Summer by the Mississippi captures peaceful and serene moments of a past time and place for artist Barbara McDonnell. She and her family discovered New Piasa Chautauqua, located along the Great River Road just past Elsah, Illinois, while on a Sunday drive in the country when their two boys were young children. A perfect place for their kids to grow up free and unfettered, the family spent long days playing outdoors in the summer in the nearby creek and riding bikes. Regarding Chautauqua as a kind of sanctuary, a blissful summer hangout for overworked parents and hurried children, McDonnell began to photograph. But, her body of work moves beyond documentation of individual buildings, roads, trees or community and instead transports one to another time.
Barbara McDonnell’s work has been included in group exhibits at the Center for Fine Art Photography, Ft. Collins, Colorado; The Minneapolis Photo Center; the Sheldon Art Galleries, St. Louis; the Gahlberg Gallery, Glen Ellyn, Illinois; and the 4th Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography, Berlin in 2016. She has had solo exhibits at the Ellen Curlee Gallery, the Sheldon Art Galleries and the Nature Museum, Chicago. Her photographs are included in the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago and were featured in Photo Review, Pittsburgh. Her works can be found in the permanent collections of the Saint Louis Art Museum; the Museum of Westward Expansion, St. Louis; Western Historical Manuscripts Collection at University of Missouri – St. Louis; and the Gahlberg Gallery, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.