Gary Justis

Gary Justis
Bloomington, Illinois, US
April 04
Gary Justis has worked primarily in the area of kinetic sculpture for the last 34 years. He lived and worked in Chicago from 1977 to 1999. He currently resides in Bloomington Illinois, where he teaches and writes stories about his actual experiences. (please take a look at his "Sculpture" link for more info)


Editor’s Pick
MAY 20, 2011 9:41AM

Between Low and High Culture: Heavy Brow Gallery

Rate: 29 Flag

Heavy Brow 1


The exciting activities of Heavy Brow Gallery are a welcome addition to our historic town, and the levels of interest this small space generates are extraordinary. When you compare the non-profit, independent exhibition space to other venues in Chicago (The Suburban comes to mind) or New York, the most obvious distinction (if you define it as a distinction) is its size.  Heavy Brow Gallery is no larger than an institutional powder room, with a sweet, old fashion staircase that connects an equally small upper floor.


With Heavy Brow Gallery, and the flexible mission of the Co-directors, Brandon Siscoe and Steve Linksvayer, the creative impulses of the artists, who are fortunate enough to display their works in this tiny gallery, posit questions about our world that are timely, but still irresolute; issues that are mysterious, yet sometimes profound; as the quintessence of any serious professional practice might be.


Brandon and Steve 1 copy

Brandon Siscoe and Steve Linksvayer, co-founders and directors of Heavy Brow Gallery

  Heavy Brow 2

Steve Linksvayer lays out work for an installation


 Making the distinction between the “brows”, of culture, a curious observer might arrive at some compromise in things that interest them in negotiating the vagaries of creative achievements. A “Middle Brow” protocol makes getting along socially much easier, with scripted interactions, conversational foreplay, and never crossing into experiential territories where the meat of thought and emotion live.

For some, a determined lethargy is their un-confessed imperative. They travel to the limits of their comfortable quarters, looking over as spectators into the uncomfortable realms of original thought… but for others, true creativity takes hold and new worlds are revealed, and eventually it becomes clear to anyone that a complete stasis of one mind, eventually limits all minds.


Heavy Brow 3

Brandon Siscoe talking to the artist L J Douglas about the installation prior to the gallery’s second show, Niche, works on paper by L J Douglas and Sarah Smelser


Artists live and think in the visual realm, and in their selfish practice, they are an important component to enlightenment within our culture. Artists, like scientists, authors, philosophers, and other practicing professionals, have the ability to direct thought through the introduction of ideas. Heavy Brow champions large ideas within the tiny, but vital physical space in historic Downtown Bloomington, Illinois. The corporal aspect of this gallery is only one component that makes the work shown within its walls so important. For many, there is a desire to gather around an enterprise that has certain physical limitations. There is an earnest sense of the need for co-operation and social interaction.  


HB reception 1

Reception for, Niche, works on paper by L J Douglas and Sarah Smelser. L to R, Steve Linksvayer (off camera), Sarah Smelser, Bill O’Donell (photographer), Brandon Siscoe, L J Douglas (foreground), Dennis French (goldsmith, master cabinet maker and photographer), and Alex Carlson (artist)


The second exhibition of Heavy Brow Gallery, Niche, works on paper by L J Douglas and Sarah Smelser, May 6-May 30, 2011, explores a collection of small, but powerful graphic images. The abstract images of these two artists establish a teasing dialogue with our sense of the unreliability of rational thought and skillfully wrought graphic remonstrations. The impish dissent so skillfully moiled away in these images takes forms that describe states of mind and rebellious patterns of the human gesture.



Sarah Smelser, Alter-native, 2011. Monotype, 9 X 10 inches

Sea Within 1a

L J Douglas, Sea Within, 2010. Collograph, solar pate, chine colle, stencil, watercolor, drawing, 9.5 x 11 inches


These images are celebratory, firm, confident and clear. The colors ask the observer to relinquish pre-knowledge and expectations, prodding us to let go…to become unleashed and enter the seemingly impenetrable image where we can reside without any anticipation of a rationale for the manner and placement of marks. The marks and color of these works ricochet the immutable figures of nature, and the emotions that are shaped by it. There is a strong whimsical sense to the work, blithely referencing dominions of play or reprieve, where we stand for some fine moments luxuriating in this glorious visual passage.



Sarah SmelserMamba Wamba, 2011. Monotype, 7 X 8 inches


thistles copy

L J DouglasThistles, 2007. Watercolor, gouache, marker, with drawing transfers, 18 X 24 inches


 L J DouglasAnatomia (Liver ), 2010. Collage and marker on hand made paper, 9 x 13 inches


sure footing

Sarah SmelserSure Footing, 2010. Monotype, 6 X 12 inches



Sarah Smelser, Chorus, 2010. Monotype, 7 X 8 inches



L J Douglas, Anatomia (Liver 6), 2010. Collage and marker on hand made paper,8 1/8 x 8 6/8 inches


Heavy Brow 4



Please Visit Heavy Brow Gallery's first exhibition, Across the Wounded Galaxies, featuring the work of Bill Conger, Bob Jones, Steve Linksvayer, and Brandon Siscoe

A very fine review of the exhibition Niche by the painter Ron Jackson appears on FB

Many thanks to Manneken Press for publishing the work of Sarah Smelser and many others

Thanks to L J Douglas for the fine exhibition catalog that accompanies Niche

 And many thanks to our dear friend John Brunetti, wherever you are...





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Thanks for sharing this; what a cool town you live in! I see at least two pieces I want to buy!
Gary, what a fascinating small gallery space with big ideas! I'm trying to think of any other gallery around NY or New England I have been to over the years that packs so much into such an intimate space and so far can't think of one. Great looking pieces that you have included with the story.
I loved this.. good work Gary!
rated with hugs
Nikki, you are so kind. I'm thrilled to be working with you and our colleagues!

John, It is a very intimate space, no larger than a normal kitchen, with the upper floor (x 2). Thanks for your great comment...
Good to see you Linda...Thank you!
what a sweet little space
& I especially like liver 6
Nice art, exquisite site! I love the tiny space.

Only quibble (for me - as you know - a sign maker) is the SIGN!
So I made one, and posted it here.
Caroline, The small "Liver" series is quite wonderful....I think you can see all of them on L J Douglas' website. thanks for the comment.

dianaani, OK that's a very sweet gesture. I will make sure they guys see it! Thanks for your visit and comment
Informative and beautiful R~
Utterly exquisite prints, paintings and drawings in a charming venue!
Oh man, I love galleries. This one is special.
I feel like I've been to the gallery myself. Thanks for taking us along with you, Gary.
Rolling, thank you for the comment!

Monsieur Chariot, your comment is very kind and highly valued. The venue does have a great deal of charm, and potential for this community.

D Art, thank you so much and congratulations on your fine piece this morning.

Hello Lea, I’m hoping this will all still be here on Monday…great to see you, thanks for the visit.
Very, very nice. There are several pieces I would just love to own.~r
Very, very nice. There are several pieces I would just love to own.~r
Loved the colors, the puzzle pieces and the one with the liver! Very fun and unique gallery offering. Thanks for sharing!
Great to have an expert guide to this fascinating show, Gary. Thanks.
Thank you for a delightful post. It brought back memories of Eastern Edge Gallery, NL, of which I'm rather fond.
Their success will depend on a greater variety and, of course, the price of these works. None are mainstream. Art is money and business....just saying. . .
thanks for this peek into a gallery i'll likely never visit. *very* talented, these two artist you feature. like others commenting before me, i'd snap up two or three ...

the intrigue of that very small space, like a two-story dollhouse, showing in such an intimate way these physically small works of art - it really demonstrates how a particular piece of art, small or large, is best appreciated in a place that complements its size. beautiful work, gary.
Only for you, dear one...I'm over here making a point...xoxoxoxo
nice work--with a soft midwestern touch. it should have sold, and I hope it did.

Buy original art!
I loved the feel of this and the images at the end left me wondering which one was my absolute favorite. I love that places like these are around to share talent.
Joan, my thoughts as well. Thanks for the visit and for that fine piece you published yesterday!

Cathy, You are welcome, thanks for the visit and I hope you are all doing great out in the western US!

Hello Matt, Guide of sorts…the expert part..still trying..Thanks Matt.

Thank you for coming by Jonathan!

FusunA, You are welcome…I have to check out that gallery.

FTM, I’m not sure where the mainstream lies in its wide protocols. Since artists can more or less work anywhere (unless one wants a NY dealer), there is a broad market, one that is still struggling…yes, with the economy in the crapper. There are nonetheless many examples of work that sells quite well, at high prices, and it is not what I would consider mainstream according to the 80’s and 90’s definition. This Gallery is varied in its schedule. The first show was conceptual work, perhaps more in line with things we see in NY, Chicago and LA.

And yes, to a great extent, Art=$ in today’s market, and that applies most aptly to the blue chip artists. Installation still subverts that in its inimitable way….thanks for your comment.

Candace, never say never. I thought I would never live in a big city, then I thought I would never leave one after I was there. I love the description as a two-story dollhouse, and I agree, context is very important for almost every work of art, especially in the period of time. I think more than ever, artists are aware of the space their work occupies.

Robin, point taken and…adored…

Ben, Hello! I like the kind idiom, but I’m not sure what a “Soft Midwestern touch” is exactly.

Lunchlady, me too, I would like to see many more in every town.
In addition to learning that the power of art is strong in Bloomington, and what stunning examples Brandon and Steve included in this show, there was also confirmation that Gary Justis is a mensch.
Very interesting pieces and informative too. Thank you.
Fabulous pictures of amazing art work. I have to admit I had to look up the word "vagaries"! It's great to learn something new!!
Impressive. Art it would be a pleasure to live with.
I like these Gary. Of course, I am seeing them literally - I see the biology in them (a strong component of my educational background) but, I got that much before even reading the titles. I especially like the brightly colored ones. Simplistic, and perhaps not what you intended, but I, for one, am happy that I get it :-)
Great post that shows your tender loving care for your community. Looks like nice folks and a good time for all involved. Thanks for sharing and more...
I loved it all---from the flooring on up to the flooding imagination of wanting to have been there!
nhold Rated You. These photos will take all eve. Ig possible, while the download happens ...
Let's (someone?) go to the local Sweetsie Ice Cream Parlor for a hot coco with marshmallows.

Uh - oh. Maybe we can do a hokey-pokey.
If we get any older we dance with a walker.
Elderly couples get tattoos to read 'Sweet'
Then we go for job interview at milk parlor.
Thanks Gary J. Oh galleries.
This need more link-up time.
I spend time when more dazed.
You sure did great research here.
Small but fabulous gallery. All collection are really fantastic.

Thanks for sharing.
Hello Stacey Oh….thank you Stacey..the credit goes to Brandon and Steve..also the artists. I’m so happy you came by. Thank you.

Christine, You are welcome, thank you.

Susie…I had to look it up too as I was saying it to myself because I liked the sound.

Hello Hawley, I agree, I would live with any of it…Steve or Brandon (no offense guys).

Kelly, Yes, L J’s work derives much of the imagery from biological systems. And you are never simplistic in your impressions and opinions.

Algis, Yes I do love this community, many creative folks here and we all know each other….Ulp! a little too much in some cases….

Mary! That floor of the gallery is precious. My house’s bathroom floor in Chicago was the same retro pattern. I know you were there in your imagination, and I am happy for that.

Art, it’s always a delight to get your original and imaginative response. I love the gift you give to the fortunate few on OS. I have received a few, and I treasure them. I love the idea of getting Ice Cream while the photos load. We all need to look forward to making a strategy for dancing with our walkers. And you know, I look forward to my Old Guy job..maybe an Ice Cream Man after all.

Ken, You are welcome and thanks for the visit.

Jramelle, not slow at all and I am pleased you like the post!
Gary Justis. We just bumped o the Left Activity Feed.
If you aver need to buy goat milk, kale, and red beets?
Bring Nikki Stern Etc.,?
I'd be a garbage collector?
If a woman would be tame?
I am just pondering nonsense.
It's past bedtime for trash man.
It be nice to have mashed potatoes.
Folk would Love Renwick's Craft Exhibit.
It's "history in the making" 2011 Invitational.
cliff lee
judith schaffer
matthias pliessing
intro- by nicholas r. bell
the stain glass exhibit blew my socks off.
I haven't spent time with the book. If in DC?
The Judith Schaechter Exhibit was a Mind Blow.
i love these distinctions between the brows of culture in your 3rd and 4th paragraphs, so lucidly and elegantly explained I want to hold on to and savor the poetry of your language and mind here. beautiful and ... what word is there to describe the shift into a new perspective? - that word.