All posts filed under: Artists

Beyond the Page: Regina Martinez & Threewalls’ In-Session

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Regina Martinez, Threewalls’ Artist and Artistic Engagement Manager, about the In-Session program — a critical interdisciplinary salon that incorporates reading, conversation, and performance together, now entering its third season. I spoke with Martinez in late July about the ideas and values behind In-Session, the theme she chose for its coming season, sensitivities of working between artists and institutions, and Martinez’s own path to and through this work. Check out In-Session’s third season, themed “The Art of Memory.” Find Threewalls @threewalls on Twitter and @three-walls on Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about In-Session! I’m so glad I went to Udita Upadhyaya’s In-Session event in March, because I think this program has such a great premise and I’m excited to hear how other artists engage with it. Especially for readers who may …

Image: Installation view of "Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times" by Folayemi Wilson. Catwalk with rotating NASA videos of the sun and moon. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

Space is a Place: Folayemi Wilson at the Hyde Park Art Center

There’s this thing that happens sometimes when I close my eyes and focus on nothing. It’s not like the after-image that you often get when looking at an object for a long time, but something else entirely. I see daubs of light, tiny flecks of indiscernible colors that move and dance in the darkness. And frequently, there is an actual place, a room that has no apparent walls, but feels like I’m somewhere else than where I really am–an astral projection of a space for safety and reflection. This place, I believe, was made manifest when I entered the main gallery this summer at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) to view Folayemi Wilson’s latest work Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times. I met Fo late last year during my stint in the Teaching Artist’s studio of HPAC. I had worked there since September 2016, and was encouraged to apply to be a resident. A couple months later, I was sharing the space with another teaching artist. Now, mind …

Image: Ida Cuttler, wearing a red blazer over pink pajamas, sits with her hands on her knees center. On the ground around her, are red and blue balloons and red-white-and-blue beachballs. The beachballs have stars on the blue stripes. Photo courtesy of Brave Lux, Inc.

A Story – “Comfortable Shoes” at The Neo-Futurist Theater

Here: a story. When I was younger, as a chronic fidgeter, holes and gaps would creep into my clothes, always looking like a moth had found a cozy meal. Because of this, I became familiar with the fraying yarn, a piece of a piece of clothing that could not be separated, nor could it be its own item. I tugged at these threads, always wondering whether or not I could find the scarf’s spine or its guts or its nerve endings. We do, after all, understand where my skeleton is and where your skeleton is and if we had been inside the meat, then surely science must have been inside the sweater and understood those blueprints. Though, I never got too far: I stopped, knowing that I would have wound up shirtless midway through the day. Here: another. Ida Cuttler contributed to the infamous (and not at all that famous) Hot Blog Dogs, one of my favorite mid-2010s artifacts. I found the website inspiring; as a misanthropic, anxious bibliophile who wanted to be fun and …

Jenn Freeman, Po’Chop, and The People’s Church of the G.H.E.T.T.O

In 2017, I followed  burlesque dancer and performing artist Jenn Freeman, also known as Po’Chop, on Instagram while researching Jeezy’s Juke Joint, a renowned Black and Brown burlesque show. I was researching it with the hopes of being a performer, not an audience member. As a queer-married intersectional feminist, I saw burlesque as an outlet to express my sensuality and expand my art practice. However, in my research I didn’t find classes for Black women. Fast forward to August 2019. I received a direct message from Po’Chop on Instagram requesting to commission some of my portrait drawings for an exhibition about the empowering divine Black energies of Audre Lorde, Jackie Ormes, Elder Lucy Smith, and Beauty Turner. Po’Chop receiving a referral from a gallery I previously worked with aligned me to the motherload of manifested interactions. During our conversation about the commissions, we talked about the hurdles of Black feminist scholarship and the joys of performing it through our artistry.  The first time I saw Po’Chop perform was the first day of our phone call. …

Founders and the CTA: Interview with Floating Museum’s Faheem Majeed & Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford

Floating Museum does not look like your typical arts collective. Their public installations and artworks incorporate the ways people navigate the city’s infrastructure. Since 2016, Floating Museum’s practice has evolved from increasingly regular installations in the city’s parks to the widely celebrated River Assembly, in which artworks from collaborators across the city were floated on a barge on the Chicago River — not an easy feat. This summer, Floating Museum took on a new infrastructure challenge: the Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA.  Their latest project, Cultural Transit Assembly, partners with the CTA and the Chicago Park District to focus on the CTA Green Line, utilizing train cars as gallery and performance space. They simultaneously made use of community sites adjacent to the train line as locations for their weekly pop-up installation of a 25-foot-tall inflatable sculpture, Founders, which blends Chicago history with their desire to connect local institutions such as The Field Museum and the DuSable Museum of African American History.  I sat down with Faheem Majeed and Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, two of the founders and …

Featured image: Chelsea Fiddyment performing at Unreal at Schubas. Chelsea stands at the front of the room, notebook in hand, speaking into a microphone while looking out at the audience. Behind Chelsea is a copper-colored wall, made of a grid of low-relief tiles; above that are several decorative beer cans on a ledge and a dark green section of wall. Chelsea wears a black cropped tee and red and gold sequined shorts. The backs of some audience members’ heads are fuzzy in the foreground. Photo by Joshua Clay Johnson.

Beyond the Page: Chelsea Fiddyment & Unreal

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Chelsea Fiddyment, the creator and emcee of Unreal — a fiction-focused, experimental open mic, now in its fourth year. In late June, I spoke with Chelsea about their reasons for starting Unreal, their own practice as a writer and performer, and the importance of creating welcoming spaces for experimentation. Check out Unreal on the third Tuesday of every month, in the upstairs space at Schubas (note: this space is accessible by elevator through the attached restaurant, Tied House; ask a Schubas manager for navigation support). Find Unreal @UnrealChi on Twitter and @UnrealChicago on Facebook, and Chelsea @whatthefidd on Twitter. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Congratulations on a lovely third-anniversary show! Chelsea Fiddyment: Thank you so much! MSL: How are you feeling about that and how it went? What are you bringing out of it with you? CF: I’m absolutely ecstatic …

Intimate Justice: John R. Harness

Intimate Justice looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. Hyde Park resident John R. Harness wears many hats: he’s a creator of table-rop role-playing games that are aggressively gay, a blow-job extraordinaire, and an expert Klingon speaker (helping coin the first term for the LGBTQ community). I met John at his apartment over the summer where we sat between his two cats in his living room and discussed gay bathhouses, fascists, and what heteronormative spaces can gain from gay spaces.  This interview was edited for length and clarity.  S. Nicole Lane: So I don’t know really anything about games… John R. Harness: My work is in the realm of table-top role playing games. I learned about Dungeons and Dragons when I was a young kid—I was like 6 or 8. A friendship of mine deteriorated because my friend’s father had been into D&D and introduced me to it and suddenly that was all I wanted …

Image: Damian Duffy sits at a table in a brewery and works at a laptop computer. In front of his computer are paperback copies of Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Talents”, an advanced reader copy of his graphic novel adaptation of Butler’s “Parable of the Sower”, and an open notebook with sketches. An empty beer glass is set to the side. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Writing Comics We Want to Read: An Interview with Damian Duffy

If you’ve been paying any attention to pop culture lately, you’ve noticed that we’ve become enamored of comics and graphic novels. Like most media, the authors and subjects have been predominantly white, and it’s hard to remember that there are other stories being told. As comics become more mainstream, there’s an opportunity to expand the genre to feature different voices through authorship, artistry, and subjecthood. The inherent collaborative nature of comics—artist working with author, most simply—makes it ripe for bringing like-minded individuals together to manifest a story not yet pictured. This summer, I had a beer with comics author and artist Damian Duffy. Duffy is an Eisner-award winner (that’s the prestigious award handed out by Comic Con International in San Diego), and a New York Times bestselling author. With artist John Jennings, Duffy is the co-author of “Black Comix” and “Black Comix Returns” and the adapter and author of “Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation,” the first visualization of celebrated author Octavia Butler’s work. He’s also the adapter and author of the forthcoming graphic novel adaptations …

You Are Here: Mark Joshua Epstein

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Mark Joshua Epstein I usually live on …

You Are Here: Nick Wylie / Elmer Ellsworth

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Summer Love in Springfield by Nick Wylie / …

You Are Here: Stephanie Graham

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Stephanie Graham Hello. My name is Stephanie …

Counter Balance: Dance, Community, and Legacy

Integrated dance may be a new concept for some, but the fierce team behind Counter Balance: The Power of Integrated Dance have been bringing this powerful type of performance to Chicago audiences for years. Co-artistic directors Ginger Lane and Stephanie Clemens, along with Access Living, Bodies of Work, and MOMENTA, presented this 9th annual showcase of physically integrated works by choreographers and dancers with and without disabilities in early September.   The audience, which included families with children, disability community members, and dance enthusiasts, were treated to eleven pieces in two acts. Local choreographers included Ginger Lane, Sarah Cullen Fuller, Anita Fillmore Kenney, Kris Lenzo, Sarah Najera, and the internationally known Alice Sheppard. I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Najera who not only choreographed the particularly lovely “Duet in C Major,” but also recently took the helm as Executive Director of MOMENTA. As the resident performing arts company of the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park, MOMENTA has been working with dancers and choreographers with disabilities since 2003. In speaking about …

Creative Processing: Taking a Break at Moonlight Retreat

I’m going to argue that artists are the most hardworking people I know. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist and also a Capricorn, or perhaps it’s because I just started a new job last month as an educator and have been working non-stop since, with barely any moment to stop and just breathe or take a break. Often, I find myself juggling numerous projects, exhibition deadlines, freelance work, or commission pieces all at once while holding down a full-time…all just to pay the bills. And I can say with confidence, that I am certainly not alone in this balancing act that many artists navigate to survive. We work hard because we need to eat. We need to live. But in order to live, we need to create.  One thing I never take for granted is the incredible community of artists that surround me in Milwaukee. Almost everyone is willing to support one another through attending events, promoting projects, or just meeting up for coffee to exchange notes. The communities we build and actively take part …

You Are Here: Lyndon Barrois Jr.

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. In Accord by Lyndon Barrois Jr. For me, …

Image: Astrid Kaemmerling shown walking Enos Park being led by participant of the Enos Park Walking Laboratory (2017), Location: 5th Street and Union Street, Enos Park, IL. Photo by Danielle Wyckoff.

You Are Here: Astrid Kaemmerling

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Walking Enos Park: Community and Urban (Re)development through …

Featured Image: Andre Keichian, 'Salt in the I' (detail), 2019. View of negatives from Keichian's family photo album adhered to a glass window as part of the exhibition installation at table. Photo by Kim Becker. Image courtesy of Kyle Bellucci Johanson.

New Political Imaginaries at the table: Interview with Kyle Bellucci Johanson

In a 2017 interview for the Brooklyn Rail, poet, critic, and theorist, Fred Moten said: “Everything always needs new language. We constantly have to renew the language of any mode of inquiry. Some of the tools for that are in art history and some are in other places. If you’ve really got to do something, and it’s really important, you don’t give a shit where the tools come from. You get the tools wherever you can find them and then you deal with the consequences that attend those tools as you work with them. You don’t reject tools out of hand just because they come from this or that place. To me, that means you aren’t serious about getting the job done—you’re serious about something else, maybe about some bullshit notion of purity, but you’re not serious about getting the job done.”  This statement reverberates through table, a temporary project space organized by Kyle Bellucci Johanson, who has turned to building coalition through initiating critical discussions of contemporary art in the dining room of his …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead in Conversation

Candai Calmon is a dance artist and educator based in Salvador, Brazil. Candai has obtained an artistic education in Brazil and Uruguay, with a concentration on contemporary dance and Afro-referential, decolonial, and feminist practices. She holds a Bachelor’s in Gender and Diversity Studies and a Master’s in Dance from the Universidade Federal da Bahia. In her current practice, she creates workshops and immersive artistic experiences based on dance and improvisation with Black women in the quilombos [1] of Bahia. Anna Martine Whitehead is a multidisciplinary artist and dancer based in Chicago. Their work and research address a Black, queer relationship to time, as well as the prison industrial complex and the experience of incarceration. Anna Martine Whitehead has held residencies at 3Arts, Headlands, High Concept Labs, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. They have also written for a number of publications and lectured at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead are two dance artists working through Black, queer, and female experiences. Both are part of …

Perto de Lá <> Close to There: TANTO and Edra Soto in Conversation

Note: Portuguese sections of this interview are in bold, and the English sections are un-bolded. Daniel Sabóia, Patricia Almeida and Fabio Steque are the members of TANTO Criações Compartilhadas, a collective art and design practice in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The three artists have degrees in Architecture and Urban Planning at the Universidade Federal da Bahia. TANTO’s projects include installations and sculptural objects, designed spaces for creative action, and graphic design, often in collaboration with other artists, publishers and organizers. Edra Soto is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and curator born in Puerto Rico and based in Chicago. She works between social practice, immersive installations and architectural interventions, employing materials and practices from post-colonial visual cultures to address issues of colonization, cultural identity, and relationships between communities. Edra Soto is also co-director of the outdoor project space THE FRANKLIN, in her backyard in Garfield Park. Daniel Sabóia and Patricia Almeida, from TANTO, and Edra Soto are part of “Close to There Perto de Lá”, an artist exchange program between Salvador, Brazil and Chicago organized by Comfort Station …

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Rolando Santoyo (English & Español)

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. Back of the Yards is one neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago that is often mentioned by the media in connection to violence. Many people forget that this same neighborhood inspired the muckraker Upton Sinclair to write his stomach-turning 1906 novel, “The Jungle.” Now, in 2019, a brilliant artist by the name of Rolando Santoyo has made his own tribute to the book …

Brotha El spinning at the Smart Museum in front of Charles Gaines' Numbers and Trees, Central Park, Series I, Tree #9, 2016. Photo by Cecil McDonald.

Sandbox Symphony: Interview with Brother El

As fellow South Side residents and former college classmates, I was happy to sit down with Brother El, or Lional Freeman, to talk about his growing annual event Sandbox Symphony IV on Chicago’s Oakwood Beach, held on Saturday, August 10. When we were both at Loyola University Chicago, we met and collaborated to create WLUW 88.7FM’s first and only hip hop radio show in the college station’s format—“The Hip Hop Project.” We often discuss the creative process in music and writing, but for this interview we wanted to talk about how this festival came about and the influence of his late mentor, the sculptor Milton Mizenburg.  Mizenburg may be familiar if you’ve seen a few YouTube clips like this Chicago Tribune piece from 2013 or seen a couple of stories in The Chicago Reader. Others may know his work from Mizenburg’s outdoor gallery cameo in Sam Trump’s 2016 video for “Brother” with Add-2. His legacy is manifest in the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art on Chicago’s South Side featuring epic heads that nod to an …

Learning from Chicago Artists Coalition’s Equity Listening Sessions

**Disclaimer: The inclusion of race is not intended to be derogatory. Including the racial demographics in this story is a part of understanding who is involved and impacted by these discussions around racial equity. **  “It’s a challenge to get people to actually talk about racial equity. I don’t know if it’s because people in the room don’t know each other, there isn’t that level of trust, of knowing people and feeling comfortable that they will really speak openly what they feel or think,” Chicago Artists Coalition’s Executive Director Caroline Older reflects on the three Listening Sessions that took place across the city during the months of April and May this year.  The idea of becoming a more racially diverse, equitable, equal-opportunity employer with an evolved perspective and work culture continues to plague every organization to date. The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prevents organizations from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or disability, yet organizations– the arts included–struggle with diversity on their staff. When it comes to art, the problems can …

Feasts, Fasts, and Excavations: Interview with Devyn Mañibo

I recently had the opportunity to be fed by Devyn Mañibo at a performative four-course meal she hosted at Extase Gallery in collaboration with Marie Ségolène and Jake Collings called MARROW, a communion in excavation. I’ve wanted to talk to Devyn about the way she utilizes food and cooking for connection and dissection since coming across documentation of a feast she hosted as part of her ongoing project F(E)AST at Ground Level Platform/SAIC earlier this year. The photos featured vibrant green banana leaves as a table spread holding up brilliant citruses, mounds of white rice, and cross-hatched mangoes with guests using their hands to engage with the servings. The environment she built and served made people pay attention to their food, to examine each material in relation to others on the table by way of color, texture, flavor, or purpose. The first thing I noticed in the setting for MARROW was a flower in the centerpiece of the table. It  looked like a sunflower that swallowed an artichoke, sharp and demanding with many layers in …

Featured image: The cast of “KISS.” From left to right; director Monty Cole sits on the arm of an olive green couch, with his hands on his thighs facing us. He wears glasses and a blue checked shirt. Cassidy Slaughter-Mason stands in front of the couch arms at her side. She looks up and to the right. She wears a leopard print tank top and blue denim jeans. Her shadow grazes Salar Ardebili who sits on the couch staring out to the left. He wears a blue shirt and black pants. Arti Ishak sits behind him wearing a pink and brown floral dress, looking out to the left. There is a hanging lamp behind them, a door to their left, and a kitchen sink behind Ishak. Image courtesy of Austin D. Oie.

Review – “KISS” at Haven Theatre

[Spoilers for “KISS” below] “The cards spoke to a suspicion that many whose work is play can never be free of: that you can only flaunt your triviality for so long before punishment is due. A date has been selected, and on that day there will be a great culling…” – Helen Oyeyemi, “is your blood as red as this?” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The map is not the territory. This is where we must start because we must acknowledge that a play is not the story and a text is not an experience and that characters are not people and that words are not meaning. The map offers an idea of terrain, of forests and rivers, and creeks. From a map, you can discern a route and direction and make plans. When I was younger, I carried maps where my family went, charting courses across town through subways and over bridges. At the zoo, I tracked a path towards the birds of prey, making sure to pass the reptile house and always to avoid the picnic tables …

Image: Alejandro Jiménez-Flores, una noche maravillosa —a wonderful night, 2019, soft-pastels, flower petals dyes, and plaster on muslin, 9x11 in. Photo courtesy of Apparatus Projects.

Alejandro Jiménez-Flores: Always Touches on a Flower

Earlier this year, the two-person show Always Touches on a Flower at Apparatus Projects (February 17 – March 24, 2019) featured the work of Alejandro Jimenez-Flores and Cathy Hsiao. Enveloped in the themes of flowers and language, Jimenez-Flores’s work created an intimate and beautiful space at Apparatus Projects. Their work of soft floral transfers and paintings deal with themes of memory and plays with the language of flowers, both in Spanish and English. Pulling from personal memories, poetry, time traveling, and everyday experiences, Jimenez-Flores’s work is not to be missed.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Cecilia Kearney: Let’s start with some background, tell me a little bit about yourself.  Alejandro Jiménez-Flores: I’ve been an artist since high school. I mean, I always doodled and sketched growing up, but when I went to high school I took photography classes after school. And then I was an arts major. For undergrad, I went to UIC. I majored in Studio Arts (drawing and painting), but I was kind of all over the place–I was …

Beyond the Page: Miss Spoken’s Jasmine Davila and Rosamund Lannin

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Jasmine Davila and Rosamund Lannin, co-producers and co-hosts of Miss Spoken — a live storytelling show and podcast featuring work by the female-identified, exploring a new theme each month. I spoke with Jasmine and Rosamund in late April about the show’s origins (and amazing themes), their own influences, and why creating spaces for women’s experiences is so important. Check out Miss Spoken at the Gallery Cabaret, the last Wednesday of every month at 7pm. Find @MissSpokenChicago on Facebook and @MissSpokenChi on Twitter. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: To begin, what is Miss Spoken and how did it come to be? Rosamund Lannin: Miss Spoken is lady live lit. It’s personal essays by the female-identified, which means cis-women, trans-women — anyone who identifies as a woman is eligible to participate. We have also had gender non-conforming people participate as well. “Lady live …

In Conversation with Cheryl Pope

I first encountered Chicago-based artist Cheryl Pope through her recent installation at Monique Meloche Gallery. I was immediately drawn to the intimacy in her work, combined with the texture of the wool that allowed a softness to the vulnerability of her interracial figures. Pope’s work encompasses many mediums including sculpture and performance. The underlying subjects in her work of identity with respect to race and gender stuck a chord in me. While our perception of ourselves is ever changing, there are certain characteristics that influence our identity. Pope excels at provoking the viewer to question their sense of identity.  Caira: How would you describe your practice? What are the key themes you are exploring in your work? Cheryl: [The] key themes in my work are elevating vulnerability, challenging positions and uses of power, and celebrating equality.  Caira: Your latest show at Monique Meloche explores the bodies of an interracial couple, along with that you present these forms in a sensual depiction. How does this body of work speak you your practice of identity and race. …

Black Monument Ensemble: Looking Back From Now

“Please join me in welcoming the Black Monument Ensemble.” The crowd roars with claps, whistles, loud whoops, and yelps. Applause melts behind wind chimes and bells as the band, singers, and dancers make their way to the stage. The audience quiets in anticipation. The voice of Damon Locks resounds in the room before his body appears. “Knowing what we know now, the mind searches for reconciliation…”  Stationed behind the singers, dancers, and drummers, he stands near his keyboard speaking into a telephone receiver attached to a soundboard. His voice reverberates throughout the space, bouncing against the drum sounds and vibrations as he recites his “Statement of Intent.” The drum intensifies and reaches a crescendo. “Some things never change–Black monuments!”, Locks yells. Angel Bat Dawid begins playing her clarinet. The choir begins.  I become transfixed by the electric synergy that emits from the band to the dancers, from the dancers to the singers, from the collective to the audience. The voices of Ruby Dee, Angela Davis, and Lena Horne coil around and reverberate within our ears. Suddenly …

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with Joseph Dole

Libyans sometimes refer to being arrested and taken away without warning as being “taken behind the sun.” This interview series celebrates—through conversations with currently and formerly incarcerated artists—the ways in which an artistic, creative life can transmute the impact and redefine the legacy of an experience within the Prison Industrial Complex. Joseph Dole is an artist, writer, journalist, jailhouse lawyer, and government watchdog. Incarcerated since 1998, he spent nearly a decade of his life in complete isolation at the notorious Tamms Supermax Prison, before intense pressure led to its closure in 2012. Joe is currently serving life without parole and continues to fight his conviction pro se. He has recently uncovered evidence suppressed by the State. Joe has written numerous articles, essays, poems, and research papers. Two of his policy proposals were catalysts for Illinois legislation. He has won four PEN America Writing Awards for Prisoners, was selected by Eula Biss as the winner of the 2016 Columbia Journal Winter Contest, and has published two books. His artwork has been exhibited throughout the country and …

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with Patrick Pursley

Libyans sometimes refer to being arrested and taken away without warning as being “taken behind the sun.” This interview series celebrates—through conversations with currently and formerly incarcerated artists—the ways in which an artistic, creative life can transmute the impact and redefine the legacy of an experience within the Prison Industrial Complex. In 1994, Patrick Pursley was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, despite no eyewitness identification, confession, DNA, or fingerprint evidence. Patrick’s case was repeatedly rejected by wrongful conviction advocates, citing the fact that there was no legal recourse to force a re-evaluation of the one piece of evidence—ballistics—that the state had used to convict him. Instead of giving up, Patrick helped write and advocate for an amendment to the Illinois post-conviction forensic testing statute. The amendment passed in 2007, clearing the way for Patrick’s own exoneration—the first post-conviction exoneration based on ballistic testing in the nation.  In addition to being a legendary jailhouse lawyer, Patrick is an author and producer. We met up in Hyde Park to talk about his creative path, the …

Arranging, Abstracting, and Transforming at Experimental Sound Studio

Entering Without Within at Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) in Ravenswood, you encounter a variety of sculptural objects comprised of glazed ceramic, cuts of wood, and metal panels made by multidisciplinary artist Mie Kongo. The pieces, an amalgamation of these natural materials, are combined so carefully and intentionally as they emanate a calm confidence. One piece features an amoeba-like, white structure that exists on top of a tree log that’s been cleanly chopped on top and bottom. Two rectangle tiles grow out of the amoeba and a small metal panel cleanly sits atop all of this chaos.  Surrounding this visual experience is the subtle influx of sound that oscillates between somewhat recognizable and minimal industrial sounds to more complex abstractions, created by sound artist Norman Long. This sort of arranging, abstracting, and transforming lies at the heart of the exhibition, curated by Ruth Hodgkins, the current Bentson Archivist and Assistant Curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Throughout the exhibition, both artists take inspiration from the world around them but choose to adjust, amend, and …