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Thursday, June 16, 2016 12:01 am

Mixing up the color palette

The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space: Collaborations

A collaboration between Pharmacy member artists Felicia Olin and Jeff Williams.
The Pharmacy has been presenting quarterly group shows featuring work by its member artists since November 2011. Through the ensuing five years, a change of location and many members joining and leaving (and sometimes rejoining), the spirit of the Pharmacy has always been one of camaraderie and mutual support. With their latest exhibit, which opened on June 7, the group has taken things a step further with members actively collaborating on pieces.

“It’s crazy fun,” says Pharmacy president and contributing artist Janet Sgro. “We thought it would bring us closer together.” A few of the artists started pieces and allowed others to finish them, as in a series of paintings of the same disembodied face painted by Felicia Olin. Four of her fellow artists provided hair, bodies and backgrounds and they are arrayed together on the gallery walls – a series of smaller collaborations making up a larger collaboration.

Pharmacy member Jeff Williams deserves some kind of MVP award for the many artistic cross-pollinations he took part in for the show, although it didn’t always seem like that was how it would work out. “For a while I was stressed out trying to think of the perfect theme for a collaboration,” he says. Inspiration eventually arrived in a roundabout way, starting with the death of iconic musician Prince in May.  “We started thinking we should do some sort of a tribute to Prince, and maybe even David Bowie too,” he said. “But I didn’t want people to think we were trying to capitalize on their deaths.” Eventually Pharmacy artist Patricia Myers brought the recent passing of innovative Middle Eastern architect Zaha Hadid to Jeff’s attention, resulting in a piece made in tribute to her design of the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. “She’d been around for a while but I just learned about her. Her work was just incredible and she seemed like a less obvious person to pay tribute to than Prince or Bowie.”

Other collaborations include Janet Sgro’s mixture of her trademark colorful pastels with both Edward Haber’s photography (photographic images printed on plexiglass and placed over the painting) and Wendy Allen’s hand-sewn fabric. For her part, Allen also collaborated with Bill Crook, adding the unique texture of her fabric to his acrylic imagery.

Another sort of collaboration was present in the form of the standalone installation by Allison Lacher, a prominent artist (and non-Pharmacy member) based in Springfield who has recently had shows in Chicago and St. Louis while acting as a managing member of DEMO Project and serving on the board of the Springfield Art Association. Her contribution, “Spaghetti Western,” was created with Pharmacy member Kim Diehl, filling the smaller gallery across the parking lot from the primary gallery with a combination of shiny, intentionally chintzy, representations of cacti and other wild west icons (festooned with orange yarn, standing in for the titular pasta). The centerpiece is a starkly presented cattle skull, providing an impactful memento mori amid the intentional kitsch.

The Pharmacy Gallery and Art Space is open to visitors on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m.


Scott Faingold can be reached via sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.


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