No Gallery Like Home: A Hyde Park couple invite art into their living room

Adam and Eve and the Lion, by Anders Nilsen; courtesy of the artist

Adam and Eve and the Lion, by Anders Nilsen; courtesy of the artist

Laura Shaeffer and Andrew Nord’s Home Gallery is an artistic haven in the midst of Hyde Park. The walls of their two-story home function as a gallery as well as a living space: open to the public, their home provides a different way for audiences to enjoy art, and for artists to display their work without becoming entangled in art-world politics. This is especially true, Shaeffer explained, since “the Home Gallery isn’t a business.” While viewers can buy the pieces on display, the couple doesn’t receive a commission: the exchange is directly between the buyer and the artist.

The concept of turning one’s home into a public art gallery might make some wary, but Shaeffer says that opening up her home to people hasn’t been a problem. She brings up an essential point: because this is such an intimate setting the artist and his work don’t need to be validated by an institution. This concept enables art to dissociate itself from consumerism. In effect, Shaeffer and Nord’s intention is to create an artistic community in which people can share ideas.

As Shaeffer explains, there are many perks to having your personal space function as an art gallery. For one, there is what she describes as the “selfish” desire to have beautiful work in her house. Indeed, each new exhibit transforms their home’s environment. Presently, almost every vertical surface carries the work of Anders Nilsen, a Chicago-based illustrator with a considerable following among underground comic book fans, The series is aptly titled “Pictures of Dirt and Grass,” since Nilsen’s work displays desolate landscapes. Shaeffer offers that the artist’s work presents a “post-apocalyptic environment” with the ubiquitous presence of scattered junk, especially tires.

In “Adam and Eve and the Lion,” one of the few works done in color, underwear-clad Adam and naked Eve curl around a barren tree. A variety of garbage is strewn nearby: a stereo, a donkey’s severed head–tongue out and vertebrae extending from its neck–and, of course, a car tire, while an urban skyline looms beyond the otherwise rural scene. The piece’s tone is a cautionary comment on consumerism, waste, and dystopian potential.

Indeed, this feeling of pending disaster is a recurring theme in Nilsen’s work: in “Big Question #6 pages 10-11 (plane crash),” we witness the crash as it happens. The piece is dominated by physical force; as the plane hurtles into a wooden house, debris flies everywhere, though most of it seems directed at the viewer. Nilsen’s corrections to his pieces make the works especially interesting. Though he Wite-Outs his mistakes, their traces remain, revealing his steps and thought processes during the work’s composition. In “Big Question #6,” the corrections look like the plane’s movements through time, allowing the piece a visual intensity it wouldn’t otherwise possess.

By opening her home to the public, Shaeffer and her husband are providing artists like Nilsen and viewers a personalized art space. Between traditional art world politics and the current economic crisis, she and her husband are much more than patrons of the arts: they keep the arts alive.
Home Gallery, 1407 E. 54th Pl. Through May 3. By appointment only.

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