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‘It’s Surreal Thing!’: artist Jim Siergey’s latest exhibit to open in Hammond this month

by Jamilyn Hiskes

HAMMOND, Ind. (January 28, 2020) – Said to be “comic,” “coarse,” and “cerebral,” the newest exhibit by local underground artist and Lansing Journal cartoonist Jim Siergey will be coming to Hammond, Ind., this month.

The exhibit, aptly titled “It’s Surreal Thing!” after the Magritte-and-Dali-inspired imagery that permeates nearly every piece of art on display, is being hosted by South Shore Arts at The Towle Theater (5205 Hohman Ave.). There will be an artist’s reception for the exhibit’s public opening on Feb. 21 from 6-8 p.m., and it will be open through March 8, alongside the theater’s run of the play “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End.”

The exhibit at The Towle Theater was curated by Bridget Covert of South Shore Arts in Northwest Indiana. The stark contrast of the black-and-white illustrations against the exposed brick is as delightful as the art itself. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)

“It’s Surreal Thing” features artwork by Siergey from as far back as 1985 and as recent as this year. Siergey said his inspiration for these pieces can come from almost anywhere.

“Sometimes it’s just something I hear or see that makes me think of something else,” Siergey said. “It’s just the way I think.”

Comparing this exhibit to “Cultural Jet Lag,” the one he and fellow underground artist John Giemzik III held in May 2019 at Paul Henry’s Art Gallery (419 Sibley St.), Siergey said it’s quite different. While “Cultural Jet Lag” featured published political art and comic strips he created with his former partner in art Tom Roberts, most of the 36 pieces in “It’s Surreal Thing” are inspired by surrealist artists and pop culture—some references are obvious, while others require more thought and background knowledge to fully appreciate. However, Siergey said, one of the main goals he strives for as an artist is still present in this exhibit.

This piece from the exhibit, entitled “Pablo and Sal Have Dinner with Rene,” feature three of Siergey’s artistic inspirations — Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali. (Image courtesy of Jim Siergey)

“It’s the idea of a juxtaposition of expectations,” Siergey said. “That’s sort of my approach to things.”

Siergey said South Shore Arts, a regional arts organization in Northwest Indiana, reached out to him about wanting to showcase his art at the Towle Theater. “It’s Surreal Thing” was curated by South Shore Arts Director of Exhibitions Bridget Covert, who hung the pieces along the bare brick wall of the theater’s main hallway.

“I never know [what people are going to like],” Siergey said. “Something I work on really hard and think, ‘This is really good,’ people are like, ‘It’s alright.’ But stuff I just felt I dashed off is what people react to like, ‘I love this!’ Artists don’t know what the public wants, so I guess you just have to please yourself.”

Some pieces in the exhibit inspire laughter, such as the image of a combination safe lounging in an armchair entitled “Safe at Home.” Others, such as “Death Takes No Holiday”—a grim, dark image of the Grim Reaper perched in a throne of skulls atop a melting planet Earth—are more thought-provoking. Some are simply meant to be an outlet for wordplay — like “Illuminancy,” an image of the character Nancy from the Ernie Bushmiller comic strip of the same name with an Illuminati pyramid for a face. Still others feature Siergey himself, the most amusing one being an illustration of him at a desk with a giant moose hanging onto his back. It’s aptly titled, “The Artist and his Muse.” While most of the artwork at the exhibit is available for purchase, some pieces—such as the aforementioned self-portrait—are for display only.

“Illuminancy” is one of Siergey’s favorite pieces in the exhibit. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)
A variety of different styles of art can be found at the exhibit. (Photo: Jamilyn Hiskes)

“Opening one’s eyes or ears to the way you view or hear things is important,” Siergey said when asked what he’d like visitors to take away from “It’s Surreal Thing.” “The whole thing of thumbing your nose at society and plays on words and things like that were kind of ingrained in me as a youngster, and I never let it go.”

For more information about the exhibit, or to view it by appointment prior to the artist reception, call 219-937-8780. The Towle Theater is located at 5205 Hohman Ave. in Hammond.

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Jamilyn Hiskes
Jamilyn Hiskes
Jamilyn Hiskes is a Loyola University Chicago School of Communications graduate and experienced journalist who enjoys writing stories about people, entertainment, and politics. She’s new to Lansing, but that only makes her more eager to learn about the town through her reporting for The Lansing Journal.