It’s a project that any creative art director might dream of: to contact all her favorite artists and ask them to make works related to the words of modern Irish writers: Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, Heaney and more. When all the paintings, drawings and sculpture came flowing in just two months later, it was a dream come true for Laura Coyle. The forty artists were invited to pick whatever they liked, and they responded with many remarkable works that may or may not have much to do with the lines that are quoted. To help make that assessment, thick notebooks of relevant text are available to each viewer—making the exhibition a literary as much as a visual event—showing not only a wide variety of manual skills, but also just what kind of writing this group of mostly middle-aged, Midwestern art professionals found the most intriguing, from C.S. Lewis to James T. Farrell. As one might expect in a literary project, many of these artists, like Coyle herself, are illustrators. Some are explicit illustrations, like Keith J. Taylor’s comic cartoon for “The Old Men Admiring themselves in the Water,” by William Butler Yeats. Others are more subtle, as when Anne Farley Gaines offers the portrait of a sweet, alert old woman standing on what appears to be a Chicago street in response to “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by Yeats again. There are several ambitious pieces of sculpture here as well, including carvings in stone and wood, and most ambitious of all, a wood/glass/metal/ceramic construction dedicated to Finnegan’s Wake by Charles Van Gilder. What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day—and like many of the artists involved, you don’t have to be Irish. (Chris Miller)
Through April 4 at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave.