Local artist's work part of new exhibit

C/Overt Observations features work of well-known artists and one emerging photographer

The C/Overt Observations exhibit at Virgil Catherine Gallery in Hinsdale includes works by celebrity photographer Udo Spreitzenbarth and painter Guy Stanley Philoche. Oh, and Hinsdale Central graduate Jared Callaway.

Five of 21-year-old Callaway's photographs are part of the exhibit organized by gallery owner Catherine Ponakala. She first learned of Callaway when his mom, Hinsdale's Kathryn Occhipinti, stopped in and mentioned her son was a photographer with a number of Chicago scenes.

"We didn't have someone representing Chicago photojournalism," Ponakala said. "We had this show, C/Overt Observations coming up, it seemed like a great fit."

Callaway said he's been taking pictures since he was about 10 and got a point and shoot camera. A junior at Columbia College, now living in the city, he shoots a variety of subjects for the school paper, the Columbia Chronicle. But all of his photographs for this exhibit are of Chicago. Some offer expansive views of the skyline or down Michigan Avenue. "Alleyway Archive" focuses in on a specific building.

"I really like this," Callaway said. "You see look-up shots of buildings, but a lot of times it is a daylight shot. This is changing it up, doing it at night.

"I think this building is really interesting because it's very ornamental," he added. "It's actually in the alley. It's the back of the building - it's not even in front of it."

Callaway said he's inspired by photographers he follows on Instagram and what he observes while spending time in the city.

"A lot of time I don't necessarily plan out what I'm going to shoot," he said. "I do like just walking around and doing street photography and other types of photography, too."

Ponakala said she appreciates the opportunity to showcase the work of artists like Spreitzenbarth and premier Canadian photographer Laura Jane Petelko alongside that of young artists like Callaway.

"These are people who are getting a lot of attention, nationally and internationally, which is really great for an emerging artist," she said. "That's one of the things we've always tried to do as a gallery. If you don't give people a break, how does their work ever get seen?"

Ponakala, who co-curated the exhibit with Philoche, said they looked for a theme that fit with the pulse of the world as it endured and emerged from the

COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think it was a time of reflection and I think it was a time of observation," she said. "People are both observing and being observed. That's what happens during an art reception. You are observing the work and people are observing you observing the work."

The gallery will host a reception for this exhibit from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 19. This is fifth artist reception the gallery has hosted since it opened in June 2021, and Ponakala said she expects a couple hundred people to pass through the doors over the three hours.

"People come in and out. We always have a bartender. This will be nice. This will be the first one with no masks," she said.

Ponakala said people don't need to be art experts in order to attend the reception or make a purchase.

"I always tell people it's about having fun," she said. "This isn't serious business. Come in, have a glass of wine, talk to the artists, relax and have fun.

"You don't have to understand art history. You just have to know what you love," she added.

People also should know they don't have to spend $30,000 on a piece of art - especially if they are buying from an emerging artist like Callaway. His 24-by-36-inch photos are selling for $2,600 each.

"Our whole tagline is 'I bought early,' " Ponakala said.

Callaway said he's excited to attend his first reception as one of the artists on exhibition.

"It should be cool," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to it."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean