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Image: "Suicide Squad," Arroyo Seco, Pasadena, CA, 1936/2019 by Barbara Diener.

Works Cited: ‘The Rocket’s Red Glare’ by Barbara Diener

It goes without saying that so much of the labor in an artist’s practice goes unseen, ranging from the countless hours of trial and error experimenting with a medium before getting it right, to the often mind-numbing planning and prep work when starting a new piece. However, there is yet another layer below the surface of this complex production that is inherent to the creative process: research. There is a collection of information, images, and archives that happens even before any pen is put to paper, feeding and informing an artist’s body of work. Works Cited asks artists to uncover this part of their practice with us, sharing research materials such as essays, playlists, online archives, and tips on how to navigate them. In the spirit of open access, this column also serves as a resource in and of itself, as each interview includes access to these materials in the form of either reading lists or sharable links. For this edition, I spoke with artist Barbara Diener about her most recent project The Rocket’s Red …

Image: Kristoffer McAfee stands outside the School of the Art Institute Columbus building, where the painting students spend most of their time. He says his experience at SAIC “gave me confidence in my work and direction.” Photo by Kristie Kahns.

A Path Turned Inside Out: A Conversation with Kristoffer McAfee

Through his use of bold color palettes, meticulous details, and iconic symbols, artist Kristoffer McAfee displays technical rigor while provoking questions about the allure of consumerism that permeates our lives. Kristoffer is a California-born, Chicago-raised artist and a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, whose practice focuses on confronting political and social issues through intricate paintings and large-scale three-dimensional objects. His artistic voice and the intent of his work has surfaced in a myriad of ways: through life experiences, like growing up with the disparities and segregation within the southside of Chicago; by travelling the world, spending many years in Paris; by channeling the influence of other artists, like Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons; or through rigorous training, which he received at SAIC. But perhaps a less considered factor, and one that has impacted the development of Kristoffer’s path, is timing. He was skeptical of higher education and traditional art school, and only made the decision to enroll at SAIC once in his late twenties – a choice he acknowledges was …

Questions in Time: Looking Back and Ahead, Together

In our current moment, Chicago’s artists and creators find themselves exhaustingly entrenched within the gig economy, where artist-run spaces and projects commonly exist in liminal zones of financial and programmatic instability. Neoliberalism’s acceleration has only illuminated how the endeavor to make and create within the art economy is demarcated by racism, classism, and technological isolation, i.e. the art world’s role in gentrification, the exclusionary cost of many MFA programs, the growing scarcity of funding, and the fleetingness of social capital within the attention economy. Uncertainty and anxiety permeate our current moment; we live in a constant state of reckoning. How can one meaningfully create and work while maintaining a constructive and reparative critique of one’s own complicity within systems of oppression? In a maze of disenfranchisement, how can the art world be a roadmap for advocacy? Is such a change even possible? I do not know the answers to these questions. However, I do believe that there is something––a hint, a clue, a discovery––to be uncovered within an examination of time and how it has …

AMFM and the Lifespan of Chicago Artist-Run Spaces

Chicago’s artist-run spaces are key players in the creative ecosystem. They stretch down all avenues in the city and beyond into the sprawling suburbs. Whether they are found in old storefronts, auto shops, backyards, or basements, some hold their space for decades while others reconstruct or retire.  Succumbing to the rise of rent and the heavy financial responsibilities that come with running an alternative venue can play a large role in the changing of spaces or changing of hands. Artist-run spaces go through fluctuations, especially those who persist for a few years. Some turn into non-profit gallery spaces, while others host a few pop-ups or begin satellite locations. Others simply shutter.  Deciding to close an artist-run space shouldn’t equate to failure. The conditions for closure—or change—are endless. The lifespans of DIY spaces don’t eradicate the work that was done. And often, the spaces simply exist in a new form. For Ciera McKissick of AMFM, that’s exactly what happened.  For over a decade, Ciera’s project—whose original form was a web magazine—has developed and transformed into various …

Artist Residencies, Collaboration, and Alternative Models of Education

In 2018, artists Julia Holter and Olivia Block came together to write and compose a new piece titled Whenever the Breeze, creating immersive sound by combining voice, instruments, bells, and recording of wind and water. The making of this piece culminated in an album recording and a live performance at the May Chapel in Rosehill Cemetery. This dynamic, collaborative piece was created during Experimental Sound Studio’s Outer Ear Residency. Artist residencies offer a place for artistic exploration, a space where artists can work and think collectively, and potentially collaborate with like-minded individuals as well. Although this environment sounds similar to a classroom, residencies often subvert the power dynamics found in traditional academic settings. Without a type of hierarchical knowledge structure, residencies often form an alternative learning space. bell hooks describes this kind of learning community in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, saying, “Since the vast majority of students learn through conservative, traditional educational practices and concern themselves only with the presence of the professor, any radical pedagogy must insist that everyone’s presence is …

Disrupting the system with Emmy Lingscheit

Emmy Lingscheit is a visual artist and Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Lingscheit’s work can broadly be characterized by attention to detail: in formal qualities such as color selection, choice of text, and the intricacies of mark-making, but also in the choice of subject matter. Her work addresses the human condition by looking at the systems we create to govern our lives, calling into question the ways in which social and cultural justices are not compatible with such systems. She interrogates these systems, particularly environmental ones, to understand how the ways we “otherize” the natural world is directly related to the ways we “otherize” people, marking both as exploitable and disposable. One strategy Lingscheit employs is drawing the viewer in with technical savvy and grace; her work is gorgeous. The repetition of marks and imagery hypnotize the viewer so much so that looking at her work is analogous to the ways in which we are swept up in these systems. Though there is a sense of wanting to spend more time …

A black and white photograph titled Stop White People From Killing Us - St. Louis, MO, c. 1966-1967 by Darryl Cowherd

October Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

Zoi Zoi are Bringing the Club to the Living Room

I used to spend my Saturday nights under the bask of the disco ball, twirling in an underground space, or drenched in sweat swigging my cocktail by the DJ booth. I’m a self-proclaimed club girl. Slipping into a latex dress and dancing until 6 A.M. seems foreign to me now, as it’s been over six months since I last left a club setting. No resident DJs, no covers, no fishnet tights. In the early days of the pandemic, I watched a lot of livestream DJ sessions. Dancing alone in my living room, my nerves would calm down. But after a while, even those virtual events fell short.  My last event was at The Post, a Washington Park spot, where we packed in tightly and moved together until the sun came up. It was a perfect “last party,” as a few days later the pandemic would shut everything down. I’ve been working from home ever since, my dancing shoes are tossed in a corner.  The club is such a huge part of my queer experience in …

Review: Windows to Our World

Walking up residential Kenmore Avenue, you might do a double-take when you pass 6018North and notice that the fence, yard, porch, and windows are adorned with banners, sculptures, and other objects. While the décor may seem unusual for a dilapidated mansion, it is on par for the artist-centered organization named after its address. Under normal circumstances, the house’s interior would be filled with art, but the stay-at-home order and city-wide protests prompted 6018North to create Windows to the World, an outdoor exhibition that promotes the organization’s social justice mission. Considering our current crises and noting that “the pandemic of America is racism,” the team of ALAANA (African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, Native-American) curators asked artists to consider:  How do we want to see the world when we get out? Who do we want to be individually and collectively? The works they selected address COVID-19, systemic injustice—or both—and raise questions with complex answers.     Artworks in the exhibition are made from everyday materials and often adopt commercial formats, such as neon signage and banners. Efrat Hakimi’s Time, depicting …

Intimate Justice: Molly Blumberg

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Logan Square artist, sculptor, and papermaker, Molly Blumberg. The recent SAIC MFA grad caught my eye while scanning the internet for new artists. Working with fibers and transforming them into fleshy, lumpy sculptures was enough to steal my attention. In this interview, Blumberg and I discuss making a mess, exploring with materials, and fragmenting the body.  S. Nicole Lane: Your work is very rooted in process and playfulness. How important is exploration and experimentation in your work?  Molly Blumberg: Experimentation and exploration are the foundations of my practice. When I’m working in my studio, I rarely have a finished piece in mind and I allow the materials to dictate a fair amount of the work. I’m a process-based maker: I want to physically get my hands into my materials, make a mess, and feel my way through it. My work …

Featured image: The Six, 2020 by Marzena Abrahamik. A photograph of a still life of a orange and red bouquet of flowers on an orange-yellow table. On the table also sits oranges and various plant parts. The background dis also orange-yellow. Image courtesy of the artist.

Works Cited: Marzena Abrahamik on psychedelics, the feminine, and their power

It goes without saying that so much of the labor in an artist’s practice goes unseen, ranging from the countless hours of trial and error experimenting with a medium before getting it right, to the often mind-numbing planning and prep work when starting a new piece. However, there is yet another layer below the surface of this complex production that is inherent to the creative process: research. There is a collection of information, images, and archives that happens even before any pen is put to paper, feeding, and informing an artist’s body of work. Works Cited asks artists to uncover this part of their practice with us, sharing research materials such as essays, playlists, online archives, and tips on how to navigate them. In the spirit of open access, this column also serves as a resource in and of itself, as each interview includes access to these materials in the form of either reading lists or sharable links. In this edition, I spoke with Marzena Abrahamik, who explores the transformative experience of psychedelics in her …

Featured Image: Work by February James. We Laugh Loud So The Spirits Can Hear, 2020. Installation view. Five highly expressive, framed watercolor portraits hang in the gallery. Image Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.

The Artist as Changemaker: A Conversation with February James

I’m not even going to belabor the conversation about how we are all living through some of the most challenging times that we may ever see in our existence. We are simply trying to survive a global pandemic amongst civil unrest in the wake of police brutality and efforts to dismantle white supremacy, all during an extremely high stakes election year.  As an artist, I know I’m not the only one who has received these types of emails over the past few months,  “We hope you understand that your exhibition has been postponed due to circumstances surrounding the global pandemic.”  “The gallery has implemented a virtual platform to promote your work in lieu of an in-person exhibition opening.” “Your health and well-being is extremely important to us, which is why we have decided to cancel your upcoming event.”  The pandemic has changed every aspect of our daily lives. Schools, jobs, social gatherings, shopping, exhibitions, festivals, events, and countless others can be added to the never-ending list of things that no longer operate as they once …

Roland Santana: the gum beneath your shoe at Baby Blue Gallery

Upon entering  Mana Contemporary building wearing a cloth mask, my temperature is taken before I am invited to sign in. My healthy temperature is recorded and I am now able to enter the building and be brought to the fifth floor. Exiting the industrial elevator, I follow the instructions given to me by the masked elevator attendant and walk down the hallway until I find the door marked 518. Walking into Baby Blue’s new gallery space I am immediately struck by the natural light that pools over colorful paintings and gestural works. Already recognizable to me are the large scale paintings and modest-sized painted sculptures by Chicago artist Roland Santana. the gum beneath your shoe is Roland Santana’s first solo exhibition at Baby Blue Gallery. Santana has a prolific studio practice and a strong entrepreneurial mindset that has helped him gain momentum as an exhibiting artist in recent years. In addition to his career as an artist, Santana works in art administration and developed RUPTURE, a Chicago BI-POC Maker/Visual Artist Directory alongside designer Ashley King. …

Intimate Justice: Ricardo Partida

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to the painter and recent SAIC graduate Ricardo Partida about greek mythology and power dynamics. I first stumbled upon Partida’s work through Instagram, following them through a digital world and was re-introduced while viewing the SAIC MFA Graduate Thesis Show. The figures in Partida’s paintings stare deeply at the viewer, inviting them into a naughty, dark, and sexy world.     S. Nicole Lane: Where are you from? What led you to Chicago and how has the community here impacted your work?  Ricardo Partida: I was raised in the valley; a small, cursed town 15 minutes north of the south Texas-Mexican border. I came to Chicago for grad school at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and recently completed my MFA in Painting and Drawing. Being in Chicago has been a wild ride. Much like a relationship, we have had our …

Image: Artists Run Chicago 2.0 installation view of artwork by Thomas Kong curated by 062 Gallery. Photography courtesy of S.Y. Lim

September Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

Heaven Gallery: Relic, Ritual, and Remedy

Wading through the sea of people in Wicker Park—masks-off—wasn’t the most relaxing Sunday. Patio seating, pop music blaring, horns honking, and shops bustling all appeared to be so much louder since the last time I was in the neighborhood (prior to the pandemic). Ah, but then, there it is—Heaven.  Heaven Gallery, that is. The gallery space and its current show, “Relic, Ritual, and Remedy,” is a sanctuary amongst the bustle of the streets below.  Objects and archives are exhibited alongside textiles in the exhibition as artists explore history, ephemera, every-day objects, and texture.  This group show, curated by Lauren Iacoponi, features 11 artists, including Allen Moore, Rebecca Griffith, Judith Brotman, Naomi Elson, Nick Van Zanten, Anne Yafi, Elyse Sawka, José Santiago Pérez, Betsy Odom, Millicent Kennedy, and Ryan Burn, who work significantly with craft materials: weaving, quilting, sculpture, and every-day objects. Rebecca Griffith’s bold black VHS tape quilts blend memories from her childhood when her mother ran a video store. When Griffith was six years old, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—the video store …

MCAccountable’s Demands

White supremacy, exploitative labor, capitalism, and abusive hierarchies are rampant within art and cultural institutions. And the MCA is no exception. On July 16th, staff from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago demanded action to protect the safety of workers and towards uprooting white supremacy and racial injustice within the museum. They wrote a list of demands addressed to the Pritzker Director of the MCA, Madeleine Grynsztejn.  Full-time and part-time staff, artists, volunteers, and the public joined MCAccountable to bring to the light the performative allyship and pandering that the museum has presented to the city. With 50 percent of MCA staff saying they felt uncomfortable returning to work, and 13 percent saying they felt uncertain, leadership dismissed the Human Resource Re-Entry Survey and opened it’s doors on July 24th. The collective stated that reopening is “dangerous, irresponsible, ableist, and racist” in the wake of a pandemic with cases only rising every day. To date, 956 people have signed on in support of MCAccountable’s collective statement and demands. What do Black lives look like for the …

Image: “Chicago Spring,” curated by Lauren Iacoponi featuring various artists. Six small windows have works of several artists hanging. In the top left window, Sarah Genematas, colored pencil drawing and David Stonehouse, mixed media drawing. Bottom left window exhibits MyLinh Mac, canvas painting, Ata Berkol, hand marbled fabric, Marcy Thomas-Burns and Amy Shelton collaboration, sculpture by Thomas-Burns, and print by Shelton, The top middle window exhibits a fine art photo print on cotton paper by Darryll Schiff. Bottom middle window exhibits an exhibition poster by Gordon Hall, a polyhedron wooden sculpture by John Heinze, and a plastic primary colored house by Shistine Peterson. The top right window has work by Tabor Shiles, which is a screenprint on silk, and a screenprint on paper by Trashformal (Charlotte Gasparetti Ribar and Spiros Loukopoulos). The bottom right window exhibits botany illustrations by S. Curtis Glazenwood Essex and Millicent Kennedy’s colored pencil and ink drawing. Photo by Amy Shelton.

August (Virtual) Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

Featured image: Selva Aparicio, Entre Nosotros (Among Us) Detail, 2020. Concrete tiles cast from human cadavers. The images show a close up of the piece, showing details of a grid of square, concrete blocks. Each block has different folds, and one shows a nipple, all cast from human parts. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman. Image courtesy of the artist.

Works Cited: Selva Aparicio on Life, Death, and Breaking Taboo

It goes without saying that so much of the labor in an artist’s practice goes unseen, ranging from the countless hours of trial and error experimenting with a medium before getting it right, to the often mind-numbing planning and prep work when starting a new piece. However, there is yet another layer below the surface of this complex production that is inherent to the creative process: research. There is a collection of information, images, and archives that happens even before any pen is put to paper, feeding and informing an artist’s body of work. Works Cited asks artists to uncover this part of their practice with us, sharing research materials such as essays, playlists, online archives, and tips on how to navigate them. In the spirit of open access, this column also serves as a resource in and of itself, as each interview includes access to these materials in the form of either reading lists or sharable links. In this edition, I spoke with Selva Aparicio, whose interdisciplinary work examines life, death, and mourning through the use …

Flying Trapeze: Yes, Ma’am Circus

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for 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. Ever think to combine John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost with acrobatics and aerial arts? Or the dulcet phrases of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with trapeze and juggling? Yes, Ma’am Circus has successfully brought these works to the circus world in the past few years. Executive Director Amancay Kugler didn’t expect to be running a small theater company but through her dual dance and psychology degree, she was exposed to the circus craft. She had taken a required class on dance composition which resulted in her developing an …

Featured Image: The marquee of The Art Theater in Champaign, Illinois reads “For Sale or Rent.” The Art Theater’s sign is red and retro. The brick building is located on a downtown street, with residential apartments above the theater. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Support for the Arts Supports Us All

Before I moved to Central Illinois, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the ways arts and culture programs affect a community. Living in a mid-sized town/small city/micro-urban area for a little over a decade has changed the way I think about community and what it means to have access to those types of programs. Dynamic arts and culture programming signals that residents are engaged and active, that this is a place people should want to live. It signals that a municipality values its citizens, and is interested in helping create a community where a rich quality of life is revered. An engaged arts community celebrates and challenges its members and residents; it’s more than a collection of people making stuff or putting on performances. These programs indicate there is an infrastructure that supports community connection and potential for conversations about difficult subjects that can advocate for change. Active and critically engaged arts support systems within communities are vital to the growth and progress of small towns like Champaign-Urbana. In a diverse community like C-U, …

Beyond the Page: Tanuja Devi Jagernauth

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Tanuja Devi Jagernauth — Indo-Caribbean playwright, dramaturg, organizer — about how her practices in theater, prison abolition, healing justice, and transformative justice interconnect; creating spaces for BIPOC theater-makers; doing mutual aid during and beyond the pandemic; and how she challenges systems of oppression and struggles for collective liberation through her work. Tanuja and I spoke in May. We recognize that in the weeks since then there has been a broadened nation-wide uprising against policing and other white supremacist systems — an uprising sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and innumerable others, as well as by other forms of anti-Black violence. We recognize that these racist acts are part of a long, systematized lineage. And we recognize that there have always been organizers and artists visioning and building against, beyond, and outside of that. We have decided to publish this …

Text-only: “To Know A Neighbor” by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth

Below is a text-only version of “To Know a Neighbor” by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth, March 2020. In its original form (re-published within this interview with the author), Jagernauth hand-wrote the micro play in black ink on textured white paper, which she watercolored with rosy reds and rusty yellows of varying intensity. Title page: “To Know a Neighbor” by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth Page 1: Aggie slowly and carefully writes by hand a letter to her neighbors — none of whom she’s ever met. In the letter she invites them to email her if they ever need anything like a cup of sugar, toilet paper, or you know — help — during this time of social distancing. When the letter is complete she stares at it. Aggie: (to Sharpie, her cat): What if…weirdos? Sharpie exits. Aggie: (sighs) Fine. Aggie grabs her Scotch tape and exits. Page 2: Hank, a stocky, stubborn retired teacher, slowly, painfully heaves open the front door to his apartment building. A hand-written note stops him. He puts down the bags of groceries in …

Image: An illustration by Teshika Silver of Breonna Taylor.

July (Virtual) Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest. If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for …