Redefining Art: Gallery showcasing unique vision

Published 9:15 am Friday, April 11, 2014

Stephanie Lebak Adomaitis’ “Works on Paper” will be on display at the ARS Gallery beginning April 11.  (Submitted photo)

Stephanie Lebak Adomaitis’ “Works on Paper” will be on display at the ARS Gallery beginning April 11. (Submitted photo)

BENTON HARBOR—Art lovers who appreciate cutting-edge, meaning-based art that is both urban yet decorative may want to check out the new show coming to the ARS Gallery: Stephanie Lebak Adomaitis’ “Works on Paper.”

“This show will consist of all new work from 2014. I’m also painting a large piece right now that will be included in this exhibit,” Lebak Adomaitis said, laying down her brush to speak on the phone from her Bloomington, Ill. studio last week.

Originally from the Chicago area, Lebak Adomaitis has been attracted to public expressions of art — including graffiti and tagging — since she was a child. She first noticed these artistic expressions when she accompanied her father to various parts of the city as he conducted building inspections.

“My dad and I are cut from the same cloth,” Lebak Adomaitis recalled. “We would be on the train, going into the city, and I would see all of these different signs. They really captured my imagination.”

Later, when Lebak Adomaitis moved to the Detroit area to complete her graduate studies in art at Cranbrook, she began wandering around that city. These travels heightened her interest in urban art and urban planning theories, and she found herself calling her father and asking him questions.

“I have to admit that Detroit was odd. I saw some of the most beautiful artwork there,” Lebak Adomaitis said. “I remember in particular this one building with all of the windows busted out. Someone had spray-painted flowers on sheets that were hanging in the broken-out windows. That influenced me even more.”

She was taken with both the beauty of the art as well as its place in what she calls “an interesting social language.”

“I’m fascinated by graffiti, gang signs, tagging and other public expressions that aren’t always considered ‘art,’” Lebak Adomaitis explained. “They are these languages where only certain crowds understand the original message, but then they are adopted by the larger public. They become more of a language.”

Lebak Adomaitis’ current series, “Next Stop,” incorporates a particular symbol that she encountered while riding the Metra train in Chicago.

“I’d noticed that, on the Metra, each conductor has their own hole punch for the tickets. Usually, they are just circles or squares, but one conductor had a strange one. It was like a combination of a paw print and a heart,” Lebak Adomaitis said. “I saw this pile of punches on the floor, and I was fascinated with the symbol.”

As a sort of semiotic gesture, Lebak Adomaitis has incorporated that mark—the heart-shaped paw print—into each of the paintings in the “Next Stop” series, adopting it as almost a tag sign of her own.

“I’ve started using this shape as an overall mark. So, these paintings all include the heart-shaped paw print in a different style each time,” Lebak Adomaitis said. “Different colors will then become different dialects.”

Beyond the composition of her paintings, Lebak Adomaitis’ experience in urban environments has also influenced her choice of media and presentation. Having had a lot of experience in mural painting, Lebak Adomaitis likes to paint on a large scale, but she has also found that she prefers paper to canvas.

“In grad school, I did mainly really, really large murals in the Museum of Cont-emporary Art Detroit,” Lebak Adomaitis said. “So, I tried painting on giant canvases, but they felt really formal and stiff.”

That’s when Lebak Adomaitis started stretching paper, stapling it to the wall, and painting on that.

“It allows me to make bigger gestures. It’s the same application, but it allows me to be more fluid in my mark-making,” she explained. “The additional piece I’m working on now is 52 inches by 69 inches on stretched paper.”

Lebak Adomaitis also feels that framing her work makes it less accessible. Therefore, her work will be displayed at ARS in a unique manner.

“At the last gallery, my work was just stapled to the wall,” Lebak Adomaitis said. “But it ARS, it will be mounted with special metal strips that Anna Russo Sieber found just for this show.”

An opening reception for the show, guest curated by Laura Boyce, will take place at the ARS Gallery, located at 147 Fifth St., on Friday, April 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. Lebak Adomaitis’ works will then continue on display there for several weeks.