All posts filed under: Artists

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 …

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Beyond the Page: Quenna Lené Barrett

“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 Quenna Lené Barrett — actor, educator, writer, director, activist, scholar, and lifelong Chicagoan. We spoke in late November about her ongoing project, “Re-Writing the Declaration,” and its recent production; how her many forms of work inform each other; and using applied theater as a tool for civic participation and Black liberation.  Follow Barrett @quennalene (Twitter, Instagram) and @quenna.lene (Facebook). This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: After getting to experience aspects of Re-Writing the Declaration as a project over the last few years, it was extra exciting to see the production of it earlier this month. Now that a few weeks have passed, how are you feeling about it? Quenna Lené Barrett: Still feeling really good! I was directing two shows at once — Re-Writing the Declaration and another one, in this virtual format — and then had other projects come up. …

Black Narcissus: After Nereida Patricia’s cracked sidewalk fountain

“Who’s there?” Narcissus stops trepidatiously and slowly turns around to stare into the thick underbrush. Nothing moves among the stand of ferns and foxglove. The mountain nymph Echo hides behind a pine tree, pushing her back against the dimpled bark. Her heart thumps deafeningly in her ear and her arms tremble noticeably, but she softly repeats Narcissus’s question back to him: Who’s there? Narcissus’s eyes narrow and he listens intently for several minutes before deciding he only heard the ghost of his own voice, and continues his hike through the forest. Echo sighs and slumps away from the tree, peering slowly around the trunk. She waits until Narcissus is several yards ahead before following after him, trailing him like an elongated, late-afternoon shadow, and occasionally darting behind a tree or rock again whenever he suddenly pivots around—unnerved by his acute hunter’s instincts—and calls out again, “Who’s there?” Who’s there? They continue on in this way for several miles until suddenly, overcome by her urge to smell his ripe body odor, admire his doe-like eyelashes, stroke …

Image: Installation view of Terry Adkins: Resounding Lower East Gallery, Pulitzer Arts Foundation © 2020 The Estate of Terry Adkins / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York Photograph by Alise O’Brien © Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Alise O’Brien Photography.

Resounding: Terry Adkins at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation

Terry Adkins (1953-2014) was a transdisciplinary artist who utilized sculpture, sound, video, performance, and printmaking strategies in combination with material, personal and historical research. Through a deep investment in the use of creative methodologies to investigate personal and historical narrative, Adkins developed an artistic framework that embraced complexity and contradiction in service of an expansive and generative model of identity, one that has continued to influence contemporary art discourse. Terry Adkins: Resounding, on view at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, features over 60 objects that include career-spanning sculpture, print, and video work as well as items from Adkins’ personal collection of musical instruments, books, and ephemera. The exhibition marks some of the most significant moments in the artist’s career and provides new insight into how Adkins situated sound outside of a normative, hierarchical structure. Adkins developed the term ‘potential disclosure’ to describe the three-staged process that rooted his material practice. This process, consisting of (1) collection (2) gestation and (3) transformation1, was the technique through which Adkins synthesized his material and historical research. …

Kajahl Huntress In Oasis (Astride A Crocodile), 2020 oil on canvas 66 x 84 in. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Fantasy of a Fantasy – A Review of Kajahl: “Royal Specter” at Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s exhibition Royal Specter, featuring work by the artist Kajahl, is in every aspect a museum-quality exhibition. I am not merely referencing the historically traditional and representational style of Kajahl’s paintings (that is to say, portraying a ‘likeness’ of the subject—and whose likeness is it? More on that later). I am also not just referencing the artist’s unbelievably skilled use of oil paint on canvas—materials that are, again, traditional. As Kajahl’s paint renders abundant silk folds, fine furs, and ornate gold, both the medium and style which together demonstrate a high level of skill, are historically deemed as having high value. However, when I say “museum quality,” it is not because of the undeniable attention to detail and quality of the work itself. Instead, it is because, upon gazing on the works, my mind ultimately and immediately places them within an art historical context. With each piece referencing so many elements of historical portraiture, Kajahl’s works are itching to disrupt the canon, demanding to reimagine the (absent) place of the Black figure in the …

for you. yes, you. – a response to “for you” by Ayanah Moor

you for this is just blacknessyou for this is just blacknessyou for this is just blackness G.L. – I don’t know that I can write his name here for fear of legal reprisal – haunts billboards from Chicago to Michigan (at least), his chin, the chiseled basin of his brickhead split open by bleached, saliva-polished teeth: sue the bastard who did this to you, we’ll make a buck, you’ll make a buck. On the CTA platform, I close my eyes, inhale and find my center in all the noise of rush hour while wind tunnels and pours dank air through the crowd. I do this for five minutes. I open my eyes. G.L.’s stupid face is waiting for me. I brought this up to my dad once, how unnerved I was by G.L.’s persistence, and he told me that a friend of his once called the number on the billboard, and that the office was not in Chicago but somewhere in Arizona. G.L.’s interstate visibility bothers me. Not because of him (though I harbor some …

Riva Lehrer: GOLEM GIRL and Pandemic Portraiture

“All portraits are fragments,” says Riva Lehrer, “it’s representing someone through a single moment in their life; so any portrait is an act of reassembly, you get these clues and you try to reassemble them into some view of the person.” In a way, this is what I was doing as I read Lehrer’s new book GOLEM GIRL: a memoir: scouring her words for insight into what makes her the person she is today.  ‘Author’ is just one of many hyphens in Lehrer’s well-established artistic career. She teaches at Northwestern University and she curates, but she is perhaps best known for her portraits of people “whose physical embodiment, sexuality, or gender identity have long been stigmatized.” As a Disabled artist herself, Lehrer has a unique ability to capture a person’s form in an honest and expressive way through her evocative works. I had the pleasure of speaking with her to discuss her background as well as current projects. Lehrer’s artistic talents are familial.  Courtney Graham: [In your memoir,] you talk about your mother, Carole, being …