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To read the essay, "Heaven and Earth: Reading Gilead through the Landscape of the Fox River" Click Here
Aurora University exhibit showcases diversity of Fox River
By SHAW MEDIA Aug. 22, 2018
A project that began about two years ago to bring attention to the importance, beauty and many moods of the Fox River has resulted in 73 original oil paintings that will be exhibited from Sept. 20 through Dec. 14 at the Schingoethe Center at Aurora University, titled, “A Fox River Testimony.”
An opening reception will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20, followed at 6:45 p.m. by a lecture, “The Paradoxical Landscape Frame,” presented by the artist in the Tapper Recital Hall. Reservations are necessary for the lecture and can be made at auartsandideas.com or by calling 630-844-4924.
The paintings are the work of plein air artist Joel Sheesley, who partnered with The Conservation Foundation for Art of the Fox as part of its Fox River Initiative, a program to help connect residents with the river and engage them in becoming environmentally conscious through local projects. As artist in residence, Sheesley set up his easel at various points along the river in all kinds of weather at different times of the day to showcase the beauty of the natural areas and human communities along its shores.
What began as a project to produce 50 to 60 oil paintings ended with 73 for the exhibit. “I ended up with 73 paintings because I really couldn’t see a place to stop,” Sheesley said. “I like that number because it has a kind of an indeterminate feel – as if in midstream.”
The project has taken Sheesley along an 80-mile stretch from Dundee to Ottawa. The Fox River headwaters begin near Waukesha, Wisconsin, before entering Illinois at the Chain O’ Lakes in McHenry County and flowing through Kane and Kendall counties before meeting up with the Illinois River near Ottawa in LaSalle County.
Sheesley’s travels included canoeing to some locations, hiking trails and off the path with his French easel and paint box across his back, and even camping overnight to capture the light from the sunset and sunrise as it caressed the river’s surface. Following the meandering river, Sheesley found himself in some diverse habitats: wetlands, agricultural, glacially formed lakes, sandstone bluffs and densely populated urban areas.
The paintings are available to buy, ranging from $575 for an 11-by-14-inch canvas, up to $2,175 for an 18-by-36-inch canvas. High-quality giclée prints of 16 selections from the exhibit will be available at a reduced cost.
Sheesley, an emeritus professor of art at Wheaton College, chronicled his field experiences along with photos of the paintings in a 160-page coffee table book called “A Fox River Testimony,” which will be available at the exhibit for $49.95.
The Schingoethe Center is an agent of and catalyst for teaching and learning on the Aurora University campus. The center is at Aurora University, 1315 Prairie St., Aurora.
The Conservation Foundation is one of the region’s oldest and largest nonprofit land and watershed conservation organizations with more than 4,000 members. Founded in 1972, TCF has helped preserve more than 35,000 acres of open space, restored and cleaned miles of rivers and streams, and educated thousands of people by engaging them in nature and the outdoors.
TCF’s mission is to improve the health of our communities by preserving and restoring natural areas and open space, protecting rivers and watersheds, and promoting stewardship of the environment. Work is focused in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties to preserve and restore nature in neighborhoods. For information, visit theconservationfoundation.org.
A Fox River Testimony - Will be available soon! The book is going to press!
Endorsements for the book:
“A Fox River Testimony is not a collection of paintings; it is a journey, one that immerses readers in the ceaseless play of a river-carved landscape and its tributaries of meaning. Sheesley creates an intimate portrait of the everyday glory of these life-giving waters as they wend their way through forest, prairie, and city. He shows us how to face a river, open to the possibility of love. Readers will feel the humility of an artist who reverences the living landscape and wonders if he is up to the task of doing it justice. Open this book, enter its flow, and you’ll see for yourself that he does.” Gavin Van Horn, Director of Cultures of Conservation for the Center for Humans and Nature, and author of The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds
Sheesley's paintings are beautiful and insightful meditations on the Fox River landscape. His essays that accompany each image are even more profound, setting up an inner dialogue that we share with him about the process of looking at and capturing a place in time. This book reminds us of the wonder of our immediate world and carries a gentle admonition to understand our agency and responsibility to our environment.
Doug Stapleton, Associate Curator of Art, Illinois State Museum
Joel Sheesley’s A Fox River Testimony fills me with a sense of longing for this world, in all its moods and turns and sudden openings, and for something just beyond it, whispering through it. How did the painter know to place himself in just this relation to the river’s sheen and seams and secrets, and how did he quiet himself enough to respond so deeply and so well? I find myself asking this with each painting, as if learning to look and feel and love with this sort of embedded openness was not only what we were put on the earth to do, but as if now, finally, when it mattered most, I had someone willing to show me how. Thomas Gardner Alumni Distinguished Professor of English, Virginia Tech
Through Sheesley's close attention to wind and weather, muskrats and mallards, slants of light, patterns of motion, and the contrasts between brokenness and beauty, we are drawn into the life of the river and the Illinois communities that push into its shoreline. His images and evocative words provoke a passion in us for the Fox River itself, and prompt a deeper desire to care for this and other vulnerable---and sometimes overlooked---places. Sheesley stunningly completes the task he has set for himself with this transformative project: "..to make what is visible evoke the invisible." Cindy Crosby "The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction" and "Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit."
GRAND OPENING AND EXHIBITION OF FOX RIVER PAINTINGS
Schingoethe Center of Aurora University - September 20 - December 13, 2018
MAY ARTIST OF THE MONTH - CENTER FOR HUMANS AND NATURE
READ THE INTERVIEW
I'm delighted to have been chosen as "MAY ARTIST OF THE MONTH" by the Center for Humans and Nature. Check out my interview and learn about their work here: https://www.humansandnature.org/the-life-of-a-river-an-interview-with-joel-sheesley
CENTER FOR HUMANS & NATURE: Expanding Our Natural & Civic Imagination
THE LIFE OF A RIVER: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOEL SHEESLEY
Here's a short video about the Fox River/Gilead project.