All posts filed under: Artists

Jeffrey Michael Austin in their home studio performing A Place You Can Go. They are playing a keyboard and seated in front of three windows which are illuminating the room with natural light. The space around Jeffrey is filled with different types of houseplants.

A Place You Can Go, an at-home performance by Jeffrey Michael Austin

Featured image: Jeffrey Michael Austin in their home studio performing A Place You Can Go. They are playing a keyboard and seated in front of three windows, which are illuminating the room with natural light. The space around Jeffrey is filled with different types of houseplants. Jeffrey Michael Austin is an artist, musician, and maker living in Pilsen, Chicago. As a musician, they compose, perform, and produce for Growing Concerns Poetry Collective (in collaboration with McKenzie Chinn and Mykele Deville), Daisy Days (in collaboration with EJ Hill), and under the solo moniker Young Elder. Their at-home performance, A Place You Can Go, was performed and recorded during the summer of 2021. Alongside this featured performance, we asked Jeffrey a few questions about its creation. Jeffrey Michael AustinCancer Sun / Cancer Moon / Leo AscendantResidence: Pilsen, Chicago Sixty Inches From Center: Is there a story, path, or journey that you were thinking about while creating your at-home performance, A Place You Can Go? Jeffrey Michael Austin: Much of the process of producing this video felt like …

Caroline Kent’s Aesthetics of Encryption

Featured image: An installation view of Victoria/Veronica: Making Room. The back of the room displays an abstract painting by Caroline Kent with an organic shape cut out of the wall to its right. The middle of the room contains a desk. The entire room is green. Image courtesy of the artist and PATRON Gallery, Chicago. Photography by Evan Jenkins. I mount the winding staircase that twists, helix like, through the heart of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Everything goes green as the third floor galleries come into view. My eyes adjust. As I continue to ascend, a once faint grumble — more playful than ominous, a nourishing timbre, like the sound of water seeping around dry roots — begins to swell. My ears adjust.  I am now positioned on the axis of Victoria/Veronica: Making Room, Caroline Kent’s first museum solo-show, presented across two adjacent galleries, which, in tandem, explore the fugitive language forged by an imaginary set of twins “who communicate telepathically across two domestic environments.” My whole body adjusts, oriented now to the resounding tranquility brought …

Lion Cages and Lilac Fields: From Chicago Stages to Basements, Art, Work, and Other Pandemic Songs

Featured Image: Jyreika Guest (left) performing in a music video for the livestreamed theater production grelley. Guest stands on a crate and gestures toward the video camera, surrounded by lighting equipment and a basic set design. At right are crew members (L-R) Eon Mora, Kevin Veselka, and Glamhag. In the background another actor checks their outfit in a mirror. Filmed in Chicago, May 2021. Photo by Sarah Elizabeth Larson. This is the first in a series of articles made in collaboration with the Chicago Arts Census to explore the living, labor, and material realities of art workers in the city of Chicago. To learn more about the Census, how to get involved, or how to take the survey, please visit: https://chicagoartscensus.com/ To get to the Internal Call Center you have to enter the museum’s loading dock, head down endless hallways of windowed offices—the home of Curatorial, Education, the Director, the President (a.k.a. the people who neither know nor want to know you exist)—hop down two or three flights of stairs, and weave through the maze …

Conspicuous Consumption: A Pop-Up Summer

Featured image: Jarrett Ellis, founder of hoopdreamstudios, in a pop-up at Congruent Space. Ellis is crouching down on a basketball court design that says “HOOP DREAM”. Photo by Dally Dew Drop. It’s late July in Chicago. Summer solstice has long since passed, the mask mandate has seemingly dissolved, and the in-person event has risen again from the ashes of lockdown. In a sudden lurch, a fantastical standard has been set: people with access and ability to be out and about will be out and about. Experiences will be had, and they will be exciting and valuable and make up for all the “lost” time of the pandemic. (Nevermind that the pandemic isn’t, indeed, “over,” or that “lockdown” never ends for people inside prison walls or otherwise forcibly disposed into ever-proliferating forms of criminalized life). This particular historical moment is being positioned by retailers and other state agents as an “out of the shadows and into the light” moment that celebrates an ostensible “return to normal” — an “after” crisis that urges people to exhale and …

FOLD/UNFOLD: Interview with Madeline Hampton

FOLD/UNFOLD: fashion designers and artists on dress, tactics, community, and power in zhegagoynak/zhigaagoong (Chicago) and beyond. When you first walk into fashion photographer Madeline Hampton’s apartment/studio, the number “27” painted on the entrance wall in chaotic white strokes doesn’t assert itself as separate from the overall industrial aesthetic of the space. It takes time to notice that this is a signal that Hampton, also known as “27,” lives and works here. It’s an uncanny and highly personal visual that feels appropriate for an artist who based a recent shoot around Yves Tumor’s feeling of licking an orchid.  Hampton makes cinematic fashion images that don’t so much attract you to double-tap, but instead compulse an ongoing encounter with the picture. Hampton’s power to interrupt the scroll culture of Instagram feels like a power coming from somewhere not quite here–an offering to feel otherwise through the medium of fashion photography. The colors hit somewhere in your jaw, the angles glimmer. It feels possible to be both here in the material body and moving in a dream dimension. …

Featured image: “Body” Digital collage, risograph print by Whitney Humphreys. The piece shows an image of a woman with part of her face missing, revealing cyborg-like parts underneath. Underneath are various machine parts. The right side of the piece shows a robot arm and text that reads: "Robot brides that free themselves become a paradox: objects with agency". The piece is mostly pink, green, and tan. Image courtesy of the Internet Archive.

When Archival Bodies Collide: Rupturing Gender Through History

Artists have always relied on the archive and material history in their work, whether it be in the emulation of a specific style, the expression of a historical moment, or in a particular medium such as collage. The practice of exhuming images from archives necessarily carries these histories and styles along with it, no matter what the artist might attempt otherwise. But they can also refigure old art by placing it in conversation or contradiction with the new. Two artists, Whitney Humphreys and Sarah Tyschenko, are performing such insightful and disruptive reconfigurations with images of gendered bodies from the archive. I discovered San Francisco-based artist Whitney Humphreys’ zine series Gendered Machines a couple months ago, after I was browsing the Internet Archive—a free, digital library of websites and digital materials—looking for zines. I came upon her series, a collaboration with the Internet Archive and Tiny Splendor Press, and requested a copy of each zine, not thinking much about it until they arrived a few weeks later in all their risograph beauty. Humphreys told me she …

Tim Klein: Instances That Might Go Unseen

A native of Tacoma, Washington, Tim Klein’s interest in photography began at an early age. He bought his first camera, with money his family provided for meals on the road, in 7th grade while on a trip to Germany with his gymnastics group.  Klein was always creative and found the camera to be the perfect tool for his skillset as an observer. It was a natural fit to document found moments and scenes that are interesting in composition and context. He describes his relationship with photography as letting his instinct drive his creativity. By the time he enrolled at Western Washington University, he had developed his skill set as a photojournalist, working on his high school newspaper and local paper.  While in college Klein freelanced for Reuters and the New York Times. While working for Reuters, he covered a presidential briefing in the White House. Upon graduating, Klein was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award for Journalism. Real-life relationships and circumstances are depicted as soft, vulnerable, and human, where rituals and shared experiences of mundane life …

Unreasoned Scores 2/6: Ellen Holtzblatt and Salim Moore

The following article is part of Unreasoned Scores, a series of six articles edited by Fabiola Tosi, Juelle Daley, and Stephanie Koch, the 2019-2020 HATCH Curatorial Residents with Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC). When social distancing posed a challenge to building community between the artist residents of the program, Daley, Koch, and Tosi created a structure for artists’ interviews which asked: How can we be isolated together?  Through a series of exercises, curators encouraged artists—paired together based on artistic practice, experience, and personalities—to connect through a series of interviews with one another. The goal was to foster a human-scale connection between artists, beyond the hyper-mediated space of online meetings. With this experimental editorial project, the curators seek to investigate “How does one archive ephemeral works which may not fit the formats of a traditional archival record?” Read Unreasoned Scores 1/6 featuring Katie Chung and José Santiago Pérez. Ellen Holtzblatt and Salim Moore, edited by Fabiola Tosi It is almost certain that each and every one of us during the past year felt a sense of deep isolation and suffered from a …

Image: Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together by Thornton Dial. A large, mixed-media piece that looks like a tattered American Flag. © Estate of Thornton Dial. Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio/

Black Artists Deserve Better: Thornton Dial at the IMA

Regarding the state of Indiana, I would say that it benefits from the perception crafted in our history classes that racism only exists in the south, and the northern states have always been a bastion of acceptance. Let me disabuse you of that belief. I went to college in Muncie, Indiana, where one of my professors quipped that Indiana is “the northernmost southern state.” In 1843, famous abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Pendleton, Indiana and was nearly bludgeoned to death by a white mob of anti-abolitionists. Additionally, Indiana has historically been a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity, (a fact that was shared with me repeatedly, almost gleefully during the time I lived there) and Confederate flags are the norm. Anecdotally I’ve seen them on car bumpers, proudly displayed on front porches, sewn onto jackets as patches, and on the wall of a frat house, just to name a few. All of this matters because The Davis Lab at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) at Newfields is currently hosting an …

Featured Image: Stephen Signa-Aviles stands in his studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is wearing dark jeans and a dark, short-sleeved hooded sweatshirt, and a black face mask with a white graphic pattern. He looks up and into the camera. His studio space is narrow and cluttered. There are various works in progress, as well as shelving units with paints, books, and other materials. Photo courtesy of Stephen Signa-Aviles.

Working From Home: Four Art Students Reflect on Making in a Pandemic

During the summer of 2020, with COVID-19 cases rapidly rising, it became clear that higher education would have to look different in the near future. There was a lot of press coverage about how colleges and universities could, would, and should function during a global pandemic. How could it be safe to bring tens of thousands of people to one place, many of them living three or four to a space? How could students continue their education under these stressful conditions? What type of accommodations should be made to allow for those who want to return to campus to do so safely? What about fiscal solvency? A lot of conversations and articles about the reopening of college campuses were about economics, the ways a virtual or hybrid model could greatly alter or damage traditional ideals of higher education, and the exploitation of professorial labor (both tenured and nontenured). The University of Illinois system originally announced in mid-June that Fall 2020 would be a hybrid model of education, with in-person and online classes. This model was …

Review: 36° 15’ 43” N 29° 59’ 14” E at Goldfinch Gallery

Texture as memory, as language, as impression of thought and purpose; this is what is brought forth onto and within the imprints on the surface of objects made by SaraNoa Mark. Tactile and intricate, the artist’s mark making oftentimes reads like indecipherable words, while other times appears as imagery unfolding within the cracks of the surface, much like a relief. These carved and etched lines are akin to the marks made in drawing, which is at the heart of the artist’s practice. “Drawing is the lens through which I experience the world,” says Mark. “I view the earth, itself, as a drawing — continuously drafted by environmental and human gestures.”  Earthy and mineral-esque, Mark’s objects appear as solid as a rock and as precious as a relic. Manifesting their pieces from carved ceramic, clay, and stone, the artist has chosen a monochromatic palette that accentuates their mark making. With difference in color out of the way, the rich, lush texture is left bare for us to examine and search, so dense and palpable that I can almost physically …

Bodies Immersed installation overview

It’s On Us to Change Our Own Worlds: A Review of Bodies Immersed, at Roots & Culture

What feels particularly acute and tender in Bodies Immersed, the exhibition currently on view at Roots & Culture, is the urgency underlying the artists’ contemporary visions. While utopian ideals are not new in art and architecture, the work by Chicago-based artists Megan Diddie and Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero in collaboration with ColectivoMultipolar (Sandra Oviedo) questions what it means to be vulnerably human in the Anthropocene—coexisting uneasily in late capitalism with other creatures, elements, and natural and unnatural forces as we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and other compounding crises. This work imagines and documents intimate ways of being in sustainable communion with self, with others, and with natural and built environments. In so many ways, the work of Bodies Immersed asks and imagines how we might make life more livable.  im·merse/iˈmərs/verb 1. to dip or submerge in liquid The exhibition’s works (installations, photographs, videos, sound, and mixed media on paper) meet in water, dwelling in and through it. Each artist raises implicit questions about water rights, water circulation, sustainable water use, and ecologies—broadly conceived. Fluidity is thus …

The Door Ajar: A Conversation with Leah Ke Yi Zheng

My friendship with Leah Ke Yi Zheng (Instagram) started rather serendipitously. She was a stranger sitting next to me at a communal table inside Intelligentsia Coffee on East Randolph Street. I somehow initiated a conversation, and that was how we became friends, without knowing that we would soon both join the graduate program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; I would study art history and she, painting and drawing.  As a curator, I cherish a personal conversation with my artist friends in which we also chat about life––sometimes a bizarre dream from the night before or favorite foods from our hometowns. But in the grand scheme of things, art reflects our lives. Over the years, Leah has come to use Painting to pose a variety of formal and personal inquiries about objecthood, perception, and the nature of difference. Despite a transformation in styles and subjects, her paintings continue to mirror their maker’s personality: calm, contemplative, but uncompromising and fearless. Coinciding with Leah’s two-person show with David Hartt, Memory’s Great Vertigo at Paris …

Celeste Malvar Stewart fitting a model in her Columbus, Ohio atelier. Photo by Jake Holler.

Celeste Malvar-Stewart: Zero-Waste Haute Couture in Columbus, Ohio

Celeste Malvar-Stewart has been a pioneer of sustainable and ethical fashion for 25 years, creating zero-waste bespoke felted dresses made with alpaca and sheep fibers from her appointment-only Columbus studio. She knows the names and can recognize the fleece from each individual alpaca and sheep. When I made a felted scarf with her last year, she showed me how Sugar has tighter corkscrew curls, while Gandalf is looser and fluffier. Celeste works directly with local Ohio farmers to source her fibers and is proud to be part of a fashion revolution where it’s becoming a statement to re-wear pieces. Prices range from $800-$1,500 for one-of-a-kind cocktail dresses and up to a few thousand for wedding dresses.  “When there’s that value and connection with the animals and your dress, you’re so not going to throw it away,” she says. With a minimal carbon footprint and without relying on imported fabrics, she’s creating farm-to-dress fashion. With her atelier, Celeste is more of an artist than a designer in the traditional sense. Her dresses are seamless because she’s …

Featured image: (Mariano's mural) Color Me South Side, 2019 by Dorian Sylvain. A crowd of people stand in front of a colorful mural depicting several people. Photo by Chris Devins.

Dorian Sylvain: Muralist, Teaching Artist, Curator, and Community Planner

As a long term resident of South Side Chicago, Dorian Sylvain‘s artwork is no stranger to myself or others. I first met Dorian in 2015 at Mana Contemporary during the ChiArts visual arts senior thesis show. Five years later, I would reintroduce myself to Dorian and proceed with asking her if she needed an artist assistant. While I am still learning from Dorian, she has taught me much thus far and has even encouraged me to take on different mediums within my artwork. It is an immense pleasure to interview Dorian on her practice, career, and what’s next down the line. Alkebuluan Merriweather: Who is Dorian Sylvain today as opposed to 40 years ago? Dorian Sylvain: Today I am a more confident artist and certainly a more experienced artist. Through the years, I evolved my practice, relationships, and have expanded on the dreams of a young artist growing up on Chicago’s South Side. In my early 20’s I recognized my commitment to working as a teaching artist, receiving my first grant to operate a free arts …

Elinor Carucci, Red #3, 2015

Reproductive Agency—The Political Made Visual

January 22nd marked the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, but the debate around reproductive rights didn’t end there. Denying Title X family planning dollars to providers like Planned Parenthood and concerns over Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court are just a few examples of how the fight continues. Engaging with and broadening the discussion of how fertility is politicized, Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) provides a comprehensive look at reproductive issues through art. Kudos to MoCP for tackling the issue broadly, focusing on the spectrum of experiences, not just birth control and abortion. The exhibition includes artworks addressing desire and sexuality, the heteronormative childbirth industry, and menopause. That said, the curatorial narrative is strongest in articulating the ways in which patriarchal systems affect reproductive freedoms. The largest gallery space is devoted to Laia Abril’s project On Abortion: And the Repercussions of Lack of Access, 2016. Her archive of images and text is based on years of research about the consequences of restricting access …