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Solo Exhibition of Work by Mary Porterfield at Elmhurst College

Solo Exhibition of Work: Selected Drawings and Paintings by Mary Porterfield

Opening Reception: Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 4:30-6:30pm

This exhibition will feature a survey of paintings and drawings, from 2011-present, by Chicago artist Mary Porterfield. Porterfield’s drawings are influenced by her work as an occupational therapist and her interactions with patients and their caregivers. In painting on transparent, glassine paper, she progressively layers her images to address reoccurring struggles in healthcare that are outwardly hidden or forgotten. With her grandmother as her model, she hopes to convey the loss of identity that can occur as degenerative illnesses affect one’s ability to complete self-care or functional movement. The underlying layers represent the obscured sense of self that attempts to overcome those difficulties.

Her paintings question what makes an act heroic in the midst of daunting circumstances. By amassing hundreds of figures, Porterfield depicts scenes from nature, symbolizing situations that are literally and figuratively beyond her control. Many of these situations reference her work as an occupational therapist, as she struggles to accept what she cannot change. Porterfield explores this struggle through multi-figured narratives that comprise the landscape. Some of the figures include saints and young women, who attempt to rescue those in need. Other figures resign themselves to the risks at hand by turning away or denying aid. Using animals as metaphors for strength and danger, she juxtaposes layered allegories in an attempt to ask and resolve: Does it take more courage to be selfless or self-seeking? If assistance is warranted but not wanted, should it be abandoned? Is it more heroic to accept the uncontrollable or attempt change in the midst of futility? Through the dichotomous nature of the work, her intention is to provide a balanced perspective between giving and receiving, especially when caring for others.

Porterfield has exhibited both nationally and internationally at venues including the Lim Lip Museum in South Korea, the Phoenix Art Museum, the San Diego Art Institute, the Hyde Park Art Center, the Kohler Arts Center, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the Rockford Art Museum and the Koehnline Museum. Solo shows have included the Packer-Schopf Gallery (Chicago, Il), Indiana University-NW (Gary, IN), the University of Illinois (Urbana, Il) and the West Valley Art Museum (Surprise, Il). Honors include three Illinois Artist Council Grants, a Puffin Foundation Grant, and three Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program Grants. Porterfield teaches at Northeastern Illinois University and received an MFA from Arizona State University.

This exhibition is organized by Elmhurst College Curator and Chicago Imagist, Suellen Rocca.
Elmhurst College
Frick Center Founders Lounge
190 Prospect Ave
Elmhurst, Il. 60126

Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday, 7am-Midnight and Sunday 7am-10pm
Exhibition on view from February 17- March 16, 2019
For further information, please contact Suellen Rocca, Curator and Director of Exhibitions, at 630-617-6110 or,

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