Featured Poster Artist
IAEA celebrates the work of professional artists in Illinois.
Click the tabs below for artist information, high-resolution images to use in your classroom, and lesson plans created by IAEA members featuring artist work.
2019 Featured Artist: Bethany Dhunjisha, Photographer
Artist Biography and Statement: Even though I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, I happened to live on a fairly rural road in Lockport. There were horses next door, cows down the street, and we even had chickens for a bit. I was lucky enough to also have a little patch of woods right behind my house. I spent many days exploring my little forest looking for animals or the next unknown wildflower. I would go down to small spring that my great grandparents used to keep milk from their dairy farm cold and watch how the water moved around the rocks or how the scene changed with each season. These opportunities for unstructured time in nature helped shape my life and develop a lifelong appreciation of the natural world around us.
After high school, I attended Southern Illinois University and earned a degree in Forestry- I was going to be a park ranger. So where did the photography come in? When I was in 4th grade, I was given my first point and shoot camera. Like most kids, I took photos of my friends and places we went on vacation. But after college, a move to Seattle changed my focus. The big trees and even bigger mountains inspired my photography as I honed my skills. Another move across the country and a couple of kids changed my perspective again. I no longer had mountains out my backdoor, but I did have a garden and woods similar to those of my childhood. While my sons napped, I would frequently run out into the yard to photograph the little landscapes that so often get overlooked. I love that each picture gives me a snapshot of a season, a part of a life cycle, the light of a particular time of day- nature.
While I still enjoy grand landscapes and am dazzled at the ways Mother Nature has sculpted the surface of the earth, I am more often than not drawn to the small scenes. Just as in my childhood, I am frequently exploring the woods looking for the next wildflower or insect, watching leaves of a tree unfurl, or listening to the gurgling of water as it flows around rocks in a creek.
What happened to the park ranger dream? I have been lucky to find a park ranger job that lets me use my love of photography to promote natural beauty of the park. Occasionally, I get assignments that push my photographic comfort zones and force me to grow and learn as a photographer. For those assignments I am very grateful, but my heart will always be with my little forest.
2018 Featured Artist: Melissa Monroe, Ceramic Artist
Artist Statement: The appeal of working in clay is that you can mold it, fire it and turn it into something that is permanent. I make a representation of a flower and freeze it in time. When I create a flower in clay, I am not trying to make a real flower. I am sculpting the feeling of a flower. It is something playful, beautiful and abstract. I love sculpting different variations of nature including women. I love creating vases of women with full and wild hair. The women’s faces give subtle cues to mood and feeling. The hair shows the thoughts and interior spirit of the woman in each sculpture. It is the wild hair and spirit of these pieces that I hope connects with people on an emotional level.
Melissa Monroe is a lifelong Illinoisan, having been raised in Galesburg and now living in the Chicago suburbs with her family. Melissa has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Knox College with a studio art major in ceramics and painting. She sells her ceramic art at shows in the Chicago area and at fine stores and works with chefs to create custom dishware for their restaurants.
“When I started working in clay in college it was impossible to predict the places it would take me. It has been fun journey of farm dinners where I provide dishes, the art show circuit in Chicago, and gallery shows. As I have grown in my work I find my creativity divided into two camps: the functional and the sculptural. My functional work has become focused on working directly with customers creating custom plate ware for their homes and businesses. I love to sit down to a day of throwing and trimming all of these commissions and getting the satisfaction of the matching sets of bowls and plates. The second part of my art is the creative sculptural side – making wild abstracted flowers and sculptural vases, bottles and jars. These are the objects of imagination and whimsy. I hope that both of my camps of artwork provide a connection with each person either in daily use or visual connection.”
Melissa continues to explore and grow artistically. She uses new clay bodies and mixes new glazes to achieve interesting and original effects. She continues to expand her sculptural body of work by making larger sculptures and more intricate pieces. “As I continue to create sculptures and intricate forms, I find that I connect more and more to the people who own these pieces. I love knowing that what I make can bring joy.”