Prairie Lights

Cafe at Prairie Lights

  • Odd Jobs by Matt Bollinger

    July 2 – August 3

    Artist Statement

    In my painting-collages, I use narrative structures to create composites of personal experience, first- and second-hand research, and fictional situations. I see the cross-pollination between fiction and nonfiction as central to the way I construct narrative and often complicate this relationship through collaboration with writers and artists. I recently created a number of paintings that featured figures reading. I am interested in books as a gateway to a parallel world that generates associations, invites me to identify with characters and triggers memories of events in my life.  This composite experience creates a mental world. I see all of my works as functioning this way. As someone who read Naked Lunch at 17 in his Missouri living room while his parents watched Unsolved

    Mysteries on a nearby sofa, I can attest that these mental worlds can often be strange.


    Upon close inspection, the collaged elements in my paintings give my work a fragmentary appearance. The bits of painted and collaged paper and more recently fabric announce that my paintings pull from many disparate sources. A paper with a pattern painted a year ago will sit beside marks made today. Because I am interested in the nature of memory as a mode of compression (the past moment occurs, when remembered, simultaneously in my mind with the present experience), my approach to materials parallels this interest. Like the narratives that I create, the materials I use suggest that the work is a reenactment of many different moments pulled together to form a whole.


    About the Artist

    Matt Bollinger (1980, Kansas City, MO) received his BFA in painting and creative writing from the Kansas City Art Institute, attended in the Yale Norfolk program, and he received his MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2010, he completed his second fellowship year at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA and was an artist in residence at the Seven Below Arts Initiative in Northern Vermont in 2008. He has exhibited extensively in the United States and France, and his work is in private and public collections in Europe and the United States. In March 2013, he had his most recent solo show, Bed on the Floor, at Zürcher Studio in New York, NY. His work has appeared in the New Yorker and has been written about in Le Monde, Elephant Magazine, Anthem Magazine, and elsewhere. He is represented by Zürcher Studio, New York, NY.


    Direct all inquiries to the exhibition curator:

    Mary F. Coats

    Ph: 978.496.6916 | email:


  • Nowadays: Works by Gaia Nardie-Warner

    April 27-June 1

    Closing reception:
    Times Club at Prairie Lights Cafe, Friday, May 23rd, 6:30-8:30pm

    Gaia Nardie-Warner was born in Charlottesville, VA in 1984. She has a MFA in painting and printmaking from Boston University (Boston, MA). Nardie-Warner has shown her work at Backspace Projects (Peoria, IL), Brooklyn Fire Proof East, Public Space One (IA), The Plaines Project, Hamill Gallery of African Art, The BOX, and 808 Gallery. Brian Prugh published a review of her work in the Little Village.  Nardie-Warner is included in the edition of New American Paintings Vol. 107. Recently, she received honorable mention for the 6th Annual Dave Bown Projects Competition. Gaia has attended national and international residencies and will participate in the Vermont Studio Center’s residency program coming year. Upcoming she will be in the June edition of Forget Good. She lives and works in Chicago, IL.

    Tantra: indulgence with awareness, vision without judgment, observant not evaluative. I paint along this continuum. Unwedded to mere media indulgence, these works come from an engagement with the materiality of paint and the complexity of the expressive mark. My paintings enter into a dialogue beyond their powers to represent. Using smears, scratches, scrapes and copious amounts of paint, I compose visual interrogatories of cultural minutia: metallic flashes, fake eyelashes, yoga mats, coconut water, glossy magazines, platinum blonde hair, gold hoops, turquoise, worn leather, furs, and painted nails. Such cultural signifiers dictate my mark as I paint to transform culture while maintaining true to its basis. These paintings confront and expose cultural socio-political connotations that are closeted by such little details. My challenge to culture displaces the framework of its associations onto the multifaceted language of gestural abstraction. Cultural identifiers are the portals by which we may gain insight into our own personal and societal secrets. Their investigation sustains my interest in Guatemalan textiles, prayer rugs, kivas, Navajo sand paintings, mandalas, Shibori, Haitian voodoo dolls, Butoh, and Berber rugs. With paint, I enervate what at first sight, seems most lifeless.

    For any inquiries, please contact the exhibition curator:
    Mary F. Coats

  • Water and Stone

    Jeff Robinson and Michael Rutherford
    January30th-March 3rd
    Reception: Saturday, Feb 2 (7-9pm)
    Artist Talk: 8pm

    In the book, What Painting Is, James Elkins defines painting as a combination of two
    ingredients: water (medium) and stone (pigment). The action of painting is a process
    of negotiating the two. Water and Stone presents two artists whose work necessitates
    material functions. Abandoning the image, these works make visible the central role of
    color and substance in producing sensation. In Michael Rutherford’s work, the support
    on which the paint is applied performs as a prominent character in the piece, asserting
    equality between a colored shape and the curl of the paper. Jeff Robinson’s work organizes
    relationships between paint and non-paint; requiring the viewer to consider the difference
    between the canonical art material and the detritus of human consumption.

    Jeff Robinson received his MFA in painting from Illinois State University in 2011. In addition to
    his studio practice, Jeff teaches full-time as an Instructor of Art and Visiual Arts Gallery Director
    at the University of Illinois Springfield.

    Michael Rutherford is the creator and editor of Painter’s and its companion site,
    Postmodern Toaster. He was born and raised in Iowa and was introduced to art while working
    as a guard at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. In 1999, he graduated from Buena Vista
    University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.

    Mechanical Trope, wood, mixed media, $1000.00 (Robinson)
    Exclamatory Painting, acrylic on canvas, $550.00 (Rutherford)
    Upshot Shimmer, acrylic on canvas strips with staples, $300.00 (Rutherford)
    Scrapped Red with Yellow Dogleg Painting, acrylic on canvas scraps, $300.00 (Rutherford)
    Hang Nothing, acrylic on canvas swaths, $300.00 (Rutherford)
    End Sheet, acrylic on canvas swaths, $300.00 (Rutherford)
    Subtle Radiance, mixed media, $750.00 (Robinson)
    Green Totem, mixed media, $500.00 (Robinson)
    Skips, Pops, and Scratches, acrylic on canvas, $1200.00 (Rutherford)
    Follow the Leader (top), mixed media, $750.00 (Robinson)
    Versed in Light #5 (bottom), mixed media, $500.00 (Robinson)

    Please direct all inquiries to: Mary Laube (curator) Ph: 847.602.3782 | email:

  • When I Was Your Age

    December 2012 - Reception: Friday December 7th 8-10 pm

    Storytelling as collaborative knowledge making
    Storytelling is a fundamental source of knowledge and agency. To tell a story is to remember, contemplate, question, interpret, and ultimately voice a particular history. When I was Your Age is a collaborative project that uses storytelling to explore the relationship between artists and their elders. Participating artists asked their mother, grandmother, or like-figure to share a story from their past. Each pair constructed a piece of text reflecting the life of the elder when she was the age of the artist. Each artist created a visual response to complete the piece. The following pages present a dialogue between generations, where the residue of the past is deeply felt in the present and maintained by one’s willing imagination.

    Mary Coats and Shari Coats
    Zoe Hawk and Phyllis Hawk
    Elizabeth Davenport and Paul Davenport Jr.
    Cheryl Robinson and Maryjane Robinson
    Andrea Dejong and Margaret Dejong
    Jared Wittenmyer and Ruth Wittenmyer
    Sarah Smith and Kathi Smith
    Danielle Kimzey and Jean Alys Lindow Huey
    Mary Laube and Edmund Laube

    Please direct all inquiries to:
    Mary Laube (curator)
    Ph: 847.602.3782 | email: