Author: Chelsea Ross

It’s not you, it’s me. No, it’s definitely you.

This is not a calling out. This is a reckoning. Really for me more than anything else. This is the break up text no one asked for. Disclaimer 1: Before anything, I should apologize to Anne Dessing because this really is not about you, or your work. You’re just a perfect foil. This is really about me. For context, Dessing was the 2018-2019 Garofalo fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A highly competitive, highly-coveted fellowship that comes with a year-long teaching position in the architecture department, an exhibition, and a presentation at the Graham Foundation. The exhibition*, which sits adjacent to UIC’s faculty office, consists of a series of large-format, Ruscha-esque pictures of windows and mirrors, reflecting images of the sky, other buildings, or their own architectures. Summarily and literally, its self-reflective. The title of the exhibition is a Sun Ra quote: “And then when I went to Chicago, that’s when I had these outer space experiences and went to other planets.” The quote/exhibition title, the only text in the entire space, is printed …

Free Write Arts & Literacy: Poems to Photos

As part of the Envisioning Justice Initiative, Sixty paired writers and photographers with each of Illinois Humanities’ selected community hubs: organizations working within communities around issues of incarceration and justice. One of those organizations is Free Write Arts & Literacy. Going on 19 years, Free Write has provided arts and literacy education to thousands of youth detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, as well as providing employment and creative opportunities on the outside. A cornerstone of Free Write’s pedagogy is using poetry and personal narratives as a vehicle for both literacy and self-empowerment. In a society and system that is quick to apply ready-made ideas informed by race, class, and condition, on their lives and fates, Free Write encourages their students to “own their narratives” through telling their own stories. Below, you will find two poems written by Free Write students last year, prompted by Aracelis Girmay’s “Elegy in Gold.” Taking a cue from the New York Times series pairing photographs inspired by poetry, photographer Chelsea Ross created a series of images in response to the poems. The …

Mister Wallace and the Vessel of Futurehood

Erik Lamar Wallace II, a.k.a Mister Wallace, a.k.a It Girl, a.k.a Mister Cool Mom, is about to blow up. Erik Lamar Wallace II, a.k.a Mister Wallace, a.k.a It Girl, a.k.a Mister Cool Mom, is already iconic. Rapper, singer, producer, label founder, gender defier, culture maker, makes it all fashion, cosmic being, Wallace talks like a soothsayer. Which is to say she talks fast. She talks deliberately. She says about six things at once. They all hold together with an audible alchemy that precedes logic, but they hold there too, if you can catch it. She declares. The declarations sound like spells. Like whole hands and fingers reaching into a future only she can see to extract truths for us to roll around in our palms like rocks that turn to sand if you’re not quick. This is also how she performs. Wallace co-founded Futurehood with DJ/producer aCe a.k.a aCeb00mbaP (Anthony Pabey) in 2016. With artists like Roy Kinsey, Hijo Prodigo, Rozay Labeija, and Wallace themself on the roster, as a record label, Futurehood is the vehicle responsible for some of the most cogent, relevant, and hype-worthy sounds, visuals, and artists to come out …

Alok Vaid-Menon: Femme in Public, Now

Alok Vaid-Menon is not from the future. Known for their hyper-saturated style, incisive writing, and personal poetry-meets-cultural criticism-meets-(so funny) stand up performance art, Vaid-Menon is very much the gender-nonconforming femme icon of this moment, and one we truly deserve. Their unmissable swagger, well chronicled on their popular Instagram (126k followers and counting) is not just personal, but highly political. Sixty had a chance to sit down to chat with Vaid-Menon about breaking the rules of style and all the binaries before the sold-out performance of their international touring show, Femme in Public, at AMFM Gallery in June. The show was opened by LaSaia Wade, founder and Executive director of Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ center located on the South Side of Chicago. While Vaid-Menon might be of this time, like any true visionary, their work opens up a space, or “cracks” as they call it, to imagine and inhabit a different kind of world and existence – one where anyone, but particularly femmes, and especially femmes of color, can inhabit any space without …