Renee McGinnis — An Icon Among Icons: A Retrospective
Re-invent Gallery, 202 E. Wisconsin Ave., Lake Forest
Through Feb. 22
(224) 544-5961; www.reinventlf.com
Renee McGinnis can’t be pigeonholed. That’s because the Chicago-based, internationally known artist changes styles so frequently.
Works from four periods of McGinnis’ career are on display at Re-invent Gallery in Lake Forest through Feb. 22.
This exhibit was the inspiration of artist René Romero Schuler, who is the curator.
“She’s truly unique,” said Schuler. The Lake Forest resident noted that she wanted to curate an exhibit of her good friend’s work because, “She’s extremely well-known throughout Chicago but she hasn’t shown on the North Shore.”
Schuler admires the fact that McGinnis’ art is “meticulous. She takes so much time to be precise and deliberate about every stroke on her canvas. It’s remarkable to see that somebody has that kind of patience, that kind of eye for details. She is truly an inspiration to me.”
The earliest pieces are from the Icons Period in which McGinnis painted world figures in bejeweled Byzantine style. “That dates back to college,” said the artist, who earned a BFA in 1984 from Illinois Wesleyan University. “The painting instructor wanted the class to paint an icon that didn’t have a religious theme.”
McGinnis’ richly-detailed series began with Charles Darwin. It includes images of the HMS Beagle and Darwin’s original evolutionary sketch. This was followed by similarly-styled paintings of Albert Einstein, Eva Peron, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Margaret Mead.
The Figurative Works Period which followed had a surprising inspiration. “Somebody I was dating at the time had an extraordinary physique, so I decided to paint him,” McGinnis related. “But I wanted the painting to be meaningful so my first figurative piece was very allegorical. I used the human body to represent some level of the human condition. I usually dealt with overpopulation, the environment and war.” The show features a large piece from this period called, “Ship of Fools,” in which a blue figure of a woman on a green throne dips her toe into red water. Some hand studies are also in the show.
The artist switched to her Jeweloids Period after she broke up with the man who had inspired her figurative work. “I went directly from figurative work to experimenting with acrylic paint on canvas — and shapes and color — almost brain-dumping information,” she said. “It became like a human figure but the human figure was broken down into geometric shapes. These shapes became hearts and genitalia and brains.” Four pieces from that period are on display.
The fourth period represented in the retrospective is McGinnis’ Palace Floor Period. The artist revealed that this period was born from an “instant revelation.” These landscapes place the viewer way above the scene.
“I’ve broken up the surface,” McGinnis explained, citing one example. “You see parched dry land. But then when you look closely, the parched segment forms some kind of visual order that leads you to believe the hand of man is involved in this, almost like the mosaics of a palace floor.”
When she isn’t creating original art, McGinnis designs and produces the news graphics for WGN’s 9 o’clock news on weekends. Her 5-year-old twins also keep her busy.
McGinnis’ current work is displayed at Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago. It focuses on stricken, rusty luxury liners adrift at sea.
Her work has been exhibited in New York, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Miami, as well as Germany and Australia.
Of her frequently changing styles, McGinnis said, “Maybe it’s an asset but maybe it’s a problem. I can paint just about anything easily so it’s so seductive for me to try new things.”