Artists Ginny Krueger and Ann Blaas present an intimate and varied look at a declining songbird, the bobolink, and its migratory patterns at their exhibition, “The Bobolink Proposition,” which opens March 8 at Brushwood Center, 21850 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods. The opening reception, held from 1 to 3 p.m., is free and open to the public.
The artists, who have done other shows together, wanted to work within a bird theme. “We thought the bobolink had that exuberance and childlike rhythm that’s in both of our works,” Blaas said. “The word bobolink has a fun sound. We learned about the bird’s migratory patterns and there are some hints toward that in our paintings. “
The bobolink, one of North America’s fastest declining songbirds, breeds in grasslands including Rollins Savanna, a Lake County Forest Preserve District property near Krueger’s home. During courtship, the male flies close to the surface giving a tinkling sound and showing off its white back to attract females and deter intruders. It migrates to South America for winter. “I’m fascinated that the bobolink’s breast is dark and the back is white,” said Krueger. “It’s usually the reverse in birds.” In field guides, the bobolink has been described as wearing a reverse tuxedo.
Blaas, who teaches art at College of DuPage and Joliet Community College, is creating some of her works on Mylar, a type of drafting paper.“The transparency of the paper allows the artist to work on both front and back surfaces,” she said.
Krueger will display her encaustic paintings of melded wax, resin and pigment on wood. She’ll also showcase two colorful quilts depicting woodland birds, and several ceramic sculptures.
“Brushwood Center is a wonderful venue for artists. It has such intimate spaces,” Krueger said.
Visitors can meet Blaas and Krueger at the March 8 opening. No registration is necessary for the free event. The exhibition continues through May 5. Gallery hours: Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sundays 1 to 3 p.m. For more information, visit www.brushwoodcenter.org.
Our January meeting of Ryerson Reads, the environmental literature discussion group, was focused on Abby Geni’s The Last Animal (2013). Geni’s debut volume, this collection of short stories explores the troubled, sometimes contradictory relationships between humans and the natural world, specifically our interactions with animals — wild, captive, and domesticated.
Perhaps the most striking thing about these stories is Geni’s mastery of various voices and various modes of prose fiction. In “Terror Birds” Geni writes in a gritty naturalistic vein about a child growing up all but feral on an Arizona ostrich farm. In “The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr” she spins a brisk New Yorker-ish social satire that turns alarmingly dark as the kids at a Wisconsin summer camp for Jewish girls discover that one of their counselors may harbor a kind of inner beast. And “Captivity,” possibly the finest story of the collection, is a comic tale that owes something to the Magic Realist tradition, and describes, among other things, an Octopus and his (or her) relations with the keeper of the cephalopod wing of the aquarium where they both spend their days.
One of the pleasures of Ryerson Reads is that no matter how carefully I prepare for these discussions the group’s talented readers always surprise me, taking the discussion in directions I could not have foreseen. As we discussed “Captivity,” for example, collating the story’s two intertwined plot lines about different sorts of captivity, the group engaged in a rich (and unresolved) debate about the ethics of keeping animals captive for scientific or educational purposes. Does the scientific mission of institutions like the Shedd Aquarium (where Geni’s story seems to take place) redeem those institutions from being what “Captivity” suggests they are: prison camps for animals?
One of the stories that provoked a particularly rich discussion among the Ryerson group was “Dharma at the Gate,” a story of social realism roughly in the Raymond Carver tradition. This story features an ill-starred high school romance, and a golden retriever who acts as a kind of tutelary spirit to the young woman of the pair. I believe we found the story so engaging for at least two reasons. First, the story is about social class, and like Americans in general we take a kind of illicit pleasure in talking about class because it is one of our democratic culture’s dirty secrets. Second, the story explores the unique bond that has obtained, since our species hunter-gatherer days, between people and dogs. Geni may have gone somewhat out of her depth in “Dharma at the Gate” in advancing a particular hypothesis about Homo sapiens and Canis lupus familiaris as coevolutionary partners, and then offering that hypothesis — tentatively, ambivalently — as a template with which to understand her characters’ troubled romance. What the reader is left with — opinions varied among the group — may be a startling insight into her characters’ motivations, or may be a richly readable muddle. Read “Dharma at the Gate” and decide for yourself.
The Ryerson Reads selection for March is Robert Pogue Harrison’s Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition (2008). This is a challenging academic book that endeavors to find in gardens — real and imaginary — clues to what makes us human. Harrison ranges from Epicurus to Bocaccio to the gardens of the Manhattan homeless in this learned study that is anchored in what he calls the ethics of care. Join us in March as we take up this rich and difficult book.
Ben Goluboff, professor of English at Lake Forest College and an expert in American literature, has led Ryerson Reads for the past 11 years. He will be revealing the book selections for the 2015-16 season at the Spring session, to be held on March 11th.
For more information on Ryerson Reads, visit our website.
On a cold winter day, if you listen closely while walking Ryerson Woods, you can hear the unmistakable call of the black-capped chickadee. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee,” it calls, perhaps to connect with its brethren at a good feeding spot or alarm them of an intruder, possibly a predator. Both male and female chickadees give this call throughout the year.
Chickadees live at Ryerson year-round – they can survive the winter because of special adaptations that other birds living in cold climates possess: by fluffing their feathers to trap warmth, by growing more feathers, and by shivering as a way to regulate their body temperature. They also seek tree holes and other crevices on the coldest days to protect themselves from the chilling wind.
Chickadees have other special techniques that help them during the coldest time here in northern Illinois. First, they can hang on the undersides of branches to retrieve hidden larvae and eggs. Yes, the insects that will come this spring are waiting there for just the right moment to emerge. Chickadees help keep the population in check.
Chickadees also feed on seeds – as you know if you feed the birds in your backyard. Have you ever watched them at your feeder? They sometimes take the seed and fly off with it in their bill – they’re hiding it for future retrieval. They actually remember where they hide the seeds – usually underneath tree bark.
In January, the cheerful sound of the black-capped chickadee’s call brightens anyone’s spirit. And when February comes, you can hear a new sound from these hardy birds – their spring song. They start early. Listen for “fee-bee” or “fee-bee-bee” or “hey, sweetie” with the first syllable higher in pitch. Click here to listen to the song: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-capped_Chickadee/sounds
That means they are starting to think about raising young, establishing territories and finding a cavity in which to nest. Sometimes one will even sing in January.
While out at Ryerson Woods, take a walk and listen for the chickadee’s calls and songs – then step inside to warm up and view the art exhibition featuring sculptures and drawings of the birds you love. You also might hear chickadees when you’re on the free Soundwalk scheduled for Jan. 25 at Brushwood Center.
Two important qualities unite very different artistic approaches in “Hear the Rhythm of the Birds,” the exciting new Brushwood exhibition of paintings and sculpture. Painter Kimberly Beck and sculptor Don Rambadt, are both passionate and knowledgeable about birds and they are also both extremely skillful in their chosen medium. Nature lovers and art lovers equally will find much to appreciate in this major exhibit of new work inspired by birds.
The concept for the exhibit was the brainchild of Beck. “Birds connect us to the rhythms of nature. They help us understand the changing seasons by their comings and goings. They soar above us and around us and live amongst us in our backyards. We learn about beauty, grace, persistence, hope and ourselves when we take notice of the rhythm of the birds.” Beck spent the twelve months of 2014 creating the thirty paintings in this show, preferring to work in the field from life to directly experience the changes in the landscape and light as the birds moved through their year.
“I have observed them through the four seasons, taken note of their daily behaviors, routines and habits. I watched them nest and faithfully care for their offspring, I learned about their preferred trees and perches…I listened and learned to recognize their song…I missed those that departed in the winter, and rejoiced at their return.” This intimacy is conveyed in her paintings through a deep knowledge of her materials and is supported by her past experience as a professional illustrator. “I want the paint to participate,” she says with strong conviction.
Beck describes her creative process as beginning with an internal dialog based on an experience. That experience grows into a concept and then, through the artist’s rendering, tells a story. For example, the concept for her painting titled Graziozo (the musical term for gracefully) emerged from her emotional response when a great blue heron rose up languorously and flew off as she approached it. Musical terms provide titles for many of her paintings as befits art exploring rhythm.
Don Rambadt is also exhibiting almost entirely new work. Rambadt’s personal statement declares “I sculpt because I enjoy the challenge of manipulating space. I choose birds as my subject matter because they fascinate me to no end.” A birdwatcher, falconer and former taxidermist he knows birds extremely well, but his work is more stylized than Beck’s. The species are recognizable, but the forms are “distilled like a haiku”, a liberty that is only possible when an artist is completely familiar with the natural form.
Rambadt expresses delight at being a returning artist to Brushwood and to provide sculptural support to Beck’s theme of Rhythm. About Rambadt, Beck says “He’s fabulous! We are fortunate to have a nationally recognized sculptor whose work adds so much to the show.”
It should be noted that the leadership role for the art program at Brushwood Center has recently changed. This is the final exhibit curated by former Executive Director Sophie Twichell. Long time Brushwood staff member Julia Kemerer was promoted to the position of Director of Arts and Administration last fall and is looking ahead to creating other exhibits to fulfill the mission of Brushwood.
“We will continue to focus on art that explores the themes of nature and the environment. It’s a great way to make people think about their relationship with the natural world.”
An opening reception will be held from 1-3pm on Sunday, January 11. Exhibition runs January 11 – February 26, 2015.For more information visit www.brushwoodcenter.org.
For 10 years, book lovers with an interest in ecology have enjoyed lively discourse at a unique book club held at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods. The 11th season starts this fall.
Longtime participant Dick Ettlinger of Highland Park said the leader Ben Goluboff guides the group in a thought-provoking way that stimulates fascinating discussions. Goluboff is a professor of English at Lake Forest College.
“He asks questions and invites responses,” Ettlinger said. “He gets the discussion going. He doesn’t want to make a lecture out of it.”
Goluboff said that’s his intent: To invite comments and encourage readers to delve into issues and themselves.
“I really try to make it a dialogue, like a good literature class,” he said.
One of Goluboff’s selections this season is Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison.
“This is a powerful book, a delightful, challenging wonderful book, “Goluboff said. Participants will likely discuss whether the author is truly talking about gardens or something else, he said.
Over the years, Goluboff has been fascinated and excited about what participants say and observe about themselves and the environment.
“One book, The Creation by E.O. Wilson, elicited a wide-ranging discussion,” he said. “One participant talked about how Wilson’s writing caused her to re-examine her faith,” he said.
“I thought that was extraordinary. It makes people around the table recognize the power of the writer. It’s been one of the many experiences in my life that reminds me how literature can make a big difference in peoples’ lives.”
Brushwood Center Executive Director Sophie Twichell said, “We are thrilled Ryerson Reads has thrived for 10 years. This is a truly wonderful way to discuss literature in a beautiful setting with a thoughtful, knowledgeable and well-read leader.”
Copies of the books chosen for the 2014/15 season of Ryerson Reads will be set aside and available at the Deerfield Public Library, 920 Waukegan Road as well as the Vernon Area Public Library, 300 Olde Half Day Road, Lincolnshire. Books are also available for purchase at the Lake Forest Book Store. Limited copies are on hand at Brushwood Center. The fee is $15 per session, $10 for Brushwood Center members. The entire series is $45 or $30 for members. Discussions are held from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. on the dates below.
Sept. 10, 2014: When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle
Nov. 12, 2014: The Paradise of Bombs by Scott Russell Sanders
Jan. 14, 2015: The Last Animal by Abby Geni
Mar. 11, 2015: Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison
OPENING: Sunday, September 7 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
RUNS: September 7 – October 30, 2014
Nationally renowned photographer Edward Ranney, known for his artistry depicting the remains of ancient Peruvian cultures, spent many happy days during his youth at his grandparents’ summer home called Brushwood, at what is now Ryerson Woods. Back then, his grandfather, Edward L. Ryerson, who donated much of his property to the Lake County Forest Preserves, took black-and-white photographs of family gatherings inside the house and nearby outdoors. The landscape familiar to us as Ryerson Woods was known to its owners then as “Brushwood Farm.”
When Brushwood Center’s executive director Sophie Twichell asked Ranney to show his own works at an art exhibition at Brushwood Center, Ranney thought of another idea. Why not create an exhibit showing his grandfather’s and his own photos of the family’s times spent at the property?
The result: Views from Brushwood Farm: The Photographs of Edward L. Ryerson & Edward Ranney, 1937-1974, which opens Sunday, September 7 and runs through October 30.
Ranney recalls watching his grandfather take black-and-white photographs and then go into the dark room to print them and create albums still in the family’s possession today. After recently pouring through some several thousand negatives and family albums, Ranney selected some 30 photographs his grandfather took, and then selected 14 he himself took in 1972, the year after both his grandfather and grandmother, Nora Ryerson, died.
By then, Ranney had become a well-known photographer who had photographed extensively in Peru. But Ranney said he wanted to get back to Brushwood to take some photographs. “It was clear to me that the house would be changed, and the furniture would be distributed. So I wanted to make a record for the family of how it looked,” he said.
“I had spent so much time there. Evoking it photographically came rather easily. I knew what elements I wanted to pick out and emphasize – the big parlor room, the sitting room used for gatherings and lectures, the relationship of the house to the surrounding landscape and the woods. These photos convey what this place meant to us and my grandparents. The photographs show the human context of that period in life – which is very much worthy of preservation. It will help the public know the personal side of Edward Ryerson, Sr.”
Twichell said the exhibition will serve as a reminder of the Ryersons who donated their land to the forest preserve districts. “Because of the Ryerson family, we have this beautiful space where we can present programs including art exhibitions and musical performances, as well as the outdoors where visitors can enjoy the protected native landscape and wildlife.”
Brushwood served as the Ryerson family’s summer house from the 1942 until 1972, when 279 acres of the Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area were dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve.
“Brushwood Center is celebrating 30 years, and it is a fitting time to reflect back on the Ryerson family’s relationship with this special landscape. Without visionaries like the Ryersons who valued the protection of this incredible high quality woodland, Ryerson Woods might not be here today for all of us to enjoy. We are delighted to feature historic photographs taken by conservation leaders of the past,” Twichell said.
Edward Ranney has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe and other museums. Books of his photographs include Monuments of the Incas, Prairie Passage (about the Illinois and Michigan Canal), and The Lines (about the Nazca Lines in South America), just published by the Yale University Press.
Ranney will join Brushwood Center for the opening reception of the exhibition from 1 – 3 p.m., Sept. 7. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit www.brushwoodcenter.org. Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.
About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
Through innovative programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.
Monday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Or by appointment, 847.968.3308.
Views from Brushwood Farm is partially sponsored by a grant from:
Shakespeare aficionados and neophytes alike can relax among the lush vegetation and sound of crickets at Ryerson Woods on August 1, 2 and 3 when Citadel Theatre performs “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” outdoors.
“The hour-long performance is perfect for those who already know and love Shakespeare as well as those who want to enjoy theater in a beautiful setting,” said Heather Meyers, the show’s production manager. “It’s a great introduction to Shakespeare, and we’re making it accessible to a modern audience.”
All the audience needs is a blanket or lawn chair, and a picnic if they like, as they watch a fully costumed production of Shakespeare’s bewitching tale of fairies, enchanted forests, and of course, lost lovers.
“The show has a little bit of everything: comedy, love and romance, mistaken identity, chase scenes, the magic of the fairies. It will be fun to watch,” said Meyers.
Sophie Twichell, Executive Director of Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, said she encourages families to attend. “Because it’s only an hour long, and because of all the fun characters in the play, it is a wonderful introduction to magic of theater,” said Twichell. “Attendees will revel in the outdoor experience, which ends just before sunset.”
Brushwood Center, along with the Lake County Forest Preserves, is partnering with Citadel Theatre (based in Lake Forest) for the first time to present outdoor theater at Ryerson Woods.
“This is our first outdoor Shakespeare theater ever, and we’re happy to be doing it at Ryerson Woods,” Meyers said. Meyers said the actors are being directed by one of the best: Frank Farrell, a Chicago director and actor.
“Bringing Shakespeare to Brushwood Center furthers our mission of nurturing art, nature and discovery,” Twichell said. “We are thrilled to be partnering with a theater company based right here in Lake County.”
Tickets are available for three shows beginning at 6:30 p.m., August 1, 2 and 3. Pre-registration is recommended. Registration deadline is July 31. In the case of inclement weather, the production will be held indoors, with limited seating available.
For more information and to obtain tickets, call 847.968.3321 or visit www.brushwoodcenter.org. Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.
About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
Through innovative arts programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.