Less (and) More: Modernism Greets the River Landscape

July 11 – September 19, 2021

Less (and) More: Modernism Greets the River Landscape at the Barnsworth Gallery,  is an exhibition of Fox River landscape paintings that gives viewers a sense of the land and environment in which the Farnsworth House is situated.

The Modernist precision and refined proportions of the Farnsworth House architecture are seen in relation to the natural forces that shape the river and the floodplain landscape on which the Farnsworth House sits.

Entry to this exhibition is included with a guided tour ticket.

Joel Sheesley is a painter and the inaugural artist-in-residence at Farnsworth House (2020-21).

Joel’s current work addresses the local northeastern Illinois landscape. In 2017 he began a three year project under the auspices of The Conservation Foundation to paint landscapes of the Fox River Valley.

This work was exhibited at Aurora University’s Schingoethe Center and published in A Fox River Testimony, a book featuring more than seventy of his paintings of the Fox River.  Mr. Sheesley is a professor emeritus of Wheaton College where he taught painting for 42 years.  Sheesley’s work has been exhibited widely and in 2020 he was inducted into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame.  Joel Sheesley lives in Wheaton, Ill.

Artist’s Statement

Initially I planned only to paint the river landscape around the Farnsworth House, but my curiosity drove me to the House itself as a kind of lens through which to view the surrounding land.  Once inside I found the dual voices of Mies van der Rohe and Edith Farnsworth, represented in architecture and furnishings respectively, and together these influenced my perception of the landscape.  Mies framed the view, but Edith qualified it with  human presence.

I ended up making two paintings that offer the landscape through the lens of the house.  Edith’s chairs and plants, her side table with binoculars, and her dinner table with its place settings suggest elements of narrative that personalize the land outside the windows.  I am reminded that the Fox River landscape is a storied landscape, the Farnsworth chapter a highlight within the tale.

Sheesley’s book, A Fox River Testimony, was published in 2017 in partnership with The Conservation Foundation and features more than seventy of his paintings of the Fox River.  

Farnsworth House acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.