Oak Park artist opens Plan B Gallery in Forest Park

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With works by the gallery's owner, Jay Boeldt, and two other former Harrison Street artists, Plan B Gallery officially opened its doors in Forest Park with a reception and display of photographs, enamel pieces and abstract paintings on June 17.

Visitors were treated to an artistically arranged assortment of fruits, cheeses, wine and snacks along with the artwork, as their children enjoyed an afternoon at the kid-friendly gallery. The grand opening featured the work of Boeldt's fellow Harrison Street Co-op members, Janet Emison, of Oak Park, and former Oak Parker Christy C. Wallace.

"We named the show 'Together Again' because it's a reunion for all of us ever since the Harrison Street Co-op was disbanded," Boeldt said. "It's great to open with friends?#34;people whose work I respect?#34;and it's going to be a great show because they're both amazing artists."

Originally, Boeldt was looking to start his gallery on Lake Street in Oak Park. "I would walk around that area and all of the rent prices were so high you would think it was Chicago," he said. "Eventually I found this place [7453 W. Madison St.] and the rent, a third of what it would be in Oak Park and Chicago, along with the space and location, were perfect."

By locating his gallery in Forest Park, Boeldt, an Oak Park resident and former artistic director of the Harrison Street Co-op, made it the first of its kind in the neighboring village.

He plans on correcting everything he sees wrong with the cold and impersonal modern art galleries in Chicago. "I would go to the big name galleries in the city and it would always be a horribly intimidating experience. You would show up and there would be some college student behind the counter that wouldn't even acknowledge your presence; the owner was never there, and you would be given no information about the artist or his work," Boeldt explained. "I brought some friends and they were shocked at the lack of approachability."

The Plan B Gallery doesn't have a cold, do-not-touch feel. In fact, Boeldt is so lax and comfortable with his artwork that he encourages people to feel the texture of his paintings.

The gallery's walls are white, the ceiling is tin, the floors are carpeted and its track lighting makes for a warm and inviting environment. "We hope to take the fear out of the art buying process and make it more personal," he said.

Boeldt's enamel pieces are pop impressionism with a twist, he explained. He describes it as taking everyday objects and placing them into pop culture by elevating their image in a simple abstract light, with an array of colors.

"I really don't want my work to seem literal. It should be somewhat abstract," Boeldt said.

Abstract painter Wallace describes her work as "deal[ing] with more movement and color, no real design. I paint intuitively, and as I go along, [the paintings] change. I don't see the whole thing when I start."

Her paintings, which can take several months to a couple of weeks to complete, have been featured at Chicago's Gallery 500 and the Art Stop in LaGrange, to mention a few. She's also had outdoor shows.

Alongside Boeldt's and Wallace's work are a series of airy photographs taken by Emison.

The pieces will be switched out with more work from the artists as the summer progresses, at a rate of probably four pieces changing each month, Boeldt said. He's planning a new show for September, featuring mostly black-and-white photography from Emison.

"I want people to come in and learn," said Boeldt. "Learn about the artist, learn about the art, and learn about the style, because true art is more than just a $20 poster of the Monet water lilies."

?#34;Melissa Lou and Povilas Zukauskas

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