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The Little Things Add Up 

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Lora Fosberg's humorous, slightly cartoonish paintings at Linda Warren are notable for their accessibility. While she was an art major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, classes in psychology and philosophy led her to believe that "humanity is all one mind--we're the same." At that time she decided she wanted her art to appeal to "the guy who pumps my gas along with the professor at the university. But I've also always wanted to push the boundaries, surprise my viewers." The 12-foot-wide We're Perfect, Let's Not Change suggests both the everyday and the unusual, showing familiar household objects--a mattress, a phonograph, a potted plant, an upside-down table--widely scattered over a bare background. She made it after a "bad breakup," she explains, and it does suggest the chaos and pathos of belongings tossed out a window.

Fosberg says she's not interested in "grandiose ideas like war and passion and love, but in really common everyday struggles--how people actually feel and live, the dirty socks on the floor and how it pisses you off that your mate leaves the dishes in the sink." But she also has a taste for the odd. She admired a high school art teacher who shook students up with "crazy assignments": they had to figure out, for example, how to make art based on the premise that "a giant cherry lands in the middle of New York City." A comics collector who was obsessed with Mad magazine ("It made fun of itself"), she was blown away by an Art Institute show that included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jim Nutt, and Ed Paschke. "I thought, 'you can make art like that?' It was much weirder and kind of sexually overt than traditional pop art." By the end of college she'd painted images of businessmen in headlocks and made prints that included texts like "he asked for her hand and she gave him the finger."

Fosberg has been selling her art since she was 18, when her drawings collaged with little plastic toys sold out at an art fair on Halsted. But as she kept mounting exhibits, through school and after graduation, she began to wonder why the "fancy" galleries wouldn't take her pieces. Eventually she decided that her work "wasn't there yet," and in 1999 she stopped exhibiting. "It was time to think about masterpieces, major pieces that would function on multiple levels." In 2000 a friend commissioned paintings for the new restaurant Naha, asking her to make art that no one would notice. She chose to do collages whose colors, textures, and patterns were pleasing but added disturbing details, visible only on close inspection, such as restaurant scenes with "bad customers." These works led to collage paintings included in this show, including Yes to Everything. Titled ironically, like many of her works, it's made with India ink and gouache on multiple pieces of old paper. A self-described tree hugger who now lives near Lake Michigan in Indiana (though she keeps a studio in Chicago), she shows nature threatened in images of a tree house that's way too large, a stand of trees whose branches have fallen, power lines against a sky with the word "definitely" writ large across it.

After enrolling in an MFA program at the School of the Art Institute in 1990, Fosberg fell in love with a woman--and now, she says, "I'm as queer as a three-dollar bill." Lost in the Wilderness is a response to "beautiful but ridiculous" old masters showing nude women with clothed men: Fosberg has painted dozens of tiny naked women, including a few couples, amid a stand of trees. She calls this the "tongue-in-cheek Lora Fosberg 2006 version--let's leave the men out." Reflecting on We're Perfect, Let's Not Change, she notes that she's had a number of relationships go bad over the years and relates that to not being able to marry. Still, she says, "I don't really think of myself as a lesbian artist." In her mind We're Perfect, Let's Not Change is more hopeful than despairing: she says it's about "reconfiguring. It's like taking inventory of everything you have in preparation for your new and improved life."

Lora Fosberg

When: Through 6/30

Where: Linda Warren, 1052 W. Fulton

Info: 312-432-9500

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