Maria Tirabassi Gallery is located in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It is not a white wall gallery by any means. The space, also called Humility Gallery, is raw, unfinished and in a state of constant flux. Over the past month I have gotten to know the owner, Maria Tirabassi, well enough to realize that she takes great pride in the humble aspects of her gallery previously described and aims at merging art with the surrounding neighborhood constantly. The entire gallery space is devoted to her solo artistic work, mainly painting. Her paintings are priced at relatively low prices, from 100 to 500 dollars. Maria aims to connect with the people that come into her gallery, and having affordable art is just one of the ways in which she makes herself accessible to the Pilsen art community.
Humility Gallery has been in existence since 2001. Tirabassi moved to the space on 18th street from the Flat Iron Arts building in Wicker Park. At that time, Pilsen was downtrodden, impoverished, and crime-ridden. Humility was one of the first art spaces in the Pilsen neighborhood. Soon after, the Pilsen Art Nation began and more spaces started appearing over the next ten years. The gallery grew in popularity and was a space for music, spoken word poetry, film festivals, artistic collaboration and inspiration. The old stage, which is now completely covered in her joyous childlike works, used to be a platform for musical performances. Maria would open her doors to those who wanted to enjoy the music in a non-alcoholic, all-ages atmosphere.
The gallery was once open to the public but now is by appointment only in order for Maria to deal with clients on a more direct basis. Maria continues to create work constantly. Every day the artwork changes in the front space as she rearranges works to replace ones that have been sold or to change the mood in what Tirabassi calls her “Art Forest.” The “Forest” also includes furniture that Maria has incorporated into her work and made her own. The furniture is also on sale as is all the art in the room for a price most people can afford. Maria likes to recall a client who claimed to have seen her paintings in three different cities in the country.
Maria Tirabassi’s paintings grow on you after some time. The work is reminiscent of Picasso sketches outlining movement, childlike joy, dance, and the bliss experienced while being in a carefree state. These themes of innocence come across in her use of primary colors as well as pink, purple, green and white. In a quick linear fashion, lines take the shape of dancing children often with a circular head and an expressive face with minimally outlined features. The “Art Forest” seems to take on a life of its own with paintings covering every inch of wall and floor space. It is almost too much to consume in one attempt. Stepping into the gallery from the busy street outside takes one into another world where art lives in every corner and crevice of the childlike imagination. Maria is the enchanted queen of her creative space and she takes great pride in her role as a Pilsen artist.