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TODAY

Saturday, February 23

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Airbags

Eric Skaggs' figurative — at times highly abstracted — paintings are featured at Mars Gallery, 1139 W. Fulton, where he's been a mainstay for the past five years. As well, these are the final few days to catch Skaggs in Johnsonese Gallery's current show Across Chicago's Great Divide, which runs thru May 27 at 2149 W. Armitage. A 1987 graduate from Kent State University, Skaggs created the cartoon series Exit 24, which ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1993 to 1997. He has been a Windy City resident since 1994.

Q: Your color palate is rich — deep blues and reds, extreme yellows. This makes your work come off, initially, as almost cozy. But I have to say, once those colors sink into the mind, they become quite unsettling. They are consciously too rich, is my guess. I've discovered that the only alcoholic beverage you consume is wine. In this light, I'm able to see your paintings as potential wine bottle labels, albeit luminously twisted labels. I don't mean that to be condescending at all; and I really don't mean for this to be a frivolous question, but how do you think your art speaks for your choice of drink?

Skaggs: I'm not sure that it does. I will say that the same things I find interesting about wine I find interesting about art. As far as my palette, I am very conscious about my use of color, but I'm not so sure that always extends to my choice of color. Sometimes, life events take over and on some subconscious level I add or eliminate colors from my paintings. It usually isn't until some time has passed and I can take a step back from my work that I'm able to see the obvious color changes, which weren't so obvious only six months or a year ago.

Q: One thing that has attracted me to your work is the refreshing sense that there are no political thoughts or motivations in your head during its execution. Am I right in thinking this?

Skaggs: Even though I find politics and political discussion interesting, it just never translated well for me in art work. There are artists, such as Anthony Gorily, whose work I appreciate mainly for the nuances I find in it, but for me when it comes to my art, I put politics aside and try to create work that has a more common thread.

Q: I mentioned your color palate, and I should have said that these colors are made unsettling by the very distinct forms they are cast into. Most of the colors in your work are separated by substantial black lines. The colors are drastically isolated, and they feel alone and forsaken. Which would you aspire to have your work illuminate: Futility, or humility?

Skaggs: "Illuminate:" an interesting word choice. I think it's a question of cause and effect, and if so, I'll choose the effect. Hence, I'll choose humility.

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About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan (and Sox fan), and has spent the past decade making a home with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them.

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