1980 BFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

1978 California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA


1990 - present. Adjunct Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

2004 - present. Advisory Board, Mildred's Lane, Beach Lake, PA. Mark Dion, J. Morgan Puett, directors


2020 Because It Feels So Good When It Stops, Ed Paschke Art Center, Chicago. Curator. The Center Will Hold, Glow Exhibitions, Chicago. Curator.

2019 The New Unnatural, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago. Co-curated with Robin Dluzen

2016 Analog RAM: The Return of Active Memory. The Research House for Asian Art, Chicago. Curator.


2018 Vivarium. Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago (catalog)

2014 Mary Lou Zelazny. Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago (catalog)

2011 The Cake Lady Returns. Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago Flags and Swags. Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL

2009 Altogether Mutable: The Work of Mary Lou Zelazny, Hyde Park Center (catalog) Online Exhibition: Altogether Mutable, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC

2007 The Lake is Not an Ocean, Union League Club, Chicago

2007 Repeating the Habit, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

2004 Next in the Gallery, Herron Gallery, Indianapolis, IN

2004 Break the Charm, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

2001 What Was the Question Again?, IUN Gallery, Indiana University Northwest, Gary, IN

2000 What Was the Question?, Thomas McCormick Gallery, Chicago

1996 New Works, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago

1994 Soundings, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago

1992 Living with Memorabilia, Roy Boyd Gallery, Chicago

1991 Mary Lou Zelazny: Solo Series, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL

1990 New Works, Roy Boyd Gallery, Chicago

1988 History of Tools, Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago

1987 New Works, Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago

1986 New Works, Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago

1984 Famous Women, and Interesting Men, Bookspace, Chicago


2019 What Came After: Figurative Painting in Chicago, 1978-1998, Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst IL Not Just Another Pretty Face, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago Factory, A Guide to the Field: Storefront Practices in the Social Realm, Mountaindale, NY Ineffable, Keystone Gallery, Los Angeles, CA The New Unnatural, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago

2018 The Figure and the Chicago Imagists: Selections from the Elmhurst College Art Collection curated by Suellen Rocca, Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, IL A City to Wear 2.0, Research House for Asian Art, Chicago Come Back with a Warrant, Fredrick Holmes Gallery, Seattle, WA Images on File, Stuart & Company, Chicago

2017 The Mind's I, The Ed Paschke Center, Chicago Barely Seen/ Summer Selections, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

2016 Selections from the Collection of Mildred's Lane, Part 1, March 25-May 28. The Mildred Complex(ity), Narrowsburg, NY

2015 Surrealism: The Conjured Life, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago From the Collection of Cleve Carney, Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst IL

2014 Making Space, Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, curated by Susanne Doremus, Chicago Surrealism and War, National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago Recombinant Stare: A Stare Magazine Retrospective, The Annex, Spudnik Press Cooperative, Chicago

2013 Creating a New Whole, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

2012 4800 W: Artists of Portage Park, Klee Building, Chicago

2011 Cut Ups, Peter Paul Luce Gallery, Cornell College, Mount Vernon, IA This is Paul Halupka, C33 Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery, Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hills, IL (catalog)

2010 Beyond the Arches: Selected Works from McDonald's Corporate Art Collection, Lubeznik Center for the Arts, Michigan City, IN Chicago Imagism(s), Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, San José State University, San José, CA Faculty Projects, Betty Rymer Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Touch and Go: Ray Yoshida and His Spheres of Influence, Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Twos, O’Connor, Dominican University, River Forest, IL

2008 Ahh, Decadence!, Sullivan Galleries, Sullivan Center SAIC, Chicago Not Just Another Pretty Face, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago

2007 Fresh Takes, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago Girl on Guy, A & D Gallery, Chicago

2006 Creative Imagining, The Howard A. & Judith Tullman Collection, The Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile AL Putting it All Together, The Art of Collage, Hinsdale Center for the Arts, Hinsdale, IL

2005 All About Women, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

2004 The Flat-Round World, Three Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago The Reflected/Refracted Self, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago Hard Candy, Sextablos, Works on Metal, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA Time Travel: Truth, Beauty, and Justice, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

2003 Emergence: Women Artists in the New Millennium, William Bachman Gallery, Munster, IN Color and Form, Forum Plus Gallery, Chicago

2002 Transcultural Visions: Polish-American Contemporary Art, National Museum of Szczecin, Poland Natural History, Aaron Packer Gallery, Chicago Evoking Histories/Memory of Water: Spoleto 2002, curated by Mary Jane Jacob and Tumelo Musako, Charleston, SC Pasted On, A Survey of Collage Strategies, Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago

2001 Reflections: Fifteenth Anniversary Show, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago Transcultural Visions: Polish-American Contemporary Art, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago

2000 Synthesis, Collage and Mixed Media, Sonnenschein Gallery, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL Sextablos, Works on Metal, Barrister's Gallery, New Orleans, LA

1999 It Looks Easy, Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago Collage '99, Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, IA Sextablos, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago

1998 The Velvet Show, Café Bocci, Chicago

1997 Breadth of Aesthetic, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago Pink, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago

1996 International Exhibit of Collage, Parkland College, Champaign, IL Revelries, Ford Center for the Arts, Knox College, Galesburg, IL Visual Feasting, Suburban Fine Arts Center, Highland Park, IL Views of a Lady, Phyllis Kind Gallery, NYC Pleasure (Beyond Guilt), Artemesia Gallery, Chicago Selected Works in Collage, Merwyn-Wakeley Galleries, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL

1995 Some New Faces, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago Art About Life: Contemporary American Culture, Indiana University Fine Arts Gallery, Bloomington, IN (catalog)

1994 Something in Common, The Women Faculty in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Artemisia Gallery, Chicago (catalog)

1993 A(t)Tension to the Moment, Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts, Fine Arts Center, Bowling Green, OH (catalog) Chicago Drawings, Galleria Porta 33, Madeira, Portugal The Return of the Cadavre Exquis, The Drawing Center, NYC Chicago Art Group in Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany (catalog) Garment as Metaphor, Suburban Fine Arts Center, Highland Park, IL Collages: Faulkner, Sensemann, Zelazny, Roy Boyd Gallery, Chicago

1992 Quotations from America's Studio: Drawing New Conclusions, Betty Rymer Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, (catalog) Face to Face, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago (catalog)

1991 Spirited Visions: Protraits of Chicago Artists, State of Illinois Gallery Chicago (traveling-1993) (catalog)

1990 The Chicago Show, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago (catalog) Indianapolis Collects, Herron Gallery, Indianapolis Center for Contemporary Art, IN Our Corner of the World: Seventeen Illinois Artists, Illinois State University, Normal, IL (catalog)

1989 Material Matters, College of DuPage Arts Center Gallery, Glen Ellyn, IL Chicago Artists in the European Tradition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (catalog)

1988 Endangered Species, Klein Gallery, Chicago Field and Seam, Roy Boyd Gallery, Santa Monica, CA Only a Woman Could, Contemporary Art Workshop, Chicago The Truncated Figure, Artemisia Gallery, Chicago

1987 Egg Tempera: Archaic Methods/Modern Minds, Contemporary Art Workshop, Chicago Masks, Klein Gallery, Chicago Artagogo, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago Surfaces: Two Decades of Painting in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago (catalog) Endsville, 1480 W. Webster, Chicago 1986 New Horizons in Art,

1986, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, Chicago Self-Protraits: Then or Now, ARC Gallery, Chicago (catalog)

1985 Mary Lou Zelazny, Andre Ferella, Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago UNScene, ARC Gallery, Chicago 14th Union League Art Competition and Exhibition, Artemisia Gallery, Chicago

1984 Chicago Head, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago

1983 The Big Pitcher: 20 years of the Abstracted Figure in Chicago Art, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, (catalog) Sex Show, The Northside Auditorium Building, Chicago

1981 Some Girls, A Celebration of Chicago Women Artists, The Donahue Building, Chicago


2019 Symposium: The Figure, Humor and the Chicago Imagists, Elmhurst College and the Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, IL

2014 Loyola University, Chicago, (annual visiting artist since 2010)

2004 Maine College of Art, Portland, ME

2002 Williams College, Art Department, Williamstown, MA

1998 University of Iowa, School of Art and Architecture, Iowa City, IA

1996 DePaul University, Department of Fine Art, Chicago

1994 Columbia College, Department of Art, Chicago University of Chicago, Chicago

1992 Northwestern University, Department of Art, Evanston IL Oxbow, Saugatuck, MI

1989 Rockford College, Department of Art, Rockford, IL


2007 19th District Chicago Police Department, Chicago

2006 McCormick Place Expansion Project, Chicago


2017 Kunstmeile Krems Betriebs GmbH:AIR-Artist in Residence, Krems a.d. Donau, Austria

2014 Santo Foundation, Individual Artist Award

2008 Illinois Arts Council Special Assistance Grant

2007 Faculty Enrichment Grant, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

2007 Illinois Arts Council Special Assistance Grant

2003 Margaret Klimek Phillips Fellowship

1998 Faculty Enrichment Grant, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

1992 Arts Midwest/National Endowment for the Arts Regional Visual Arts Fellowship Award

1986 Dorland Mountain Colony Residency


City of Chicago Public Art Collection: 19th District Chicago Police Department

Elmhurst College Art Collection, Elmhurst, IL

First Chicago Bank, Chicago

Kemper National Insurance Companies

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Nagin and Associates, Miami, FL

Prudential Insurance Company, Newark, NJ

Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL

The Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, IL

Weichman and Associates, Munster, IN


"Open Season", band: Yawn, Englophile label, 2011

"Ship of Fools", band: Rubbish and Crank Sturgeon, Roil Noise Offensive label, 2008

"Private Arts", D. R. Heiniger ed. Chicago: Private Arts Press 1996

Sturtevant, Katherine, "Our Sisters' London, Feminist Walking Tours," Chicago Review Press, 1990

Sisskind, Mitch, "Visitations," Brightwater Press 1984


What Came After’ Exhibition Explores Legacy of Chicago Imagism, WTTW, Marc Vitali, October 8, 2019.

Overdue Overview, The Chicago Sun Times, Kyle MacMillan, September 12, 2019.

New Elmhurst Art Museum Exhibit Highlights, My Suburban Life, Ella Lee, September 12, 2019.

Defining Chicago Imagism, NewCity Art, Chris Miller, October 4, 2019.

The New Unnatural: Allegories in Art, Classic Chicago Magazine, March 2019, Judy Carmack Bross

Art & Object Magazine, March 2018, Meghan D. Robinson

New Art Examiner, May 2018, Bruce Thorn

Classic Chicago Magazine, May 2018, Judy Carmack Bross

Top Ten, Art & Antiques Magazine, May 2018

Artrageous with Nate, the Artist in your Backyard. Public Broadcasting Service feature, produced by Nate Heck.

Aired February 2015

Mission at Tenth Interarts Journal. Volume 5, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA. 2014

Recombinant Stare, Mystery, Misprints, and Misappropriation. Catalog, Spudnik Press, Chicago. 2014

Mary Lou Zelazny at Carl Hammer Gallery. James Yood, Art LTD. July/August 2014

Mary Lou Zelazny, Chris Miller, New City, Oct 08, 2011

Eye Exam: Chicago's Own Surrealist, Jason Foumberg, New City Art, Feb. 16, 2009

Altogether Mutable: The Work of Mary Lou Zelazny, Karsten Lund,, February 2009

Mary Lou Zelazny, Laura, Feb 19–25, 2009

Altogether Mutable, Bert Stabler, Chicago Reader, Feb 2009

The Art of Collage, Alan G. Artner, Chicago Tribune, March 2009

Piecing perfect puzzles, Robert Loerzel, Pioneer Press, Chicago April 2007

Artist's eclecticism runs more than canvas-deep, Kevin Nance, Chicago Sun-Times, March 2007

Zelazny's Work Has Come a Very Long Way, Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune, December 2003

Mary Lou Zelazny, Fred Camper, Chicago Reader, December 2003

New American Paintings, Number 35, 2001

New American Paintings, Number 11, 1997

Superior and Huron Bring on a New Season with Style, Margaret Hawkins, Chicago Sun Times, September 1996

Mary Lou Zelazny, Thomas Connors, New Art Examiner, 1996

Art Exhibition Explores Metaphorical Works of Four Contemporary Collage Artists, Gisele Atterberry,

News Gazette, Champaign, IL, 1996

Dedicated to Paint, Mary Jane Jacob, Something in Common, catalog, 1994

Zelazny Takes Giant Step with Latest Show, Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune, September 1994

A(T)Tension to the Moment, Jacqueline Nathan, catalog, Bowling Green State University, OH, 1993

Artists Take Collage on a Joyride of Perspectives, David McCracken, Chicago Tribune, April 1993

The Best Art Exhibitions, Alan Artner and David McCracken, Chicago Tribune, December 1992

Mary Lou Zelazny, Kathryn Hixson, Flash Art, Summer 1992

Art People: Mary Lou Zelazny's Feminine Perspective, Judith Lin Eftekhar, Chicago Reader, March 1992

Zelazny Seamlessly Blends Collage, Paint. David McCracken, Chicago Tribune, March 1992

Face to Face, A Chance to Meet 80 Chicago Artists as They See Themselves on Canvas, Alan Artner,

Chicago Tribune, March 1992

Mary Lou Zelazny, James Yood, Art Forum, Summer 1992

Spirited Visions, Portraits of Chicago Artists, photographs by Patty Carrol, text by James Yood. University of Illinois Press, 1991

Rockford Art Museum Keeps Contemporary, Cindy Kranz, Rockford Register, September 1991

Mary Lou Zelazny, Kathryn Hixson, Arts Magazine, April 1990

Artist's Latest Works Show She's Joined the Major Leagues, Gordon Ligocki, The Hammond Times, January 1990

Mary Lou Zelazny, Garrett Holg, Art News, April 1990

Our Corner of the World, Laurie Dahlberg, catalog, Illinois State University 1989

The Persistence of Modernism, Lynn Warren, catalog, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, 1989

Mary Lou Zelazny, Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune, September 1998

Mary Lou Zelazny, Jeff Abell, New Art Examiner, December 1998

Mary Lou Zelazny, Buzz Spector, Art Forum, February 1988

Collage's Pictorial Variations on a Theme, David McCracken, Chicago Tribune, March 1988

Mary Lou Zelazny at Peter Miller, Sue Taylor, Art in America, January 1988

Surfaces, Two Decades of Painting in Chicago, Seventies and Eighties, Judith Krishner, catalog. Terra Museum of

American Art, Chicago, 1987

Two Decades of Painting in Chicago, Denis Adrian, New Art Examiner, December 1987

Review, Garrett Hold, New Art Examiner, September 1986

Collages Depict Us as Seekers of Goods, Sue Taylor, Chicago Sun-Times, July 1986

The Big Pitcher: 20 Years of Abstracted Figure in Chicago Art, catalog, 1983 

Mary Lou Zelazny

Whistling In The Dark

Exhibition Dates: October 28 - December 30, 2022

The Carl Hammer Gallery is delighted to announce the opening of Mary Lou Zelazny's sixth

solo show. Whistling in the Dark is the culmination of four years of continuous studio

production and presents an examination of the near universal experience of insomnia and

its accompanying misperceptions. Zelazny showcases forty years of close study of a wide

variety of collage techniques combined with a painting virtuosity that is both

uncompromisingly historical and peculiarly unconventional. Her past work has often bent

reality to her own needs, and this show is no exception, where nocturnal distortions are

made fast —in contrast to the usual instant dissolution of night's dreams and visions. I am

reminded of the old tale of the terrified insomniac, whose frozen posture of fear during

endless hours of thwarted sleep are mocked when dawn reveals that her vision of a coiled

cobra was really just a pile of rope.

These paintings give the lie to the old rock refrain "Dreamin' is free...". Anyone who has

wrestled for hours in the bedsheets expecting to 'knit up the ravelled sleeve of care' will

warm to these fragmented visions. The insomnia series has spawned other related works;

the first being a group of evanescent cloudscapes that invite the viewer to dream in a more

relaxed manner. The second series of works presents a group of imagined portraits of

forgotten women professionals; women who would not be out of place in an untethered

sleepless vision.

Anticipating the tender mercies of Morpheus may be a trial, but it is one softened by our

mind's creation of an infinite variety of distractions as we slowly travel to the terminus of




Exhibition Dates: March 2 - May 5, 2018

In its antiquated definition, the vivarium existed for the study of animals and plants.  Vivarium, Mary Lou Zelazny’s fifth solo exhibition at Carl Hammer Gallery, presents her own studies of the plant world.  These are pictorial taxonomies of re-imagined flora manifest ideas that have been germinating for several decades; ideas extracted out of an extensive series of now dispersed flower paintings from the 1990’s and nurtured through Zelazny’s continuous practice of plein-air landscape painting.

The works on display here are collaged from a monoprint process emphasizing the randomness generated by automatism.  Voluminous piles of accumulated monoprint material, not unlike shed leaves, have been scrupulously and deviously reassembled, creating tree portraits with a quiver and a tremor, simultaneously familiar and uncanny.

Cut flower bouquets have been produced using the same technique, but here some humor intrudes – a swipe at the futile human attempt to bring amputated nature indoors; to transplant the dizzying force of a life from its habitat into ours.

MaryLou Zelazny, 2018

As in past memorable performances here at Carl Hammer Gallery, Mary Lou Zelazny’s skillful craft acts as a viewer’s transport to other worlds and planes of existence.  The illusion of our conveyance succeeds due to her incorporation of found popular culture media images seamlessly combined with the gestural fluidity of a painted background resulting in dualistic, dreamlike scenarios.  Her combining of paint with the slickness of the clipped photograph/image creates an end result both expressive and stimulating.  Figuration dominates the viewer’s first visual encounter with these hybrid images, but it is the abstraction of figure and background alike which draws and cements the work into unified, intriguing, visual experiences.