Nov AOM Darby Head ShotDarby Ortolano is an artist in Murphysboro. She’s been creating art for nearly 50 years. Ortolano works mainly with clay, creating functional pottery and wall pieces.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?     

I started in 1970!  That was a long time ago, and I was a young single mother living and working in New York City. For the next 20 years, I took many ceramic classes and shared a group studio and store in the East Village. Essentially, I never stopped working at my art, even as I pursued a career in human resources. In 1990, I left New York to attend the Kansas City Art Institute nov aom vases1(KCAI). I was on my way to some serious work and study.  

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?    

I came to Illinois to attend the Master of Fine Arts program in Ceramics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). After two years at KCAI, I knew I would never give up my work in clay. The program here was known for its focus on “functional pottery,” and I spent three glorious years working as hard as I’ve ever worked. When I graduated, I was invited to stay as a visiting instructor in the ceramics program at SIUC for two years. Teaching and living in Illinois prepared me to stay in the area. Within a short time, I was hired by John A. Logan Community College. I spent the next 12 years teaching full-time in their art program.

nov aom red kettleWhat opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists? 

I live in a rural part of Illinois, and the opportunities to show are limited. There is a venue connected to the Carbondale Community Art program (which is partly funded by the Illinois Arts Council), a scattering of galleries, an outdoor fine art fair and SIUC still has holiday craft fairs. We miss the Illinois State Museum facility at Rend Lake, which was a wonderful venue for Illinois artists. The SIUC University Museum has been closed for a year but is now projected to reopen next year.

The opportunity to be connected to other artists is a reason many artists stay here. Also, the cost of living is definitely lower than any big city, and this area is beautiful. We are only two hours away from St. Louis, four hours from Memphis and Louisville, and five hours from Chicago.   

What do you like about Illinois?

Aside from the family and friends I have here, I would have to say that rural Southern Illinois is astonishingly beautiful. Gone are the flat plains of the Illinois heartland; here you run into the hills, valleys and cliffs of the Shawnee National Forest. There are gorgeous lakes for boating and fishing; vibrant grape growing and winemaking businesses with award-winning wines; and hiking, canoeing, horseback riding and biking are all easily accessible. In response to this natural beauty, there is a growing tourism business with multitudes of secluded cabins for rent for those who wish to experience the activities and landscape of the area. Giant City State Park is unique and beautifully maintained. Our local towns – Carbondale, Murphysboro, Cobden, Alto Pass, and Anna to name just a few –  offer areas of charm and culture. And Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers venues, award-winning plays, musicals, concerts and well-known lecturers. Because of the influence of the foreign-born professionals and students, we also have a diverse population and excellent restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. My hometown of MurphysboroNov AOM Circle Flowers is also the Barbeque Capital of Illinois!  

What is your favorite medium to work in?

I work in clay, and at various times that has included porcelain, stoneware and earthenware. I now work mainly in mid-range white stoneware. I also use a variety of glazes, and throughout my career have used other types of clay surfaces. I primarily make functional ware, and I enjoy playing around with forms and combination of forms to enhance the experience of using functional pottery. Most recently, however, I’ve been inspired to create intricate wall sculptures, which has been most satisfying!

Where can people view or purchase your work?

I have work at the Anthill Gallery in Cobden and the Carbondale Community Arts shop304 showcase. You can click here to see my work on Facebook. I will soon be selling online, which I will announce on my Facebook page. You can also click here to see my work on the Oak Street Art Group’s website. The Oak Street Art Group is made up of five artists, all who live and work in the Murphysboro area. We sponsor an Oak Street Fine Nov AOM Blooming VaseArts Fair in the spring, have group shows and promote local artists in our community. I am also a member of the Shawnee Hills Pottery Tour, an annual tour of ceramic artist studios in Southern Illinois. You can read more about that here.  

What artist inspires you and why?

I would have to say that I am inspired by the history of ceramic art, primarily Asian. I was trained as a functional potter, which includes paying attention to proportion, balance, form, surface treatment and use. Those attributes were at their height in historical Japanese, Chinese and Korean pottery. I have taken those standards and infused them with my own aesthetic interests, which primarily center on forms from the natural world. Early on, I decorated my pots with colorful abstractions of natural forms. More recently, the functional work can be either simply covered with a soft white glaze, or by a colorful bright glaze. The forms themselves relate to nature’s forms. I let my work speak for itself. My recent sculptural work is directly inspired by the natural world and my interpretation of it. 

Alexa Frank is an artist from Springfield who now resides in Chicago. She creates acrylic paintings using bright colors and high contrast.  Alexa Headshot

How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?

Cub ChanceI took my first art class in high school; it was just a hobby at the time actually. In college I would paint simply for the joy of it. I love the feeling of the whole process… thinking of a dope idea, preparing and sketching, painting, and then the excitement of finally looking at the finished piece. 

 

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

I have lived in Illinois my whole life, so I guess I am a little biased for this question. It helps to live and work in a place where you are surrounded by your family and friends, and it helps even more when they support your passion. So living in a place where I can do what I love and be with the people I love says it all right there.

 

What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?

Local businesses in the Springfield area are always supporting local art, which is always so great to see walking in to places. I currently live in Chicago, and it seems like every weekend a different neighborhood has an art festival. The talent at these things… amazing!   

What do you like about Illinois? 

Triangle

I love that I can get the best of both worlds in Illinois. I can enjoy the beautiful city of Chicago on a daily basis, and I can also enjoy weekends in Springfield spending time with my family. The balance is perfect. 

What is your favorite medium to work in?

I love to paint with acrylic paints, especially bright colors and high contrast.   

SkeletonWhere can people view or purchase your work?

People can view my work on Etsy by clicking here. I mainly do custom work so if people have ideas they throw them at me, and it’s my job to make it come to life.  

What artist inspires you and why?

Takashi Murakami has inspired me. He is a contemporary artist who loves to use pop culture and create artwork. He uses mixed media and loves to create pieces with both detail and abstraction. You can tell all of his work has a story behind it, which is the best part.  

 

Brandace Cloud is a professional artist based in Wilsonville. She has a studio there and in Staunton. Cloud works in a variety of media, but specializes in photography and clay.


ILI: How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion?
BC: I have been making [art] most of my life, although I never realized that making [art] could be a living. My dad always encouraged me to work hard and make lots of money. But he also, through his actions and through his words, told me to find something I love to do. He worked hard his whole life working jobs he never really loved, so that our family could have a big fancy house and lots of things. While going through college I went through several different career choices. I tried for electrical engineering, computer programing, business, and then graphic design. I received my associate’s degree in Graphic Design from Lewis and Clark Community College and was still trying to make lots of money, but found that art was what I really loved to do. I continued on to Webster University, where I figured I could still make money while taking photographs. I continued on that path until my final year when I took a clay class. The first day of class, I realized THIS was my calling. I was a potter. I was meant to play with dirt and fire. I have been a potter for six years now, and I’ve never looked back… never again doubted what I wanted to be.

ILI: Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?
BC: Illinois is a major factor in my work through the images I put on my pots. I live in rural Illinois, where my “natural” landscape is plowed fields and stray trees. When I wondered what to decorate my pots with, it was intuitive to adorn my pots with images inspired by this landscape. In my tiny town of 600, my house sits on a dead-end street where owls live and play. These creatures also make their way onto my pots, but now have been abstracted to those parts of the animals that intrigue me the most – their eyes, their ever-searching, seeking eyes. What I learned from Webster was that as an artist I need to always be paying attention, always looking, always searching. Now the owl eyes float in a field of color, ever-searching, looking, wondering. My work would not be this, if not for my home in rural Illinois.

ILI: What do you like about Illinois?
BC: The thing that I love most about Illinois is the landscape that inspires me.

ILI: What is your favorite medium to work in?
BC: I am a potter at heart. Although I can work in other materials, clay is my passion.

ILI: What artist inspires you and why?
BC: I am inspired by the artists around me. I feed off the creativity of my friends and those that make [art] around me, including my students! I teach art to kids as young as two years old, all the way through adults. The kids that I teach are unafraid of working, of creating. They are fearless. They make art for themselves. That is an inspiration.
If there is one professional artist that truly inspires me, it is Susan Bostwick, an artist that I admire and work closely with. She is a fellow potter, and Susan has taught me so much about how to be a successful artist through her optimism and joyful approach to art. Her work can be found at https://susanbostwickceramics.net/.

ILI: Where can people view or purchase your work?
BC: They can find it online on my website, www.brandacecloud.com, on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cloudstudios/ and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BrandaceCloudStudios.

Brian TeeThe Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is launching a Zika virus awareness campaign with actor Brian Tee, known as Dr. Ethan Choi on the television series Chicago Med.

Tee, who recently welcomed a new baby girl into his family, is hoping to raise awareness on the public health concerns of Zika virus and what people can do to prevent the infection of unborn babies who may suffer birth defects.

First identified in Africa in 1947, Zika virus is a mosquito-borne infection that has spread significantly across the world since the first reported case in Brazil in 2015. For most people, Zika is a very mild infection and isn’t harmful. However, Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Consequently, infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.

Inspired by his role as a doctor on Chicago Med, and as a new parent, Tee will star in television and radio commercials with information on preventing Zika-related birth defects and the importance of preparing for and having a healthy pregnancy.

The Zika virus education campaign will air the commercials statewide in cooperation with the Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA) Public Education Partnership program. They will broadcast on more than 200 radio stations and IBA member television stations.

For more information on Zika virus, go to www.dph.illinois.gov.

6547321591 1fea729a9d bAs Americans all over celebrate National Hot Dog Day, Chicagoans know that to truly celebrate the day, you have to do it with a Vienna Beef dog.

The origins of Vienna Beef go back to the 1890s when Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany emigrated from Austria to Chicago. When the Columbian Exposition came to Chicago in 1893, Reichel and Ladany sold hot dogs to the many visitors.

The next year, they opened a storefront in Chicago’s Westside on Halstead Avenue. Reichel and Ladany also began selling their hot dogs to other restaurants throughout Chicago.

During the Great Depression, people selling Vienna Beef began advertising that their dogs had a “salad on top”, what we now call the Chicago Dog. A Chicago Dog is a Vienna Beef dog with mustard, relish, tomato, pickle, onion, hot peppers and celery salt. No ketchup!

Today, Vienna Beef dogs are made in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago with annual revenues over $100 million. For more information about Vienna Beef, click here to visit their website.

For a list of places you can find a good hot dog on National Hot Dog Day, check out this article.

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