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Daydreams & Night Dreams at Robert T. Wright Gallery
Karena Karras, Ostrich Dream, 2006, oil on board.

GRAYSLAKE, IL.- "Daydreams & Night Dreams" a two-person exhibition of 36 works by Karena Karras and Bert Menco opens at the Robert T. Wright Gallery of the College of Lake County's Grayslake Campus. It is curated by Steve Jones, Director of the Gallery.

Bert Menco hails from The Netherlands (Arnhem and Utrecht) and is a printmaker, draughtsman, and painter of the 'marvelous'. Bert sees the subject matter of his art much more as intuitive than as analytical, though of course its execution is analytical. Bert's work is featured in four books: a small monograph, "Visions and Voices: Drawings, Prints and Paintings by Bert Menco" (text by Bernd Lindemann), "The Best of Printmaking: An International Collection" (Rockport Publishers, Gloucester, MA, 1997), "Art Scene Chicago 2000" (Crow Wood Publishing, Evanston, IL, 2000), and "Dragon Killer! A Tale About the Slow Advent of Peace" by Bernd Lindemann, for which he provided the illustrations. "Visions and Voices" and "Dragon Killer" can be ordered online using:

Bert Menco considers his art is, in a positive sense, very much within a Dutch, sometimes Dutch-Jewish, tradition, but also influenced by experiences he had during his moves to and through the various countries where he has lived - apart from the USA and The Netherlands, Israel, the UK, and Germany. Bert thinks of his works as poetical narrative, carrying a certain mystery. The dreamlike images tending to deal with confined spaces containing certain characters that reach out to one another but do not quite succeed in meeting. He does not see his images as telling a story but rather images mirroring inner feelings, similar to some poetry. Menco's images are very much 'inside out "...... I usually have some idea of what I want to say, but much of the image's concept is generated while I draw or paint. The end product is always surprising - I am often amazed that there even is an end product. I draw directly or use small sketches, even doodles, as image-generating nuclei, often combining two or three that appear to complement each other."

After his studies in Plant Pathology (Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands) Bert left in 1972 for Warwick University (Coventry, England) to pursue an advanced degree (Ph. D.) in Agricultural Sciences that he received, also in Wageningen, in 1977. In the US he worked for nearly 25 years as a research scientist at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), where he studied the cell biology of the chemical senses, smell and taste. He is mostly an avocational artist. For his printmaking he studied and worked at various venues, first in De Werkwinkel (Wageningen, The Netherlands), followed by the Lanchester Polytechnic (Coventry, England), Academy Artibus (Utrecht, The Netherlands), and now for over 20 years at the Evanston Art Center and more recently at the North Shore Art League (Winnetka (IL). Bert's Website:

Karena Karras is a 3rd generation Chicago native who works in the surrealist tradition. Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington once said: "The task of the right eye is to peer into the telescope, while the left eye peers into the microscope." This is a statement that holds a world of meaning when it comes to the work of Karena Karras. According to Kevin Nance ("Keeping it Surreal", Chicago Sun Times, September 14, 2005): "........ Karras is part of a direct line that goes back to the (Surreal) movement's founding in the early 20th century, connecting with Ernst and Dali by way of two female Europeans who learned from their brethren and went on to find their own voices in Mexico: Remedios Varo, originally from Spain, and Leonora Carrington, the British expatriate who lived with Ernst and with whom Karras formed a friendship when Carrington lived in Oak Park." "................ but she's no pale imitation. Quite the opposite: She takes the best qualities of her predecessors' work (especially its ironic echoes of the Italian Renaissance) and intensifies them, then layers on her particular mélange of psychology and mythology. In the process, she performs a virtuoso and oddly precise balance-beam act directly on the line between fantasy and reality. It's terrific, playful and seriously beautiful stuff, with a bubbling vitality all its own .........".

With, and through, the utilization of the study of mythology, psychology, philosophy, the spiritual, alchemy, metaphysics, fantasy and the world of dreams, Karras' work attempts at a visual projection of an interplay between these worlds. The work reveals what lies deep within us all and challenges our widely accepted ideas concerning reality.

Metamorphosis and transition play a large part throughout her work, serving to formulate a process of revelation unique to each individual interpretation. Stylized long necked human figures are hybridized and become one with the exotic natural and extranatural forces that surround them. The human figure merges with a tree, or the ground, while the hair transforms into vegetation or flowing streams, roots sprouting from the ankles, entangled in the decaying undergrowth of a forest floor or the inside of a cave. In other images parts of bodies sprout leaves and flowers grow instead of hair. Karras works mostly with 5/0 to 18/0 brushes and at times uses a magnifying glass to depict the painstaking detail evident when one studies her work closely.

Karras is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute (Chicago). She also attended the American Academy of Art, the Naguib School of Sculpture, the Vogue School of Design, all in Chicago, and the Triton College in River Grove (IL). Karena Karras was a recipient of a Smith Merit Scholarship while at the School of the Art Institute.

Karras' one person show in a River North gallery in 2005 was chosen by the Chicago Sun Times Art and Architecture Critic Kevin Nance (September 14, 2005, see above) as one of the 'Top 10 Events' in the City of Chicago for that year. Karena's website:

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