A record 138 artists donated 144 pieces for the exhibition culminating in Saturday’s silent and live auction at the Evanston Art Center, and Alan Leder, Center director since 2003, is connected in some way with all of them. It’s almost incestuous.
Barbara Crane was one of Leder’s photography instructors in the MFA program at SAIC back in the 1970s. She donated a unique Polaroid transfer with hand coloring. Her husband John Miller, a painting professor at SAIC, gave a pastel and pencil abstract. Donors Tom Seghi and Richard Paulsen were Leder’s roommates at both SAIC and in the BFA program at Northern Illinois. Seghi donated a hyper-realistic painting of a pear. Paulsen, who teaches art at Elmhurst College, adds a sensuous painting of bananas. Like his pals, Leder is also into produce; his office is a virtual supermarket of his photos of vibrant, even eroticized pomegranates, artichokes, eggplants and pinto beans. His entry in this exhibition is a collage of photos he shot while sailing on Seghi’s boat in Miami.
As visual and media arts director of the Illinois Arts Council for eighteen years, Leder helped launch innumerable art careers with grants—for announcement cards, catalogs, framing—and several entries represent payback, like Michael Paxton’s muscular charcoal “Wall.” He also made ties with gallerists, like Ann Nathan, who contributed an antique two-headed mask from Ivory Coast. Catherine Edelman sent both a hilarious beach shot by Melissa Ann Pinney that was just shown at the Art Institute and Art Chicago, and a luminous Terry Evans aerial photo of the Point in Hyde Park.
Leder’s helped further other careers through shows at the Evanston Art Center, and artists have been generous in return. Dennis Kowalski, who had a retrospective there, sent a collage of photography and watercolor straight from his one-man show at Flatfile. And Corey Postiglione, who also had a retrospective, gave a bold charcoal drawing. And, of course, faculty from the art center contribute. Christopher Schneberger, who heads the photography program, brought a mystical photo from his recent show at Printworks that earned unusually glowing reviews.
Leder starts soliciting for work in January, “always afraid I’ll lose my friends.” Artists are constantly asked to donate and have to set limits, he says. He even taps connections made through his wife Jane, an author whose friend collects Chuck Walker. Walker, whose recent mid-career retrospective at the Hyde Park Art Center also garnered great reviews, donated a beautifully gritty cityscape. (Burt Michaels)
The Spring Benefit and Live Auction happens Saturday, May 17, 7pm-10pm, at the Evanston Art Center, 2603 Sheridan, Evanston, (847)475-5300.