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Pilsen Artist has 'Friends' in Brightly Colored Places

By Chloe Riley | May 10, 2013 2:41pm | Updated on May 10, 2013 2:44pm
 Pilsen artists give good face in Amanda Joy Calobrisi's show "Friends of My World" at Ugly Step Sister Gallery.
Portraits by Amanda Joy Calobrisi
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PILSEN — Many of painter Amanda Joy Calobrisi’s friends are naked and brightly colored.

At least, they are in her portraits.

Said Calobrisi of her oil paintings: “A lot of people think they’re really pretty, but I want people to spend more time with them. They have something underneath the prettiness.”

Paintings of Pilsen artists, cats — real and fake — and many self-portraits make up “Friends of My World,” Calobrisi’s new show at Ugly Step Sister Gallery.

Calobrisi, who received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute in 2008, said the show explores the lines between fantasy, reality and being a crazy cat lady.

“I have three cats which I think is borderline cat lady so, I mean, cats have always been on my mind cause they’re all around me,” she said of several self-portraits of herself and a cat mask. 

In one, “Las Hermanas” (The Sisters), two girls with flower headpieces framed by a brightly-patterned flower wall stare off to the side as if deliberately avoiding eye contact with the viewer. In another painting, a naked woman lays her head on a large naked man with a powdered wig.

The man in the wig is Pilsen performance artist José Hernandez and the woman is his friend, musician Heather Lynn.

For their portrait, Calobrisi kept saying she wanted “blonde hair, flesh and leopard,” Hernandez said.

“It became this decadent baroque painting of the two of us,” Hernandez said. “It was kind of unreal. I had never seen a portrait of myself like that.”

After meeting Calobrisi through the Pilsen network almost four years ago, Hernandez said she became like a big sister to him.

Her work, he said, captures the rawness in people.

“There was also like a vulnerability that came through that really shows who we are. That’s something she’s very good at…being able to show you people,” he said.

“It’s a real true artist community,” Calobrisi said of Pilsen. “I feel like I can just stay in the neighborhood and keep pulling from the neighborhood until I get bored. Because there’s so many interesting people and interesting faces.”

The exhibition, was scheduled to open Friday at the Ugly Step Sister Gallery, 1750 S. Union St. with a 6 p.m. reception with food and Duvel beer to complement the cats and naked neon Pilsenites.

The exhibition runs through June 9th.