Rockford artist Braydon Letsinger exhibits compelling portrait paintings in Kortman Gallery...opening June 30th! Exhibition runs thru September 30th

Originally pursuing a career path in criminal justice, Rockford artist Braydon Letsinger’s plans changed when he felt called to formally use and pursue his gifts of art-making. As a Studio Arts major, he has created an intriguing body of works that are featured in an exhibition with an equally intriguing title. Letsinger’s “Staring at Strangers: becoming acquainted with humanity through portraiture” opens Friday, June 30th in the Kortman Gallery.
    HIs compelling paintings combine traditional, realistic portraiture with geometric, abstract patterns in conjunction with contemporary materials like holographic film, fluorescent paint, and aluminum panels.
    “All of my work focuses on what I consider to be the most interesting, but most confusing subject – people and their inner workings,” said Letsinger. “For me, portraiture has been a way to break down barriers to more deeply understand others around me, and to begin to connect my viewers with these painted ‘strangers’ who are more similar to them than they realize.”
    Letsinger approached the Kortman Gallery more than a year ago with a portfolio of his work says gallery director, Doc Slafkosky. “The caliber of Braydon’s work showed that he was a serious, and most certainly, talented, aspiring artist,” said Slafkosky. “His unique combination of traditional realist painting with modern, colorful imagery is approachable, while still honoring the painting tradition and keeping his work relevant and fresh.”
    The majority of Letsinger’s somber-faced subjects were fellow students and faculty from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where he completed his arts degree. His captivating work utilizes the combination of classic realistic portraits of these “strangers” with abstract, geometric elements to speak into the character of his subjects and humanity as a whole.
    “Staring at Strangers” featuring paintings by Braydon Letsinger opening reception is Friday, June 30th from 5:30 to 9pm upstairs in the Kortman Gallery, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. His exhibit will run through September 30th. J.R. Kortman Center for Design & Kortman Gallery are open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 6pm and Saturdays, 11am to 5pm. The opening event and gallery are free and open to the public. For more information phone 815-968-0123.

New Art Book launch and Art Zone TV series reboot in Kortman Gallery through June 17th


  “Celebrating the creative spirit of artists, artisans, and craftsman who inspire, elevate, and enrich…” These words, on the back cover of a new art book, “Collection,” by Doc Slafkosky and Jerry Kortman, express the motivation behind this colorful, “cocktail table” edition.
    The new book is a visual journal of fine art and artifacts from Rockford and beyond. It will be introduced this ArtScene weekend, April 21st & 22nd in the Kortman Gallery.  This multi media exhibition will feature art posters from works by Rockford artists in the collection, plus a vibrant video presentation of scenes from the original 1990’s Art Zone TV series.
    Works by Maggie Thienemann, Betsy Youngquist, John Libowski, Cherri Rittenhouse, Jim Julin, Jacob Polhill, Robin McCauley, Lisa Jimenez, and Brian Hierstein are some of the featured images in the art poster exhibit.
    “Jerry and I have always thought we should document our art collection,” said Doc Slafkosky, the book’s coauthor and director of the Kortman Gallery. “We have hundreds of works of art by Rockford artists that we’ve been collecting for more than 50 years that not many people have had a chance to see.”
    “During covid, we spent a great deal of time at home which provided an opportunity to capture our collection in photographs,” Slafkosky continues. “We started to realize our collection represented a sort of history of art in the Rockford area…illustrating how the visual arts evolved in the community over the years.”
    Jerry Kortman started collecting in the 1960’s and the collection grew substantially after he and Slafkosky opened J.R. Kortman Center for Design and the Kortman Gallery in 1986.
“Rockford has so many amazing artists now, and in the past,” said Kortman. “This book and exhibition of art images, along with Art Zone videos should be quite an educational and entertaining experience. It is truly a retrospective look at the arts in Rockford covering more than  a half-century.”
     The Art Zone was a TV series, co-produced by Doug Connell and Kevin Cronin of Engine Studios. The show aired weekly on Rockford Cablevision from 1991-99, covering the arts, artists, and art events that took place in Rockford. Nearly 40 episodes were produced which included interviews with artists and performers, capturing on location, art openings, RSO events, New American Theater, Rockford Dance Company, Rockford Art Museum and more.
    The original episodes have been remastered and are now available on You Tube.
    “The collection of Art Zone shows is a rare, and amazing, look into a decade where the arts really began to blossom in Rockford,” says Connell, producer and technical director. 
     “The 1990’s was the last decade of the 20th Century and there was was so much optimism and enthusiasm in the Rockford arts community…and this TV series really captures that excitement,” said Holli Connell of Engine Studios.
   “Collection,” book launch, poster exhibition, and Art Zone reboot opens in the Kortman Gallery on Friday, April 21st, 5 to 9pmand Saturday, 11am to 6pm, Spring ArtScene weekend. The gallery is located upstairs at J. R. Kortman Center for Design, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. The exhibit is free, and open to the public. The exhibition will run though June 17th, 2023. For more information call 815-968-0123  

Penny McGuire and Summer Wagner exhibit ‘photography reimagined’ in Kortman Gallery, now through April 15th!


 Rockford artists Penny McGuire and Summer Wagner capture their images through the lens of a camera. However, their creative energy goes beyond the subsequent photograph. They both reimagine their photographs and create images that offer a unique perspective that defines their art.
    The engaging images from each these photographers will be presented in the Kortman Gallery in “Photography reimagined,” an exhibition opening Friday, February 10th in the Kortman Gallery, Downtown Rockford.
    In her photographs, Penny McGuire is drawn to architecture, landscape and still life images.
    “I started experimenting with different settings on my 12 yr old Sony Cybershot to find different ways to record the images I saw”, says McGuire. “I am drawn to architecture, outdoor art and odd things as they relate to their natural environment and to each other.  Many of my photos are several different photos of the same shot in different modes.”
    Most of McGuire’s images in this show are primarily Rockford-related with a few eccentric still life’s and historic sites around the Midwest artistically enhanced to interject her expressive perspective to the photograph.
    After living in Los Angeles for ten years, the pandemic brought Summer Wagner back to Rockford, where she had spent much of her childhood.   
    Wagner’s images offer an extraordinary departure from what can be seen through the lens of a camera alone. Her photographs are ethereal fantasy of people in romantic, yet provocative settings that she visually creates.
    “My work contemplates the spiritual and psychological threads of everyday life and the blur of poetry that is our society's collective dreamscape,” writes Wagner in her artist’s statement.
    Doc Slafkosky, Kortman gallery director says these two artists were chosen because of the entirely different approaches they bring to photography.
    “Not only do Penny and Summer represent different generations, but their artistic vision also represents a different kind of photographic imagery,” said Slafkosky. They both, in some way, reimagine their photographs, but their style and subject matter are so different, that the contrast makes for an engaging and visually entertaining exhibition.”
    Meet the artists at the Kortman Gallery opening reception for “Photography reimagined,” featuring works by Penny McGuire and Summer Wagner Friday, February 10th from 5:30 to 9pm.  The gallery is located upstairs at J. R. Kortman Center for Design, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. The exhibit is free, and open to the public. The exhibition will run though April 25th, 2023. For more information call 815-968-0123 or visit

26 Artists reimagine chairs as art in Kortman Gallery holiday group exhibition opening Friday, Nov. 18th!


 Chairs have been a part of every day life since the dawn of civilization. They have evolved from not only a purely functional piece of furniture, but also a statement of design, social strata, and comfort. For centuries the chair has appeared in works of art from ancient Egyptian scroll paintings  to works by classical masters to modern day paintings and sculpture.
     Kortman Gallery has invited twenty-six artists who work in different styles and media to create works of art inspired by the chair. The exhibition titled, “Sit. Chairs as Art” opens Friday, November 18th from 5:30 to 9pm in the downtown Rockford Kortman Gallery.
    “All twenty-five of these imaginative, accomplished artists have created works that either visually depict a chair in a painting, ceramics, photography, or sculpture…and some are actually functional chairs,” said gallery director Doc Slafkosky.
    Clay artist Lynn Fischer-Carlson said she welcomes the challenge of creating a piece for a show that has a designated theme.
    “It compels you to apply your artistic skills often in different ways,” says Fischer-Carlson. “You want to participate in the theme without sacrificing your own aesthetic vision or style.”
    One of the inspirations for this exhibition was to recognize the 20th anniversary of the creation of “The Big Chair” by Rockford artist, Jim Julin who passed away in 2012.
    “Jim created the chair for a Kortman Gallery exhibit in 2002,” said Slafkosky. “He built the large scale sculpture to honor his Rockford Swedish furniture manufacturing heritage. The Big Chair was placed on the then downtown mall in front of our gallery. It was acquired by Lon and Dick Behr and donated to the Rockford Art Museum’s sculpture garden where it stands tall today on North Main Street.”    
    Participating artists include Zoa Ace, Stephen Warde Anderson, Lynn Fischer-Carlson, Molly Carter, Jesus Correa, John Deill, Michelle Dorr, Fatherless, Roni Golan, Laura Gomel, Brian Hierstein, Jane Peterson Hooker, Lisa Jimenez , Carrie Johnson, Jeremy Klonicki, Jenny Mathews, Robin McCauley, Nancie King Mertz, Valerie Olafson, Jacob Polhill, Jane Weis Proudfoot, Louis Recchia, Joe Tallman, Alison Weust, Brett Whitacre, and Kyle Wolfe.
    Meet the artists at the Kortman Gallery opening reception for “Sit. Chairs as Art,” a holiday group exhibition is  Friday, November 18th from 5:30 to 9pm.  The gallery is located upstairs at J. R. Kortman Center for Design, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. The exhibit is free, and open to the public. The exhibition will run though January 14th, 2023. For more information call 815-968-0123.