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When It Pays to Take a Second Look

Posted by on July 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Have you ever walked into your hotel room and looked at the art? No, I mean really looked at it, not just the casual glance. Have you ever wondered who created the art hanging inside your hotel room? In most cases your answer is “no,” and the truth is, the hotel has probably given you more reason to focus attention on the wall color than the art on it.

In all my years of traveling there was one instance when this wasn’t the case.

A few years ago I had taken my family half way across the country, reaching the mid-point of our trip near Chicago. Thanks to, we found a great hotel room at the Intercontinental O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.

This stylish hotel blended modern design with comfort and luxury — including its collection of art, mostly from local Chicago artists. Some terrific, large-scale pieces hung in the common areas. The fact that this hotel was using original art made for a nice change, considering the numerous establishments filled with never-ending bland art and decor.

Our room was just as luxurious and well-appointed as the common areas, including the art that featured a limited edition print from a Chicago screen printer, Jay Ryan, who creates works from his local “Bird Machine” studio.

This whimsical piece is called “Intercontinental,” and depicts a number of Winnie the Pooh-type creatures who’ve have taken residence in a large tree. My son thinks these are bears looking for their kite, while my wife feels the creatures represent residents in the hotel.

The work is printed on a distinctive light brown paper, and includes great touches of color with the red birds, hints of silver and yellow bears. The leaves on the tree look like one mass, but up close you see each is separate and distinct. Ryan mixes all of these elements together with a child-like playfulness drawing the viewer into his art.

At this point another journey began, one that would last long after our trip. It started when I inquired about purchasing the print I had seen in my room. I was told by the hotel they had commissioned the piece for their rooms and that it was unavailable. I wouldn’t let my search end this quickly.

Struck by this hotel-commissioned piece, my wife and I purchased several other Ryan prints, while still longing for the piece we had first seen in that Chicago hotel. About two years later and after almost giving up hope, we came across the “Intercontinental” print offered on Ebay. It was a heated auction, but in the end we were victorious and now proudly hang the “Intercontinental” in our home.

Jay Ryan’s work is a pleasant reminder of my family’s trip across the country, our visit to Chicago and our discovery of this great artist.

Sometimes it pays to take a second look.