22ndcenturymedia life & Arts

the Tinley Junction | April 11, 2019 | 17

Triumphs and playing cards highlight Vogt exhibit


Freelance Reporter

Tinley Park resident Gene

Gryniewicz is a self-taught artist

twice over.

The storyteller, poet and illustrator

first learned to draw

from comic books. After being

diagnosed with Parkinson’s in

2005, he retaught himself everything

from colors to perspective

to how to hold a pen. Though his

style may have evolved in the

last 14 years, Gryniewicz’s work

continues to represent his lyrical

vision of the world with depth,

creativity and wonder.

On Friday, April 5, the Tinley

Park – Park District’s Vogt Visual

Arts Center hosted a reception

for the Gene Gryniewicz and

Playing With a Full Deck Exhibit

which features the illustrator’s

work along with the artist playing

card collections of Liz Cohn

of Portland, Oregon and LuEllen

Joy Giera of Countryside, Illinois.

During the event Gryniewicz

showed the evolution of his style

before and after his Parkinson’s

diagnosis. He explained, at one

point, he considered giving up

his art, but a Tai Chi master

helped him find a new approach

to working with his tremors rather

than fighting to control them.

“I asked ‘how do you stop

the dragon?’” Gryniewicz said.

“He said, ‘Silly human, don’t

force the dragon. Don’t fight

the dragon. Let it lead you.’ So,

I did. Now, at 3 a.m. I’m drawing.

I can draw for five minutes

sometimes an hour. Even when

the tremors are going, I discovered

you can move the paper and

let your hand do the running so I

draw trees or bushes.”

In recent years, Gryniewicz

has found inspiration in writing

graphic novel style stories

– complete with original illustrations

– about the adventures

of Tinley Park resident Dirk

Spence, better known as Mr. D,

whose Magic House on Wheels

is a fixture at local outdoor

events. Gryniewicz has written

12 books on a variety of topics,

and he still delights in live storytelling,

a talent he shared during

the Vogt Center reception.

The Playing With a Full Deck

portion of the exhibit, further

represents the idea that life is

what you make of it and we’re

all – for better or worse – dealt

unique hands in life. Thousands

of playing cards, each transformed

into individual works of

art, comprise the collections of

Cohn and Giera. The two women

– who have been corresponding

by mail for years – met in person

for the first time at the reception.

“I did a 100-month post card

exchange so I got to know her

through that,” said Giera.

Cohn first developed the idea

to create art out of kings, queens

and deuces after finding 180

decks of playing cards in her

late-father-in-law’s home.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be

cool to do a mail art collaboration

with other artists?’” said

Cohn. “I started sending them

out to people and I’ve sent out to

25 different countries and over

200 different artists have participated.”

Each of Cohn’s cards feature

upwards of five participants adding

artistic elements until it was

considered complete by the last

artist. If that person thought the

card had more potential, they

would send it to another artist.

Giera took over a branch of

the playing card art initiative in

2015 and she now exchanges individual

cards – each created by

one person – with a network of

artists on a monthly basis.

“Being on a small scale, it can

be something easy to do when

you’re between bigger projects. If

you can work on something little,

you’re keeping your toe in the

water and making art. I feel like I

have to do a little bit of art all the

time,” said Cohn. “And these are

so nice to give to people.”

In May, the Vogt Visual Arts

LuEllen Joy Giera of Countryside poses in front of her Artist Playing Cards collection during the Vogt

Visual Arts Center reception on Friday, April 5. PHOTOS BY LAURIE FANELLI/22ND CENTURY MEDIA

Gene Gryniewicz poses by some of his artwork inspired by magician Dirk Spence.

Center will host its annual

School District 146 Exhibit and

Gallery Director Julie Dekker is

currently accepting artwork for

the center’s open show in June,

the theme for which is “Man’s

Best Friend.”

“And that doesn’t necessarily

mean dogs,” said Dekker. “I

didn’t call it a dog show on purpose

because a lot of things can

be considered man’s best friend

so you can take that anywhere

you want.”

More information about coming

events at the Vogt Visual Arts

Center can be found at www. The Gene

Gryniewicz and Playing With a

Full Deck Exhibit is on display

through the end of April.

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