Mary PorterfieldMary Porterfield is a Chicago-based artist with a BS in Biology, MS in Occupational Therapy and a MFA. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally.

Porterfield has been teaching for 14 years with an emphasis on painting, composition, contemporary content, color theory, 2D design and drawing.

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 and, if so, tell us about it?
MP: My interest in art began as a child when I would watch my mother paint.  When I was young, we lived in Germany because of my father’s career in the air force.  My mother took art classes to help her overcome her homesickness for the Midwest.  I would go with her to her painting classes and fell in love with art at that time.

Foresters by Mary PorterfieldILI: Illinois has factored into our work in the past.  What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?
MP: The diversity of Illinois, especially in Chicago, has been a huge influence on my work.  My art is largely based on my experience as an occupational therapist, working in a hospital on the Northwest side of Chicago.  I’ve witnessed many family members sacrifice their own health to care for a loved one who is disabled.  These individuals, who take on the role of caregiver, have been the most inspiring to me.  Their selflessness and resilience reflect so many of the attributes I see in Illinois residents.  Their stories are reflected in the narratives within my landscapes. Learning from their experiences makes living in Illinois especially meaningful.

Birds of Pray by Mary PorterfieldILI: What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?
MP: There are many exhibition opportunities available at various art centers, colleges, universities, galleries and independent spaces.  Some of these opportunities are listed on

ILI: What do you like about Illinois?
MP: In addition to the people of this state, I’ve been really moved by the Illinois landscape.  Both the cliffs of Galena and the canyons of Starved Rock State Park have made their way into my work.  In their beautiful yet daunting views, they represent situations I’ve encountered in healthcare that are inspiring yet challenging.  These scenes form the background of my paintings and are inhabited by many figures who struggle to care for others in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances.

ILI: What is your favorite medium to work in?
MP: I typically paint on wood panel but, recently, I’ve been drawing more.  Drawing has allowed me to bring more attention to the narratives that are camouflaged within my paintings.

Rise and Fall by Mary PorterfieldILI: Where can people view or purchase your work?
MP: My work can be viewed at or I can also be contacted at

ILI: What artist inspires you and why?
MP: I have deep respect for outsider art because of the unrestrained manner with which so many of the artists worked.  I’ve been most inspired by Chicago outsider artist, Henry Darger.  Over the course of his lifetime and without an audience, Henry completed a 15,000 page fantasy novel, along with some 300 watercolor and collage drawings.  Words cannot describe the level of respect I have for his lifelong commitment to such an idiosyncratic and intimate vision.

Sarah Kaiser.Head Shot smSarah Kaiser is an Evanston based artist and teacher who received her MA in Art History and MFA from the University of Chicago. Her work focuses on the juxtaposition of figures, animals and patterns unified by a nature-inspired color palette.

She mainly works in oils, using gestural brushstrokes to convey universal themes such as the transience of life, the persistence of time, and the relationship between humans and nature.

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 and if so, tell us about it?Evanich Commission Detail Shot sm

Kaiser: My earliest recollection of making art comes from a photograph my mother took of me when I was three or four years old. I was painting with watercolors, and I remember that there was a picture of Donald Duck on the tin paint box. At the moment in which the photo was taken, I told her that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I’m glad she encouraged me. Since I was an only child until age 13, I also needed to fill the time, so I turned to drawing and painting. Mom and I moved often because of her job. I went to 7 different schools between kindergarten and the 12th grade. As a result, I was often the new kid at school, and had to make new friends. This meant that I often had to play alone. When I was bored, I would make art.

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headshotSherri Burritt is an artist based in Morton outside of Peoria.

For three decades she created works mainly with watercolor until about six years ago when she started experimenting with oil paints, enjoying the flexibility of the medium.

Her works focus on impressionistic style still lives as she plays with light and texture to create not just a scene but an emotion and feeling.

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Wall headshotsmMicah Wall is an artist based in Edwardsville who specializes in woodworking and personalized craftsmanship. He founded his own business called Unnatural Resources and prides himself in working with his hands and tools to bring beauty into our everyday lives and spaces.

Coming from a long line of craftsmen, the spirit to create and design is something he considers part of his DNA. He specializes in bringing others’ visions to reality and bringinging out the natural beauty in his materials.

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Chris DevinsChris Devins is an artist/urban planner who creates outdoor art exhibits designed to attract tourists and increase community pride. One of his many projects is the Bronzeville Legends Initiative, which is designed to transform the community with a public art installation that reaffirms its identity. Recently, Devins has been working to create a large outdoor mural of First Lady Michelle Obama that will be installed at Chicago’s Bouchet School, a South Side school the first lady attended as a child.

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