All posts filed under: Regional

Abundant & Diverse: An Overview of Visual Arts at Riverwest FemFest

Since 2015, Milwaukee’s Riverwest FemFest has become a popular and important festival within the city’s creative community, one that supports artists and musicians across multiple venues through concerts, performances, exhibitions, and workshops. As a platform for femme, gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans, POC, and womyn creators, FemFest acts as a fundraiser for various non-profits and donates all proceeds from the week-long event to local organizations that support womyn, LGBTQIA+ individuals, families, and marginalized groups in the city. The festival ran from May 26 – June 2 and this year, all proceeds were donated to Milwaukee Women’s Center, an organization that provides services to people who have been affected by domestic violence, addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, and poverty, and Diverse & Resilient, a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ+ individuals through programs that encourage sexual health, build leadership skills and confidence, and provide anti-violence initiatives and support for substance abuse. Since its inception, FemFest has grown in size, concept, and location and now extends into neighborhoods beyond just the Riverwest community in Milwaukee, where it first got its …

Composition and Improv: Interview with William Pearson

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s interview with sound artist William Pearson. Presented through Sixty Regional. In partnership with pt.fwd, a new series of contemporary music and sonic arts performances featuring new work by local and regional artists in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, Sight Specific will be publishing conversations between the featured artists and pt.fwd director Eddie Breitweiser. William Pearson (Champaign-Urbana, IL) will be performing on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 8pm at the McLean County Arts Center. All pt.fwd performances are free and open to the public. Follow pt.fwd on Facebook and Instagram for more information, including upcoming performance dates. Eddie: Part of the charge of pt.fwd is to find a diverse group of local and regional artists and musicians and to challenge them to bring something new to an open-minded audience. Would you mind speaking a bit about your background, your practice, and historically what we’re going to be hearing? What have you prepared for us and how does it both relate to your practice as a whole and indicate where you’re going next? Will:  Yeah. …

#abovetheclouds: Studio Visit with Molly Markow

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s studio visit with artist Molly Markow. Presented through Sixty Regional. In her recent works, Markow skillfully balances scenes of sublime natural (or “natural”) beauty within the constraints of manufacture. These scenes–a white-sand beach with yawning palms, a fluorescent sunset bleeding across the horizon, a deep-green bed strewn with pillows of searing calendulas–provoke deeply-rooted physiological responses of the human subject in nature. But feelings of serenity, of tropical escape, or of wholistic unity (dasein, or being-in-the-world) are subverted by the infinite trappings of contemporary life: in Paradise (2018) the beach, printed on a Walmart shower curtain layered with a soft pink latex paint, is seen vaguely as rectangles where paint has not been applied, like disjointed pieces of an exploded puzzle. In Sun-baked (2019) the sunset, painted onto the plaster cast of the inside of a baking pan, is miniaturized to the size of a laptop that’s been rotated into portrait mode (Given the vitriol of online comments when an uploaded video is shot vertically instead of horizontally, imagine the response …

Piece of Mind: The Growth of a Supportive and Nurturing Arts Community

When I first moved to the Midwest and began settling into my new home in Peoria, I was immediately captured by the growing art community. Being a part of academia for so long, I had not yet lived somewhere with an arts community that developed outside of a university or college. I attended my first First Friday in Peoria, a local event with gallery crawls, studio visits, and openings, meeting so many people pursuing their passion in this city. The variety of artists at various points in their career, doing so many different things, truly astounded me. There were local artisans creating wares and goods for the community, artists making a living off of their work by selling at fairs and local businesses, academics making their work and passing their knowledge on to their pupils, artists maintaining a studio practice and taking advantage of all of the space and resources in the community, and those who were new, attending their first events and figuring out their voice in the art-ecosystem. The variety of people working in such …

“Natural Wonder” at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria

This review is part of our Sixty Regional project which partners with artists, writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Jessica Bingham, artist, curator, and co-founder of Project 1612, this review examines “Natural Wonder”, a two-person exhibition by Bethany Carlson Coffin and Stephanie Sailer at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, Illinois. Distance, whether out of necessity or inability to be close, is the common thread within the works in the exhibition Natural Wonder currently at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, IL. As the elevator doors opened to reveal the exhibition, I felt instantly calm, yet curious. Curious about the strange forms living on the pristine white pedestals and lost within the intricate paintings and drawings that graced the walls of the gallery. The pieces spark a sense of wonder and yearning for answers about experiences we cannot possibly understand or completely fathom; they compliment each other—they are quiet, contemplative, and coexisting. The exhibition pairs together the delicate drawings and monochromatic paintings of Bethany Carlson Coffin and the supple mixed media sculptures of …

Risk/Play/Reap at Jan Brandt Gallery

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s review of  “Risk Play Reap”,  a collaborative exhibition by Allison Carr, Danell Dvorak, Monica Estabrook, and Amy Wolfe, which was installed at Jan Brandt Gallery in Bloomington, IL. Presented through Sixty Regional. Art making is usually thought of as a solitary activity, but what happens when that usually solitaire activity is opened up to the direct input of others? This show, consisting of the collaborations of four artists offers some experiential insight into that question. A statement accompanying the show in part explains the collaboration process: “Each artist began a piece, then passed it to another for further development. Additions, alterations, and reconfigurations continued, until the group agreed a piece was completed, whether through lengthy, multiple cycles, or two to three passes.” First of all, I noticed that when viewing the entirety of the show, the exchange of approaches within each piece had resulted in a variety of finished works that, at the same time, had a consistency of formal solutions. Layering, transparency, textural surfaces, juxtaposing of imagery, and often a sculptural …

MA Exhibition: The Midway Point

This review is part of our Sixty Regional project which partners with artists,  writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Jessica Bingham, artist and co-founder of Project 1612, this review looks into the recent MA Exhibition at Heuser Art Center at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Large windows scale the exterior walls of Bradley University’s Heuser Art Center, giving you a glimpse of the artworks that lie within. There is absolutely no way to drive past the building without taking a peek into the gallery. The artwork seems to glow from within, especially in the winter, and the MA Exhibition was no exception. Large-scale paintings by Jack Crouch fill the walls, the rich historical narratives from which they are derived interrupted with playful teddy bears and children’s toys, a window into the life of the painter. Natalie Zelman’s organic ceramic objects cover pedestals that sit lower to the floor, creating reflective landscapes. The back walls of the gallery are plastered with a large floor to ceiling installation of painted cardboard, …

Fever Dream: Allison Lacher at Monaco

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s review of Allison Lacher’s “Full Sun,” which was installed at Monaco in St. Louis. Presented through Sixty Regional. From the street, the interior space is inviting, with a peachy orange coat of paint and floors speckled with iridescent floral cutouts (over the course of a month, Lacher’s work has indeed served as an escape from both the cold and the heat). However, once inside, the comfort of room temperature begins to give way to a sense of hollow domesticity. Hung throughout the space are window panes, stretched over with bars of ribbon, that reveal nothing beyond the flat orange walls. Blocks of plywood, stickered with reflective, neon silhouettes of lamps, balance on precariously high tables. Perhaps “table” is the wrong word, as the table tops themselves are merely empty frames. These are line drawings in space, with no planes to speak of. On another yellow “table” rests blocks that bear the images of a pie and kitchen knives. This is a space of unusable objects: hollow tables, lamps …

Color it Clean: An Interview with Jeffrey Michael Austin

I first met Jeffrey Michael Austin through an exhibition we were a part of at the Chicago Artist Coalition in 2015, during which he was a resident in their HATCH program.  He then had successive projects in the St. Louis vicinity where I was living, and I maintained an ongoing admiration for the cleverness, humor, and versatility of his practice (he is also an accomplished musician, one-third of the trio Growing Concerns).  He is an artist that is responsive to his environment, locating the wonders of natural elements, as well as wonder-ing about the state of human nature. His re-staging of common objects and occurrences straddle the playful and the political. As the latter becomes more and more urgent, he engages in critique that arises out of a call for empathy.  Over a very long email correspondence, we reflected on some recent bodies of work, as he prepared to open his solo exhibition ‘Outstanding Balance’ at Heaven Gallery.     Lyndon Barrois Jr: It is notable that there are a lot of stars in the recent …

Begin, Been, + From Within: A look inside Claire Ashley’s Sculptures

This article is part of the Sixty Regional project which partners with artists,  writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Allison Walsh, an artist from Peoria, IL and in affiliation with Project 1612, this article is a first-hand account of what it is like to be in one of Claire Ashley’s inflatable performances. Sitting on the floor, cross-legged with a battery pack strapped across my chest, I looked up at the painted canvas floating around me. My mysterious surroundings brought me strange feelings—the safety of being inside of a womb, the playfulness of hide and seek, and the potential that I was discovering a new planet. I sat and waited inside the sculpture, seeing nothing of the outside world, but the occasional nebulous figure across the inflatable form. I slowly heard more and more people gather in the space. I could sense them look at me, but they couldn’t see past the opaque skin of the inflatable organism. None of the spectators knew I was sitting there, cross-legged in silence. …

A Sense of Place: Photographs by Ted Diamond at Ramp Arts

UNIFORM In his native environment, Homo economicus quietly assimilates with his surroundings. Luggage in tow, he haunts airports, office complexes, hotels, and other vestiges of global urbanity, donning the white-collar camouflage of ubiquity, anonymity, and one-dimensional conformity. In A Sense of Place, Ted Diamond conjures a caricature of Homo economicus and photographs him in scenes depicting travel and its human affects. Marking his personal transition into an artist with a teaching career, these photographs depict scenes from his ambivalent adoption of the capitalist in-group’s signs. In Diamond’s words, “These images have become a document of my life in that rolling laptop bag business culture and how it infused into my life no matter where I was.” But these images are no mere representations of jet-setting businessmen doing business; rather, Diamond extracts Homo economicus out of his natural environment and releases him into the real, human world. He scrambles the codes of global capitalism – rolling laptop bags, frumpy suits, exhausted gazes, and collective alienation – and deposits them into the irrational space that Homo economicus …

Dwell in Other Futures

I had a basic sense of the urban history of St. Louis: deindustrialization, redlining, and white flight, all reflected in a downward sloping population chart and an interactive online map whose shaded regions shuffle along radial axes further and further apart over time. Nonetheless, I was surprised as I walked downtown. Tallish, newish buildings lined a wide boulevard dotted by tap rooms and cafes dealing overpriced salads to the only other pedestrians out and about: a small cluster of people in color-coordinated tee shirts (a school group, perhaps) and an occasional professional-looking person in a suit. I had arrived that afternoon via the Amtrak Lincoln Service Train No. 301 from Chicago, sleepy and hungry, and after taking care of both concerns with overpriced salad and bottomless coffee, and while waiting for a friend to come pick me up after work, I sought the one place in the area recommended to me by people in Chicago, the City Museum. Sensory overload was sudden and overwhelming. I now understood the meaning of the tip to “bring knee …

Home to Self: An Interview with Preetika Rajgariah

When talking to artist Preetika Rajgariah about how she arrived at her most recent body of work, I was struck by how a lexicon of movement naturally developed. She spoke about the strategies her family used to recreate the feel, warmth, and comfort of a home that was thousands of miles and oceans away after they settled in the city of Houston. She talked about how travel and relocation punctuated significant shifts in her work. She told me how one of her most commercially successful bodies of work addresses concepts of migration and accumulation but also whispers to how, aesthetically, macro perspectives mimic the micro and cellular. But while motion might be one of the most immediately legible themes that one can draw out of her work, it is stillness that has actually allowed her practice to move forward in substantial and  illuminating ways. Having discernment around what advice, suggestions, constructive criticisms are valid and useful and which ones counter her progression has allowed her work to bloom in ways that disrupt her original understandings of …

Inside Gertrude Abercrombie’s Mind – and Work

The dark gray-blue walls of the new exhibition at the Illinois State Museum of Chicago artist Gertrude Abercrombie’s work beckon the viewer to enter into the surreal rooms of her mind. With several standalone installations with painted furniture and a single pedestal with a column, doily, and cup Abercrombie actually used to paint the still life behind it, we are led even further into the depths of her mind. This exhibition not only gives us a look at work by Abercrombie in a variety of media from a variety of decades, but it also gives us a look at the woman behind the work. With pictures of her with friends like Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie, pictures of her in her own home with her cat and surrounded by her work. Gertrude Abercrombie liked to think of herself as the “Queen of Chicago”, and among her circle, she surely was; hosting weekend jam sessions, evenings of revelry, and all night parties as well as being a creative spirit making work that won awards at the …

Unplanned: Timothy Winkelman at Jan Brandt Gallery

I. GROUND CONTROL Timothy Winkelman’s digital video, Unplanned, immediately vexes the viewer with a question:  what, exactly, is unplanned about Unplanned? Due in no small part to its infinitesimal scope – the video doesn’t quite reach a full minute in length, and lingers on visual and musical subjects that could easily be overlooked – one could be forgiven for focusing less on immersing themself in the work’s content and more on the confluence of formal planning that underpins a video production. But upon repeated viewings, Winkelman’s camera lets something else appear: a subtle commentary on the desire to shape a space into a dwelling where one may Be in the World. The video never detaches its gaze from an urban scene: a modern building – perhaps an apartment complex – alongside a city street. We quickly see that this is a very built environment, quite the opposite of an “unplanned” setting. The city, particularly in its American grid form, constitutes perhaps the height of planning. Urbanity is the coordination of intent and execution, subjugation of nature and …

This is an image of moderators and panelists talking.

Beyond Alternatives, Toward Refusal

Beyond Alternatives, a two-day symposium organized by Cory Imig and Dulcee Boehm, fostered a dedicated site to share and reflect upon their experiences as artist-organizers working outside of metropolitan centers. The dozens of artists, writers, educators, and curators living in, thinking about, and actively building communities and social networks who came together reflected the need for this event. The symposium converged and slipped around three main themes: sustainability and transparency when directing an artist-led project, social practice and community engagement, and institutional critique. Paddy Johnson, the founding editor of Art F City, a digital platform for critical conversations surrounding contemporary art, a writer and independent art blogger, opened the symposium with a keynote address appropriately titled “Artist-Led Projects.” Johnson opened with a summary of her and collaborator Michael Anthony Farley’s iterative project “We’re SO not getting the security deposit back,” a guide to now defunct artist-run spaces documented in NYC, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. Each guide features commissioned essays, which emphasized the unique history and conditions of each city. Inherent to this project is a …

Boundary Layer at McLean County Arts Center

Just outside the threshold of the Armstrong Gallery, where most of the work in Boundary Layer is contained, two of Nancy Fewke’s photographs are set apart. To the left hangs an image of a jagged formation, its peak barely cresting above a darkened, hazy atmosphere. The lily pads that float in the lower corner are the only cue to scale—reducing an otherwise mountainous form into a submerged, rotting tree trunk. Such a trick of the eye is more mountain range than can be found in much of the Midwest horizon, which is why, for many years, Laura Primozic (whose sculptures serve as counterpoint to Fewkes’s images) set her sights well beyond the Illinois prairies she calls home, modelling her work instead on the changing glacial landscape. Only recently have her more immediate surroundings come back into focus. Fewkes’s vision has followed a similar trajectory. She says of their collaboration, “We were both very interested in ecological integrity…bringing awareness to some of the larger global issues that we might speak to on a microcosmic level—on a …

You Can’t Draw Permanent Lines on the Ground in a Floodplain

Iron the common element of earth in rocks and freightersSault Sainte Marie—big boats coal-black and iron-ore-red topped with what white castlework  The waters working together internationally Gulls playing both sides –Lorine Niedecker From the poem “Lake Superior,” 1967 For the last twelve years, my professional and personal life has been split between the Midwest/Great Lakes metropolis of Chicago and Champaign-Urbana in the center of the state. The train I take between these two homes—on a rail line celebrated in folk-singer Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans”—passes through terrain covered by large, uniform fields of corn and soybeans. Cylindrical grain storage bins periodically rise out of the flat horizon like rockets that got stuck in a perpetual countdown, never to blast off. There are many readymade images that someone like me projects onto these scenes. One of the strongest being the pastoral image of productive family farmers, feeding America with sweat and basic technology; a Grant Wood painting, in 3D living color. After a couple of years of inhabiting and moving through this territory, the surface of …

In Conversation with Terttu Uibopuu

“This is what making work should be like. You should be nervous and you should be a little bit scared. And you should feel kind of apprehensive and you should feel like you’re doing something kind of wrong. That’s the state I want to be in when I make my work. I don’t want to be comfortable. I don’t want to know what the hell I’m doing. I want to feel like I’m trying something new and scary and weird. Something not so polite and not comfortable for anybody.” – Terttu Uibopuu Estonian-American photographer Terttu Uibopuu moved to the United States in 2002. Born in 1984, in Soviet-occupied Estonia, Uibopuu lived much of her formative years during the fall of the Soviet Union. After receiving a photography award from the cigarette company Phillip Morris in 2001, she booked a one-way ticket to the United States. At the age of 17, Uibopuu found herself in a small city in northern Illinois where she began documenting her experiences and forging herself a career in photography. In this …

Hold Me: Erin Hayden at UIS Visual Arts Gallery

This review is part of our Sixty Regional initiative which partners with artists,  writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and  Illinois. Written by Juliet Johnson, a Champaign-Urbana-based artist, writer and curator, this review is cross-published with the growing Central Illinois platform Sight Specific.  A memorial card shows Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in embrace. Erin Hayden’s paintings in Hold Me are based on this card, made for Lincoln’s funeral. He gazes in adoration at Washington, who places a laurel on Lincoln’s head. The caption reads, “Apotheosis,” meaning “the elevation of someone to divine status, deification.” In all of Hayden’s paintings, this image is warped and built upon. In the gallery, one large painting is flanked by sixteen smaller works behind which the large marigold words, “Hold” and “Me” square off. Like previous work by Hayden, Hold Me contains kitsch, pixelated, and found imagery widely sourced and all on equal footing. We see emojis, iron-on patches, thick paint blobs, and other images more reminiscent of the dregs of a Google Image search. These culture …

Art at Work: Georgia Schwender at Fermilab Art Gallery

In this series, we explore the idea of art institutions with a primary audience deliberately or functionally outside the field of art. These venues primarily focus on completely unrelated disciplines, but are also invested in art collecting, exhibition, or production. For this installment, we look about an hour west of Chicago to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, known as Fermilab: one of the most advanced particle accelerators in the world. There, government scientists research the frontiers of particle physics, from quarks to dark matter. Wilson Hall, the lab’s central building, is named for founder Robert Rathbun Wilson, a Manhattan Project physicist and the artist of several massive public sculptures that pepper the campus. It also houses the Fermilab Art Gallery, which Wilson established to explore his dual interests in science and aesthetics. Search “art at Fermilab” online today and, in addition to the gallery and artist-in-residence program, you might learn about “art,” the laboratory’s software workflow protocol. “art is an event-processing framework for particle physics experiments,” the website explains. Though the name is a coincidence, …

The Contours of Absence: Marisa Boyd at Transpace Gallery

This review is part of our Sixty Regional project which partners with artists,  writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and  Illinois.  Beyond the obvious irony of walking into a room titled A Place That Doesn’t Exist, what’s inside possesses a relentless sincerity. Marisa Boyd’s highly abstract work has a presence that is quiet but insistent. Three framed drawings on paper, hung opposite the entryway, orient the exhibition at Transpace Gallery by capturing Boyd’s process in its most direct form. The scribblings and contours are done with a quick and intentional hand, as though drawn from observation. Appropriately titled Closed Eyes #1 and Closed Eyes #2, the drawings are created blindly, with Boyd referencing only the landscapes she sees behind her eyelids. The central drawing is overlaid with sheets of paper, which have been cut through with amorphous shapes. These cloud-like forms float throughout the space, cut from paper, gatorboard, plywood, canvas, carpet, and fabric. Yet to Say Something Important finds two of these forms mounted adjacent and elevated slightly from the wall, …

Walking Through Change with Deep Time Chicago

It’s an unseasonably warm December morning and I’m driving cautiously through a Chicago warehouse district, south on Ashland Avenue past an overpass of the Stevenson expressway. The slice of the interstate makes this patch of the city feel like a peninsula, jutting timidly into a convergence of two stretches of the Chicago River. My directions lead me down a small road innocuously named Marketplace Access, past the slick corporate bulk of the QTS Data Center campus, and I’ve arrived. I join a group of about forty light-jacketed companions at Canal Origins Park for a walk through the city’s history of timber extraction with Deep Time Chicago, a collective of ecology-minded artists who want to retrain our awareness to our surroundings, and the artists Sara Black and Raewyn Martyn, whose joint installation Edward Hines National Forest is on view at the Hyde Park Art Center. The park commemorates the point where the Illinois & Michigan Canal once connected the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River drainage basin. It’s an impressive sounding spot, but if I’ve ever …

Stealing Hearts and Making a Mess: Dominus by Maria Lux at DEMO

When I think of raccoons I think of Milk Duds. At a cabin where I was staying in the woods one summer, I inadvertently left a box of Milk Duds outside and later that night was met by a sticky raccoon at my door. I remember giggling as it ran down the stairs with its caramel and chocolate covered paws- sticky tracks that stayed visible for a couple of weeks. This is to say, somehow I find raccoons a bit charming. Maria Lux’s exhibition Dominus at DEMO Project in Springfield this August (2017) brought both this charm and mischief into the gallery. In the exhibition, Lux pairs humor with earnest text about the history of trying to domesticate raccoons as pets. Three hand-made raccoons sit atop Roomba vacuums, all named properly after pet raccoons, including Rebecca the pet of President Calvin Coolidge. The furry robots scoot around the gallery bumping into walls – not actually cleaning  pushing around empty pastel colored bottles and occasionally, each other. Surrounding the raccoons on the walls are suggestions of Memphis …

Blue at the Edges at DEMO Project

In titling her recent showing at DEMO Project Blue at the Edges, Melissa Pokorny draws from the words of author and essayist Rebecca Solnit. In her autobiographical collection, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Solnit writes, “For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go.” Solnit speaks of vastness as something that lies ahead and out of reach, like the promise of a tomorrow that never arrives. Even so, any wistful admiration directed towards horizons or mountain ranges tends to trigger an echo from yesterday. Despite Solnit’s description of an unattainable horizon — a place “you can never go” — her experience is partly one of physical sensation, of a distance that …