Night Sky

May 2012
MEDIA CONTACT: Paula Danoff,
email Paula or (847) 475-5300, ext. 206



Exhibition curators Karen Hanmer and Vera Scekic will be in conversation with a selection of

participating artists at 2pm on Sunday, June 3

Advances in science and technology, along with the inexorable spread of urban areas, have reconfigured our relationship to the night sky. Telescopes, satellites and planetary rovers have demystified what we see when we look up after dark. Colorized photos of planets, galaxies and nebulae, along with mobile phone apps that identify constellations when pointed in a particular direction, have turned the firmament into a commodity, to be packaged and consumed at will.

Light pollution from cities all but guarantees that, on any given night, the majority of us (two-thirds of the population in the U.S.) will not see more than a sparse scattering of stars and planets. In fact, many people in the industrialized world, when asked to identify features of the night sky, can name only the moon.

Blinded by light around the clock and seduced by our technological appendages, we have every excuse to look somewhere else but up. Yet the urge to turn our eyes skyward persists, underscoring the fact that the night sky was our original screen upon which we projected our yearnings. Part of the reason is chemical: our body composition has an interstellar origin, and it is to earth and, eventually, space that these elements will return. Existential questions—how and why we are here, is there anything else out there like us—also drive our impulse to look up time and again. And for some, the desire to connect with our forebears and a vital part of our biological, cultural and spiritual heritage remains strong.

When we do view the night sky today, what is it that we “see”? Has the filter of science and technology altered our thoughts and perceptions to the point that they would be alien to our dark sky ancestors? Do we still feel awestruck and connected to something larger than us? Or has the night sky become a site of anxiety, a zone criss-crossed by spy satellites, missiles and the stray meteor that can bring devastation upon impact?

The artists in Night Sky explore these and related questions using a range of media and conceptual strategies. In the process, they reveal that the effect humans have on the natural world is an enduring subtext to our evolving relationship to the night sky. Bringing together works that are incisive, reverential, poignant and even humorous, this exhibit confirms that even if the stories we tell and the art we create are specific to their social and historical contexts, the act of looking up and speculating about our existence is immutable.

- Karen Hanmer and Vera Scekic

Participating artists’ statements:

Jerome Acks (Chicago, IL)
Celestial bodies, dragons, faith, love, celebrity-these are some of the illusive subjects in my work. But the pieces themselves rarely manifest in direct representation. More often they’re depictions of my attempted comprehension. So what you see isn’t an explanation at all but a look into my own preoccupation with the intangible and the strange logic it provokes. Of course a canvas could never hold the vastness of the entire sky, but the gesture is significant. It’s about desire and limitations.

Maria Dimanshtein (Niles, IL)
This work is inspired by my fascination with Chicago high-rises along with my thoughts about the universe and outer space. I am mesmerized by the sublime environments created by the rhythms of the lit up windows at night. Lying in bed staring out the window, sleepless, I lose myself in the arrays of lights that reach out into the sky, floating away into the endless darkness.

Wendy Fernstrum (Marine on St. Croix, MN)
Phases explores the themes of darkness and light through typographical depictions of the moon in its 30 phases. In the first half of the book, the outlined text gradually fills with white, and in the second half the white gradually wanes. Phases was letterpress printed by the artist in an edition of 25.

Kate Friedman (Evanston, IL)
Kate Friedman passed away on February 10, 2012. Her project is realized by Sarah Krepp and teams. The following statement has been written by Sarah Krepp for Kate Friedman:

Kate Friedman’s enthusiasm for Night Sky was undeniable. The subject of the galaxies has long been at the heart of her research, interest, and art production for several years, manifesting itself in paintings, photography, printing and installations. The form of this installation at the EAC, which I have titled from Kate’s writings, “Returning to the Stars Someday,” was in its early stages, but clearly her ideas and research were deep. She saw the installation as a “…kind of dymaxion map of darkness, made up of…equilateral triangles of my printed mylar…which will be back lit by the windows, and are like clouds of matter or tiny images of galaxies and constellations.”

And the show will be up during the summer solstice! Based on the orientation of the Octagonal Gallery, a laser beam, from the beach and horizon, will be installed, marking the angle of the sunrise of the longest day/shortest night of the year. This will shine into the gallery.

Miriam Jordan (London, Ontario, Canada)
In my recent work I have been reinterpreting Haudenosaunee beading patterns in various series of drawings. The drawings that make up my Constellation series are a response to First Nations dancing practices, in which it is traditionally believed that when we dance on Earth the Skypeople dance along with us in the heavens. The celestial patterns used in the works are interpretations of the beadwork that commonly decorates the clothes worn by the dancers, with the repeated use of celestial trees or chief horns representing the continuously unfolding processes of life and death. Like the rhythmic movements of Haudenosaunee dancers, my drawings depict life unfolding like constellations in the sky.

Jason Judd (DeKalb, IL)
Night Songs explores our peculiar interest with not only looking up to the night sky, but documenting what we find. Perhaps we feel a greater connection by capturing these objects; bringing them down from the sky to share them with others. Night Songs appropriates numerous videos from online social sites. With the original audio left in each video, they play out their duration until the sky is black once again. Together the pieces become a video collage of moments captured by individuals looking to the night sky.

Rachel Katz (Portland, ME)
My own sense of smallness is emphasized each time I look up into the immense vastness of space and time in the night sky. That experience churns up the sublime and existential notions of one’s place in the world and beyond, reinforcing the constant state of unknowingness we exist in. It is from this place of sometimes overwhelming unknowingness that this body of cut paper panels work arises, attempting to take the weight of uncertainty off of one’s shoulders and placing it instead before the viewer on the wall, hoping to find a momentary state of equality and understanding.

Karen Kunc (Avoca, NE)
My idiosyncratic language of biomorphic abstraction inevitably refers to the natural world, our precious resources, and the powerful forces that have shaped our environment from eons past, to manmade disasters of today.

My senses are especially attuned to a “sense of place,” from local landscape, to the expansive wonders of the universe. My impulse has been to reflect on immensities, distances, growth patterns, which wander into meanings of vulnerability, powerful forces, and precarious balances. My works recreate edgy natural order and a poetic tracking of observation and science. Such images and information imaginatively visualize and tantalize, provoking an awareness of the timeless sense of life’s ebb and flow, revealed in contemplation of “what is out there.”

Bridget O’Malley (Minneapolis, MN)
Looking up into the night sky is a link to other people. No matter where they are, they are looking at the same moon and stars that I am. The sky isn’t a solid, a liquid or a gas, but rather, all of these simultaneously. Many layers make the whole, nebulous and wondrous to be sure.

Jason Meyer (Baltimore, MD)
The night sky in Chicago is for the most part a pervasive orange light. Thousands of street lamps shine bright blanketing the sky and hiding the stars. That light defines night in the city. This observation became the basis for a series of sculptures made of wire and lights. They function as substitutes for the unseen stars and cast a familiar orange light.

Pati Scobey (Concord, MI)
I look up at the night sky. The night air against my skin, my breath slows down. Astounded, my efforts in the studio that punctuate time vanish. Words disappear.

Susan Sensemann (River Forest, IL)
Density matters in my drawings: starry skies, sea creatures, dots that appear like a field of cells, patterns of lace, tears as a wing, brain, hearts, and roses. Neo-baroque constellations of components. Maximalism. Not let up. Why the night sky? Because our cosmic habitat is a gravitational panorama of blackness and twinkling swarms of stars—an incomprehensible and inevitable spectacle that houses our dreams.

Ryan Thompson (Fillmore, NY)
Dark Sky comprises over 300 photographs of meteorwrongs set against a night sky. The photographs were downloaded from meteorite identification forums, where the owners of the rocks hoped to have their finds validated as meteorites by either amateur or professional meteorite hunters. However, the overwhelming majority of these finds turn out to be of terrestrial origin. Like stars in the night sky, these meteor wrongs reflect the hopes and wishes of the individuals who found them.

A non-profit organization, the Evanston Art Center is dedicated to fostering the appreciation and expression of the arts among diverse audiences. The Art Center offers extensive and innovative instruction in broad areas of artistic endeavor through classes, exhibitions, interactive arts activities, and community outreach initiatives.

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