Author: Jennifer Patiño Cervantes

Chicago Archives + Artist Project: Artist Profile on H. Melt

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan LOZANO, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community.  Join us on December 1, 2018 from 6-9 pm at the Leather Archives & Museum for Artists + Archives: Pilots, which will exhibit the commissioned projects by each artist alongside the archive materials that inspired them, launching CA+AP’s first …

Drawing on Anger: Eric J. Garcia

Eric J. García combines art, politics, and history in his work, creating sharp critiques of the U.S. through a Chicano lens with the goal of educating and challenging the viewer.  And it’s his ability to draw the connections between history and contemporary politics that make his work especially powerful. As an artist, García creates using a variety of media including printed posters, sculptural installations, public art, and political cartoons. Some of the work from his long-running and incisive political cartoon series, El Machete Illustrated, was recently published in a collection called Drawing on Anger: Portraits of U.S. Hypocrisy by Ohio State University Press. I got a chance to ask him about the process of creating this book, how his work challenges traditional political cartoons in the U.S., and the importance of collective anger. Jennifer Patiño Cervantes: Can you tell us about your book? How did it come about and how did you come up with the title? Eric J. García: “Drawing on Anger” is the best of my El Machete Illustrated series of political cartoons …

Touching Time: An Interview with José Santiago Pérez

José Santiago Pérez’s show, Flirting with Infinitudes, part of the Doing/Thinking residency at Wedge Projects, will be on view until the closing reception on October 5th. The pieces in his show activate the triangular gallery space with their touches of bright neon colors.  In Flirting with Infinitudes, Santiago Pérez uses knots as a way to meditate on time and its the cycles and repetitions, and ultimately on what binds us. Some of the pieces evoke tapestries made with modern materials, the colorful plastic cascading from the knots that affixing the lacing in place against a dark grid. Other pieces contrast colorful materials against the translucent, one material contracting and ballooning against the coiling and releasing of the other. In still others, the translucent white plastic hangs in strips that partially veil the vivid looping and knotting. The show is accompanied by a takeaway booklet that continues the show’s meditations in text form. I got a chance to talk to Santiago Pérez and we discussed the show’s craft-based process, the use of knots, and the transition from …

Image: Laura Kina sits in front of a brightly colored painting of floral motifs. Photo by Kiam Marcelo Junio

The Virtual Asian American Art Museum: A Conversation with Laura Kina

Laura Kina is an artist and professor of Art, Media & Design at DePaul. She founded the school’s Asian American Studies program, which has since become a Global Asian Studies program. She runs the Asian American Art Oral History project, which collects oral histories of Asian American artists, organizers, and participants of Asian American arts and cultural organizations in the Midwest. She co-founded the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and has edited two anthologies, Queering Contemporary Asian American Art and War Baby/ Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. She is also the illustrator of the upcoming children’s book, which will be published in March 2019, called “Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos,” which is a trilingual feminist fairy tale set in set in Hawai‘i and Okinawa, written in Hawai‘i Creole by Lee A. Tonouchi and translated by Dr. Masashi Sakihara into Uchinaaguchi. Kina is the lead curator of the Midwest module for the Virtual Asian American Art Museum, which is a large-scale digital humanities project developed by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: The Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan Lozano, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community. For this installment, we sat down with Catherine Grandgeorge, the archivist from the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection. The Chicago Protest Collection builds …

Gardens in Open Spaces: An Interview with Leslie Rose

Leslie Rose is a textile and performance artist who creates domestic spaces in public and transforms damaged garments into treasured garments of wearable art through her project Gardens in Open Spaces. Her pieces blossom as they commemorate the stories of wearers and inspire conversation. Rose is a working-class disabled transwoman and a sex trafficking survivor who has experienced periods of homelessness, and she draws on these experiences as she interrogates the nature of domestic spaces, access to public spaces, the gendering and invisibility of certain types of labor, and how to navigate the effects of trauma. Because she is often unable to leave her apartment due to her disability, sharing her project on social media and through those who have commissioned wearable pieces has become part of her performance. You can follow her on Instagram using the tag #gardensinopenspaces.  UPDATE: Since this interview, Rose suffered a heart attack and has launched a campaign to help her meet medical and living expenses while she recovers. This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness. Jennifer Patiño Cervantes: How did your …

The Aesthetics of Displacement at The Strange Fields of This City

It is rare that a show’s theme so closely mirrors the circumstances of the gallery where it is being exhibited as well as The Strange Fields of This City, curated by Greg Ruffing and features the work of  HATCH Projects Residents Alejandro Waskavich, Haerim Lee, and William Camargo,  on view until June 14th. Along with Brent Fogt’s Do Something Else, it is the last show at Chicago Artists Coalition’s space at 217 N. Carpenter before they move to their new location 2130 W. Fulton. Facing the same pressures of space and development that the show tackles, along with expanding needs, CAC is finding itself having to relocate, like many other arts organizations in Chicago. Peering into the gallery’s windows to see William Camargo’s oversized, rasquache-style advertising signs of Cultura a la Renta critiquing displacement, it is difficult to ignore the construction noises of the high rise going up across the street. Gentrification is in part a war of aesthetics. A war of the undifferentiated, the sameness of developers using profit maximizing, corner-cutting tricks to convince people …

Searching for Our Ancestors: Mexican Artists at Arte Diseño Xicágo

Arte Diseño Xicágo, which is on display through August 19th at the National Museum of Mexican Art, traces our community’s art history in Chicago back to the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) and up to the Civil Rights Movement. At a moment where we are being scapegoated nationally, targeted by white supremacist politicians, and pushed out by gentrification, this exhibition flexes a beautiful reminder that we have BEEN here. It can give solace to look back at the past and see our antepasados, those who have come before us, creating and dreaming of making the world a better place for those who come after, a sentiment we can draw strength from to do the same. I toured the exhibition with two artists from Mexican backgrounds, curious about what connections we would all see. In addition to feeling inspired by our history, we also all found ourselves questioning the role that the distinction between art and design has played historically in the marginalization of our art.  Those of us from marginalized communities find ourselves and our history in …

Exaltations: Ricardo Gamboa, Storyfront, and Theater as a Living Archive

There is a certain way that we are often expected to approach Mexicanidad in our practices – whatever our field—one that centers the white gaze, commodifies our pain, exotifies us, and overall, attempts to deviate us from our original visions to a didactic one, namely, one burdened with the mandate to teach others about ourselves. I remember picking up a book in my elementary school’s library called The Mexicans, expecting to read about my family’s homeland, wanting a connection.  Reading the first sentence, which said “The Mexicans are a proud people” under unrecognizable caricatures, I narrowed my eyes and put it down, realizing that it wasn’t written for an actual Mexican like me. This disappointment has become familiar over time. Is this show actually for someone like me or is it for the type of people The Mexicans was meant for? I narrow my eyes. It’s hard to tell beforehand since criticism tends to have little representation of diverse voices who can evaluate work through different perspectives. But one of the artists in Chicago whose …

Mural of white, blue and pink flowers on a brown wall with a newsletter on a pedestal.

¡Sí, Se Puede! at the Glass Curtain Gallery

¡Sí, Se Puede! is on view at the Glass Curtain Gallery until November 4, 2017. The show features the work of Victor Alemán, William Estrada, Ian Kerstetter, Nicole Marroquin, Victoria Martinez, Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes, with offsite murals by Hector Duarte and Sam Kirk. Each of the artists took engaging approaches to working with documents from the UFW archives and I caught up with Meg Duguid, curator of the exhibition and Director of Exhibitions at Columbia College, to talk about how this manifested in each of the different pieces. Jennifer Patiño Cervantes: So my first question is what was the inspiration for the show? Meg Duguid: This exhibition actually came about a little organically. We were approached by a partner of our office of Multicultural Affairs, now called the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who said that he might have access to the archives of Cesar Chavez and would we be interested in doing an exhibition. Long of it short, we said we would be interested in doing an exhibition, but we are a liberal …

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…

‘Go Fuck Yourself with a Cactus’: On the Politics of Space, Chicago Art, and Mexican Aesthetics with Yvette Mayorga

I watch people warn each other about which Chicago neighborhoods they shouldn’t go to, which streets they shouldn’t live past – all the time. Neighborhoods that are mostly white or halfway gentrified are safe, they tell each other. The neighborhoods I grew up in or live in now, communities of color, are cordoned off as unsafe. I watch people pass on patterns molded by the history of segregation in this city, unaware of the ugliness of what they are actually doing, patterns they carry with them into what they view as this city’s culture. If they’ve never been to certain parts of the city, our aesthetics are alien. But it is impossible to know Chicago art if you don’t know Chicago past the parts that have been marked safe for you. And that is the genius of a show like The Subject is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities. It challenges passed on patterns and notions of what makes up the Chicago art scene by gathering artists from each of the city’s 50 wards and introducing viewers …

Challenging Silence: Making Space for Survivors in the Arts

Social stigmas and victim-blaming make finding a place where you can feel validated and supported an important part of the healing process when you are a survivor of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or domestic violence. Everyone heals differently and some people find healing through the arts because it allows them to reclaim their stories and find a community. Yet, the arts community, as much as the rest of society, can harbor its own biases against hearing the narratives of survivors. Artists who are accused of assault or other forms of abuse may be fervently defended because their work is valued more than the safety of the survivor. The artistic work of survivors, the majority of which are women, may be dismissed because of its content. In addition to professional barriers for artists who are survivors, there might also be challenges in terms of safety – publicity for an event that advertises a survivor’s whereabouts might be the last thing that they want. Luckily, there are spaces and venues that are respectful of survivor’s needs and …