Art in a garden

Curt Frankenstein of Wilmette paints race horses that run in place add faucets on flowers that gush nectar.

IN HIS WORK, FRANKENSTEIN DRAWS viewers into a surreal perspective of the world, not unlike Salvador Dali’s melting clocks and Rene Magritte’s unruly clouds. Like Dali and Magritte, he offers a vision of what it truly means to “think outside the box” of ordinary experience and laugh or cry – at life’s illusions. His horses, captured in full stride in a painting drolly titled The Race for Fame and Fortune, are actually topiaries confined to their planters. “The horses can’t really go anywhere so the race is a contradiction, a paradox,” he says. “The race for fame and fortune is really futile.”

In a landscape painting by Frankenstein, a single tree remains green in a winter forest, creating a mood of sanctuary. In another scene, grass and snow create a checkerboard pattern, suggesting the pageantry of the seasons. Frankenstein paints in a realistic manner even though his whimsical universe unravels the laws of physics. In Newton’s Law, the back and front of a horse are painted on two brick columns, but the rider straddling a saddle in between is trotting on air. Frankenstein began drawing as a child in Germany. He left his homeland in 1939 at age 17 and fled to Shanghai to escape Nazi rule. After the war, he moved to Chicago to study on scholarship at the American Academy of Art and later at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Professionally, he came of age in a community of artists that revered Jackson Pollack and the abstract expressionists, but chose to buck the trend. “It’s my personality to want to tell stories in pictures;’ he says.