Author: Christina Nafziger

Fulfilling Fantasies: Contemporary Chicago Drag Works at Hokin Gallery

Visual artist, performer, and curator Kelly Boner has appropriately given herself the title of ‘Bubblepop Electric Creative Powerhouse’ with her own aesthetic and drag influences stemming from eclectic sources ranging from Georgia O’Keefe to anime. Boner’s curatorial project and exhibition Fulfilled Fantasies: Contemporary Drag Works, currently at Hokin Gallery at Columbia College, features photography where the image-making process is a collaboration between the photographer and subject. With both the photographer’s eye and the creative vision of the performer forming the final photograph, together they create a cocktail of colorful illusion, flawless execution, and original looks that capture a personality and/or character fully. In this interview, Kelly Boner discusses the endless and diverse talent in Chicago’s drag scene, the importance of representing it in non-traditional spaces, and the ways in which gender can be “both a prison and a palace.” This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Christina Nafziger: Let’s begin with your own artistic practice. Can you tell me a bit about your practice as a performer and drag queen? What attracted you …

Locating Your Practice in ‘Todros Geller: Strange Worlds’ with Curator Susan Weininger

Todros Geller, (1889-1949), was a Jewish-American artist born in Ukraine, immigrating to Canada and later Chicago in 1906, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a prominent artist during his time, having a hand in many organizations in Chicago and working with such artists as Charles White. The exhibition Todros Geller: Strange Worlds showcases the diverse work—in style, subject matter, and medium—that Geller created throughout his lifetime; and is hosted at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning, an organization that began as the College of Jewish studies, where Todros Geller taught for many years. Many of the objects from the exhibition come from the institute’s extensive collection of Jewish art and historic, ritual objects, a collection that Todros Geller began. Co-curator of the exhibition Dr. Susan Weininger explains Geller’s interest in Jewish art, “One of the things that [Geller] pursued his whole life was the idea of a Jewish art museum. He knew that there was a history of Jewish art [and] he traveled to study that history.” Dr. Weininger and …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Artist Profile on Ivan LOZANO

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan LOZANO, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community.  In this segment, I sit down with Ivan LOZANO in his studio to discuss his experience working with Media Burn Archive, the work he has been creating influenced by …

“Leaf by Leaf” at the Chicago Artist Coalition

How does our environment affect our cultural memory and identity? What relationship does geography have with power and how does it affect diasporic communities? HATCH Project exhibition “Leaf by Leaf” at the Chicago Artist Coalition investigates these urgent questions that are embedded within the plants, the land, and the organic elements that surround us. Featured artists include India Martin, Whit Forrester, and Yasmin Spiro, who all create works that unveil a beautiful yet complicated ecology that is cultural, political, and spiritual. My experience with the exhibition grew from a sense of awe within the breathtaking photographs of India Martin’s birthplace of Hawaii, to the spiritual and sublime within Whit Forrester’s plant-turned-holy icons, landing at a textural encounter of materials found in the earth that comprise the sculptural work of Yasmin Spiro. To investigate these themes deeper in the artists’ work, I asked each of the artists three questions about one specific piece that was featured in “Leaf by Leaf.” Sabrina Greig, curator of the exhibition and HATCH project curator-in-residence, introduces us to a unifying theme …

Archivist Dan Erdma plugs a wire into equipment at Media Burn. He is surrounded by various equipment used for digitizing and playing different video formats. Photo by William Camargo.

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Media Burn

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan Lozano, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community. The CA+AP Festival will take place at Read/Write Library on July 13-14. This interview has been edited for length. Click here to read the full, unabridged interview. Media Burn Archive, …

‘Body As Image’ Exhibition at Chicago Artists Coalition

The ‘Body As Image’ exhibition featuring the work of Kioto Aoki, Colleen Keihm, and Darryl DeAngelo Terrell creates a space in which black identity and body politics are simultaneously explored within a historical context through the literal lens of photography, while also repositioning itself outside of these narratives by using alternative modes of image-making such as cyanotypes and photograms. This exhibition, presented by Chicago Artist Coalition, features HATCH Project artists-in-residence and was curated by Chicago-based Sabrina Greig, who is the current curator-in-residence. The exhibition is on view from April 27th – May 17th. Walking into the Body as Image exhibition at Chicago Artist Coalition’s gallery, I immediately noticed that each piece, as well as the gallery itself, is completely absent of color. However, that is not to say it is lacking variance in tone. The stark white of the walls of the gallery provide a dramatic contrast that allowed me to take notice of the subtle variations in tone in the many shades of blacks and browns present within the work. Not only do the darker …

Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism by Nicole Garneau

Artist and activist Nicole Garneau’s new book Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism takes you on an intimate journey through her project UPRISING, a series of performances that took place once a month for five years. Defining her UPRISINGs as “public demonstration of revolutionary practices,” these performances, protests, celebrations envelop around efforts of connection, community, and care in a way that is reflected in the writings in this book (Garneau, 2). The artist lovingly holds your hand while she walks you through how this project began, and then onwards into each of the 60 performances taking place in eight states and other international locations, beginning in 2008. Each of the sixty performances explored within this book is two-fold: one part being ‘IN ACTION’ which describes the performance and event; the other being ‘Revolutionary Practice,’ which offers a prompt, an exercise the reader can do themselves, putting the action into practice. Garneau describes this book as, “The result of many years of exploration into how performance can be used to create public demonstrations of the possibilities for a more loving, …

Review: “Woman With A Camera” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

When I go to an art museum, I tend to be the type of person that stays a few hours too long. I arrive at the museum when it opens, and leave when it closes. Although most visitors do not put themselves through this rigorous stampede of images that for me always ends with an exhausting—but nevertheless satisfying—experience, most art museum-goers can relate to this kind of visual fatigue that often comes with the occasional visit, no matter how enjoyable the art. This is how I felt when I came across the breath of fresh air that was the exhibition Woman with a Camera at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) last month. The exhibition was located on the fourth floor of the museum, and I stumbled up the stairs to find an intimate, yellow space filled with photographs from powerful female icons on the forefront of photography such as Marina Abramović and Laurie Simmons, alongside work by artists I did not recognize, but will not soon forget. I was both pleasantly surprised and struck by the …

Collected Histories: “Open 24 Hours” by Edra Soto

Edra Soto has transformed the Commons at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) with her work Open 24 Hours into a beautiful place filled with remnants of histories that gives birth to transcultural discourse and new meaning. Fittingly, Soto’s culturally charged work is the inaugural project for this new “civically engaged space” at the MCA. As I walk in to the Commons to attend Edra Soto’s artist talk, there are installations of intricately designed, custom-made display structures that stand like pillars, shelf after shelf holding up empty bottles of all different shapes and sizes; the translucence of the greens and browns of the bottles providing a striking contrast to the opaque white of the shells that adorn their surfaces. Edra Soto informs the audience that she collected these bottles, and continues to do so, in her neighborhood of East Garfield Park. She picks them up, washes them, removes their labels—she cares about these bottles as objects. She sees something in them. They are not pieces of trash to be discarded and forgotten, they are pieces …

Adrienne Ciskey: Invisible Illnesses and the Power of Play

If you suffer with a chronic illness, specifically one that others cannot see, the anxiety of  whether or not others take your pain seriously, on top of the endless physical battle with your own body, is very real. There is a hierarchy of illness in our culture based on assumptions of “seriousness” that is rarely acknowledged or discussed. A social judgment of validity is made about an illness, and if you are a woman suffering from an illness that is not only invisible but also widely unknown then the legitimacy of your pain dissipates quicker than the “no” you hear from the doctor when you ask if there is any known cure for your pain. Living with hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism, I am no stranger to the slight eye rolls when I vocalize my symptoms and  I often find myself suppressing my needs, emotional and otherwise,  for the sake of avoiding skeptical responses from others. The question I ask myself time and time again is: How can others recognize something like an invisible illness? This question …