Satellite City Transmissions

A Visual Arts Dispatch from the Midwest
by Jonathan Wright
Photography by Don Rosser

Formed in 2007, Satellite City Transmissions is a group comprised of a dozen Peoria-area artists from a wide range of visual mediums. While each artist brings a unique vision to his or her body of work, the group shares an approach that is edgy and experimental.

Their collaborative efforts seek to paint a picture of the urban-inspired art being created in the rural underground of Peoria.

The group has previously exhibited at Peoria’s WTVP Gallery, Bloomington’s Studio 222, 33 Collective Gallery in Chicago and the Fine Line Gallery in St. Charles. They are currently scheduled for an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria from July 12 to August 29, 2008.


Meet the Members:

Steph Van Doren - sculpture & painting

I am an environmental painter and sculptor. I am passionate about reducing carbon footprints, slowing or stopping waste streams, and quite simply, protecting the planet one piece of artwork at a time. I use reclaimed materials to create art that does not immediately say “I am recycled.” We have a tendency as a civilization to “hide” or deny our impact on this planet. Although not always immediately visually apparent, this theme creates the undercurrent that flows through each piece, and I hope will be felt by the viewer upon further contemplation of he work.

Jacob Grant - ceramics

My artistic vision and style is to create works of art which can be appreciated and acquired by not only the elite, but also by the common person. I also seek to create works of art which can be viewed by a larger audience through gallery and museum exhibitions. I attempt to achieve this through the creation of vessel forms that have no narrative concept. The concept behind my work is entirely about form. I hope to draw the viewer in to examine the object both visually and tactically, and to intimately connect with the form on a personal level.

Heather Brammeier - painting

My paintings focus on interlocking shapes and the resulting equivocation between figure and ground. Behind the interlocking shapes in my paintings is a desire for fullness and completeness. In my everyday life, I have an affinity for objects that are rounded and full, and that seem difficult to break. A new plant tendril sprouting from the earth is actually quite delicate, but the form itself could not be fuller, and the air around the perfect form cradles it with a sympathetic shape, making it feel unbreakable. It is only through painting and drawing that I feel close to achieving that same unbreakable quality.

John Tuccillo - painting

I am interested in a novel approach to landscape painting, which involves making site-specific molds and painted castings from those molds, mainly from the urban environment of Peoria. Essentially I select a site that offers an artifact, or interesting element in/on the ground, make a detailed mold impression of the site, cast parts from the mold and use the castings as bas-relief sculptures that are brought to life with a painted surface. The artifacts I select typically have some element of history, passage of time and a sense of former purpose that has been disturbed or is no longer functional, such as a set of doors from an early 20th century coal chute, a dilapidated manhole cover or the stump of a cut-down tree.

Jennifer Costa - sculpture

My work tends to be functional, being that it deals mostly with furniture. I enjoy working beyond the traditional boundaries of style and media when it comes to functional art. I want a patron to see the artwork for itself first and then recognize that there is a possible function to it as well.

Chris Hutson - drawing & printmaking

Often beginning from a nonobjective, gestural mark, I proceed into representational images of imaginary biomorphic objects, amalgamating piles of cloud intestines, mushroom bones, sausage meteors, meteor sausages, pet rocks and bonsai trees in moments of athletic extremis. My artwork is largely an omnivorous 21st century post-surrealism informed by mannerism, the baroque, science fiction and gastronomy. I hope to make people want to flip over rocks
and look for bugs.

Doug Goessman - mixed media & printmaking

My style very much combines Pop & Abstraction using simple imagery from popular culture. My art can be described this way: “It is what it looks like. I make my artwork accessible for anyone and everyone.”

Erin Robert - collage & mixed media

I can remember as a little girl being intrigued by little pieces of things I’d find lying in the street or stuck in the back of a closet—that interest sparks what I do now as a collage artist. I’m very nostalgic and love to explore the lifestyles of the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s, and am also very interested in history and society, how our values change depending on external influences and how all of this shapes marketing and logos. I tend to incorporate imagery that encompasses all these things into my work, and the results are pieces of art that are sort of like keepsakes from a bygone era.

Chad Ellison - sculpture & drawing

My work reflects a fascination with humanity—its pathos and triumphs. The anthropomorphic characters that I create represent a surreal outcome of a metamorphosis from human to animal. They are usually represented in narrative form, capturing the animalistic nature of the human spirit.

Richard Kirchgessner - scupture, painting, woodblock printing

I work in relief in clay, creating a negative mould with found objects that, after I pour plaster into the mould, creates a positive image. The resulting sculpture may have embedded objects in it, and at times, I will use welded steel to enhance its appearance. Combining different media such as wood, steel, plaster and plastic is something I am experimenting with. I would like those who see my sculptures begin to identify and relate to the found objects within the sculptures and form their own story about them. My work sometimes appears as though it was taken from an archeological dig—you never know what you are going to find hidden within until you go exploring.

Cheryl Dean - photography

I work with Polaroid films, image transfers and manipulations (not Photoshop). They give a painterly and dreamy effect to the photos. I want people to just enjoy them when they see them.

William Butler - painting & printmaking

For the last decade my work has been inspired out of a love of comic books and Pop Art. In the last few years, I have made a major shift in how I approach art that happens to align well with a movement called Pop Surrealism. I begin with automatic drawing, initially relying on the subconscious to direct me rather than planning everything out. As I progress, I make conscious design or color decisions, but I try to remain true to the initial impulse. In this new work, one can identify objects that look familiar, but they are altered and combined with symbols and shapes that are ambiguous. I like any art form that has mysterious imagery—I want viewers to be free to discover their own interpretation. Maybe someone can explain them to me, because the meaning of what I produce is hidden even from me!



What follows are excerpts from our questionnaire for the SCT artists.

How were you approached to become a part of Satellite City Transmissions?

RK: Doug Goessman approached me, along with William Butler, director of the Contemporary Art Center, about showing our work in Chicago. After a few attempts to obtain a gallery showing, it became apparent that a new approach would have to be investigated. The idea of having a group show with more than three Peoria-area artists seemed like a nice idea. Doug was teaching at the Peoria Art Guild and tossed the idea to a few artists there, and the group started to grow, with artists from Bradley University, Illinois Central College and Western Illinois University joining in, until we had 12 artists in the group.

CD: I have a different style of photography, not very traditional. I think Doug liked that perspective and thought it would add to the group.

CH: I had a dream that the gym teacher from high school was forcing me to season a pile of cast-iron pans, when a levitating boot floated through the room and commanded me to seek out and join this group. It then disintegrated into hundreds of tiny horseshoe crabs, each with a line of John Milton’s poetry written on its back.

CE: I met Doug in one of my art education classes at WIU. Since I was an emerging artist from Peoria and had worked on collaborative art projects, as well as having taught classes at the Peoria Art Guild and Lakeview Museum, he asked me if I would like to be a part of the group.

What made you decide to participate?

ER: I had recently moved to the area from the East Coast and thought this would be a great opportunity to get more involved in the local art loop. It also became clear to me that, while Peoria is home to quite a large number of artists, it doesn’t seem to have an infrastructure that offers a lot of exhibition opportunities to local artists. I saw as a benefit of being involved that it would increase the chances of exhibiting locally.

SVD: I liked the idea of artistic collaboration and exchange of ideas that can happen when a diverse group of artists gets together. I have seen the positive effect a group of this kind can have on the artistic community as a whole and liked the energy that was produced when we got together.

WB: All of our talents, time, contacts and experience are combined so that we share in the work of getting a show together. Currently, I don’t have the time to produce enough work for a solo exhibit, so another benefit is to be able to exhibit without having to hold it all up on my own.

HB: The participants represent various Peoria arts organizations, and I recognized immediately that working with these people would invigorate my studio process. Having a network of artist peers is vital for any studio artist; having that network span a variety of artistic approaches and experiences is extremely beneficial.

CE: After I went to our first meeting, I wasn’t surprised to see three other emerging artists that I had known over the past ten years. I felt honored to be a part of such a talented and diverse group of artists.

JG: I really liked the idea of Peoria artists working together to draw attention to what was happening with the art scene in Peoria. It was also a good opportunity to exhibit my work in gallery shows.

CH: Why not?

How does your artistic vision benefit from such a collaboration of artists?

DG: All of us have similar visions and directions. Our experimental approaches to each of our mediums complement each other.

JC: By being able to talk with other artists who are unfamiliar with my work, I am opened up to new ideas and techniques that I may not have thought about before. I never want to do the same work over and over, and I like the idea of being challenged to push myself as far as I can go.

CH: Fun, mutually increased exposure, chances to steal ideas from one another.

RK: Artists feed off of each other while creating their art. Networking,
gaining contacts and collaborating with other artists from other organizations is something I did not learn in school and has proven to be invaluable in continuing my artistic vision. I have a new incentive to continue to create, and knowing I have upcoming shows keeps me motivated.

HB: From our meetings with each other and interactions during group exhibitions, I have gained some new insights about how people interpret my paintings. In the last year, I have begun to re-examine my primary goals in painting. My priority has begun to shift, partly due to my interactions with SCT artists.

JT: At this point it has been a great way to get to know the artists and their work, and to be a part of a group of serious artists that come together from various niches within our community, to cooperate
in gaining exposure and exhibition.

What sacrifices, if any, must you make in order to be a part of this group?

DG: On some level, individual opportunities suffer a bit, but I enjoy these group exhibitions together much more. It is really less pressure because I do not have to worry about kicking out a ton of art all of the time—even though I do anyway.

CD: Only creative sacrifices, which all artists have to make.

JC: There are no sacrifices made on my part, only a gain in opportunities.

ER: I don’t feel that I really need to make any sacrifices in order to be part of this group. Art is what I love to do, and if I can spend my time with those who have a similar passion, that’s enough.

HB: Organizing twelve artists requires a number of meetings. Sometimes our meetings are really more about joking around with each other than getting things done, which I actually enjoy. I give Doug and Erin most of the credit for keeping everyone in the group informed through email and phone calls.

JG: I sacrifice time from school and family. I also sacrifice sleep.
Are there elements of your artistic work that are not conducive to a collaborative environment, or that you keep separate from the group?

JC: I come from a background where it is expected for you as an artist to be able to work both individually
and collaboratively, and being part of a collaborative environment is never a hindrance.

ER: There are times when I might keep a certain body of work separate from a group exhibition, but only for the sake of reserving that body of work for a solo show.

CH: No. While I work independently, I enjoy occasional collaboration.
Moreover, the collaboration happens mostly on the side of exhibition, rather than production.

HB: Every studio artist needs a buffer between the “real world” and the safety of the studio. I keep brand new ideas and work private until I know how I feel about them; if I am happy with the new work, only then will I open up the discussion to other artists.

JT: Not that I can think of. We are in essence a very eclectic group of artists, which I view as one of our strengths.

What is your vision for the arts community in Peoria?

CD: Peoria has a wonderful arts community. As the owner of a small gallery (Picture This Framing & Gallery in Peoria Heights), I represent 20-25 artists. With all of the local galleries joining together to support our talented artists, we will continue to thrive.

JC: I would love for more of the public to participate in the art world and feel welcome to more of the galleries, classes and exhibitions that Peoria and the surrounding areas have to offer.

ER: I would love to see progressive art walks, which is a huge thing in all of the bigger cities on the east coast. All of the major galleries and art organizations/centers would coordinate their openings to happen on this night and people walk or drive from gallery to gallery looking at the art, listening to live music and eating hors d’oeuvres. I would love to see the local arts organizations do something like this—and I could see all of the artists who have studios downtown getting involved. I know there’s an interest in the community, it’s just a matter of getting it going.

CH: I hope it keeps getting bigger. I hope lots of young local weirdos get rich and decide to spend lots of money on art.

RK: I would like to see more cooperation between the different arts groups in Peoria. Gallery walks, combined group shows and bringing more public art to the city in more visible places are a few ways to gather attention and bring more people into the realm. On first glance, it would appear that we do not have a viable and thriving arts community in Peoria. The arts community here needs to be supported and encouraged to help bring more people into an awareness of the arts in our city.

HB: Peoria has a number of successful arts organizations that nurture local and regional artists. My hope is that the new riverfront museum will look to places like the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis to model programs like the Flat Files, which showcase local artists. (For more information on this program, visit I have artwork represented in the Flat Files at Pierogi 2000, a New York gallery which created the model for the program. It gives me a connection to the national art scene and an avenue for critical discussion with an expert in the field. Cities like St. Louis have created local versions that nurture artists in a similar manner.

JG: It would be nice for the arts community to get aid to provide opportunities for affordable studio space, advertising our incredible arts community outside of the city, and, of course, opportunities for grants. With these, the Peoria arts community would have more opportunity to grow and thrive, draw in tourism, and create more culture in an area of the Midwest that is typically known as a blue-collar, industrial satellite city to Chicago and St. Louis.

How can Satellite City Transmissions contribute to this vision?

HB: Our group of artists is exhibiting both locally and in surrounding areas. The strong arts organizations in Peoria contribute to the legitimacy of our group by recognizing the accomplishments and supporting the efforts of the individuals in our group. For our part, exhibiting outside of Peoria broadens awareness of the art scene in our city.

JG: We contribute by showing to areas within and outside of our community the exceptional artwork currently happening in the city, which could, in the future, justify reasons for the city to support the artists and for tourists to come to Peoria.

ER: Doug recently approached me about getting another group of artists and art-minded people together to start a traveling co-op gallery; the idea is to install exhibits in the various warehouses currently on the market, which would hopefully drum up excitement about the arts downtown, show the potential of a business space and spark an interest in the purchase of these places. I could certainly see SCT being a part of that larger picture.

What lies in the future for your role in Satellite City Transmissions?

DG: I will continue to plug along and ride the wave wherever it takes us—it is too much fun.

CD: My role in SCT has motivated me to come up with more artistic views through the camera lens and a different outlook on photography—hopefully people will enjoy.

JC: Work, work, and more work!

RK: As the group grows in knowledge and experience, I too will grow with it. I will be working on designing postcards and posters for some upcoming shows.

SVD: I will continue to be a part of that visionary movement as long as I can.

HB: We already have exhibitions scheduled for late 2008 and early 2009. I plan to continue exhibiting with the group and helping to find opportunities outside Peoria.

JT: To be more proactive in seeking opportunities for our group.

For more on the group, the artists and its mission, visit a&s

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