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Gretchen Beck

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Gretchen Beck was born in 1970 in Bronx, New York and currently lives and works in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.


She studied Art and Geography at Valparaiso University (1992), followed by an M.A.A and M.F.A in Inter-Media and Video Art at the University of Iowa (1998/1999). Gretchen was an acting Professor of Art at Concordia University, Irvine, California, from 1999 to 2010, fulfilling various roles during her tenure.


Her vibrantly coloured abstractions are drawn from the culture and landscape of Niger in West Africa, a country that has been the focus of her work for over thirty years. She first visited Niger in 1992, when she joined the Peace Corps of America as a volunteer for the African Food Systems Initiative, stationed there until 1995. During this time she created an adult literacy program in the local languages of Djarma and Fulfulde.


Her practice spans drawing, painting, mixed-media and collage, combining social and environmental concerns with references to the language and art forms of the Djarma (also written Zerma) and Fulani peoples of Westernmost Niger of the Niger delta. Her work is often concerned with social change and problems of desertification in Niger.


In Gretchen's most recent series ‘Zunkam’, abstract drawings inspired by busy Nigerian marketplace scenes, make reference to the phrase "Arsowey nda windey ga zunkum habu ra'' which roughly translates as “the young men and women dressed-up whimsically in the market." The word Zunkam here, refers to a particular attitude of celebration in the walk of young Nigerians during public festivals. Using a palette of yellows, oranges, blues and reds and drawing with vigorous curving gestures, she captures the movement and rhythm of joy in the heat of the Nigerian sun.  


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Recent Exhibitions in the United States and internationally include: Habu Nya Dumi Dumi, Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan (2023); Big Names, Small Art, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California (2023); Affordable Art Fair, Hampstead, London (2023); Gan nda Donie Koy, Epiphany Center for the Arts, Guild Art Gallery, Chicago, IL (2023); Shapes and Colours, Gallerium Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada (2023); December Group Exhibition, HMVC Gallery, New York, NY (2022); Arts Visalia Art Centre Gallery, Visalia, CA (2022); Experience of Wonder: Wonderment, NoonPowell Gallery, London (2021); Pure Paint, Arts Benicia Gallery, CA (2021); Absolutely Abstract, Modern Visual Arts Gallery, Bethlehem, PA (2021); Abstracted, Art Fluent Gallery, Boston, MA; Future Landscapes, The Room Contemporary art Space Gallery, Venice, Italy, (2021); Barcelona Contemporary 2021, Valid World Hall Gallery, Barcelona, Spain (2021); Abstract Only, Wailoa Centre Gallery, Hawaii- National juried competition (2021); FC Gallery at Cano, Oneota, NY (2021); Huntington Library, Art Museum, CA (2021); Reynolds Gallery, CA (2021); Arc Gallery, IL (2020); Galex 54, Joanne Goodie Gallery, IL (2020); 2020 Small Works - Big Talent, Las Laguna Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA, (2020); In the Abstract, Site: Brooklyn Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2020); The Mixed-Media Show 2020, Core New Art Space, Lakewood, CO, (2020); Purely Abstract, Fine Line Creative Arts Centre, Cavanagh Gallery, St Charles, IL, (2020); Second Annual Exhibition, Idaherma Museum of Art Foundation, Princeton, NJ (2020); Galex 54 National Competition & Exhibition, Joanne Goudie Gallery, Galesburg Civic Art Centre, IL (2020); Consciousness of Abstraction: Beyond Literal Appearance, Arc Gallery, Chicago, IL (2020); Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso University, Valpraraiso, IN; Florence O'Donnell Wasmer Gallery, Ursuline College, Pepper Pike, OH; Lucile Parker Gallery, William Carey University, Hattiesburg, MS; Montserrat Contemporary Art Gallery, New York, N.Y.; Reflection Gallery, Finlandia University, Hancock, MI; Mary Elizabeth and Charles Bernard Rodning Gallery of Art, University of South Alabama, AL; Farnham Gallery, Simpson College, Indianola, IA; Goodall Gallery, Columbia College, Columbia, SC; Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Brent and Jean Wadsworth Family Gallery, Lewis University, Romeoville, IL; Meadows Gallery, University of Texas, Tyler, TX; and the Gadsden Museum of Art, Gadsden, AL.

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