BY GINNY VAN ALYEA
I met Gregg Driben at a fundraiser a couple of years ago, not long after he suddenly lost his partner, Irish-born artist Kieran McGonnell, in a devastating accident. Driben had recently moved to Chicago with McGonnell when tragedy struck, and when we spoke he was just trying to get a hold on how to move forward with life on his own in a new place. I listened to Gregg talk about Kieran's life and I saw how passionate he was about the artist's vibrant art work.
Now, three year's after McGonnell's death, Driben has gathered dozens of his partner's paintings and watercolors and partnered with Ugly Step Sister Gallery in Pilsen to mount a three-month long exhibition of the artist's work.
The labor of love comes in two parts - the show will open first on Friday, April 11, and then a subsequent reception will introduce the second half of the show on May 9. All of this is taking place as Driben prepares to move out of the home he and McGonnell purchased together when they first moved to Chicago, just weeks before McGonnell was injured. Now Driben is seeing his vision for McGonnell's work take shape while he also moves into another chapter of his life that will be in San Francisco.
McGonnell's vivid art has been shown and collected in Dublin, New York and LA, but this extended show in Chicago will bring many works together for the first time in an effort to create a full picture of the artist's vision and passion. McGonnell did not work in a single style or medium, and he drew on a range of influences and subjects, from the war on terror, to transportation, the every day, and Celtic mythology and imagery.
The exhibition promises to be a celebration of McGonnell's life, his art and a keystone for his legacy, a sort of extended love letter from Driben.