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Unbound abnormality featured at the Gretchen Charlton Art Gallery

October 25, 2018 GMT

“The point of this one is to free yourself from your normal thinking,” said gallery director Victoria Strole on the fourth exhibition she’s curated since joining the gallery in February.

The exhibition, open since Sunday, titled “Dreaming Expansively,” features works by artists Ann Blaas and Jon Casserilla.

Blaas and Casserilla, who became friends after Casserilla took an art class taught by Blaas at Joliet Junior College, had wanted to do a show together to showcase the similar themes and ideas in their works.

“They came up with the title together,” Strole said. “Out of their friendship, Jon and Ann consider Ann to be the dreamer, but Jon to be the expander.

“She’s playing with this abstract way of thinking, while he’s pushing beyond the box.”

“My work has a lean toward abstract intuition,” Blaas said, “including the subject matter and how I operate in my daily life.”

Blaas’ tendencies toward abstraction apparently do wonders for her career. Since receiving two master’s degrees from Northern Illinois University in studio art and painting-drawing in 1994 and 1996, respectively, Blaas, who works as an adjunct professor at multiple colleges in northern Illinois, has had her work exhibited at countless shows throughout Illinois and other states.

Though Blaas states her work is “unbound by medium and technique,” her works featured in “Dreaming Expansively” are mostly done on mylar, a multi-use polyester film.

In the art world, mylar usually looks almost like frosted glass, though it feels more similar to thick, plastic-like paper.

“It’s got translucent quality to it,” Strole explains. “It’s almost like a little bit of light can come through from the back.”

To contrast the clean, smooth appearance of Blaas’ mylar pieces, Casserilla’s work in “Dreaming Expansively” is mostly done with mixed media on distressed paper.

Casserilla, who considers himself an “abstract formalist,” states his work is about “getting lost in the abstract ideas of himself.”

After Casserilla began as Blaas’ student at JJC, he continued his education at Governors State University and NIU, eventually receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree. When he’s not creating art, he works as an email marketing specialist in Forest Park.

As with other abstract art, Blaas and Casserilla’s works do not necessarily feature a distinct subject and can cause some viewers to become uncomfortable or even frustrated when viewing the works.

Many viewers attempt to assign meaning to art pieces or attempt to find tangible objects within artwork, Strole explains, but the point of abstract art isn’t always to understand what one is experiencing.

“I think that it’s part of our nature to be like, ‘OK, how does this relate to what I already know?’ And when you can’t pin it to something else to string along this thought, it makes you uncomfortable,” Strole said.

“What’s really more important is acknowledging the true feelings and thoughts you’re having about it. To say, ‘I don’t understand it,’ is really more the point of art than to be like, ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘It’s not interesting to me.’”

Abstract works such as Blaas and Casserilla’s aren’t meant to be quickly consumed, swallowed and forgotten.

The average time in front of a work of art, in any gallery or museum, is fewer than 10 seconds, Strole said, but most art pieces need to be observed for much longer in order to be truly revealed to their audiences.

“I think art that has a slow reveal is always more interesting,” she said.

Strole encourages visitors to come into the gallery as many times as they’d like. She explains that, even for her, it might take some time and practice to “warm up” to certain works and become comfortable with not understanding the subject matter (or lack thereof).

“It takes me a long time to see any kind of work at all,” she said. “I haven’t decided what to say about [these works], but I also kind of think that that’s the point.

“There are ideas out there that don’t have words assigned to them yet.”

To experience these wordless ideas, visit “Dreaming Expansively” at the Gretchen Charlton Art Gallery at Presence Heritage Village, 901 N. Entrance Ave., Kankakee. Visitors can see the art every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. until the exhibition closes Dec. 2.

A reception featuring Blaas and Casserilla is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the gallery. The public is invited to attend, ask the artists questions and hear their perspectives on their works.

For more information, visit the gallery’s website or find its Facebook page.