The six-year old Connect Gallery has dodged a UNl Med Center reno and its traffic issues at the venue’s 3901 Leavenworth address and will not close its doors at the end of 2018 as owner Tom Sitzman once feared.

“Twenty-one months of the street being constricted by orange cones and barrels almost put us out of business,” Sitzman said. “Since construction next door is coming to an end patrons are returning and we are once more profitable and art sales are way up.”

This recent revival was first evident with Connect’s impressive October exhibit, the large group show Expressions in Fiber Art VI,open now through Nov. 3. Sitzman promises a strong finish for 2018 with schedule exhibits featuring Susan Woodford in November in the TAG (tiny art gallery) with her steel and copper sculptures and work from abstract artist by Ken Heimbuch and paintings and photos by Bob Wigton in December.

But what might next get the most attention to the re-born space, especially as it appears in the Window Gallery, is the provocative, Figures & Forms by artist Courtney Kenny Porto.

 Porto works in a variety of media including charcoal, pencil, yarn, acrylic and mixed media. While many artists work spontaneously or create in the moment, she acknowledges in her artist statement that “most of my work is meticulously planned…I take great pleasure when the end result matches the vision in my head.

“My creativity lies in the planning and ideas behind a piece, not the execution. I have a minimalist aesthetic. Because of this, most of my pieces center on a single focal point with simple or blank backgrounds and little or no color.”

Known mostly for her figurative works, the title of Porto’s upcoming exhibition should come as no surprise to those that know her edgy, alluring style. Figures & Forms will celebrate the human figure both in body and the abstract.“The movement, composition, form and gracefulness of the female figure captivate me, Porto said. “The body is so many things all at once. It is a vessel, a storyteller and a vehicle.” But rather than mere figure painting or studies, the artist says that “the bodies in my work represent ideas and concepts rather than specific individuals.”

One of these reoccurring ideas is the familiar socio-political theme of commenting on popular norms, roles and labels, particularly as they apply to women. Several of Porto’s figures interact quite literally with boxes and frames in order to depict this concept. Others simply focus on the beauty of the female body and its candor.

Speaking candidly, Sitzman said that though he is grateful for Connect’s revival, changes are in store for 2019.

“Connect Gallery will still exist in 2019, but we are changing the format,” he said. “Jean (co-owner and spouse) and I want to spend more time creating our own art and time to travel. Changes include fewer shows as well as adding rental studio spaces for welded art and painting, fiber, etc.”

Figures & Forms opens at Connect Gallery,3901 Leavenworth St., Nov. 7th and runs through Dec. 1st, with an artist reception on Friday Nov. 9th from 5:30 – 9 p.m.

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