RAM Talks Art: Bid farewell to Hollis Sigler: Expect the Unexpected

By Sarah Bursley McNamara

Community Relations Coordinator, Rockford Art Museum

“Out with the old, in with the new.” For many people, this phrase morphs into a mantra at the start of each new year. At Rockford Art Museum (RAM), January means we’re closing the fall exhibition and gearing up to open the winter show. This year, though, the transition is bittersweet for all of us; a bit like saying goodbye to an old friend.

So we’re doing something special for this exhibition (Hollis Sigler: Expect the Unexpected, on display through Sunday, Jan. 10). We’re hosting a closing reception Thursday, Jan. 7, with extended gallery hours (4-7 p.m.) and free admission.

This exhibition chronicled the deeply personal imagery of Chicago artist and feminist Hollis Sigler (1948-2001) and marked the very first retrospective of the final two decades of her work—a real feat for RAM, for all of us in the Rock River Valley. While “extraordinary,” “once-in-a-lifetime,” and “only in Rockford” are often overused terms, I can’t think of better ways to describe it. Even though the artwork will be on display at the Chicago Cultural Center after it leaves here, an exhibition at another venue still isn’t quite the same.

Acclaimed by art critics and collectors, cancer activists and medical professionals alike, Hollis continues to touch the lives of the many viewers who have seen her work since the October opening of Expect the Unexpected.

Stop by the galleries on any given day, and you’ll bump into folks from Chicagoland who’ve driven in just to see it (“Yes, Virginia, I-90 goes both directions”), as well as friends and neighbors from Rockford. Or Belvidere, Byron, Freeport, DeKalb. You might see students from area high schools and colleges jotting down notes for a paper their teacher assigned them about the exhibition. You may overhear other breast cancer survivors—Hollis is well-known for her “Breast Cancer Series,” many of which are on display here—comparing the artist’s interpretation of her experiences with their own. Or you may even see professionals from the Big Museums in Bigger Cities ooh-ing and ahh-ing at our gallery space, lighting and wall color, and Curator Patty Rhea’s ability to create this show from scratch. Right here at Rockford Art Museum.

Please help us bid farewell Thursday, Jan. 7, and celebrate the success of Hollis Sigler: Expect the Unexpected before it closes Jan 10. Extended gallery hours (4-7 p.m.) and free admission, so bring a friend and kick off the new year by seeing this extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime show on a very special night at the museum.

P.S. This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center; Rotasa Foundation; Fred Turner in memory of his wife, Patty; Art in the Garden; and Women’s Art Board.

Contact RAM Community Relations Coordinator Sarah Bursley McNamara at smcnamara@rockfordartmuseum.org.

From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue

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