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New gallery welcomes artistic McMahon family

Artist Meryl McMahRe-invent Gallery Lake Forest. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media

Artist Meryl McMahon at the Re-invent Gallery in Lake Forest. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media

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Multi-Media Works by the
McMahon Family

Re-invent Gallery, 202 E. Wisconsin Ave., Lake Forest

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays; Sundays by appointment.

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Updated: May 31, 2012 6:30PM

Multi-media? It’s the perfect description of the show that opened the new Re-invent Gallery in Lake Forest recently. And it is also a perfect way to describe the McMahon family of artists, whose work is being shown there through June 22.

During a private reception Friday evening, Mark McMahon, his wife Carolyn, and their children Meryl, Drew and Elise were in attendance.

Mark McMahon is exhibiting his large Chicago drawings, including one titled “Feeding the Fish at the John Shedd Aquarium.” But also on display are equally large, dense, vivid oil paintings of flowers, including some cheerful Black-eyed Susans.

When asked about the oils, so totally unlike his drawings, Mark told a story about the first time he went out with his easel, oil paints and canvas. “We had moved from Evanston to Lake Forest,” he said, “and I decided to go out and paint in the Open Lands area on Westleigh Road.

Art appreciation

“No sooner had I set everything up but the Lake Forest police came by and asked what I was doing,” he said. When he told them he was painting a picture, they explained that someone had called them and told them they had seen man who was stealing paintings.

“The next day the same thing happened,” he said, laughing, “so the police asked that the next time I went outdoors to paint, to please call them first. Then if someone called, they would know it was me. So I did.”

Mark’s son Drew is a sculptural metal artist and makes large intricately patterned steel wall hangings. Three are displayed in the show, two of which frame his father’s Iris paintings.

“I started doing the frames to give as gifts and just for fun,” said Drew McMahon, who lives in Chicago. His mother Carolyn taught him how to weld when he was a boy of 12. “She did stained glass pieces,” he explained. “I liked to make things for knights, like balls and chains!”

Carolyn has four objects in the show, a neon head, a wire drawing for the neon head, a wall sculpture of a deer and a large metal wall sculpture of a pigeon, designed in one continuous line.

“I did the pigeon because in the fall of 2008, Mark and I were in Venice,” she began. “He was drawing a beautiful church in the middle of the day and pigeons were everywhere…

This particular pigeon was sitting on the chair next to me, so I decided to draw him.”

Meryl McMahon, who lives in Lake Forest, studied at Cornell College and the Rhode Island School of Design. On display are her hand-crafted glass plates, plus bowls and tiles. She also is showing signed prints and original art work.

Her sister Elise is an installation artist and furniture designer. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009 and now lives in New York. In the center of the gallery is her light-colored bookshelf and desk with lighting overhead, covered with perforated leather shades. Her display includes bookmaking tools as well as handmade books.


A separate room is dedicated to paintings by Mark’s father, Franklin McMahon, who died this spring, after 70 years as a painter and an artist-reporter. On a television set is a continuous loop of his film work, which was televised on CBS-TV.

In that room are 16 of his color serigraphs of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on tour lined up in bins. Some of his artwork is hung on the wall, including a charming piece depicting school children crowding around a copy of the U.S. Constitution in the National Archives. It bursts with color and McMahon’s signature sense of motion.

Right next to it is a simple black and white ink drawing, which Franklin tenderly titled “Mark McMahon at Ten,” showing his son seated at a desk. Mark’s work bears a strong resemblance to his father’s, and, recently, Mark was headed down to Chicago to cover the NATO summit as an artist-reporter.

Cecilia Lanyon and Kristin Mikrut, both Lake Forest natives are co-owners of the bright new 4,000 square foot gallery. Lanyon studied painting and advertising at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and Mikrut was a studio art major at Colorado College.

“Cecilia and I met when we were 11 years old and in art class together,” Mikrut said. “We’ve been best friends ever since.”

They chose the name of their gallery because they wanted to reinvent the way people experience and purchased art. “We want to break down the barriers between curator and customer and have people experience art in a new way,” she continued.

The gallery has three parts: a retail shop with wares by 43 artists, the gallery space and a studio at the rear. “This building was reinvented also,” added Lanyon. “It used to be a florist.”

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