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A Feast for the Senses
by Robyn Farrell Roulo








Slightly off the beaten path, but worthy of the trip is The Bluebird, a gastropub and neighborhood favorite in Bucktown. Similar to its elder sibling, Webster’s Wine Bar, The Bluebird is nestled within Chicago’s urban landscape located at 1749 North Damen Avenue. The atmosphere is hip with a modern and rustic feel. With exposed brick walls, salvaged décor and  wood burning fireplace it is perfect for a dagte, drinks or dinner with friends. Melodious sounds of conversation and a candlelit atmosphere fill the tavern on any given evening. Chalkboard listings hang above the bar highlighting specials from the extensive beer and wine list. The menu features small plates for sharing.  Selection cater to carnivore and vegetarian alike: international meats and cheeses, flatbreads and salads, not too mention dessert.

In addition to the delectable snacks and spirits, Tom McDonald, Bluebird's owner, exhibits a rotating selection of artwork from many Chicago favorites. McDonald actively seeks the work, but describes the process as a collaborative effort. He has shown work by Alex Menocal, Michelle Gordon and Wesley Kimler. From October 18th until November 15th, The Bluebird will feature work by artists Mary Livoni and J.C. Steinbrunner. The exhibition is a joint effort by the artists and McDonald to hold salon-style gatherings every Sunday in October. Evenings that will be sure to satisfy all of the senses. For more information, please visit the website,

Mary Livoni, Bridge III (2009), charcoal and chalk on paper, 9 1/2 x 12 inches. (Images courtesy of the artist).

Mary Livoni, Bridge I (2009), charcoal and chalk on paper, 9 1/2 x 12 inches. (Images courtesy of the artist).

Living and working in Chicago, Mary Livoni renders quiet, yet powerful charcoal drawings. Themes of emptiness and absence in the city’s structures give new meaning to the static surroundings so often unnoticed. Livoni’s drawings celebrate the beauty and surreal elements of architecture in Chicago’s urban setting. New work on view at The Bluebird next month is a series of drawings focused on bridges. When speaking about her inspiration, Livoni states, “The drawings that I have created for Picture This Like This were inspired by the older bridges that cross the Chicago River. The curves and arches of their rusting grommet studded surfaces are undeniably beautiful. Seen against the vantage point of open sky and they also become powerful abstract forms.”

J.C. Steinbrunner, We're Trying To Remember Something That's Forever (2008), watercolor and gouache on paper, 54 x 46 inches. (Images courtesy of the artist).

J.C. Steinbrunner, Don't Let's Start With What We Haven't Got (2009), watercolor and gouache on paper, 48 x 54 inches. (Images courtesy of the artist).

John Coyle Steinbrunner, crumples and distorts images of the everyday and presents them in a less familiar format. Interested in the relationship between natural and man-made objects, the artist often plays on the themes of the surreal and true reality. Steinbrunner ‘s statement explains that his “paintings explore the distance between memory and sentimentality by examining how we assign value and importance to the natural and social histories around us. Working from travel photography, his paintings re-scale and personalize the art historical pomp of landscape and history painting to an intimate, even insignificant, scale to create a viewing experience that recalls the emotional impact of the original, lived experience.”

Statement from the Artists:

We're really excited about the concept we've created for this show at The Bluebird. We wanted to bring together our friends and our art in a relaxing, inviting space over great food, great wine and great discussion. I'd been thinking a lot about being a working artist in a recession and how to show my work in a way that felt more meaningful and important. Mary and I have wanted to show together for a while: our work compliments each other without competing – her charcoal cityscapes, my watercolor landscapes. I'd been working with the idea of establishing a "pop-up" gallery that would open its doors in a vacant commercial space, exist only as long as it's show and then close. When Tom mentioned he wanted more events at The Bluebird, we combined all these ideas into an art salon concept: bring together people we respect who should meet each other, feed them well beneath our artwork and start some really honest discussions about art, our work, the creative process ... a different approach and a different dinner party each week for four weeks. We want to move away from the gallery concept into something more intimate, relaxed and community-based.


--Robyn Farrell Roulo


(Top right image courtesy of The Bluebird)

Posted by Robyn Farrell Roulo on 9/27/09

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