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Narrative art exhibition suite opens at NIU Art Museum

January 11, 2021

Detail of: Aodan, Salomé Syndrome 3, 2020. Porcelain head piece by Aodan (3.5 x 8.5 x 7 in.), documentary photograph of Aodan performance by Ethan Pambo; Patricia Constantine, Wolf Woman, 2020. (60 x 45in.), Watercolor, charcoal and pastel on paper; Joseph Miller, Cassandra, 2010. (7.5 x 9 in.), Oil on panel.

The Northern Illinois University Art Museum opens three exhibitions that consider narrative artwork and imagery on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The exhibitions examine artworks’ ability to chronicle or present narrative themes that relay a series of events, subjects or use storytelling through images. The exhibitions feature: the memorial tribute to local figurative artist Ellen Roth Deutsch and her expressive stories of self and other women; Chicago author and illustrator Landis Blair’s darkly humorous tales with absurdly gleeful imagery; and a curated national group exhibition of works referencing motifs found in oral traditions, fairy tales, fables, myths and legends. From the Mind of Ellen Roth Deutsch; Mirth and Mayhem: Landis Blair Selections of Drawings and Books; and Storied References all open Jan. 12 and run through Feb. 26, 2021 with a series of public virtual events presented online.

From the Mind of Ellen Roth Deutsch features Deutsch’s work from several decades in which she revisits various complex themes through symbolic characters and metaphorical imagery. Deutsch tackles experiences of sexual abuse, depression, illness and death through imagery that caricatures, digs in and dramatizes. Notable museums and galleries including the Newberry Library, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, State of Illinois Gallery in Chicago and the National Museum of Women in the Arts have exhibited Deutsch’s work.

Mirth and Mayhem: Landis Blair Selections of Drawings and Books contains illustrations from books by Landis Blair, whose stories contain elements of taboo, nihilism and whimsy. Blair’s black and white imagery evokes inspiration from Edward Gorey and often includes dark and absurd humor, lulling the reader through rhyming descriptions of vignette scenes. On view are illustrations from “The Envious Siblings and Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes”; “The Progressive Problem and The Regressive Solution”; “A Toasted Passion”; and “Whetting Engines.”

Storied References is a group exhibition curated by invitation and from a national call for entry featuring artwork that grapples with the harsh truths of contemporary reality while employing familiar narrative motifs found in oral traditions, fairy tales, fables, myths and legends. As humans we have always sought to understand ourselves and the world around us through the stories we tell each other. Artists translate verbal and literary narratives into visual language, sometimes retelling stories from a new perspective: mashing them up, stripping them down or retelling them through the lens of feminism, cultural or personal experience.

Storied References features artists: Kamal Al Mansour, Aodan, Michael Barnes, Brandin Barón, Sarah Bielski, K. Johnson Bowles, Kathy Bruce, Patricia Constantine, Ross Everett, Richard Gessert, Ronald Gonzalez, Heidi Jensen, Andrew Ellis Johnson, B. Lynch, Firoz Mahmud, Sarah Martin, Joseph Miller, Kel Mur, B. Quinn, Amy Schissel, Aaron Sizemore, Jason Tannen, Rhonda Urdang, Lauren Woods.

These exhibitions contain mature content and may not be suited for all audiences. We recommend visitors contact the Museum before organizing visits with children or sensitive audiences.

Programming and gallery hours are subject to changes or cancelations during COVID-19. Feeling sick or unwell? We ask anyone feeling unwell to postpone their visit for another time. Visitors are welcome on campus, but we ask that you take the same precautions we ask our students, faculty and staff to protect yourself and others. Face masks are required whenever inside campus buildings; gallery capacity is currently limited to six people per gallery; timed entry can be scheduled online for your convenience and safety www.niu.edu/artmuseum; physical distancing is encouraged, please maintain six feet of distance from others; limited gallery hours remain in effect.