A solo exhibition of works by retired Parkland College art professor John Ekstrom will open Monday, Feb. 11 at the Parkland Art Gallery. An artist reception takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 14 with a gallery talk by Ekstrom at 7 p.m. and music by Parkland College Guitar Ensemble. The artist will provide an additional lecture in the gallery on Tuesday, February 19 at 1:15 p.m.
Originally from Chicago, Ekstrom received both his BFA and MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He lived in Paris for a number of years prior to joining the faculty at Parkland College, where he taught painting, drawing, and figure drawing from 1979 through 2001. Ekstrom considers himself first and foremost a teacher and has influenced many Parkland alumni and artists in the community with his talent, energy and humor. Since retiring, he continues his art practice and travels frequently to southern California, a source of inspiration for much of his newer work. The retrospective will include artworks that have been produced throughout his artistic career and will feature work on paper as well as paintings.
In addition to having taught at Parkland College, Ekstrom curated two exhibitions for the Parkland Art Gallery: "Artist Who Teach" in 1991 and a "Drawing Invitational" in 1998. The latter included a wide variety of work, challenging the notion of what constitutes a drawing, and showcased an unexpected range of media, from tar to torn paper. The exhibits exemplify Ekstrom's interest in a range of artistic expression reflected in his own practice, with abstraction and figuration both serving as valid means of artistic exploration. Ekstrom is fluent with various media, mainly acrylics, gouache, and colored pencil.
The Parkland College Permanent Collection is fortunate to include a work by Ekstrom titled "Downtown." It is an oil on canvas piece measuring approximately 5 ft. by 6 ft. and was modeled after downtown Champaign. The painting is currently on display in the D Wing of the college. Art Gallery Director Lisa Costello called the work "part of our local history."
"His use of color, brushstroke and artistic liberty with downtown Champaign makes it very engaging," she said. "It creates a lot of discussion during my tours of artwork on campus, and it is really enjoyable to have elementary school students come through and try and guess the location."
While the exhibit will honor Ekstrom's significance as a teacher, the halls of the art department themselves provide such evidence. Paintings by former students are on display, including a portrait of Ekstrom. "Although Jack served his tenure before I started working at Parkland, his influence is still evident within the art department and our alumni," Costello said. "He continues to be a part of the Parkland community through attending our receptions and asking engaging questions after the artist lectures. We are very excited to have this opportunity to show his work."
Parkland Art Gallery's spring hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; and Saturday, noon-2 p.m. The gallery will be closed on March 22 and 23 for Parkland's spring holiday.
To find the gallery when classes are in session, we suggest using the M6 parking lot on the north corner of the campus. Enter through any door and follow the ramps uphill to the highest point of the first floor, where the gallery is located. The gallery windows overlook the outdoor fountain area.
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Parkland is a section 504/ADA-compliant institution. For accommodation, call 217/351-2505.
Image: John Ekstrom, Night and Day, 84" x 68", acrylic