In a solo exhibition at the Elephant Room Gallery at 704 S. Wabash Ave., South Loop artist Jennifer Cronin‘s paintings depict everyday household scenes with the bizarre additions of vibrant flowers or enlarged insects.
Cronin said her goal in her art is to portray mental illness or hallucinations. The show, entitled “Realities,” is designed to explore the relationship between what is seen and what is perceived, Cronin said.
Cronin, 27, said she enjoys showing work in Chicago, and she moved here after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. She said she has shown work individually and in group shows in Chicago’s Pilsen and Bridgeport neighborhoods.
She said much of her work deals with domestic dramas and psychology because she studied psychology in college and was very interested in the subject.
“The current show ‘Realities’ explores what people perceive when they are hallucinating due to drugs or mental illness,” said Cronin, who is originally form Oak Park. “I’d like to do more paintings in that same vein, but not necessarily limited to hallucinations.”
Cronin added that although the most recent show was not based on her personal life, in previous years she drew most of her inspiration from her home and family life.
“When I was younger I often painted my own family, but I began to feel guilty for using other people’s lives for my art,” she said.
Cronin said she decided to step away from using her family members as inspiration and experimented with self–portraits and portraits of co-workers from her previous job in customer service.
The Chicago resident said she will most likely be staying in the area for a few years because she enjoys the art scene and her family lives nearby.
“There is a decent art scene in Chicago,” Cronin said. “It isn’t too flashy, it’s small and not too intimidating. I like showing work in the South Loop because there are a lot of open-minded and creative people in the area.”
Cronin said that she once worked in River North and did not enjoy the experience because she found the audience was too conservative.
Cronin said the work in her Elephant Room Gallery show featured new and older artwork. Her inspiration had much to do with a book she enjoyed reading, “Hallucinations,” by neurologist Oliver Sacks.
“I saw this new idea as an opportunity to play around with subject matter,” Cronin said. “I usually only do paintings for shows, but this time I branched out and included a drawing and some ink work as well.”
Cronin said the factor she most liked about the recent show was that her work was very meaningful to her, and she would like to continue producing work that is as meaningful in the future.
This is the second time Cronin’s work has been featured in the Elephant Room Gallery, according to one of the gallery owners, Kimberly Atwood.
“We’ve been able to work with some really amazing emerging and under-represented artists,” Atwood said. “The experience so far has been extremely rewarding.”
Atwood said she has enjoyed working with Cronin during the past three years, adding they have developed a strong friendship along with a productive working relationship. Atwood said she and her husband, who is the gallery co-owner, love staying in touch with artists and helping them in any way they can.
“I’m certain Jennifer and I will continue to work together,” Atwood said. “I’d like to do another exhibition in a couple of years either at the Elephant Room or in another unique space. She is always open to participating in a workshop, talk or live painting as well, so that could very possibly happen in the future.”
Keelan McMorrow is a Chicago artist who has shown work with Cronin several times.
McMorrow previously showed work with Cronin in June in a show called “Illusions of Reality” at the Morpho Gallery in Batavia. The show was curated by Steven Lockwood of Water Street Studios, McMorrow said. “He wanted to put on a show that featured work by artists that was both conceptual but rooted in realism and craft,” McMorrow said.
He said he enjoys the visual art scene here despite the fact that it is not as storied as in New York.
“There’s an overall honesty and no–nonsense attitude among most of the Chicago community that I find refreshing,” McMorrow said. “I’ve found the art world within Chicago to be boundless both in variety and opportunity. There’s plenty to see here in museums and galleries and the streets to boot, and there is support if one works hard and is patient.”