While many know her from her groundbreaking work on fair housing, Bobbie Raymond’s presence in the Oak Park arts community did not go unnoticed. She exhibited in the Art Gallery at the Main Library in 2018, was an artist at, and advocate for, the Expressions Graphics print cooperative, and was a fixture at the Oak Park Art League (OPAL) for 40 years.
The latter institution is paying tribute to Raymond, the artist, starting Friday, in a retrospective exhibition. The art focuses on figural forms, landscapes and botanicals, particularly orchids. Raymond was, in her words, “fascinated by the wild variety and its huge diversity” that grew near her vacation home in Door County, Wisconsin.
“She taught [at OPAL] and was involved in drawing and life drawing,” said David Sokol, professor emeritus of American Art, Modern Art and Museology at the University of Illinois Chicago. “She really taught one of the directors about fundraising because she had done that at the Housing Center.”
The Art League retrospective includes watercolor paintings; drawings in charcoal, pencil and pastel; and monoprints from original plates. Some drawings were rescued from sketchbooks that were put in the trash, but spotted by an astute neighbor. The entire exhibit is up for sale to benefit OPAL and the sculpture fund to create a tribute to the woman herself.
“She was so involved in so many things,” Sokol said. “She was born and raised here, … she founded the Housing Center and was the director until she retired.” The Housing Center works to maintain stable racial integration in Oak Park.
“She was involved with MOMENTA, the dance organization,” he continued. “She resurrected, almost singlehandedly, the alumni association at the high school and they started a fund in her honor.”
Sokol also said Raymond was part of starting the First Tuesday Film Club at the Lake Theatre, was the first non-banker on the Oak Park Development Corporation board, an active member of the Garden Club of Oak Park-River Forest, and a supporter of Handel Fest.
Raymond, who died at age 80 in May, inspired those who knew her to mount this exhibit of her art. Sokol, who was a friend of Raymond’s since the late 1970s, is co-curating with OPAL Gallery Director Gabriel Soto.
Raymond’s family kept a few artworks, but has made the remainder available for the retrospective.
“When we went into her house and we were looking at her storage of artwork. … The only way I can describe it is a froth of paintings,” Soto said. “You picked some up, there were more underneath. You picked those up, more underneath — I can describe it as apples at a market. It was just piled on top and on top and on top. To see that she was involved in all of these things and still have the time to make such a large volume of artwork and then frame them and store them, to me it’s almost like I’m looking at a science fiction novel of a woman who can travel in time or stop time through some thermodynamic miracle and have all that energy.”
Because Raymond was prolific, the retrospective will be rich with works. It is “cash and carry” and new works will replace those purchased, creating an ever-evolving display. The show will also include some original art from Three Sea Tales, one of the two children’s books Raymond wrote and illustrated. The book will also be for sale.
“We very much encourage people to invest in [her] artwork,” Soto said. “Just to have a piece of history — a painting from her is not only a bit of that boundless energy [of] the exemplary person she was, but also that person who changed Oak Park into what we have right now.”
See the Bobbie Raymond Retrospective, opening reception, Friday, Sept. 13, 7 to 9 p.m., remarks by David Sokol at 7:30 p.m., at the Carriage House Gallery of the Oak Park Art League, 720 Chicago Ave., Oak Park. Exhibit continues during regular gallery hours through Oct. 4. All art is for sale to benefit the Bobbie Raymond Sculpture Fund and the Art League. Questions: 708-386-9853. More: oakparkartleague.org. To donate to the Bobbie Raymond Sculpture Fund: oakparkareaartscouncil.org/2019/06/10/bobbie-raymond-memorial-sculpture-fund-2.