A Live Opening: “All in the Same Boat – or Are We?” with a plethora of artists!


"Mutiny from the Covid" by Kim Laurel

An exhibition with 64 artists using a plethora of techniques, All in the Same Boat – or Are We?, curated by Anne Farley Gaines at the Stola Contemporary Gallery, 3738 W. Irving Park Road is a must see in-person

The subject matters represent what people around the world are confronting…isolation, fear, depression, suffocation, loneliness, paranoia, disgust, despair, distrustfulness …you name the dysfunction and/or psychological stressor. 

With live music in a parking lot just doors from the gallery and following the safety rules of the pandemic, opening night attendees seemed to revel in the cathartic experience of physically being together, seeing representations of their own experiences and being able to have a conversation that flowed smoothly. 


"Divine Journey" by Nancy Pirri with Cathi Schwalbe

The work and the opening experience was a celebration on many levels! 

Whatever your area(s) of concern, there is probably a piece of art that addressees it. "It" could be the pandemic, climate change, protests, brutality against people of color, political humor, socio-political statements, wearing a mask or the overwhelming experience of multiple topics. 

Intended to promote deep thinking and inspire lifting the spirits and healing the soul, the works achieve their goal. 

Familiar "faces" among the artists include Kim Laurel and Fletcher Hayes

Laurel was not only a participating artist in the show but also served as a consultant to curator Gaines in the show's development stage. 

Laurel's "Mutiny from the Covid" is in mixed media and is a satiric commentary. "I wanted to illustrate our ineffectual political leadership during the pandemic of 2020. 

"The piece is based on an Egyptian sun boat and Ushabti figures paired with the story of Jonah. Just as the fisherman heading to Jaffa cast Jonah overboard from their ship to survive, so too does our intrepid crew of the Hope Boat jettison the pitiless Covid." 


Fletcher Hayes' "Survival Luxury Levels"

Hayes' "Survival Luxury Levels" done in acrylic and assemblage brings the economy into the narrative of the pandemic. 

"Saying that we’re all in the same boat when it comes to a pandemic is misleading. 

"If being tossed on the sea is the metaphor for the collapsed economy during the rampant spread of a lethal virus, then those in the larger ships will have an easier time than those in more vulnerable small crafts.  

"While the well-to-do enjoy cocktails at the captain’s table, the unemployed are busy bailing water to avoid sinking." 

Illustrating the ocean's ferociousness, Hayes placed a sawblade along the top of the frame representing the waves. 

After Nancy Pirri received a call from Gaines about being in the show, Pirri started verbalizing how she felt. "I felt lost…on a journey, but I couldn't go anywhere…I was lost on a river without a paddle," she explained. 

Those thoughts led her to sculpt a woman, who had gained a few pounds from the "Covid diet." She then decided to put her into a boat…without a paddle. 

Next, she called her studio partner

 to create a wooden boat in which her lady could ride. But, they felt something else was needed for her hair. "We wanted to make her look frazzled so we put stuff in it," she explained with a laugh. 

They succeeded and named the collaborative piece "Divine Journey." 


"I Am Anyone/Everyone" by Kelly Mathews

"Most of my work is activist based," explains Kelly Mathews, who is also the Gallery Director at the Stola Contemporary Gallery. "I often use the flayed man image to remove any reference to race and skin tone. We are all the same underneath." 

In creating her "I Am Anyone/Everyone" encaustic piece in the show, she used oil paint, carbon and gold leaf. 

The Curator and the exhibition
Anne Farley Gaines like most of the artists in the show has done big and little, public and private, art projects all over Chicago and beyond Illinois' borders. Like her fellow artists and friends she was feeling the strain of what was happening in the country. 


Anne Farley Gaines with two ceramics created for this show: "Sowing the Wind" and Reaping the Whirlwind"

In February she began speaking with fellow artists about being able to connect with each other, to share art, ideas and support each other. Mathews was among them and was working with Jim Stola to open his new gallery on Irving Park. Subsequently Mathews extended an invitation for Gaines to have a show at the gallery to raise funds for another of her mural projects. 

"It occurred to me that if Stola was willing to do a fund raiser for my project maybe we could make an exhibit with many artists," explains Farley Gaines. 

"I decided that I wanted to take time to focus on community instead of doing and promoting my own work." 

What started with a prospectus in April culminated with the show's opening on July 31. 

"While it is clear that social distancing must continue until science comes up with a vaccine and better cure rates, we all must keep doing our work. But to me, online shows are not real shows," says Farley Gaines. 

"I understand that many need the revenue from such shows, but for me, I need things that are alive and visceral and that can be touched…at least with the eyes." 

She goes on to encourage everyone, "Don't let what is happening with our culture discourage you. Doing art is important to my own soul and my sense of happiness. Whatever makes you happy…DO IT! 

"I think as artists we need to go deeper and more intensely into what we do and what our message needs to be. Most importantly, we have to acknowledge the importance of our own souls. 

"If I didn't acknowledge my own soul and sense of happiness, I would never have done this show. I believe, if I didn't do this, I would be feeling very lonely, very melancholy and a little depressed by now. 

"But I don't! I feel energized and productive. Some say it is more important to do the 'honey, do' list items first…but they'll always be there. To grab the opportunity to do this show…doesn't come along every day!" 

Hayes agrees going further by saying that what Farley Gaines and her team pulled off is a model for others. 


Kelly Mathews was the "gate keeper," not allowing more than 10 people in the gallery at the same time

"It sets a new standard for galleries to engage people in exhibitions while following the new regulations for socializing during a pandemic. People are social animals, we all need the interactions."

To experience the celebratory environment and the artwork, you may want to participate in the exhibition's closing on Sun., Aug. 16, from 2 to 5.

Artists are donating 20% of their sales to their favorite charities such as the Chicago Food Depository and the Illinois Arts Fund.

Gallery hours are Thurs. from noon to 4 p.m.; Fri. from noon to 7 p.m.; Sat. from noon to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

For additional information or to make an appointment to see the exhibit, please email Anne Farley Gaines or call her at 312.203.9964 or email Kelly Mathews or call her at 708.334.7062.





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