Mel Theobald features large scale photographs, which explore both direct and abstract representations derived from nature, architecture and the human figure.

An award winning Chicago painter and photographic artist, Theobald has exhibited his work internationally and was featured in "The Power of Water," an international exhibition celebrating the United Nations World Water Day at Moscow's Polytechnical Museum.

After earning BFA and MFA degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Theobald has experienced a diverse career as a professor of art history, graphic designer and art conservator. As past president of the SAIC Alumni Association, he established the BareWalls Scholarship Fundraiser at the Art Institute. Beginning in 1990 he has made 18 trips to Russia, working with the Ministry of Culture to promote art and artists since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

His creative work underwent a metamorphosis in 2001 when he began using technology to produce large scale digital photographs. Much of his imaginative output has incorporated the elements of water, trees and landscape into an increasingly personal vision, demonstrating the energy he brings to his work and providing a unique and provocative understanding of variations of time and reflection found in nature.

Theobald explains his work, "There is a battle going on in my head about the conflict between nature and man. For years my primary focus was figurative realism. Then I began to see the world in a less mythological and allegorical context and realized that consciousness, our ability to comprehend our own being, depends on the elements of the universe working in harmony. This raises the question of personality in the natural world."

"For example, when I marvel at the shape, size, color or texture of a tree, I begin to translate its characteristics into something of a personage with unique features. Then there is the question of its place. A tree in a forest is like a person lost in a multicultural metropolis, while the solo performance of a tree in the middle of a cornfield is as naked as a stripper on a burlesque stage. You see everything, its torso, its leaves and its fruit. It gyrates in the wind before shedding its camouflage clothing, exposing its bare limbs while disrobing its vivacious colors of rouge and russet garments. It leaves nothing to the imagination."

"As for water, its dance is more secretive. Transparent on the surface, its body is hidden in mysterious reflections. Water exudes emotion and reacts to everything it encounters. It is a volatile substance with a spirit of its own. It dances to the unpredictable rhythm of its surroundings, creating its own music."

"Without shame, I ogle at the tree and capture its performance. Without fear, I dream of the wet fabric in the tapestry of water while embracing its deception. In my own way, I have embarked again on the mythological journey of Apollo chasing Daphne while Jason and the Argonauts were being seduced by the Sirens."


1968    BFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Academic courses at the University of Chicago)
1971     MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
1972    MIcroscopy for Museum Conservators Certification, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago

1971      St. Xavier University, Chicago
1976     Chicago Gallery, Chicago
1977      Midway Studios, University of Chicago, Chicago
1978      Zriny-Hayes Gallery, Chicago
1978      Mundelein College, Chicago
2002     "Digital Reentry: Transitional Landscapes", Chicago State University, Chicago
2003     "Merging Layers: Digital Landscapes", Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago
2003     "Through a Painter’s Eyes", Mexican Institute of Culture & Education, Chicago
2004     "Sensual Realism", Fine Arts Building Gallery, Chicago
2004     "Sensual Pleasures", Illinois Institute of Art, Schaumburg, IL
2004     Edward Hospital Gallery, Naperville, IL
2004     University of Chicago Hospital, Chicago
2004     Stevenson High School Gallery, Lincolnshire, IL
2005     "The Subject is Beauty", Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL
2006     "Liquid Impressions", FAB Gallery, Chicago
2007     University of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago
2007     University Club of Chicago, Chicago
2007     "Up Close and Far Away", Purdue University North Central, Westville, IN
2007     "Changing Perspectives", Renaissance Court Gallery, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago
2007     "Landscape Composites: Digital Photographs", Taubman Center Gallery, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
2008     Family Village, Schaumburg, IL
2008     "Mel Theobald: Natural Obsessions", Purdue University North Central, Westville, IN
2008     Executive Offices, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
2009     "Elemental Pairings", McLean County Arts Center, Bloomington, IL
2010      "A Mythical Reality", Purdue University North Central, Westville, IN
2010      Eureka College, Burgess Hall Art Gallery, Eureka, IL
2012      Darby Fine Art Gallery, Vero Beach, FL
2013      "Water Tapestries and Tree Portraits", Purdue University North Central, Westville, IN
2017    Painting Exhibition with Paul Lamantia and John Kurtz, Madron Gallery, Chicago
2017    "Artist's Portrait Series", Purdue University Northwest, Westville, IN 

1968      71st Annual Chicago and Vicinity Show, Art Institute of Chicago
1972      "Painterly Realists", Wabash Transit Gallery, Chicago
1973      74th Annual Chicago and Vicinity Show, Art Institute of Chicago
1974, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982   Faculty Show, St. Xavier University, Chicago
1975      "Women Choose Men", ARC Gallery, Chicago
1975, 1976, 1977   Open House, Artist's Complex of Pilsen East, Chicago
1976      "Seven Figurative Artists", Chicago State University, Chicago
1976      "Chicago Art", Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
1976      "Visions: Distinguished Alumni 1946-1976", Art Institute of Chicago
1977      "Fabric as Idea", Dittmar Gallery, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
1977    "Contemporary Figurative Painting in the Midwest", Madison Art Center, Madison, WI
1977      Regional Exhibition, S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, South Haven, MI
1977      Gallery Artists, Art Affair Gallery, Rockford, IL
1978      Group Show, Dirksen Federal Building, Chicago
1978      "Artists Portray Artists", Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL
1978      "Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mollers", St. Xavier University, Chicago
1979      "Chicago Drawing", Columbia College, Chicago
1981      "Theobald, Barron & Moravec", Swen Parson Gallery, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL
1981      Group Show, Beverly Art Center, Chicago
1982      "Students of Bloomington High School: 1946-1970", McLean County Art Center, Bloomington, IL
1983      "View from the Top", Chicago Center for the Print, Chicago
1983      American Society of Interior Designers Showcase, Park Forest, IL
1992      "10,000 Plus", Alumni Exhibition, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
1994, 1996, 1997,2003, 2004   Participating Artist, BareWalls, School of the Art Institute Chicago
2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Participating Artist and Consultant,
              "Open Canvas", Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Milwaukee, WI
2003     "Small Works '03", Fine Arts Building Gallery, Chicago
2003     "Chicago Artists:FAB Gallery", Viridian Artists @ Chelsea, New York, NY
2004     "Rock Paper Scissors", Suburban Fine Arts Center, Highland Park, IL
2005     "Reflections", Suburban Fine Arts Center, Highland Park, IL
2005     3rd Ward Gallery Walk, Milwaukee, WIG
2006     "20th Anniversary Exhibition", August House Gallery, Chicago
2008, 2009, 2010   Participating Artist, "Unforgettable Art", Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter, Rockford
2008, 2009   South Loop Photography Exhibition, Chicago
2010      “Ruhrpost.2010”, European Capital of Culture Exhibitions, Ruhr, Germany
2010      "Alternating Visions: 12 Chicago Artists", University of Chicago Medical Center
2011       "The Curious i: 10 Chicago Photographers", University of Chicago Medical Center
2011       "Renaissance Court Retrospective 1992-2011", Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago
2011       "25th Anniversary Exhibition", August House Gallery, Chicago
2012      "Love Apple", 33 Collective Gallery, Chicago
2012      “Power of Water", Polytechnical Museum, Moscow, Russia
2012    "Au Natural: Images of Nature and the Natural World", August House Gallery, Chicago
2012    "Global Reach with Local Vision: Nature without Technology" Gallery 1837, Chicago
2013      "Warp and Weft: Deviations Away from the Woven Image" University of Chicago Medicine
2014    "Crossing Borders" Gallery 1837, Chicago, IL
2014      "Intertwined: Words and Art", University of Chicago Medicine
2015    "Our Sense of Belonging", University of Chicago Medicine

1968       Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Prize and Medal, Art Institute of Chicago
1973       Laura Slobe Memorial Prize, Art Institute of Chicago
1980       Teaching Excellence Award, St. Xavier University, Chicago
1999       Bronze Lion Award, Alumni Association, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
2008      Best of Show, South Loop Neighbors Exhibition, Chicago

Advanced Medical Imaging Center, Chicago
Alzheimer's Association Greater Illinois Chapter, Chicago
Elisabeth Bartky, Austria
CBS Radio, Baltimore, MD
Crane Northfield
Davis Friedman Zavett Law Firm, Chicago
Edwards Hospital, Oswego, IL
Ronne Hartfield, Chicago
Illinois State Museum
Kickapoo Mud Creek Nature Conservancy, Oregon, IL
Lawrence, Kamin, Saunders & Uhlenhop, Chicago
Boris Molchanov, Chicago, Kalyesin, Russia
Robert and Nancy Mollars, Houston, TX
Lester Munson, Chicago
Perspectives Charter School, Chicago
Purdue University Northwest, Westville, IN
Lewis and Lynn Pollock, Santa Fe, NM
David and Alfred Smart Museum, University of Chicago
Union Tank Car, Chicago
University Club of Chicago
University of Chicago Hospitals
University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center
Private collections in Germany and Japan