Award-winning Evanston artist Shelley Gilchrist and Chicago sculptor Alan Emerson Hicks work independently, but they share a love of space and sky in their visually interactive works.

“Plastic & Wax: Ad Astra,” the Dittmar Memorial Gallery’s first fall 2011 exhibition features works by both guest artists, who use the Latin phrase meaning “to the stars” in the exhibition’s title. It runs through Oct. 31 and focuses on the themes that link the works of Gilchrist and Hicks.

The University’s Dittmar Gallery is located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

Gilchrist is inspired by the environment and works with wood, beeswax, resin and other organic materials. Hicks recycles and repurposes plastic rubbish to create pieces that reference the natural world. Their individual works have a strong sense of play that is manifested in color, pattern and rhythm.

Gilchrist, a former oil painter, is drawn to encaustic (wax) because it lends itself to abstraction. Her paintings on shaped panels verge on the sculptural and are intended to “energize” the space that surrounds them.

Her works in the Dittmar exhibition were curated by Chicago art advocate and former River West gallery owner Paul Klein. A founding member of FUSEDChicago, a professional group of Midwest artists who use encaustic, Gilchrist also is a member of Chicago Sculpture International and 3-D 12, a Chicago-based sculptors group.

Hicks uses found objects and plastic debris to create compelling sculptural artworks that comment on society’s priorities. By heating and stretching plastic clothes hangers, for example, he turns common objects into new vibrant forms. Drawn to plastic for its weight, variety of color and abundance, he creates vivid three-dimensional towers out of plastic bottle caps that resemble engineered structures, buildings and religious relics. Hicks, too, is a member of 3-D 12.

From 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, Hicks will create sculptures using “very immediate materials,” including a copy of the movie “Tommy” in videotape form, hula hoops, video cassette packaging, vinyl and other found objects during his performance, “Portrait Time Capsule: Ann-Margret” (The destruction of “Tommy”). The event will take place on the ground floor of Norris Center and is free and open to the public.

The Dittmar Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

For more information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, e-mail or visit

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