The Fox River provided the inspiration for 73 oil paintings that will be exhibited at the Schingoethe Center at Aurora University beginning with a reception Sept. 20 and running through Dec. 14, titled “A Fox River Testimony.”
The opening reception is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20, followed by a lecture, “The Paradoxical Landscape Frame,” at 6:45 p.m. presented by the artist in the center’s Tapper Recital Hall, a news release stated. Reservations are necessary for the artist lecture and can be made at auartsandideas.com or by calling 630-844-4924.
The paintings are the work of plein air artist Joel Sheesley, who partnered with The Conservation Foundation for Art of the Fox as part of its Fox River Initiative, a program to help connect residents with the river and engage them to become environmentally conscious through local projects, said Sandy Kaczmarski of Elburn, who handles media relations for The Conservation Foundation.
As artist-in-residence, Sheesley set up his easel at various points along the river in all kinds of weather at different times of day to showcase the beauty of the natural areas and human communities along its shores.
“You’re at the mercy of time and the movement of the sun, weather, mosquitoes, you name it,” Sheesley said in a release. “But it’s the most delightful way to work because it puts you right there and you feel like whatever you have put down on your canvas is really an honest take. That’s why I love it. It’s wonderful to just be in the place that you are painting.”
What began as a project almost two years ago to produce 50 to 60 oil paintings ended with 73 for the exhibition.
The project has taken Sheesley along an 80-mile stretch from Dundee down to Ottawa. The Fox River headwaters begin near Waukesha, Wis., before entering Illinois at the Chain O’Lakes in McHenry County, flowing through Kane and Kendall counties before meeting up with the Illinois River near Ottawa in LaSalle County.
Sheesley’s travels included canoeing to some locations, hiking trails and off the path with his French easel and paint box across his back, and even camping overnight to capture the light from the sunset and sunrise as it caressed the river surface. Following the meandering river, Sheesley found himself in some diverse habitats: wetlands, agricultural, glacially formed lakes, sandstone bluffs and densely populated urban areas.
The paintings are for sale, ranging from $575 for an 11-by-14-inch canvas, up to $2,175 for an 18-by-36-inch canvas. High-quality giclée prints of 16 selections from the exhibit will be available at a reduced cost.
Sheesley, an emeritus professor of art at Wheaton College, chronicled his field experiences along with photos of the paintings in a 160-page coffee table book called “A Fox River Testimony,” which will be available at the exhibit for $49.95.
The Conservation Foundation is one of the region’s oldest and largest nonprofit land and watershed conservation organizations, with more than 4,000 members. Founded in 1972, TCF has helped preserve more than 35,000 acres of open space, restored and cleaned miles of rivers and streams, and educated thousands of children by engaging them in nature and the outdoors. Work is focused in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties.
To find out more, visit theconservationfoundation.org.