Month: April 2020

The Flying Trapeze: The Drifter’s Collective

Circus has been making a comeback across the country the past few decades.. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Chantal Bustamante started Drifter’s Collective, a small circus company, in 2018 because she wanted to do more acrobatics as well as create more opportunities to perform. Since 2018, Bustamante says that the Drifter’s Collective has “slowly evolved into a multi-cultural circus company.”  For Bustamante, diversity is key. “We have different ethnicities, orientations… men, women, and people who do not identify working side by side together,” she says. Starting with four performers, the group has grown to seven and one apprentice with two shows—Stone Soup and in the middle …

Image: Illustration of a person with colors of green, purple, and magenta surrounding them. There are various patterns in the background.

3 Unemergency Poems

Not that we’re not in an emergency, but rather, the need to break out of the fast cycle of news that feels designed to agitate and then numb me into a state of helplessness. “Crisis time” invokes a logic of panic in the here and now. How will the headlines help me take care of my roommate who is, at the time of writing, using a borrowed inhaler, recovering from what the doctor diagnosed over the phone as COVID-19 and/or pneumonia? You can’t make soup with statistics and bylines.  What about the care work, dream work, and reflective thinking that sustains, moves, and propels our bodies inch by inch into the future? I find myself turning to endurance art, affect theory, performance studies, poetry, and maintenance work for a primer in how to slow down in order to keep on keeping on. These are “untimely,” perhaps, but what better time than the disrupted reality of quarantine to seep in the sustaining power of the “untimely”? In a moment of uncertainty, the durability of theory compels …

Midwestern Artists Creating with Repurposed, Sustainable Materials

Sustainability in the art world can mean a number of things, from using conscious art practices to upcycling materials, to ecological art which focuses on restoration. Environmental artists often explore the relationship between humans and nature, between man-made materials and natural environments, and they aim to work in a way that demonstrates harmony between the two.   From the banks of the Mississippi River to the small village of Northport, Michigan, we talked to four Midwestern artists who are creating sustainable, environmentally-engaged art and using reclaimed and repurposed materials. Jenny Murphy  While at Washington University for her BFA, Jenny Murphy became very interested in the negative impacts of American consumerism. She started to consider what art could be like when it’s not confined to an inaccessible gallery, and it was then that she started defining herself as a “community artist.” Murphy is the founder of Perennial, a sustainable art non-profit in St. Louis, that functions as a community workshop and store offering DIY and craft classes—everything from bookbinding to woven wall art —using reclaimed materials. …

A Projection Into ‘Paths Between Two Steps’ by Soo Shin

The lymph nodes in my neck are swollen. Poisonous balloons expanding in my throat. I am guilty of my breath, my touch, how they could infect others. I bike to see my partner at Rosehill Cemetery, where we had planned to meet, and I tell him about the wretched mass I sense inside me, surrounding me. So we decide to stay safe, six feet apart, where we will stay for at least a week. We visit his grandparents’ graves, stones placed upon them. He is saying something to me as I draw in and out, in and out wet salty breaths, six feet away. I have never missed a touch so close to me so deeply—I can’t stand it. I go, six feet, then 20, then miles, until I am separated from the one I love. And I am thinking now, as many of us are, what it means to love and to live from a distance.  I am wondering the same thing as I again click through the virtual version of “Paths Between Two …

Image: Installation view of Gordon Hall’s Chicago exhibit USELESSNESS, courtesy Document Gallery.

Slanting Towards Uselessness

“All art is quite useless.”—Oscar Wilde You can’t really step on a slanted step. The Slant Step’s so-called “step” inclines at a 45 degree angle, too steep for a foothold. It is an object that teases utility, like Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined tea-cup, or Marcel Duchamp’s inverted urinal. What is it for? Nobody could figure that out, and that’s the point. It is an inside joke: a found object whose elusive purpose made for a compelling and enduring art mystery. It is an invitation, a riddle, a call for response.  As legend goes, William T. Wiley found the Slant Step in a San Francisco thrift shop for fifty cents in the Sixties and bought it as a gift for his student—the artist Bruce Nauman, who went on to cast molds in homage. With time it became an object of fixation for a funk art movement of Bay Area artists and poets, culminating in a group show, The Slant Step Show, at Berkeley Gallery in 1966. When Richard Serra stole the Slant Step from that show and …

Image: A color illustration of a woman with VR glasses looking at a colorful screen. Illustration by Teshika Silva.

April (Virtual) Art Picks

Due to the unprecedented, precarious state we are all in due to COVID-19, this month’s Art Picks reads a bit differently. As the nation practices social-distancing, we can no longer attend the events normally listed here. Exhibitions, performances, lectures–you name it–are being postponed or cancelled. As a result, artists, musicians, and performers are doing what they always do–they become even more resourceful, miraculously organizing virtual events and alternative ways to engage with their work. As the ways in which we experience the arts have recently changed, so must this list of Art Picks. Below, you will find three categories: arts events that have been postponed or cancelled, virtual streaming events, and online resources from regional arts organizations. Art Picks is a monthly event calendar created in collaboration with The Visualist, Chicago’s leading visual arts calendar, and cross-promoted through Windy City Times, one of the longest locally-published LGBTQ weeklies with a national reach.  Click here to get our Art Picks and latest articles delivered to your inbox monthly. The featured image was created by one of Sixty’s talented illustrators, …

Featured Image: Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Krannert Art Museum stands in front of “Hive,” an large inflatable sculpture installed in the museum’s Kinkaid Pavillion. The sculpture is floor to ceiling and bright pink. The main body of the sculpture resembles a bunch of grapes, or a multi-breasted female body, and to the side there is fuschia colored a braid with a braided gold band around the end of the braid. Powell stands in the center of the image, looking into the camera and smiling. She is wearing a black dress, and her hands are in her pockets. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Building Community with Amy L. Powell

Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign houses quite a large and impressive collection of artwork, spanning centuries of human creativity. The museum’s collection is complimented by temporary exhibitions, ranging in themes (Painting and the Animation of History in Northern India), time periods (contemporary work by Allan deSouza), and topics (Swalihi Arts across the Indian Ocean). It’s an understated and underappreciated resource in East Central Illinois. I recently spoke with Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Krannert Art Museum (KAM). Powell has been in her position since the fall of 2014, and she’s mounted exhibitions of the work of Zina Saro-Wiwa, Autumn Knight, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, and Kennedy Browne. Powell is interested in photography, video, and knowledge production, but a quick look at her resume also reveals thematic interests in post colonialism, feminism, displacement, and disruption. Much of our conversation circled around the idea of connection. Powell seeks to make connections between artists, makers, and thinkers, and views the studio visit and the exhibition as platforms …