DECATUR - To many bar-goers or restaurant patrons, a dusty old matchbook would hardly be a collectible worth noticing.
But to the parents of Millikin University graphic design and photography student Chelsea Schultz, the humble matchbooks are reminders of every dinner, drink and date.
Applying her studies, Schultz has taken the significance of her parents' collection one step further by incorporating it into a photography exhibit that examines the memories and passage of time the matchbooks embody. Her work is on display as the featured exhibit at Millikin's Blue Connection throughout the month of December.
Schultz certainly had no lack of materials at her disposal, pulling matchbooks numbering in the thousands from cardboard boxes that had been tucked away in her parents' closets, collected since she was an infant. In her photography, they are grouped by color, shape and design, and they are intended to evoke memories of the past.
"A lot of these matchbooks are very old, from old restaurants and bars of the 1960s and 1970s that don't even exist anymore," Schultz said. "They each have their own character reminding you of these places. They contain memories of where you've been and places you may have visited. I hope to artistically be able to reach out to audiences with my photography by tuning in to their own memories and sense of art and capturing their visual attraction."
In the same way that the matchbooks represent former establishments and venues, they also represent the former designers, who are of particular interest to Schultz.
"The typography and colors represent another moment in time as well, and the artist who created them," she said. "It's a window into previous years of design."
The senior art student considers her work to share some commonalities with the pop art era, as she works with everyday objects in an attempt to make a statement about the significance behind them.
"Matchbooks are generally small, so by blowing up the photo it gives the subject matter major focus. It also makes the audience wonder what they're looking at, because the matchbooks are being viewed in a new perspective."
Before embracing photography of such small objects, Schultz largely worked on photographing more dynamic scenes such as landscapes and portraits. She believes the matchbook project has helped her better grasp a new way of viewing the possibilities of photography.
"Matchbooks can seem like an everyday thing, but once different ones are together and put in interesting compositions, they reveal a new life," Schultz said. "I hope that people can visually enjoy my photography as much as I've enjoyed renewing the life of old memories and outdated collectibles."
MADDEN ARTS CENTER: More than 50 local and national artists will be represented throughout December at the Decatur Area Art Council's "Xmas ARTicles" exhibition and sale, which opened Wednesday during the downtown Christmas Walk. An art show with a decidedly commercial touch, the "gifty"-type work includes jewelry, baskets, purses, wearable textiles, handmade furniture and woodworking, ceramics, ornaments, paintings, photography, wreaths, blown glass, handmade fishing poles and other items that will be available for purchase and bagged in ready-to-go gift bags. About 15 new artists join the returning guests from last year's exhibition.
"The gallery provides a quiet and enjoyable shopping atmosphere," said gallery director Sue Powell.
One of the new artists is 2009 Millikin University alum Elias Stein, who self-published his first book of Decatur-inspired and vintage postcards, "Greetings From Decatur, Illinois," in May. The project originally began as a joke and a school project in one of Stein's publishing classes.
"I thought it would be funny for myself and my friends to find these postcards," he said. "I really didn't think it would have an audience."
After taking his idea to the Decatur Convention and Visitors Bureau, however, Stein was proved wrong. The book features 20 postcards: 15 originals from Stein inspired by Decatur pop culture, including Bill Krekel's "Chickenmobile," and five vintage cards from the 1920s to 1940s. Cut lines in the book actually allow the cards to be removed and mailed, if the purchaser chooses.
"I've been hearing a lot of positive things, and I'm happy that people didn't perceive the humor as being too mean-spirited," Stein said. "I continue to be surprised that people liked it and have actually purchased it."
The Gallery will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
CONTEMPORARY ART CENTER OF PEORIA: Until Dec. 9, the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria will be presenting a special exhibition of "Pop Duo," a tribute to Peoria-based artists William Butler and Doug Goessman. The artwork of the two presents the "discourse of surrealism and pop art from a contemporary point of view."
This motto, however, is not meant to sound overly complicated, and neither is the artists' work. In fact, "they purposely avoid the lofty and serious approaches to art making, replacing it with a love of happenstance, play and bright colors to delight the viewer."
Butler and Goessman, both former full-time graphic designers, maintain studios next to one another at the art center, and they create images "developed by unconscious impulses as much as planned actions, resulting in ironic and humorous juxtapositions."
Both men are inspired in their work by comics and pop art. Butler, a Northern Illinois University graduate, sketches without thought toward what he's creating and solicits audience interpretations on his work's meaning.
"I like any art form that has mysterious imagery," he said. "I want viewers to be free to discover their own interpretation. Maybe someone can actually explain them to me, because the meaning of what I produce is hidden even from me!"
TARBLE ARTS CENTER: Eastern Illinois University's Tarble Arts Center will present the work of contemporary pop artist Adam Parker Smith throughout December and January. His gallery, "Thriller," is described as reminiscent of comics, children's toys and games, but with themes and imagery that are "parental guidance recommended."
Smith, who works out of Brooklyn, N.Y., was on hand Thursday to give a talk on his "Thriller" exhibition, which includes subjects such as Superman, Mike Tyson, Anna Nicole Smith and John F. Kennedy. Smith and his work appear as part of the New & Emerging Artist Series hosted by the Tarble Arts Center and EIU Art Department.
BICENTENNIAL ART CENTER: December will feature the photography of Edward Gillum of Paris and John Gardner of Terre Haute, two photographers with vastly different styles.
"John Gardner's work is a black-and-white series called ‘Strangers,' " said Gallery director Susan Stafford. "They're smaller pieces that capture people on the street in their day-to-day lives."
Gillum's work, on the other hand, draws on his experiences and travels in the American West, with photos of scenery and landscapes from locations like Yosemite National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
Both artists will be present for a reception of their work from 5 to 6:30 p.m. today at the Bicentennial Art Center & Museum in Paris.
KRANNERT ART MUSEUM: A number of exhibitions continue their extended showings at the University of Illinois' Krannert Art Museum in December, including "The Strange Life of Objects: The Art of Annette Lemieux," "Figures in Chicago Imagism" and "Allan deSouza: The Farthest Point."
The Link Gallery will also be giving the first showing of what is intended to become an annual exhibition, "2010 Area High School Art Exhibition," beginning Tuesday. A public opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday.
ROCK SPRINGS NATURE CENTER: The Macon Country Conservation District's Rock Springs Nature Center will have a few new galleries and exhibits on hand during December. In the North Wing Art Gallery, Decatur's Barn Colony Artists will be featured in a winter art show. The main exhibit hall will feature two traveling exhibitions: "Visual Poetry: Patterns and Texture Through the Lens" and "Exploring Evolution: Discovering how Life Changes." All work will be on display until the end of the month.