the fun, part of the game as well, guessing who some of these people might be.

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