All posts filed under: Books

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 …

The sixth edition of Glamour Girl magazine features cover girl Brooke Candy

Review: The Art of the Body – A Body of Art, Glamour Girl’s 6th issue

“We are excruciatingly conscious of what it means to have a historically constituted body.” – Donna Haraway In the early 20th century, women artists worldwide such as Suzanne Valadon, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and Romaine Brooks began to work extensively with the feminine body as subject. They averted the gaze away from hetero-masculine fantasies and fetishes to their realities: their bodies and their experiences in those bodies, often set in spaces with other women. Valadon eschewed the critical judgment reserved for her upper-class women contemporaries because of her working-class status and reputation as a sexually available artist model. She painted nude portraits that showcased other working-class women and emphasized the context and action over nakedness itself. Yet most recall Degas’ baigneuses, not Valadon’s; even more forget Valadon altogether. In some of the most “progressive” Western art movements years later, take Surrealism, many women artists were forced, still, to enter artistic circles as models or muses first and/or by way of male romantic partners and then to wrestle with the shadow cast over them and their work by …

The Right to Heal: An Interview with Artist & Activist bria royal

bria royal is a 24-year-old multidisciplinary artist from the West side of Chicago. bria’s work often deals with Black and Indigenous mythologies, ecofeminism and futurist possibilities. In 2017, she released a graphic novel titled Black Girl Mania which fuses science fiction and personal narrative to follow a protagonist navigating mental illness in a post-climate change world’s last habitable land mass. Most recently, she illustrated Missing Daddy, a children’s book written by one of Chicago’s most prominent organizers and prison abolitionists, Mariame Kaba. Kaba has had a hand in developing many of Chicago’s radical organizing projects, including Project NIA, Chicago Freedom School, Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women, Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander, and We Charge Genocide. At Northwestern University, where she studied Communications, Film, and Psychology, bria helped form Unshackle NU, a political action group that pressured the school to divest from private prison corporations and companies that profit from the prison-industrial complex. As part of Unshackle NU, bria created an animated short called Prison-Industrial Complex 101. There she met Kaba, …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 2: Regin Igloria and North Branch Projects

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that …

Riding Interstellar Waves: A Performance Essay on Afro-Futurism and Time Travel from D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

This essay exists as a record, a performance document and collaged concept map linking threads in an interstellar web charting the content of my lectures and presentations culled from over 25 years of study, teaching, sculpting, and performing, each coded element an entry point like portals to the vast arkestry of Afrofuturist future visioning. Highlights include references to performance ritual as the High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars, for the September 27, 2018 Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary symposium convened by NASA/Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology Lucianne Walkowicz at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, and content from performance-lecture-poetics for “Afro-Futurism and Time Travel” at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Art and Inquiry and from The Ramm Riff featuring Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’ at Red Bull Arts NY for No Guts, No Galaxy slide show series as part of programming for the exhibition Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder. This is an experimental collage, ideas and poetics intertwined, a performance-lecture-poetic in multiple stanzas, a Time Travel Riff from the outposts of Afro-Futurist vision …

Featured image: Udita Upadhyaya at the book release for “nevernotmusic,” at TriTriangle. The artist leans over a table, looking down as she writes in gold pen inside a copy of her book. Next to her is another copy, open to its centerfold, where gold thread is visible. The artist wears a light-colored, textured sweater. Photo by Caleb Neubauer.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the third of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (the first and second interviews are online). After the book’s release in September, I met with Udita to reflect on the book, the process of creating it (and personalizing each copy), and the connection between music and grief in her work. Get a copy of the limited edition book by contacting Udita. Find @uditau on Twitter and Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: How are you feeling about Saturday’s book release event? Udita Upadhyaya: I’m still processing, but I am feeling good. It was great to see the book in its final form. The book is really beautiful! I have not spent enough time with it yet, but …

Body Passages: Lani T. Montreal and Maxine Patronik on Developing “Blood Memory”

This is the third article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first and second are online). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. In September, I spoke with writer Lani T. Montreal and dancer/choreographer Maxine Patronik about their collaborative process; their resulting piece, “Blood Memory,” about trauma and bodily memory; and their thoughts about artists’ responsibility when presenting work with sensitive themes. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Lani and Maxine’s final creation – along with those by other Body Passages groups – were performed at a culminating event at the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Auditorium on October 12 and 13. Marya Spont-Lemus: It was so cool to get to observe you today at work on “Blood Memory,” your piece-in-progress for Body Passages. So thank you! Before we get into discussing that collaborative piece and your process, I’d love …

Locating Your Practice in ‘A Johnson Publishing Story,’ with Samantha Hill and Krista Franklin

“We had so many good times. I grew up with Johnson,” a fellow visitor to A Johnson Publishing Story told me of the more than fifteen years she had spent working with the Johnson Publishing Company. As we took in the many books and objects on display from the Johnson Publishing Archive, she shared how she had started as a young secretary on Johnson’s executive floor, then worked as an executive secretary for the company’s children’s publication Ebony Jr., before going on to serve as a Midwest director for community relations, visiting Black churches and other institutions in Oklahoma, Missouri, and beyond to promote Johnson Publishing subscriptions and charity initiatives. And when we stopped in front of a zippy red alligator embossed vinyl-sheathed typewriter, I was surprised by how evocative such an object could be when she remarked, “Oh, I remember these! IBM at the time made these Selectrics in black, steel gray, and putty, but Johnson had them made custom in red alligator. I hammered away at one just like this.” John H. Johnson started …

Cruising the Archives: Chicago’s Gerber/Hart Library and Archives

“Often by chance, via out-of-the-way card catalogues, or through previous web surfing, a particular ‘deep’ text, or a simple object (bobbin, sampler, scrap of lace) reveals itself here at the surface of the visible, by mystic documentary telepathy. Quickly — precariously — coming as it does from an opposite direction. If you are lucky, you may experience a moment before.” — Susan Howe, “The Telepathy of Archives” This past February, an initiative to pull books containing “LGBTQ content” from a public library swept through Orange City, Iowa. While the campaign wasn’t successful, its intentions remain the stuff of relatively recent Midwestern history. This is to say that when the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives was founded in 1981, patrons couldn’t necessarily count on finding their own experiences and narratives reflected in the shelves of public libraries — while queer content might not have been explicitly banned, it was certainly a blind spot in most mainstream collections. Named after Henry Gerber (founder of the first American gay rights association incorporated in Illinois) and Pearl Hart (one of Chicago’s …

This image depicts part of a performance score, bound into a thin book. On the top page, toward its bottom-right corner, it reads “Dear Corey: Unfold (into you)” in black ink on grey paper. Across the binding, on the bottom page—the majority of the image—text, lines, arrows, and shapes appear in black ink against a whitish vellum background. Solid black abstract shapes connect and overlap, creating white space where they overlap. Lines swoop, loop, and change direction, and some end in arrowheads. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book in progress)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the second of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the first interview here and the third here). In late May, I met with Udita to discuss the book’s first mock-up, her aesthetic choices and decision-making process, and the role of intimacy, the body, and language in her work. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, 7 pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: So, you made a book! Udita Upadhyaya: Yeah. This is not what it’s going to look like but this is the first mock-up with real pages of the scores and some of the color and stuff being decided. MSL: Wow. Can I look …

The photograph shows the artist at center, standing in front of one of the gallery’s internal, white walls, with performers and guests sitting or standing on either side of her. Black vinyl letters are installed directly onto the walls, in the form of words and phrases in English and Hindi. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text. English words/phrases shown in this image include “a tender beginning,” “offer,” and “of this winter.” A gestural drawing—also made of black vinyl—is shown on the left-hand side of the image.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the show)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the first of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the second interview here and the third here). In early March, on the last day of her show “nevernotmusic” at Roman Susan, I met with Udita to discuss her processes of creating and “gifting” performance scores, transforming the scores into an installation, and learning from performers’ interpretations. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, at 7pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: Knowing a bit about your work, and specifically your work with language, I already wanted to talk to you for “Beyond the Page.” And then I was so excited to hear about “nevernotmusic” — the …

Body Passages: Exploring Visual Art with Poets Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken

This is the second article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first is here). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. On an afternoon in early May, I showed up to watch an “open rehearsal” at the Chicago Cultural Center’s dance studio only to find myself a participant. This opportunity became even more exciting when the people I was there to see—Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken, two delightful and effervescent poets who were in residence through Body Passages—invited me to join them as they sought inspiration and inputs in the galleries. We spent an hour together exploring the Cultural Center’s first-floor exhibitions, as the pair shared their observations and perspectives about visual artworks, made connections to their own lives and practices, and generated ideas for a joint creative project—an interdisciplinary, in progress work, prompted by their participation in Body Passages. A …

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, …

This is a photograph of three copies of the book “Brea,” against a light background. Two lie flat in the left side of the frame, front cover and spine visible, and the third is upright, with only the front cover showing. The front cover image is an ink illustration of a young boy in close-up, straight-on, showing his face, chest, and parts of his arms. He wears a long-sleeved shirt and his hands are flipped upside-down over his eyes to form goggles, of sorts, with each thumb and forefinger. Courtesy of the artist.

Beyond the Page: Carlos Matallana

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. In March, I was honored to interview artist and educator Carlos Matallana about the development of his ongoing Manual of Violence project, the process of creating its fictional comic installment “Brea,” and how games, childhood, dreams, and more shape his work. Follow @tropipunk on Instagram and check out his presentation about “Brea” at the Hyde Park Art Center on Saturday, May 26, 2-4pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and includes some spoilers about the book “Brea.” Marya Spont-Lemus: I guess I’d love to start by just hearing how long you’ve been making work in Chicago and what brought you here. Carlos Matallana: Well, I ended up in Chicago because I have old friends here in the city. But initially I moved from Bogotá to New York. I spent a couple of months, not even four months, in New York. I spent all my savings, and I tried …

Beyond the Page: Saleem Hue Penny

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. In February, I was excited to speak with “rural hip-hop blues” artist Saleem Hue Penny—whose work I have long admired—about his recent poetry chapbook and its audio companion, his process for creating within and across multiple media, and his work’s relationship to place, childhood, and the natural world. Follow @huedotart to hear about future readings, including the “Tammy Journal Takeover” at Pilsen Community Books this spring. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: You call yourself a “rural hip-hop blues” artist. How did you come to that framing for you and your work and what does it mean to you? Saleem Hue Penny: So I have traditionally used the acronym “h.u.e.”, for “hope uplifts everything.” It’s a double-play on my middle name, of Hue. My mother gave it to my little brother and me because we’re different shades in a bigger picture. And at some point I …

Lynne Warren on the Contemporary Art World, Chicago, and the MCA

Lynne Warren, Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), is a true pioneer in the field of contemporary art. Her innovative and thoughtful approach to her work is demonstrated in the major shows she’s spearheaded for the museum, such as Dan Peterman: Plastic Economies in 2004; Alexander Calder: Form, Balance, and Joy in 2010, and Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes in 2013, just to name a few, as well as the numerous essays and books she’s published. As Lynne transitions to adjunct status at the MCA, we caught up with her to delve deeper into her expansive achievements and unique path in the art world. Emily Breidenbach: Thank you so much for meeting with me. Let’s start out with a little bit about your background—where you grew up and things of that nature. Lynne Warren: Yes, my background, which is very much in the background at this point in my life, is a kind of interesting one. I was actually born on the East coast but my father moved the whole family, and I’m …

Five Highlights from the Chicago Art Book Fair 2017

The first Chicago Art Book Fair, running from November 16-19, provided a platform for new initiatives and varied paths within the world of arts publishing. The fair took place in multiple rooms of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, but also encompassed offsite programming and after-parties. One of the most unique things about the Chicago Art Book Fair was the range of vendors. The public fair featured an international group of over 100 arts publishers, small presses, printmakers, comics artists, book artists, and zinemakers. Five Chicago Art Book Fair Highlights: 1. Meekling Press Meekling Press is a Chicago-based press that specializes in collaborating with authors through the entire design process, from conception to production. This approach to publishing is significantly more intimate than other methods. Their projects range from producing publishing-related events, postcards, and mini-novels, all the way to e-books and short stories. 2. Mystery Spot Books  Mystery Spot Books is a Minneapolis-based press that creates short-run artist books and zines. Named after the tourist trap attractions that prevail on road trip landscapes, this press focuses on books that …

Collector’s Corner: Dana Mees-Athuring

“Collector’s Corner” looks at the artistic, curatorial, and cultural forces behind the act of collecting. We visit the homes, businesses, garages, desks, and closets of artists and cultural producers who thrive from this occasionally unruly practice. For this installment, we talk to Dana Mees-Athuring at her residence in Logan Square about her collection of 1930s memorabilia, Chicago history, and the politics of femininity and design. Dana Mees-Athuring is a woman who communicates through many means: plants, bread recipes, garage sales. She is one of the first neighbors that I befriended after I moved to Chicago two years ago. Throughout the time I have known her, her stories and interests have become an inextricable element to my conception of what this city invites and celebrates. A Chicago native, Dana has had every kind of job that is near or distant to art throughout the city’s dynamic history. Her house is a galleria of vintage and rare treasures from the many eras that she celebrates and honors through her collections of art, books, household items, ephemera, and more. …

Inside & Outside of the Book: A Look at the Self-Reliance Library and School

In Chicago, as in many cities, a few degrees of separation can make a huge difference.  Ridgeland Avenue, an Oak Park thoroughfare, and Austin Blvd, an entry-way into the Austin neighborhood, are divided by Lake Street, which is lined with shops, Pete’s Fresh Market, and the yellowest building, I would estimate, in a ten-mile radius. I walk towards Compound Yellow, an independent, experimental arts space, and feel like an invited intruder. The mere brightness of the building forces you to engage with it, but as you draw closer, the tenderness of the flags waving above the structure and the suspended cloth circles hanging from the trees indicate a sense of careful living. The three buildings that comprise the compound have been united since 2016, the most noticeable one declaring itself as the Self-Reliance School & Self-Reliance Library, a collaboration between  Compound Yellow and Chicago arts publisher Temporary Services. The Self-Reliance Library is a reading and creating library, an installation consisting of over 80 books, as well as furniture and banners that take influence from ideas …

CA+AF: Archiving MAKE

In preparation for Sixty’s Chicago Archives + Artists Festival we asked Sarah Dodson from MAKE Literary Magazine to put together some ephemera to start a file for MAKE at the Harold Washington Library’s Chicago Artist Files. MAKE recently finished the process of sorting through their own history and selecting which pieces they felt were most representative of their work to be included in their anthology MAKE X: A Decade of Literary Art…

People Don’t Like to Read Art || [and they’re missing out]

Honestly, people don’t like to read in general. Art, specifically? From Jenny Holzer’s aphorisms projected throughout New York City to Kay Rosen’s recent Go Do Good installations in Chicago’s Loop, text-based art tends to grab viewers’ attention due to its relatively brazen nature. Contemporary art that is purely image-based is often met with objections of “I don’t get it,” or “Well, maybe the artist statement will explain this.” For those in search of a quick answer, text can provide that instant gratification. The written word, however, doesn’t always make things simpler, as Western Exhibitions’ latest show illustrates. With pieces that extend beyond the short phrases pervasive in contemporary art—guests are invited to peruse full-length novels, among other items—People Don’t Like to Read Art stretches the function of the gallery space and explores ways in which one can establish a more intimate connection with art. After attending the exhibition’s opening reception on July 9, I spoke with gallery director Scott Speh about the show and asked the artists for further insight into their works. People Don’t Like to …