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Art exhibit looks at what your home says about you

AlberAguilar's 'Portal (Esther Grimm)' is one sculptures he creates people's homes out objects they own.

Alberto Aguilar's "Portal (Esther Grimm)" is one of the sculptures he creates in people's homes out of objects they own.

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‘Open House: Art About Home’ exhibit

Jan. 19-April 20

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is always free on Fridays; regular admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and free for children under 5 years old.

Elmhurst Art Museum

150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst

(630) 834-0202;

An Intergenerational Workshop with Artist-in-Residence Alberto Aguilar (all ages) will be held on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m.

Visit for a complete list of related programs.

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Updated: January 16, 2013 9:56AM

If someone were to create a portrait of you using only items in your home, what would it look like?

And what would it include? These are some of the questions Alberto Aguilar set out to answer as part of his exhibit at the Elmhurst Art Museum’s, “Open House: Art About Home,” which runs Jan. 19-April 20.

Seven different artists interpret their vision of home. Aguilar is the artist-in-residence and his domestic monuments are a focus of the exhibit.

Aguilar visited homes in the area and created sculptures from objects he found within. But the process is more complex than a mere creation.

During a tour of the home, he asks homeowners questions about items and maybe pulls aside a few which catch his eye. After the tour, he circles back and begins his process.

“He was almost drawn to what I would consider ordinary things, not necessarily what I found myself wanting to show him,” said Joann Callahan of Elmhurst who participated in the project. “But when he puts the objects together, it’s definitely a sculpture; it takes a while to figure out what the individual items are.”

For Callahan’s portrait, he juxtaposed an antique desk that belonged to her grandparents with her daughter’s pink gymnastics mat.

Aguilar, who grew up in Lombard, has long been intrigued by the idea of integrating home life and his art practice. He not only wants people to experience art, but to embrace the idea of play and how it can exist in daily life. “I play with these domestic objects and in a sense through the making of them, I invite others to play with them as well.”

And he wants the owners to be part of the exchange; often having them dismantle and recreate his sculptures and explain what the piece means to them. “For them, the experience is different than for me because it’s their stuff,” he says. “My hope is that I either make some coincidental connections or give greater meaning to their lives.”

Sometimes those connections come in revealing ways. Walter Piper of Darien, a former classmate of Aguilar’s at the School of the Art Institute, found himself more aware of his possessions after the process.

“He’s really making a portrait of someone through their stuff,” he said. “When you see that, you realize what your stuff says about you. Why does he think this is important to me? What does it say about me? He’s not passively grabbing items. He’s trying to engage people on the same level he is and by making these choices, he’s making you look at your choices.”

Staci Boris, the recently-tapped chief curator of the museum, was intrigued with the idea of home since the museum is housed in Mies van der Rohe’s historic McCormick House.

“I really wanted a project that engaged the community and visitors through home and art. This project asks people to define what makes a home, what a home means and how different cultures define home,” she said.

Altogether, seven artists’ work will be displayed representing variations on the theme of home. Artist Don Baum makes a different type of domestic monument by creating miniature sculptures of A-frame houses using items typically found in homes such as linoleum tiles and paint-by-number canvases.

Alyssa Miserendino’s photo series looks at Chicago area homes that have been abandoned and foreclosed. And other artists delve into homes from other cities around the world and around the country.

“I think there are a lot of complex feelings that people have about home,” said Boris. “I hope (this exhibit) will prompt them to think about home and what it means.”

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