Gallery Night: A Celebration of Imagination, Inspiration and Adaptation

A painting of circular swirls of bright, vibrant colors, divided into quadrants.
Eclipse by Rosemary Fortney, an acrylic painting that was part of 2022 Gallery Night.

Artists find their inspiration in all sorts of places. “I began drawing at age 4,” says Eli Santin of Madison. “I consider it a way of extroverting myself by channeling the essence of my subconscious into something tangible.” Eli and seven other artists from across Wisconsin will exhibit their work at the Council’s Gallery Night event on Friday, November 3. The open house and reception at the Council’s offices in Madison will run from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

For more than a decade, the Council has hosted Gallery Nights to celebrate and showcase the work of Wisconsin artists with vision loss. Participating artists have worked in a wide range of media, including acrylic and watercolor paint, pen and ink drawing, digital illustration, fiber arts and woodworking.

One of this year’s featured artists found his way to his current medium via fly fishing. Jim Frome grew up near a blue-ribbon fly-fishing stream that runs through Black Earth. He was hooked on the sport at a young age and began tying his own flies while still in high school.

Fast forward to retirement age. That’s when he began to master the highly specialized art of tying Atlantic salmon flies. An admirer of Jim’s flies who was a master woodworker suggested Jim apply his creative skills to wood carving. Gallery Night visitors will not only be able to see a display of Jim’s hand-tied flies, but also a gleaming basswood carving of a brown trout on a burnished walnut base.

Like choosing a medium, establishing a process is another consideration for artists. For Eli, less is more when it comes to conceptualizing a piece. “I usually try not to think too much about what my final drawing is going to look like,” he says. “I try to tap into my subconscious by either listening to music or simply letting go of any preconceptions about the drawing. I draw quickly with broad pencil strokes and sort of discover the piece as it unfolds.” Three of Eli’s digital ink drawings will be on display on Gallery Night. Not surprisingly, two of the three pieces were inspired by a specific piece of music.

Like Eli, Oshkosh fiber artist Judi Cihowiak started creating things at a young age. “I started knitting when I was ten or 11 years old,” Judi says. “My mother was a knitter and she taught me.” Unlike Eli, Judi very specifically maps out her creation before starting. “I think about what I want to make before I do anything,” she says. “Then I look through my yarn room for the right type, texture and color I want to work with.” Judi’s work will be represented at Gallery Night by a blue shawl and a knitted wool hat.

Artists with vision loss find ways to adapt their techniques. Jim combines magnification with natural and fluorescent lighting in his studio space. Another Gallery Night artist, Madison oil painter Zack Zdrale, who has been a professional artist since 2006, uses elongated brushes that allow him to stand farther from the painting surface. Two of Zack’s paintings will be on display for Gallery Night.

In addition to our in-person event, the Council will once again have a virtual gallery on our website featuring the same pieces that will be on exhibit in our physical space. The virtual gallery will be available on our website at starting a couple days before the November 3 Gallery Night event.

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