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DECATUR — Gene Tanta's paintings are special not only for the techniques, but also for the stark subject matter.

His exhibit “Face to Face” will feature portraits of assassinated and historically significant people who died before their time. This month his unique artwork will be featured in the Madden Arts Center's Anne Lloyd Gallery.

“The curious student in me wants to learn from history while the exasperated teacher in me wants to point to our stupidest habit — killing those with whom we disagree,” said Tanta, a published poet and instructor at Millikin University.

“And so I exhume these assassinated figures to shame us into using our words instead of our guns. But in another sense, these images are just decorated faces of the dead, asked to look upon us yet again," he added.

Portraits include John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy among others.

“He has an interesting perspective about presenting the portraits to move audience to consider that individual’s significance to society, for good or not,” said Sue Powell, gallery director, Decatur Area Arts Council.

The technique for these paintings was a process Tanta learned through experience. He said likes to work in groups of paintings, doing the same activity on five to eight works at a time. With the Madden Arts Center series, he first decided on a theme.

“Or the theme sort of found me,” he said.

He researches the subject, selects the images with strong compositions and then sets about refining a process of layers of media. His paintings include pencil, marker, food dye and handmade walnut ink. He also uses various actions, such as tracing, squeegeeing, brushing and scrubbing.

Like many people, Tanta said he is saddened by the topics and level of public discourse in America today. He believes media has a responsibility to shape how consumers see themselves in the world.

“And I believe art is part of that media landscape,” he said. “So, as media consumers and producers, we can either sit and wait for the world to change or we can be the change we want to see in the world, as Mahatma Gandhi said.”

Tanta will be available to discuss his work and process during the First Friday Gallery Walk on Sept. 1, in the gallery. The evening's music will be provided by pianist Chung-Ha Kim.

The Decatur Area Arts Council has invited the public back to the gallery for a behind-the-scenes discussion with Tanta from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6. Tanta will facilitate an open and interactive discussion about his painting process.

“The craft talk will address painting techniques, the use of non-traditional materials, like food dyes and hand-made walnut ink, as well as the thought processes involved in the work,” Tanta said.

September art exhibits

BICENTENNIAL ART CENTER. The Paris art center will display the exhibit “Mary Ann Michna and Jonathan Soard Recent Work.” The exhibit will be displayed until the end of the month.

BLUE CONNECTION. The Millikin University student-run art gallery will feature mixed-media figure paintings by Madison Ciaccio.

DECATUR AIRPORT GALLERY. Barbara Dove's artwork will be displayed throughout September.

FLOURISHES GALLERY AND STUDIOS. The downtown Shelbyville gallery will exhibit the watercolor works of Mike Delaney.

Artists from Shelbyville area will be featured in Studio D.

The Main Hall of the gallery will feature the floral collections of Carol Kessler.

Art work of Shelbyville High School graduates will be in the Beaux Arts Ballroom.

The displays will be featured until Oct. 14.

For an appointment, call (217) 827-5690.

GALLERY 510. The paintings and drawings of Leta Burch, will be featured throughout September. She will be available during First Friday Gallery Walk, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1. An artist's talk will be at 6:30 p.m.

GIERTZ GALLERY. Parkland College's gallery will feature 2017 Parkland College Art and Design Faculty Exhibition until Sept. 16.

The sculpture exhibit “Stepping the Mast” by Rob Millard-Mendez will begin Sept. 25 with a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibit will be displayed until Nov. 4.

For more information, visit

KRANNERT ART MUSEUM. The University of Illinois art museum will display on the Main Level of the Contemporary Gallery the exhibit “Coveting Nature.” Nature works of early European countries will be the focus. The display will be open until Dec. 22.

The east gallery will feature the exhibit “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” until March 24, 2018.

The exhibit “Propositions On Revolution” will be featured throughout the Main Level's west gallery as well as in the Gelvin Noel Annex and Light Court. The exhibit will be displayed until Dec. 22.

LINCOLN ART INSTITUTE. Beginning Sept. 7, the institute will display “From My Collection”exhibit the Lincoln Art Institute, 112 S. McLean St. The pieces are from members of the Logan County Arts members own collections.

Call (217) 651-8355 for an appointment.

PERKINSON ART GALLERY. Kirkland Fine Arts Center's art gallery will feature Millikin alumnus Mike Pasier's “Gradual Dislocation” throughout the month.

ROCK SPRINGS NATURE CENTER. Rock Springs Nature Center's north wing art gallery will display the photographs of Curt Knapp.

Nature photography of Barb Stobaugh will be featured in the south gallery of the nature center.

Both exhibits will be on display until the end of the October.

TARBLE ARTS CENTER. The Eastern Illinois University will begin the semester with the 2017 Art and Design Biennial in the main gallery. Other exhibits include the Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: Japanese Prints from the Taubman Museum of Art's Permanent Collection in the Brainard Gallery and Ben Venom's pop culture focus with quilting in “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

All exhibits will be open until Oct. 29.

Tours are available by appointment only. To schedule a tour, call (217) 581-2787 or email

UNIVERSITY GALLERIES. Illinois State University art gallery will feature Alice Hargrave “Paradise Wavering,” Amy Cousins “You will never have the comfort of our silence again,” Gina Hunt “New York” and “American Masters from the Kattner Family Collection.” The exhibits will be displayed until Oct. 8.

UPSTAIRS GALLERY. The work of Paul Hadfield will be displayed at the Decatur Public Library’s second floor gallery throughout September.

WILDFLOUR ARTISAN BAKERY AND CAFE. Dan Modzelewski's work by will be featured at the artisan cafe throughout the month.


"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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