“ramble” opens oct. 2

BENSON – The little gallery is pleased to host “Ramble” by Lori Elliott-Bartle during the month of October. The opening reception is Friday, Oct. 2, from 6 to 9pm at 5901 Maple Street. The exhibition features paintings and handmade prints inspired by the prairie.

With academic degrees in journalism and social sciences, Lori spent nearly 15 years as a professional journalist and in higher education public relations before she began painting seriously. She has shown artwork in local cooperative and commercial galleries and has had work accepted into regional and national juried shows. Her work is in private collections across the United States and in several countries.

Below is the artist in her own words.

“Walking through waves of swaying grasses and spotting blooms of yellow, purple and white makes me feel at home. Slowing down this year and spending more time at home has allowed memories to emerge and has created space to consider ideas and pursue meaningful activities.

“Some of those thoughts have inspired pieces in ‘Ramble,’ a collection of recent works on paper. Celebrating the prairie, these paintings and handmade prints are inspired by colors and textures found in our native and restored grasslands. None are meant to be botanically accurate, but aim to evoke the motion and openness of wide meadows filled with flowers and grasses.

“Other pieces take the colors and textures into more abstract directions and are connected to subconscious and emotional states experienced while painting without specific direction, offering another way of wandering.

“All the paintings in ‘Ramble’ are made with oils mixed with cold wax medium, a combination of beeswax and resin used at room temperature. Using oils and wax together allows me to create paintings that hold depth, complexity and texture, some of the same qualities about the prairie that I appreciate.

“My painting process is physically active. I use rollers, wide blades and brushes to apply paint, then blot, scrape and carve with knives and points to reveal underlying colors. These lines and colors convey motion and emotion and remind us of the grasslands we call home.”

“Ramble” runs through Oct. 31 at the little gallery. Regular hours are Thursday and Friday from 1 to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 1pm and by appointment. For more information, call 402.681.1901.

we’re taking a cat nap until october.

Hey, friends – we want to let you know the little gallery is taking a cat nap until October. This means we’ll be closed until Friday, Oct. 2.

We were impressed that the Omaha City Council recently approved a face mask ordinance without politicizing the issue. We also admire Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan for making the tough decision to do remote-only learning for the first quarter.

We love selling the work of local artists (it’s how we pay the gallery rent), but we want to do our part in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If you’re interested in purchasing a work from the current show, give us a call at 402.681.1901 or send us a text – we’ll work something out.

We’ve got an awesome show planned for October, as well as a little surprise.

Here’s to staying safe!

– your friends at the little gallery | benson

tiny art show opens aug. 7

In its biggest event ever, tiny art show invited 50 cities across the nation to create tiny art and reveal it on the same day, and Omaha was one of the selected cities.

The event, originally scheduled for this spring, was postponed due to COVID-19. The Omaha event is no longer on the same day as all the other cities, but that’s okay.

Join Women Who Run Nebraska at the little gallery Friday, Aug. 7, from 5:00 to 7:00pm as this awesome nonprofit unveils miniature art made by some of Omaha’s amazing female artists. WWRN will also host a merch pop-up of all its fan-favorite tees, totes, tank tops and more! The artwork is for sale, and all proceeds will benefit WWRN.

Participating artists to date:

  • Katera Brown
  • Ann Brugenhemke
  • Jennifer Hernandez
  • Megan O’Dea Jenkins
  • Jill Rizzo
  • Joan Wilson Sangimino
  • Linda Willia

BTW, this fall is election season, so get ready to vote.

naaf exhibitions open aug. 7

Oria Simonini

BENSON – BFF Omaha and Lutheran Family Services will present the New American Arts Festival Friday, Aug. 7, in beautiful downtown Benson. In conjunction with the festival, the little gallery will host the work of Oria Simonini and student work facilitated by Mike Giron.

Oria Simonini
Simonini creates small-scale paintings and drawings that depict migrants and refugees. Her work focuses on the human experience of immigration – a highly politicized and polarizing topic. Simonini works from web and news-sourced imagery, sometimes cropping or combining images. “It’s important for me to be true to the sources, that it was a real moment in someone’s life,” she said.

In her work from the series Water’s Edge, the ocean side serves as a stage where two sides of society meet. The beach can be either the end or the beginning of the migrant journey. But the beach also evokes pleasure; a day of leisure spent at the beach, the escape of a vacation. “My focus here is to question who gets to take pleasure on the beach and who doesn’t,” Simonini said. “Instead of highlighting the differences between these groups of people, I use formal qualities to blend them together and to create a false sense of harmony.”

Student Work
Millard South High students from east Africa, Mexico, the Middle East and Viet Nam were asked to reflect on the homes they left behind and the difficulties they face as teenage immigrants. With the help of Omaha artist Mike Giron, their individual thoughts were summed up into paper-cut shapes and designs, which were then arranged into two compositional stencils as a layered screenprint.

Two of the three originally planned layers were produced. The third, contemplating their hopes for the future, was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. By switching combinations of paper and ink colors and transparency levels of ink, at least this part of their collective story is told. Some students miss family and friends, familiar foods and music and customs, the ubiquity of their language, their country, their childhood homes, even profoundly elegant objects such as a personal chair. Most seem to have heartbreak in common when thinking of home.  In the mean time, they struggle with being English language learners, schooling, cultural misunderstandings, the American diet and distressing news from home.

“This project follows the structure of screenprinting workshops I do with various groups in which we all contribute to one design, print in workshops and everyone takes home a print,” Giron said. “Unfortunately, the closure of schools did not allow us to take all those steps together. I was able to reassemble and reproduce our compositions and print the suite of prints in this exhibition. Each is technically a monotype, since no color combinations are identical. The shifting color schemes indicate how experiences are both shared and individual.”

This NAAF exhibition runs through Aug. 29.


The little gallery, located at 5901 Maple Street in downtown Benson, is powered by Polecat Communications – we turned 5 in June! Our new hours are Thursday and Friday from 1:00 to 5:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 1:00pm and by appointment (402.681.1901). You can always text the appointment number to make sure we’re in before you head our way. Don’t let local art galleries be a victim of COVID-19: support them and the artists who create work for them.

silent spring opens july 3

self portrait | alex jochim

The little gallery will host “Silent Spring” – new work by Joe Addison, Alex Jochim, Caitlin Little and Trudy Swanson – during the month of July. The opening reception is Friday, July 3, from 6:00 to 9:00pm in conjunction with Benson First Friday. The group exhibition features work created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic…
It’s a brave new world, so there are new rules for this opening reception, our first since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nebraska:

– There is a limit on the number of people who can enter the gallery at a time. Please pay attention to what’s happening at the door, and act accordingly.
– Face masks are required to gain admission.
– We won’t be serving any food or drink.
– We also reserve the right to cancel the whole shebang at the last minute in response to what’s happening with COVID-19 locally.
– No public restroom, so go before you come.

“Silent Spring” runs through July 31 at the little gallery | benson, 5901 Maple Street. We’ve also got new hours* going forward:

Thursday and Friday
1 to 5pm

Saturday
10am to 1pm

+ by appointment (call 402.681.1901) *You can always text the appointment number to make sure we’re there before you head our way.

Don’t let local art galleries be a victim of COVID-19: support them and the artists who create work for them.

light leak | joe addison
trudy swanson
performance | caitlin little

“brace yourself” tenacious karma” opens march 6

BENSON – the little gallery is pleased to host “Brace Yourself: Tenacious Karma” by John Stillmunks during the month of March. The opening reception is Friday, March 6, from 6:00 to 9:00pm at 5901 Maple Street in conjunction with Benson First Friday.

Born and raised in North Omaha, Stillmunks studied at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Metropolitan State University in Denver before graduating from Iowa State University with a BFA in painting. After college, he and his wife opened the Independent Thought Gallery and Studio in Des Moines, where he shared his work and promoted local artists for 15 years. His art has been featured in shows across the country, from Phoenix to Miami.

Stillmunks recently returned to Omaha and established his studio at Bench. He describes the show as “”17 new paintings examining life’s influences, variables, options, and choices – which often lead to resulting events arriving just as God begins to laugh heartily.”

Below is the artist in his own words.

“My work always has a nod to schadenfreude – also I have been gravitating back to my roots in blue collar North Omaha in terms of color, texture, grit, humor, tenacity, variation, improvisation, perspective and resilience gained from growing up there. Ironically, I have spent my whole life trying to get away from what I am now embracing in middle age.

“I use multiple perspectives and patterned movement to convey energy and emotion. Colors and patterns come directly from Midwestern African American folk art. Textures and imagery are without a doubt influenced by urban Midwestern architecture, graffiti, Catholic church symbolism and graphics and the “edge” acquired from urban environments in the upper Midwest such as Omaha, Minneapolis, KC, and Chicago.”

View his work at:

john-stillmunks.square.site
www.facebook.com/munksie
www.twitter.com/johnstillmunks
www.instagram.com/johnstillmunksart

the little gallery is powered by Polecat Communications in downtown Benson. Winter hours are Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 1pm and by appointment. For more information, call 402.681.1901 or email info@polecatcommunications.com.

“hatch” by pecha opens feb. 7

BENSON – the little gallery is pleased to host “Hatch” – a meditation on line, surface, movement and scale – by Pecha during the month of February. The opening reception is Friday, Feb. 7, from 6:00 to 9:00pm in conjunction with Benson First Friday. All are welcome to attend.

About the Artist
Pecha (pek’-ah) is a creator working in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha, NE. He uses positive and negative space to invoke a sense of depth, while using line to deny the space and create movement across the surface of the work. The resulting dynamic tension draws the viewer in and simultaneously keeps them at bay.

A graffiti artist in his formative years, he was inspired by Keith Haring, Egon Schiele, and Willem de Kooning, who relied on their use of line to convey emotion.

Drawing upon extensive travel throughout Morocco and Spain and guided by the Moorish art and architecture he experienced, his latest creations move past the figurative work of his past and into a more calligraphic and meditative mode. His construction background has begun influencing technique and material choices – drawing with welding wire and plasma cutters as well as using common and discarded building materials to create his art.

While given the name Patrick Jensen at birth, he creates work under his mother’s maiden name in homage to his Bohemian heritage and the grandparents who helped raise him.

Artist Statement
“With this latest body of work, I am working out some thoughts and ideas that I have been kicking around over the past few years. One of them is the incorporation of discarded and common construction materials I come across in my construction career. The other is to engage with an ancient mark common in art, engineering and architecture – the hatch and crosshatch.

“I have found the act of hatching allows me to move deeper into the individual marks I make as an act of meditation. Instead of a word or sound, the repetition of the line acts as my mantra; deepening my concentration. I focus on making every line with intention. Whether it is with an eraser, plasma cutter or marker, the process of drawing each line is an individual act. No attachment. Embracing imperfection. Letting go of desire again and again. The marks all culminate in a surface that begins to undulate, move and work as one.”
– Pecha

“Hatch” is open through Feb. 29. Winter gallery hours are Thursday and Friday from 3:00 to 5:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 1:00pm and by appointment. For more information or to schedule a viewing outside regular hours, call 402.681.1901.

conditions opens jan. 3

BENSON – The little gallery is pleased to host “Conditions” – a group show featuring the work of four artists with chronic medical conditions – during the month of January. The opening reception is Friday, Jan. 3, from 6 to 9pm in conjunction with Benson First Friday.

The artists – Mary Ensz, Jeff Mack, Jennifer Novak Haar and Jennifer Shannon – bravely create art while quietly battling a wide variety of medical issues. Often the daily struggle of dealing with ailments can also be a source of inspiration. The exhibition features painting and photography.

“Conditions” runs through Jan. 25. The little gallery is powered by Polecat Communications. Winter hours are Thursday-Friday from 3 to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 1pm and by appointment. For more information, call 402.681.1901.

Learn more about the artists below.

Mary Ensz

Growing up, my mom had a set of Matryoshkas, or Russian Nesting Dolls, on her dresser. I was captivated by how cozily they fit inside each other and how the forms felt in my hands. The littlest doll was my favorite, painted one color with a simple bud on her belly – unadorned and unchanged by the outside world, solid and without fear.

As a young girl, my art was without fear: I enjoyed it, so I did it. However, as a teenager, truths I wasn’t ready to see started showing up in my art. Everything I made resurrected trauma I didn’t want to remember or presented circumstances I didn’t want to acknowledge. My solution was to stop making art.

After unsuccessfully seeking alternative realities in many forms, I visited my hometown and found the Matryoshkas on that same dresser of my childhood. They reminded me why I want to create—​to look beyond the exterior, find truth and connect with others​. So I began using the shape of the nesting doll to ground me in my work and help me move through recovery from addiction and the diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder.

My art materials continue to change, but like the littlest nesting doll, the truth is unadorned and unchanged by the outside world, solid and without fear. My art instigates viewers to examine their truths, and through this awareness, transform ourselves and our hurting communities.

Jeff Mack

In the dim light of a fall morning in 1977, held close by my parents, I slipped into unconsciousness. At the time, treating juvenile diabetes was an even greater challenge than it is today. My artwork reflects my nearly lifelong struggle with an invisible disease. Through my artwork, I educate and entertain the viewer with images derived from my life experience.

Like most long-term diabetics, there have been many challenges I’ve had to face. From vision issues, cost of treatment and day-to-day management of my health, my illness is present in every facet of my existence. Communicating these obstacles is a central motivation in my art. I am constantly looking at the world around me for a way to transform utilitarian things into something beautiful.

In 2017, I began to use an insulin pump to manage my diabetes. The process creates a regular stream of waste products. I have been collecting the syringes, needles and other waste ever since. I use these objects, combined with an early photographic process called cyanotype, to create works of art.

Cyanotypes were originally used to create blueprints, and my work has that distinct blue hue as well. Building a pattern of objects on top of surfaces prepared with the cyanotype chemistry and exposing that combination to ultraviolet light, I create abstract shapes that show the source objects clearly.

Photography is another process I use to communicate and create images related to my disease. I combine digital, analog and historic processes to make my imagery. I use macro images, printed onto transparencies, to create abstract cyanotypes that remind me of the visual and perceptual challenges I sometimes face.

My practice allows me to investigate the relationships between the objects I create my images with, myself and society. The resulting artwork is a dialog between a single patient and a public that usually cannot see my struggle.

Jennifer Novak Haar

I have been sick my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are in the hospital. Despite years of trying to find answers, I have only a probable diagnosis – Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia – an extremely rare cilia disorder that affects the lungs, sinuses and ears. Because the cilia can’t move mucus out in a normal way, I have frequent infections and irreversible lung damage. I’ve had most of the insides of my sinuses removed to help drainage, and I have constant issues with my ears. I’ve had more surgeries and hospitalizations than I can count. Even a simple cold can be life-threatening; in 2011 I nearly died of a viral pneumonia and was on life support for five days. I needed oxygen for several months as I recovered.

My disease affects me on a daily basis. To compensate for the cilia dysfunction and lung damage, twice a day I do about 45 minutes of respiratory therapy, consisting of mechanical chest percussion, inhaled antibiotics, sinus rinses, steroid sprays and inhalers, and I need IV antibiotics several times a year. I have to make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. People stare at me because I have a terrible hacking cough.

Despite this, I lead a very active and busy life. Since getting a port 10 years ago, I’ve been able to do IV antibiotics at home, which has drastically cut down on my hospitalizations and allows me to keep working even when I’m sick. I’ve taken on photography and enjoy taking photos of wildlife, zoo animals and pets. I like catching animals in funny poses and expressions, and being able to see what they look like extremely close up, seeing things that would be impossible with the naked eye. People respond to these photos with interest and amusement, which is how I feel when taking them.

Most people aren’t aware of the extent of my illness, and as a freelance musician, I don’t want people to know and then consider me unhirable. When I was asked to be a part of a show on chronic illness, I was at first excited and then terrified. I wasn’t sure I wanted to put this part of my life on public display for all to see. It has taken some courage to show what living with my disease is like through the means of photography. Some find these photos disturbing or confusing, but to me, it’s just normal life. My hope is that these images convey the stark reality of my disease, but also my determination not to let it define me or hold me back.

Jennifer Shannon

The beauty in nature and landforms has always captivated my attention. Finding ways to intertwine hidden suggestions of the human anatomy within our world is a new obsession of mine. Some may see rolling hills, where I might find forms of a ribcage. Colorful veins flowing through the heart may turn into a twisted tree when rotated, converting nature into anatomy and life into nature. My mind has been bursting, trying to create an apparatus to create interactive canvases that will allow you to easily view my work from a variation of perspectives. This new mechanism allows the viewer to create different scenarios within the work and how they correspond between each other

I often replicate images of life and health with delicate, flowing movements. Contorted skeletal structures are used to convey experiences with my own birth defect – Diastematomyelia – while including a variety of health concerns faced in our society today. I feel a longing to cultivate enthusiasm and educate viewers within my creative process by transporting the viewer into the human body. Formations of hearts emanate in hopes to bring awareness and comfort, while acting as a form of therapy due to the loss of my dad.

At times, I use thick and textured paint and sculptural pieces to build tactical forms that can be experienced from a variety of angles. I feel it’s important to be able to experience the texture, weight and temperature of each piece. This provides opportunities for observers who are visually impaired to be able to experience art as well. At times, random bits of found objects are used to connect the viewer to the subject with familiar unexpected content, whether it is seen or felt.


5th annual little show opens dec. 6

BENSON – The little gallery is pleased to host its fifth annual little show during the month of December. The opening reception is Friday, Dec. 6, from 6:00 to 9:00pm in conjunction with Benson First Friday.

The annual show, just in time for the holiday season, features works by local artists that are 12 by 12 inches or smaller and retail for $100 or less. The exhibition includes some of the smallest art we’ve ever had on display, and it’s spectacular and affordable!

Featured artists include:

  • Christina Arellano
  • Erica Bailey
  • Ranae Boggess
  • John Brumbach
  • Lori Fox
  • Jaim Hackbart
  • January Kristine
  • Becky Lee
  • Joe Liebentritt
  • Bob Mathews
  • John D. Munoz
  • Christina Nelson
  • Daryn Richardson
  • Jonathan Seevers
  • John Stillmonks
  • Lori Tatreau
  • Michael Trenhaile
  • Lynda Vik
  • Haley Whitesel
  • Sarah Wynn

The little gallery is powered by Polecat Communications. Winter hours are Thursday-Friday from 3:00 to 5:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 1:00pm + by appointment. For more information, call 402.681.1901.

bill hoover’s “lost and found and lost” opens nov. 1

The little gallery is pleased to host Bill Hoover’s “Lost and Found and Lost” during the month of November. The opening reception is Friday, Nov. 1, from 6:00 to 9:00pm in conjunction with Benson First Friday.

Hoover has been making art and music in Nebraska for more than 25 years. Encouraged by a mentor in 1993, he began exhibiting his childlike oil-based crayon drawings in Associated Artists of Omaha exhibitions and at The Radial Cafe. Years later, Hoover’s paintings are highly sought after by collectors in Omaha and around the United States. His style has matured and deepened, evolving into a complex and layered vocabulary of narrative and symbolism.

“Lost and Found” explores the losses we experience using collage, paper sculpture, found scraps of paper and 30-year-old letters. It runs through Nov. 30.

The little gallery is powered by Polecat Communications. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 1:00pm + by appointment. For more information, call 402.681.1901.