All posts tagged: Zachary Johnson

Teenage Blockbuster

On Friday June 18th, Marwen, a non-profit youth art center in River North, held its opening exhibition for the Marwen Lab program. A three-year-old program, it is offered to Marwen students who wish to work on a single art project over the course of three 8-week terms. Open to Marwen’s most advanced high schoolers, students must apply and be accepted into the program. Speaking with each of the students, I was reminded of the unique power of high school art: it expresses what it’s like to be a teenager. Though the pieces in the show were inspired by a wide variety of themes, certain students honed in on the high school experience. The charged, powerful emotions of adolescence were the focus of Afiya Hudgins’ works. Meanwhile, Henry Novak was inspired by the anxiety related to making that first big move from home to college. Overall, the pieces were breathtaking and sophisticated. The Marwen Lab instructors were amazed, as well, “I’ve never been so proud and so impressed by a student exhibition.  And they were clearly …

Hyde Park Public Art (5 of 5)

In a recent phone conversation, Olivia Gude of the Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG) expressed her opinion that when a site-specific piece of art needs repair, Americans take on an “either/or” mentality. The piece will either be restored or destroyed. In older areas of the world, a third alternative has been commonplace for centuries: adding something new to an older structure. Take the Basilica of St. Peter as an example. Begun by Michelangelo in the Renaissance, it was expanded and tweaked by other great architects as styles changed over time.  Recently, I have to admit I fell into the binary thinking that Gude has described. When reading the text next to The Spirit of Hyde Park mural at 57th Street and Lake Park Boulevard, I became confused.  “Restored and reinterpreted by CPAG,” it read. What did reinterpreted mean in the context of public art? Weren’t murals simply painted over or touched up over time? Taking in the wall, a mix of styles was evident. Bold, abstract patterns mingled with realistic depictions of students and protestors …

Hyde Park Public Art (2 of 5)

“Where are you coming from?” “Where are you going?” In 1991, Olivia Gude, an avid muralist, stood outside the 56th Street Metra station with a tape recorder asking these questions to people who passed by. As one might think, she came up with a wide variety of answers. “I’m coming from the comfortable middle class and I want to head to the upper class.” “I’m coming from Earth and going to heaven.” “I don’t know where I’m going. I’m lost.” With the responses, she created an oral history-based mural filled with other such quotations and wintry portraits of bundled up Chicagoans. She did so in partnership with the Chicago Public Art Group, with which she has now been working for twenty-five years. Gude recognized that art was “far from being this preserve that was separate from life, [but] intrinsically part of all of these issues about culture, about human possibility, about justice.” Her 56th street mural focuses on the former; namely, the culture of a neighborhood. Reading the quotations of the mural, I was fascinated …

Mental Strikes Again

Mental 312, the artist already responsible for one large piece of street art visible from the Green Line has recently created another. The new piece adorns an abandoned three-flat near the Garfield stop. It is the same geometric style as his other recent piece (near the Green Line Indiana station), except rendered in purple instead of teal. If you find yourself in the Washington Park area, I recommend taking a closer look.

Hyde Park Public Art (1 of 5)

In the earlier decades of the twentieth century, Lorado Taft may have been Chicago’s most famous artist. His was a name I’d never heard before, but after a little research I realized I’d seen his sculptures all over town. I first saw his “Fountain of The Great Lakes” outside the Art Institute in high school and discovered his two Graceland Cemetery sculptures, one a crusader and another titled “Eternal Silence”, back in October. Beyond that, Taft’s pieces can be found in places like the University of Illinois (his alma mater), over in Oregon, Illinois, and at Union Station in Washington DC. Taft also contributed to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 by creating plaster sculptures along the Midway Plaisance between Washington Park and Jackson Park. Taft began work on “Fountain of Time” in 1908 after being inspired by a couplet by Austin Dobsen: Time goes, you say? Ah no, alas, time stays. We go. He considered the sculpture something of a magnum opus and it took him and his team of sculptors 14 years to complete. …

Seeing The Invisible

How can time be made visible? “Seeing The Invisible”, the current exhibit at Marwen’s Untitled gallery seeks to answer this question. The show includes series of photographs and video installations by Marta Shumylo, a Marwen alumna and student at the Milwaukee School of Art and Design, along with her professor Sonja Thomsen, whose work can also be found in the permanent collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Marwen’s mission is to educate and inspire under-served middle and high school youth through the visual arts. However, it continues to supports students after they graduate through efforts like Untitled, its alumni gallery. Through Untitled, former students can exhibit their work or curate the work of others. Marta, who attended Marwen during her last two years of high school, saw the exhibit as a way to both show her appreciation and inspire its current students. “Seeing The Invisible” contains three series of photography. The first is a collaboration between Marta and Sonja entitled “Home/Away” and comprised of fourteen diptychs. To create the pieces, they spent the summer taking …

Craft Up Chicago

On Friday January 14th, eight people made it over to Inkling, an arts and crafts gift shop in Lakeview, for the first Craft Up Chicago of 2011. Organized by Columbia senior Casey Champion and yours truly, Craft Up Chicago aims to inspire everyday creativity and to create a greater sense of community within the Chicago craft world. From seven to nine pm, participants snacked and chatted while knitting, needlepointing, sewing, and working on paper snowflakes. The latter served as the craft of the night. Though at first everyone marveled at the apparent complexity of the three dimensional snowflakes, after a short tutorial, they soon dove in and began creating their own. The motivations in the room were varied: some worked on gifts for friends, others planned to sell their work, and some just came to socialize. Stephanie Keller (the owner of Inkling), Casey Champion, and I, on the other hand, had similar intentions. Stephanie had previously hosted craft get-togethers in her home, but after opening Inkling in June had not been able to find the …

Kicking Off the DIY Craft Season

With all of the commotion surrounding the Renegade Craft Fair this past weekend, it can be easy to forget that Chicago’s second biggest indie craft show was just two weeks ago. November twentieth was the eighth year for the DIYTrunk Show, a fair put annually by the Chicago Craft Mafia. While similar to the Renegade Craft Fair (both events are held at the  Pulaski Field House), the trunk show is somewhat smaller in scale, takes place on one day only, and focuses more on local crafters. The Chicago Craft Mafia organizes the show in order to support the Chicago crafting community. Their passion for craft is laid out in their Craftifesto, which states that craft is powerful, political, personal, and possible At the trunk show I interviewed three very different participants. The first, Paul Snagel, proves that craft is powerful, that is, that the things we want and need can be bought from craftsmen in our own community. Paul rescues vintage objects from obscurity and transforms them into lamps. His interview can be found here. The second, Laura Berger, proves that craft is personal.  Laura shares her charming, quirky …

Fresh South Side Street Art

As of about ten days ago, there’s something new to look at from the left side of the Green Line train when heading north from Garfield. A formerly empty wall has been transformed into a piece of teal, geometric street art. I recommend braving the cold and taking a closer look. Discover more Mental 312 here.

Catching up with Paul Snagel at the DIY Trunk Show

During the recent DIY Trunk Show I caught up with three very different participants (the other interviews can be found here and here) and asked them a few questions. One such participant was Paul Snagel, a craftsman who breathes new life into vintage objects by transforming them into lamps. 1. How long have you been working in your current style? How did you begin creating these sorts of objects? I started making things into lamps about fifteen years ago. I started from the cliche “I could turn that into a lamp” (at least it’s a cliche to me) and then proceeded to actually do it. The first thing I tried was a blowtorch, but it was too tricky for my skills and tools at the time, and I didn’t end up finishing it for several years. I bought three vintage kitchen appliances from George’s Resale shop in Andersonville on the same day, and the rest is history. 2. What is the inspiration behind your work? The only thing I’d call inspiration is seeing a piece …

Catching up with Allyson Dykhuizen at the DIY Trunk Show

During the recent DIY Trunk Show I caught up with three very different participants (the other interviews can be found here and here) and asked them a few questions. One such participant was Allyson Dykhuizen, a knitter who strives to make her craft both accessible and social through the Sweatshop of Love. How did you first get involved with knitting? I had a teacher in high school who knit and loved knitting, and my friends and I thought it was really cool, so we got lessons after school, like an after school class. So, then what brought you to start Sweatshop of Love? I was graduating from college and I didn’t have anything to do, so I started teaching [knitting classes] and now I pretty much solely support myself on the sweatshop. It’s just me, so whatever I can do, whatever time I can devote – I love it so, it’s easy to keep making stuff. So where are you located? Where do you teach classes? I teach classes mainly in Logan Square. But sometimes …

Lakeview East First Fridays

The city’s newest art walk is happening in a neighborhood most Chicagoans would assume has no art scene to speak of. Still, it seems enough people were aware of Lakeview East’s First Fridays to create healthy crowds in each of its four locations. Launched last month as a collaboration between Inkling, a local art and craft gift shop, and Loose Leaf, a nearby café, the walk also includes Clothes Optional, a vintage clothing and home goods store, and Spare Parts, a boutique and gift shop. Lester Palmiano and Phillip Jolliffe at Loose Leaf had been holding monthly art shows regularly for two and a half years. It wasn’t until last month, however, that Lester and Stephanie Keller of Inkling decided to put a walk together. Stephanie reported that the other two locations were “more than receptive” when asked if they wanted to join in. Together, these four businesses comprise Chicago’s only art walk put on solely by non-gallery spaces. Stephanie said she was interested in using her store’s wall space to bring more awareness to local artists. …

Catching Up with Laura Berger at the DIY Trunk Show

During the recent DIY Trunk Show I caught up with three very different participants (the other interviews can be found here and here) and asked them a few questions. One such participant was Laura Berger, an artist who blurs the lines between the art and craft worlds. How long have you been working in your current style and media? How did you begin creating this sort of art? I’ve been painting and drawing my entire life. In college & afterward, I worked as a scenic artist where I painted huge murals for businesses & backdrops for theatre productions. I started working smaller and focusing on my own work in 2007. My father had just passed away and I was really needing a fairly constant distraction that could hold my attention & make my thoughts lighter. I think that’s where the kind of fantastical characters and positive sentiments arose from…basically out of a desire to think about more pleasant things and feel better. What is the inspiration behind your work? I’m inspired a lot by Japanese …

Water Street Studios Anniversary Show

Water Street Studios is an art center in Batavia, IL that hosts 26 artist studios, community art classes, workshops, large and small scale are exhibits, and various other programs and events offered to the community. On September 17th, I attended their first anniversary show and followed up with an interview with their director of education, Kari Kraus. 1. How did you first become involved with Water Street Studios? I was at Art In Your Eye [Batavia’s annual art fair] in Aug 2008.  I actually was leaving the fair and heading to the pedestrian bridge and passed by a tent with a hand-made “Batavia Art Center” sign.  I walked past and once I was halfway on the bridge I decided to go back and inquire.  I was interested in studio space at the time as I was just moving back home to Batavia and looking for a place to create in.  I walked up with my dog (Alberto) and inquired… At this time I was the assistant director of a not for profit art school and …

Sitting Down with Anna Cerniglia of Johalla Projects

Johalla Projects is an art space in Wicker Park run by three curators, Anna Cerniglia, Caitlin Arnold, and Melissa Marinaro. It opened in fall of 2009 and serves as a venue for emerging and mid-career artists. On Friday, November 8th I sat down with Anna, the director, to gain a better understanding of Johalla’s structure and mission. How did Johalla Projects first come together? When I started this, I only wanted this as an office to have all of our curatorial practices kind of based out of. But then we just started having more shows and more focus placed on us, so we started making it more of a gallery as time went on. We still use it as a home base because we do other projects besides what we have going on here. Now, this is more of a project space and I think now we’re trying to turn it into an S-corp, as we have more liabilities on us. And we’re doing bigger shows and starting to gather more artists. How does Johalla …

Spudnik Press: November Drink and Draw

Two weeks ago I spent my second Wednesday night at the Drink and Draw hosted by Spudnik Press. Every first Wednesday, Chicago artists gather to sketch, doodle, chat, and drink from 7:30 to 9:30 over in Chicago’s eerily quiet industrial corridor. Despite the remote location, the attendance has been high both times I’ve dropped by. On Wednesday, seating was scarce, but whether at a light table or crammed onto the couch, everyone managed to find a place to draw. Though I showed up alone, I soon found a spot at a large table and sat down surrounded by unfamiliar faces. Like most of my visits to Spudnik, an encounter with strangers soon turned into a lively conversation. Working through the night’s theme (imaginary landscapes) and chatting with some East Coast artists about how they made their way to Chicago, before I knew it, it was 9:30. I’ve been criticized for attending an event called the Drink and Draw when I don’t drink and rarely draw. What pulls me in is the feeling of community that …

A Night With The Renaissance Society

On September 11, I put on my dress shoes, slacks, black dress shirt, and purple tie and took the orange line down to Bridgeport. There I joined other young volunteers, mostly UChicago and SAIC students, for Of The Moment, the Renaissance Society’s annual gala. The location of the event was East Bank Storage, a large, old warehouse that now contains artists’ studios. For the gala, the top floor had been converted into a lavish gallery, auction, and dining space. As the main fundraiser for “The Ren”, tickets to the event ran $350. Needless to say, the guests arrived in their best attire. Outside of working opening nights of NEXT, the affluent, upper class side of the art world is one I rarely see and often forget about. Monitoring auction bids and taking coats at Of The Moment, however, I got a chance to take in the unfamiliar crowd. Gallerists, art collectors, and at least one Sotheby’s employee were all in attendance at the event. I’d heard the Chicago art world was quite close knit, and …