Gertrude Abercrombie: Portrait of the Artist as a Landscape & Donna Castellanos: You’re Surreal

March 24, 2018 to June 10, 2018

Gertrude Abercrombie: Portrait of the Artist as a Landscape

Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977), a Chicago painter who created surreal and dream-like imagery, is the subject of Gertrude Abercrombie: Portrait of the Artist as a Landscape. Abercrombie developed her own unique style and color palette, and explained her paintings saying “It is always myself that I paint.” The exhibition will include over 40 of the artist’s enigmatic works of spare interiors and illusionary landscapes—which have been referred to as “psychic self-portraits.”

Idiosyncratic, charming and irascible, Gertrude was a distinctive artistic voice in her day. Referred to as “the queen of the bohemian artists,” Abercrombie entertained many of the jazz greats of her time including friends Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins at her parties on Saturday evenings and jam sessions on Sunday afternoons.

Like the jazz musicians with whom she was friends, she established a repertoire of themes upon which she riffed for decades. With cats, clouds, eggs, doors, bolts, trees and sea shells set in airless landscapes or sparse interiors she chronicled her recurring dreams, fears and obsessions. Her works are spare and syncopated—“off the beam” as Gertrude would say—and always self-consciously performative. 

The exhibition includes works from the private collection of Laura and Gary Maurer of Chicago and the Illinois State Museum’s Illinois Legacy Collection.

Gertrude Abercrombie: Portrait of the Artist as Landscape was organized by the Elmhurst Art Museum in partnership with the Illinois State Museum.

Donna Castellanos: You’re Surreal 

Elmhurst artist and educator Donna Castellanos created You’re Surreal, an interactive installation inspired by Gertrude Abercrombie’s art and life. Abercrombie’s contagious personality and extraordinary complexity provided the inspiration for Castellanos’ playful dialogue with the Abercrombie paintings on view in our galleries. Castellanos’s immersive installation is a surreal landscape and an interior domestic space.

Visitors are welcomed to enter, have a seat on the sofa, don a hat or crown, and become a character in an Abercrombie inspired environment. Picture taking and sharing are encouraged!

Donna Castellanos is the Elmhurst Art Museum’s Education Program Coordinator where she teaches a variety of classes and designs interactive interpretive displays for each of the major exhibitions. Since 2013 she has been the art director and curator for Flight 112, a local bar, restaurant and gallery in Elmhurst. Castellanos received a degree in graphic design from the American Academy of Art in Chicago.


Douglas Stapleton
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