Art doing more for good causes


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By Michelle Dybal

Contributing Reporter

Artists can be motivated by many things — to create something beautiful or thought-provoking, to express emotion, to capture a moment in time. Few use their art to raise awareness of a specific cause. Fewer still donate a portion of the proceeds of the sale of their art to aid the cause. Two of these artists, Alex Velazquez Brightbill and Barbara Rose, are currently exhibiting at galleries in Oak Park.

Rose's exhibit, Trees Up Close, is a series of "common native trees in our urban forest" watercolor paintings. It is on view at the Art Gallery at the Main Library in Oak Park through Oct. 30. As with all work exhibited in the Library Gallery, a percentage of sales goes to the library to maintain its art collection. Rose is also donating proceeds to West Cook Wild Ones, which promotes native landscaping.

"I hoped the paintings would prompt others to begin to notice what our trees are up to, to cherish them and to understand that we need them and the larger green world to survive," the Oak Park artist said.

Most of her paintings are "larger than life studies of buds, blossoms and seeds." Rose has a certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration, which "combines scientific accuracy with a deep appreciation for the natural world's beauty," she said. "It stoked my curiosity about all things green and growing."

Besides exhibiting art to raise awareness, Rose worked with West Cook Wild Ones to hold a Celebrate OAKTober Tree Forum at the Main Library on Oct. 13. Speakers from the Morton Arboretum; Oak Park Forestry Division; an expert in tree risk assessment and management policy development; and a recognized perennial expert, designer and author specializing in sustainable growing will present.

At the West Suburban Medical Center Gallery, fur friends take center stage in Purrfect Hues – A Cat Show. Velazquez Brightbill, an artist member of the Oak Park Art League and Expression Graphics in Oak Park, is exhibiting her feline portraits and donating 20 percent of the proceeds to St. Sophia's Forgotten Felines, Westmont, a shelter where she volunteers.

"As I was in my studio one day, I started painting from a picture I had taken of Yoshi, a Maine Coon kitty…" the Riverside artist said. "That's when I decided to create a series of paintings of these cats and perhaps help them find a home. I look at their personality or any interesting looks and decide what background or look to give the painting. The series is also inspired by artists, musicians. … It's also about my memories as a child in my native Mexico, where almost everyone in my neighborhood had cats, dogs and birds. At a very young age I learned to share my world with them." 

Velazquez Brightbill grew up in Mexico City and came to the U.S. at age 10.

"My work is definitely influenced by my bicultural experiences — I grew up in a very traditional Mexican home, but outside the home I navigated in my American life: friends, school and work," Velazquez Brightbill said. "My artwork reflects this, from painting cats to my other narrative series of paintings. This is my story that I want to share with the world."

See Trees Up Close, Botanical Watercolors by Barbara Rose through Oct. 30 at the Art Gallery, Main Library. Celebrate OAKTober Tree Forum is Sunday, Oct. 13, 2 to 5 p.m., doors open at 1:30 to visit information tables. Veterans Room, Main Library. More: 845 Lake St., Oak Park.

See Purrfect Hues – A Cat Show with painting by Alex Velazquez Brightbill at the West Suburban Medical Center Gallery through Nov. 16. 3 Erie Ct., Oak Park

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