Esta Chido Todo: Raul Maldonado

Translated “It’s all cool,” Intuit is pleased to present the first major exhibition of work by Raul Maldonado, a young Mexican immigrant from Hanover Park, Illinois, who creates large-scale works on 22-by-28 inch poster board, completing one board at a time on his drawing table where he numbers each one. He them assembles dozens of boards into works that can stretch up to 15 feet! Curated by Susan Matthews, this exhibition opens on June 3, 2011.

Zakoian, Badaskhan “Betty”

Born Badaskhan Ermoyan in what was then Armenia, Zakoian developed her artistic talent in her adopted home of Chicago, where she also acquired the nickname Betty. Many of her colorful and expressive paintings document her tragic life story.

Her parents were killed in 1915 during the Turkish genocide of Armenians. Only seven, Zakoian and her two brothers were left to fend for themselves in the war-torn country. Eventually the German Red Cross came to the aid of the refugees, but Zakoian became separated from her siblings. Alone, with no money and nowhere to go, she followed railroad tracks to walk all the way from Armenia to Greece, where she spent the next ten years in an orphanage.

After finally making it to the US, Zakoian began painting while in her fifties. In doing so she revisited experiences from her childhood during the Armenian Holocaust, when more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed. Her work combines her artistic vision with the exploration of her identity as a refugee of war, abandoned child, person of faith, wife and mother.

Woolsey, Clarence and Grace

Although not discovered until after their deaths, the art of Clarence and Grace Woolsey has become recognized as being among the most significant pieces in American folk art in recent years. The legacy that the couple left behind includes more than 200 sculptures created or covered completely in bottle caps. It is said that the couple, farmhands in Lincoln, Iowa, began creating their sculptures one evening when the gallon jar that they had been saving their caps in had become full.

Subsequently, the artists produced a range of astonishing works, including a bicycle, life-sized animals and small-scale buildings from their bottle cap collections. Approximately ten years after they began creating their works of art, the Woolseys began displaying their art as a bottle cap menagerie, calling it “The World’s Largest Pioneer Caparena” and charging visitors a 25 cent admission fee.

White, Willie

Willie White was born to a farming couple in Natchez, MS. He attended school through the third grade and in 1929, left Natchez to work on Mississippi “quarter boats,” repairing and securing the river levees.

White later moved to New Orleans and worked as a waiter for nearly 20 years before being employed as a nightclub janitor and sign painter in the 1950s and 60s. After observing artists in the French Quarter, he decided to try art making for himself. Using house paint, at first he imitated others’ work but quickly adopted his own ideas and techniques, often depicting neighborhood churches and crosses. As his skills developed, he gleaned images from television and dreams, creating a visual vocabulary of dinosaurs, horses, fantastic birds, watermelons, skyscrapers, rocket ships, and planets. In the early 1960’s he began working almost exclusively with felt markers and white poster board, using canvas and paints only when someone provided him with the more costly materials.

Willis, Wesley

Wesley Willis, a local Chicago icon who achieved cult-like status, was best known for his live performances and quirky, offbeat songwriting. But Willis also developed a following as a visual artist, creating poster board pen and marker drawings of Chicago cityscapes and street scenes.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1989, Willis claimed to use art as a way to silence the voices in his head. His drawings and music were an integral part of his self-medication. After he had been signed to a record label, his artwork was used for the more than 40 albums he recorded. Willis forged connections with his many friends and followers through “head bumping.” It was his version of the handshake, and he would initiate most conversations with the gesture, which resulted in a large callus forming in the center of his forehead.

Wentworth, Perley Meyer “P.M.”

An artist about whom very little is known, it is believed that Wentworth died around 1960. He worked in the San Francisco area in the 1950s, but spent most of his life in Southern California. A legend grew that his P.M. moniker derived from his evening work as a night watchman at a naval facility, until a signature discovered on one his paintings finally revealed that his real name was “Perley.”

Wentworth expressed his interest in the stars, planets, and worlds beyond our own in his drawings, many of which allude to Christian theology. To confirm that his concerns were not of this world, Wentworth wrote the word “imagination” on many of his works. While based on Biblical stories, his interplanetary interpretations extend beyond traditional Christian iconography.

Webster, Derek

Born in Porto Castillo, Honduras, and raised in Belize, Derek Webster came to the United States in 1964 to visit his sister and decided to stay. As a young man, Webster had worked as a freighter quartermaster, a job that took him to such ports of call as Haiti, Cuba, Portugal, Venezuela and Liberia.

Once settled in the US, he started working as a maintenance man, producing no artwork of any kind until 1978, when he bought his present home on Chicago’s Southside for himself, his wife and daughter. The purchase sparked an urge to decorate his house and yard with creations from his imagination. Webster uses pieces of wood and objects thrown away by others to make elaborate constructions he places in his home and yard. The influence of Webster’s Caribbean upbringing and freighter travels is evident in the bright colors, exaggerated figures and found objects dominant in the pieces he calls his “family.”

von Bruenchenhein, Eugene

Eugene von Bruenchenhein was born in Marinette, WI, and lost his mother when he was seven. His widower father, a sign painter and shopkeeper, later remarried to a woman who had published treatises on evolution, believed in reincarnation, and painted floral still lifes. Although he did not finish high school, von Bruenchenhein became fascinated with botany and science, and wrote extensively on his own metaphysical theories of biological and cosmological origins along with reams of poetry on nature, love, war, politics, and imaginary travels through time and space.

In 1939 he met Eveline Kalke (whom he called “Marie”) at the Wisconsin State Fair. They married in 1943. Marie became his constant muse, collaborating with him in staging hundreds of passionate and provocative, yet playful pinup-like photographs.

In 1954 von Bruenchenhein began making intricate, brightly colored “finger paintings” of atomic mushroom clouds, mythical sea creatures, fantastic landscapes, shooting comets and futuristic metropolises, manipulating the paint with his fingers, sticks, straw, and brushes made from Marie’s hair, to achieve amazing spatial effects. Later, using dried chicken bones, he made miniature chairs and thrones as well as delicate architectural spires or towers of up to five feet high. During his own lifetime, von Bruenchenhein never achieved significant recognition for his art, and by the time of his death thousands of works crammed the tiny house he had shared with Marie.