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‘Few Remaining Friends’ art exhibit aims to tap into primal emotions

Julie R. Madison — otherwise known as “Long Dog Dandy” — is perhaps most known for her provocative and humorous illustrations such as “Dirty Dishes” that featured eclectically illustrated animals alongside curse words.   

But recently the 32-year-old Chicago native has decided to take a more personal turn in her work. Her most recent exhibit, “Few Remaining Friends,” explores how “otherworldly creatures… tap into our primal naturalistic side eliciting the emotions therein.”

The opening night reception is 6-10 p.m Oct. 11 at Sacred Art gallery, 4619 N. Lincoln Ave., in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.  This is Madison’s first solo exhibition in the storefront gallery that usually features the works of a variety of local artists.

The works feature surrealistic animals such as a wild green catlike creature letting loose a roar that resonates from its throat in ribbons of black and green speckled with dots of white.   

Madison said this “new direction” in her work was inspired more by personal events in her own life and focuses on spirituality, death and other natural elements.

She was struggling to find a home for her pieces and posted on social media. Sacred Art gallery co-owner and curator Kaitlin Fletcher saw the posting and was quick to respond. Fletcher was already familiar with Madison’s work as the gallery had carried some of her individual pieces for four years and felt it was the perfect opportunity to collaborate.

Julie R. Madison breaks out of her mold to create an exhibit focusing on a more vulnerable side | Courtesy Julie R. Madison (@longdogdandy)

“I had seen some of her newer pieces on Instagram, just some things she had been working on and I really liked them and I thought everyone would feel the same,” Fletcher said.

Madison noted both Fletcher and her gallery partner, Brandon Comerford, have been supportive of the shift in her art and hopes the show will only propel her career forward.

All the pieces featured in this exhibition have not yet been viewed by the public, and Madison said it’s been difficult to keep it all a secret, but she is thrilled to be able to share her personal explorations.  

“I hope that people can bring what they want to it, and take what they need from it.” Madison said.

Beyond the upcoming exhibition, the Sacred Art gallery hopes to focus on a new website that will bring the shop into the e-commerce market to allow art collectors to buy art via the internet along with in person sales.

Comerford, who is also software engineer, said this in keeping with the gallery’s philosophy and will allow to continue to grow in new ways — whether it be finding ways to reinvigorate the space or adding fresh artists to their roster.

“Stuff like this always deserves to have more eyeballs on it,” Comerford said.

Reaching and displaying new artists has been the goal for the year and a half that Fletcher and Comerford and their shop dog, Louie, have been in the Lincoln Square creative hotspot.

Sacred Art was originally founded by Sarah Chazin in 2006 in Roscoe Village with the same principles — the idea of creating a space to sell and create awareness for local artists. In 2009, the space moved to its current location in Lincoln Square under a new owner, Kate Merena, who was an avid customer. When Merena moved to California, Comerford and Fletcher — 2010 Columbia College Chicago graduates — took over.

Sacred Art owners and curators Kaitlin Fletcher and Brandon Comerford prepare for their second exhibition since taking over the space in 2018. | Clorice Bair

They both found their way to the Lincoln Square area and were already loyal fans of the shop when, in what Comerford described as “that one little micro-instance,” he and Fletcher came upon the opportunity to make Sacred Art their own. “We could do that,” Fletcher said she thought, “I think I could do that.”

“We simply fell in love with the neighborhood,” Comerford said. “It’s got a great sense of community and we can learn a lot from fellow business owners.”

He described the space as a shop or store that can be transformed into a welcoming gallery setting. Comerford said people wearing headphones often come in with the intention get lost in the art.

The shop has featured more than 100 local Chicago area artists. The pair plans to keep that focus and expand on it by bringing more of themselves to the shop and considering the art that they are drawn to, Fletcher said.

By participating in local events like the Show of Hands art shows to the Lincoln Square Apple Fest, the pair have already brought in around 10 to 15 new makers.  Madison’s show, the pair’s second solo exhibition,  will be on display until Nov. 10 with all of the original artwork available for purchase.

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