Size doesn't matter for Sistler's "Trouble" in Firecat Projects


"Limited Neglect 2" is a four inch square painting

While Nicholas Sistler's miniature paintings prove that size does not matter when it comes to drawing the observer into a painting, they also prove that they can mesmerize the viewer into lingering and exploring. Sistler's Trouble in Tony Fitzpatrick's Firecat Projects, 2024 N. Damen, is a full blown installation as theatrical as the paintings themselves.


Entering the space from the front door

The traditional plain white-wall space of the gallery was transformed by Sistler into a space that conveys seduction. Sheer panels of fabric break the space into more intimate spaces. Viewers can get a hint of what is "around the corner" but all is not revealed. In addition, by painting the lower part of the walls as though wainscoting, he helps bring the viewer through the exhibit.


"Vacacy" is a black and white 3" x 6" pring


The first "corridor" in the space

In the crowd of "first-nighters" during the opening, some of these subtleties were difficult to observe though may be understood with some of the photos on this page. The 15 paintings and 15 prints in the show range in subject matter from the subtle to porn.

Having begun painting during his high school years at Evanston High, "where they had excellent arts training," according to Sistler, the size of Sistler's paintings ranged from large to small. But in 1992, he settled into Lilliputian-sized pieces that were "kid friendly" in bright colors and happy images. In 2002 he began incorporating images of photographs into his work, giving him a way to include human forms that were not "characters" in the scenes he was creating. It was in that period that an inner voice began talking him into noir subject matter.


Nick Sistler making a specific point during the show's opening

His research for photos brought him to the realization that the Kinsey Institute had an archive of images that could be of use in his work. Dr. Alfred Kinsey created his Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction in 1947 at Indiana University. The Institute has a large archive of photos that date back to the mid 1800s and is available for research and art purposes.


Parallel with the back wall another sheer curtain veils more images

In 2004 Sistler, a Bucktown resident, learned that a friend had a contact at the Institute which gave him the opportunity to visit the archives. By the end of 2008, he was still painting but also created three black and white prints, transitioning him into a period of splitting time between painting and print making. The paintings in the show are four inch squares and the prints are three inches tall and six inches wide.


Like the artwork, the opening audience was splendiforously diverse

He approaches his compact pieces in a mix of architectural and painting techniques by drawing out his sight lines so that all things in the paintings have the correct perspective. Then he lets his intuitive side take over filling in the space.

The exhibit at Firecat will be open thru May 19.

A 1980 graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA degree, Sistler has shown his work in more than 100 exhibitions. With work in numerous private collections, Sistler's work is in institutions such as Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University Art Museum, The Kinsey Institute, Illinois State Museum, the Rockford Art Museum, the Block Museum, Benedictine University, Elmhurst Art Museum, and the College of Lake County.



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