All posts filed under: Essays + Reviews

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 …

Yasaman Moussavi at the Beverly Art Center

Space is a longtime preoccupation with the Iranian artist Yasaman Moussavi, whose recent show, Intervals was on display at the Beverly Art Center from Jan 3 to Feb 2, 2020. In Moussavi’s Intervals, space is mediated through two parallel operations of marking and organizing. By marking I mean a primeval enactment of space through play and its subsequent punctuation through psychic and cultural investment. Organizing, on the other hand, is less about compartmentalization than about space as the locus of social cooperation. Intervals consists of three parts: suspended large handmade papers installed along a zig-zag path, a bird’s eye view upon an urban landscape created by molded papers, and a collection of tiny cubicle paper modules carefully selected and framed in a fashion reminiscent of butterfly specimens. Hanged by thin transparent wires, the papers with the bulky, rough surfaces manifest a thrust, a longing for defying gravity. However, such an urge for the heavens does not manifest a perfect balance but a fragile union of materiality and spirituality. Likewise, the framed paper modules—despite all their …

In Case of Emergency: Artist Resources For You, For Us

All of us at Sixty can’t help but to think about the strain that is being put on our arts community in Chicago and across the Midwest. Exhibitions, performances, and fundraisers are being canceled or postponed indefinitely, contract opportunities are halting, schools and cultural institutions are being shut down, side-gigs at and income from bars, restaurants, and retail stores are dwindling. We are also seeing incredible examples of community organizing in and beyond the arts that are providing quick support locally, regionally, and nationally. And if you’re like us, you’re looking for ways to support those efforts or even start your own initiatives to help others who are in need. Knowledge is power, so in an effort to share information, we’ve compiled a growing list of suggestions, resources, and things you can do, models you can adapt, and small actions you can take now to do your part. And though we are sharing these resources with the best of intentions, we encourage you to also do your own research into the organizations, initiatives, and efforts …

Hardware & Soft Bodies: What I’m Learning From Agnes Denes

I have been programming computers as part of my art practice for a number of years. This pursuit feels increasingly queer the longer I do it: at one time I felt I was adding my queerness to a straight-set of tools, but these days it’s more like pulling forth something that was already there. Lately, I have enjoyed imagining that tech has always been a queer project. The irony here is that most technologists are straight cismen, so they pursue this queer project unwittingly. Tech practitioners try to reproduce themselves as computers: gender-flexible bodies with many modes of union (pins, ports, invisible blue teeth). They succeed and fail to recreate themselves in their own repressed queer image. All electronics achieve a kind of fleshliness via scatology, burning fossil fuel and producing noxious waste, which is cleverly closeted away in power plants. At the same time, most computers remain too smooth and hard to feel alive. Practitioners remain oblivious that their faltering aim is the sexless production of excreting bodies—instead, they think they are working toward …

Recipes for a post-colonial kitchen: maize / Recetas para una cocina poscolonial: el maíz

I remember the days before smartphones when my parents would load me and my brothers up into our white, blue velvet interior, 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado to make the 2-day trip down south to visit our grandparents. It was always a hot summer, a 24 hour drive to the border, 12 hours to Durango, and a few extra hours here and there so my dad could sleep. This was usually somewhere just outside of Tulsa and after getting through Border Patrol in Nuevo Laredo. I knew the path in my heart. No matter how far away we were, I felt the magnetic pull that snapped us from our house in Aurora, Illinois to the fig trees growing in the yard behind my grandmother’s kitchen in Durango. Mexico was my summer camp. As the in-car map reader, it was my job to make sure we took I-55 South through St. Louis so we could drive over that spectacular bridge that crossed the Mississippi River. My father, a former truck driver who is very familiar with this route, …

The Last Cruze: LaToya Ruby Frazier at the Renaissance Society

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, stated at the October 2018 CityLab Detroit Leaders Conference that she hoped to shift public perception of GM from that of an automobile manufacturer to a technology company before her retirement. Barra’s comment hinted at a desire to not only change the driving ethos of GM production but to also transform the configuration of GM’s workforce: imagine a future akin to Tesla’s automated assembly line, their factories quiet save for the AI programmed to build their “tech.” The wish to associate GM with an encroaching technocratic future reflects how labor, capital, and the management of these two components of late capitalism have shifted within the neoliberal paradigm. The dialogue of labor is rapidly changing. Rather than centering the conversation on workers, the question is now how production is managed, diffused and parceled out: human lives become human capital. This message casts a long shadow over the recent United Autoworkers Union deal with GM, ratified on Nov 4th, 2019. UAW members were on strike for six weeks, the longest …

Image: Image: The cover for T. Fleischmann's book Time is the thing a body moves through, designed by Stevie Hanley.

“Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through”: A Review

The book begins in transit. Literally moving from the get-go, a bus trip. “I leave Buffalo when the moon is still out, and on the long bus ride south I find myself unable to read.” By coincidence, I crack open my book on a bus ride, too, albeit a shorter commute, and I, unlike T. “Clutch” Fleischmann, am able to read on transit.  This is to say: the book begins in transit because the body is in transit; in conversation with itself and itinerant others.  The title holds all of these moving parts: Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through. This is one of those gorgeous book titles that gets me all worked up knowing I didn’t come up with the line myself. So beautiful it sounds immediately true and resonant, even if I can’t put my finger on exactly what it means. It resonates with a moment in Clutch’s last book, Syzygy, Beauty, which proposed, “Choreography is one way to articulate time, your body moving forward.” But the new phrasing is less linear, …

Image: Installation view of "Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times" by Folayemi Wilson. Catwalk with rotating NASA videos of the sun and moon. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

Space is a Place: Folayemi Wilson at the Hyde Park Art Center

There’s this thing that happens sometimes when I close my eyes and focus on nothing. It’s not like the after-image that you often get when looking at an object for a long time, but something else entirely. I see daubs of light, tiny flecks of indiscernible colors that move and dance in the darkness. And frequently, there is an actual place, a room that has no apparent walls, but feels like I’m somewhere else than where I really am–an astral projection of a space for safety and reflection. This place, I believe, was made manifest when I entered the main gallery this summer at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) to view Folayemi Wilson’s latest work Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times. I met Fo late last year during my stint in the Teaching Artist’s studio of HPAC. I had worked there since September 2016, and was encouraged to apply to be a resident. A couple months later, I was sharing the space with another teaching artist. Now, mind …

Image: Ida Cuttler, wearing a red blazer over pink pajamas, sits with her hands on her knees center. On the ground around her, are red and blue balloons and red-white-and-blue beachballs. The beachballs have stars on the blue stripes. Photo courtesy of Brave Lux, Inc.

A Story – “Comfortable Shoes” at The Neo-Futurist Theater

Here: a story. When I was younger, as a chronic fidgeter, holes and gaps would creep into my clothes, always looking like a moth had found a cozy meal. Because of this, I became familiar with the fraying yarn, a piece of a piece of clothing that could not be separated, nor could it be its own item. I tugged at these threads, always wondering whether or not I could find the scarf’s spine or its guts or its nerve endings. We do, after all, understand where my skeleton is and where your skeleton is and if we had been inside the meat, then surely science must have been inside the sweater and understood those blueprints. Though, I never got too far: I stopped, knowing that I would have wound up shirtless midway through the day. Here: another. Ida Cuttler contributed to the infamous (and not at all that famous) Hot Blog Dogs, one of my favorite mid-2010s artifacts. I found the website inspiring; as a misanthropic, anxious bibliophile who wanted to be fun and …

7 Reflections & Suggested Sounds: ALL WE WANT IS TO SEE OURSELVES at FLXST Contemporary

The following are reflections and suggested sounds for pieces by seven artists that were included in the exhibition ALL WE WANT IS TO SEE OURSELVES at FLXST Contemporary. The exhibition ran from August 3 – September 1, 2019 and was curated by Jan Christian Bernabe Paolo Arao, Greater Than (Diptych), 2018 Greater Than (Diptych) splits into two canvases hung like diamonds, each one broken down by the same primary colors: blue, red, yellow, and beige cotton. On the left canvas, the corners each have a perfect triangle of either blue, red, or yellow while in the center lies a perfect beige square. On the right, the same color pattern is inverted: four beige corners and a square divided into four slices of elementary colors. Once you know the title, it all falls into place and the geometry, the hidden mathematics of artifice, begin to open themselves up. An elementary school teacher taught me that the greater-than sign could be remembered because the alligator (> or <) eats the bigger number (the better number?) and here, …

You Are Here: Mark Joshua Epstein

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Mark Joshua Epstein I usually live on …

You Are Here: Nick Wylie / Elmer Ellsworth

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Summer Love in Springfield by Nick Wylie / …

You Are Here: Stephanie Graham

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Stephanie Graham Hello. My name is Stephanie …

You Are Here: Cass Davis

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. An Argument for Excavation by Cass Davis In …

You Are Here: Lyndon Barrois Jr.

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. In Accord by Lyndon Barrois Jr. For me, …

Image: Installation view of Dustsceawung, 2016, curated by Adam Farcus. Artwork by Harold Mendez, Stephen Hendee, and Erin Washington. Photograph by Brytton Bjorngaard.

You Are Here: Adam Farcus

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Auxetic Art Communityby Adam Farcus A cat’s skin, …

Image: Astrid Kaemmerling shown walking Enos Park being led by participant of the Enos Park Walking Laboratory (2017), Location: 5th Street and Union Street, Enos Park, IL. Photo by Danielle Wyckoff.

You Are Here: Astrid Kaemmerling

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Walking Enos Park: Community and Urban (Re)development through …

The sixth edition of Glamour Girl magazine features cover girl Brooke Candy

Review: The Art of the Body – A Body of Art, Glamour Girl’s 6th issue

“We are excruciatingly conscious of what it means to have a historically constituted body.” – Donna Haraway In the early 20th century, women artists worldwide such as Suzanne Valadon, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and Romaine Brooks began to work extensively with the feminine body as subject. They averted the gaze away from hetero-masculine fantasies and fetishes to their realities: their bodies and their experiences in those bodies, often set in spaces with other women. Valadon eschewed the critical judgment reserved for her upper-class women contemporaries because of her working-class status and reputation as a sexually available artist model. She painted nude portraits that showcased other working-class women and emphasized the context and action over nakedness itself. Yet most recall Degas’ baigneuses, not Valadon’s; even more forget Valadon altogether. In some of the most “progressive” Western art movements years later, take Surrealism, many women artists were forced, still, to enter artistic circles as models or muses first and/or by way of male romantic partners and then to wrestle with the shadow cast over them and their work by …

What’s Your Logo, Virgil Abloh?

Virgil Abloh, street-forward renegade of high fashion and luxury art, speaks the trickster tongue of logos. Logos are his language, the figures of speech invoked in the title of his survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. If we are to understand logos as figures of speech, then we must trace their messaging on our bodies. We are subjected to logos more or less 24/7, but are we the subject of logos? Do logos express our subjectivity? Is there space for authenticity within logo culture? Abloh remixes and samples revered logos from Nike Air to Vuitton, unmaking in order to expose their conceptual significations and limitations, especially in relation to race.  “I want to read an existential essay on logo and art,” Abloh declared at the press preview Q & A.  +++ Logos ( λόγος) has a long history in philosophy and theory of rhetoric. In a discussion of speech versus writing, Plato contrasted logos, or what is said, with lexis (λέξις), or how it is being said, creating a binary of content and …

Featured image: The cast of “KISS.” From left to right; director Monty Cole sits on the arm of an olive green couch, with his hands on his thighs facing us. He wears glasses and a blue checked shirt. Cassidy Slaughter-Mason stands in front of the couch arms at her side. She looks up and to the right. She wears a leopard print tank top and blue denim jeans. Her shadow grazes Salar Ardebili who sits on the couch staring out to the left. He wears a blue shirt and black pants. Arti Ishak sits behind him wearing a pink and brown floral dress, looking out to the left. There is a hanging lamp behind them, a door to their left, and a kitchen sink behind Ishak. Image courtesy of Austin D. Oie.

Review – “KISS” at Haven Theatre

[Spoilers for “KISS” below] “The cards spoke to a suspicion that many whose work is play can never be free of: that you can only flaunt your triviality for so long before punishment is due. A date has been selected, and on that day there will be a great culling…” – Helen Oyeyemi, “is your blood as red as this?” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The map is not the territory. This is where we must start because we must acknowledge that a play is not the story and a text is not an experience and that characters are not people and that words are not meaning. The map offers an idea of terrain, of forests and rivers, and creeks. From a map, you can discern a route and direction and make plans. When I was younger, I carried maps where my family went, charting courses across town through subways and over bridges. At the zoo, I tracked a path towards the birds of prey, making sure to pass the reptile house and always to avoid the picnic tables …

Beyond the Page: Miss Spoken’s Jasmine Davila and Rosamund Lannin

“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 Jasmine Davila and Rosamund Lannin, co-producers and co-hosts of Miss Spoken — a live storytelling show and podcast featuring work by the female-identified, exploring a new theme each month. I spoke with Jasmine and Rosamund in late April about the show’s origins (and amazing themes), their own influences, and why creating spaces for women’s experiences is so important. Check out Miss Spoken at the Gallery Cabaret, the last Wednesday of every month at 7pm. Find @MissSpokenChicago on Facebook and @MissSpokenChi on Twitter. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: To begin, what is Miss Spoken and how did it come to be? Rosamund Lannin: Miss Spoken is lady live lit. It’s personal essays by the female-identified, which means cis-women, trans-women — anyone who identifies as a woman is eligible to participate. We have also had gender non-conforming people participate as well. “Lady live …

A view of the Archive of Touch exhibition at Goldfinch Gallery from the entrance of the room. Photo by Daniel Hojnacki.

Review: Processing An Archive of Touch at Goldfinch Gallery

“To persist at an encounter with the poor little world is the work of the artist. A test, and I think we do it for each other. To enact a critical metaphysics out of love, to ask and play and choke and fail, to posit small actions as consequential, emphatic, necessary, to insist on painting as an archive of touch, is hopeful, is hungry. My community exceeds me, the gift somehow never leaves my hands.” – Dana DeGiulio The creative act for the artist lends gravity to small actions, as motions and brush strokes become big decisions. In the group exhibition “An Archive of Touch,” each artist reconsidered their decisions through the lens of the titular concept, creating as a process of archiving touch. The output: documents of acrylics, carved clays, oils, stoneware, yarn; histories of relationships with objects, others, and themselves. Residing in East Garfield Park at Goldfinch Gallery through August 3, “An Archive of Touch” is comprised of works by Yesenia Bello, Dana DeGiulio, Andreas Fischer, Alejandro Jiménez-Flores, Joyce Lung, SaraNoa Mark, and …

In Conversation with Cheryl Pope

I first encountered Chicago-based artist Cheryl Pope through her recent installation at Monique Meloche Gallery. I was immediately drawn to the intimacy in her work, combined with the texture of the wool that allowed a softness to the vulnerability of her interracial figures. Pope’s work encompasses many mediums including sculpture and performance. The underlying subjects in her work of identity with respect to race and gender stuck a chord in me. While our perception of ourselves is ever changing, there are certain characteristics that influence our identity. Pope excels at provoking the viewer to question their sense of identity.  Caira: How would you describe your practice? What are the key themes you are exploring in your work? Cheryl: [The] key themes in my work are elevating vulnerability, challenging positions and uses of power, and celebrating equality.  Caira: Your latest show at Monique Meloche explores the bodies of an interracial couple, along with that you present these forms in a sensual depiction. How does this body of work speak you your practice of identity and race. …

Image: Kahlil Robert Irving, MOBILE STRUCTURE; RELIEF & Memorial: (Monument Prototype for a Mass); 2019. Sculptural Installation. Photo by Shabez Jamal.

From Punk Clubs to Panaderías: Counterpublic, An Embedded Triennial

In an era hypersaturated with recurring exhibitions – from Shanghai to Sharjah, Havana to Venice – a new St. Louis triennial urges artgoers to forgo the touristic water taxis for their own two feet. Organized by The Luminary, a St. Louis-based nonprofit platform for art and activism, Counterpublic reinvigorates global precedents with a model that approaches the city on the scale of a neighborhood. Its inaugural iteration takes place in the 12-block radius of Cherokee Street, a neighborhood of family-operated businesses and art spaces that serves as the Latinx center of St. Louis. Any of the 30+ site-responsive installations and performances greet equal parts neighbors carrying grocery bags and cognoscenti clutching the newspapers that serve as maps to make the pilgrimage. Artworks are ingrained in punk clubs and panaderías, indicated subtly by small yellow signs. The exhibition evolves at various levels of sunlight and sobriety – it features a John Riepenhoff-created beer at Earthworks brewery –as Counterpublic’s hours are set by the shops themselves. On the street, none of the artwork is particularly protected; this …

We’re Here: The hub of drag and queer culture in Central Illinois

When one thinks of epicenters of drag culture, places like San Francisco, New York, L.A., and other large diverse areas are what comes to mind. When thinking of Illinois, the mind automatically goes to Chicago and the thriving drag community there. You just have to look at pride events in these areas and the vast amount and variety of entertainers, queens, performers, and queer culture, to see why. No one thinks of looking a little south of the windy city at Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield, Decatur, and Champaign, for example. For anyone who comes from a small town, myself being from small town West Virginia, it often seems like these large cultural hubs are the only place where drag performances and pride events are possible. This, however, could not be further from the truth. There is a rich culture of drag spread about and hidden amongst the cornfields; a beautiful and diverse group of entertainers and artists maintaining a thriving culture of drag outside of the metropolitan areas. I have been performing in drag for about two …

The Law of Attraction: Katie Bell at University Galleries

A nexus of energy has coalesced in the corner of Illinois State’s University Galleries, pulling objects and people alike to its epicenter. Brooklyn-based artist, Katie Bell’s site-specific installation is a symphony of found materials. Planks of wood and sheets of foam board are layered on the walls over large swaths of pastel paint. A pillar leans like a toppled monument. A strip of rubber baseboard stretches over the concrete floor, drapes across the wall, and curls back onto the floor. A wooden rod pierces a stack of pink paper. Cuts of curved faux-marble seem to melt as though lifted from a surrealist’s canvas—a Kay Sage painting breaking through the picture plane. In her animated yet understated play of line and geometric form, Bell also seems to borrow compositional cues from the suprematists. And if the energetic compositions and muted color palette of Standing Arrangement are the embodiment of what Malevich championed as a “pure artistic feeling,” then it is one of dreamlike ecstasy. Laced throughout the room are moments of suspension, the climax just after …

Image: Installation shot of Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well, 2019. © Gregg Bordowitz. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Analog Love: Synching Up In the Time of Queerness

“Queer life and love in the 1980s was cruelly characterized by the knowledge that time was running out.” —Joshua Chambers Letson, After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life What if queerness is not out of time? What if it is in fact deeply entangled in time, intimate with its intricate loops, its swells, its passing lulls? Consider the clock to be a geography of relation. To declare queer not out of time but in fact enmeshed with time is to dance towards becoming synchronous against the odds. Attuning across long distances, linking despite (or perhaps because of) grief. To fall in time is to fall into a love unrequited: time cannot love you back, cannot nurse your wounds, cannot even promise you company. Time is out to kill, racing against us. Even yet—we rush to its side, seeking its alliance at a lover’s deathbed or amidst the off-hours communion of the dance floor. + Lately I’ve been dancing with archives. Everything touches up with everything: I am experiencing what seems a surreal …

Framing the Body: A Critical Look at Witkin’s Photographic Legacy

“Brilliant and divisive,” those were the words Catherine Edelman, gallery owner and panel moderator, used to describe acclaimed photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. The latest exhibition at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Joel-Peter Witkin: From the Studio, features more than 25 photographs, 80 drawings, as well as sketchbooks and journals, darkroom tools and cameras, letters, and contact sheets. But it was Witkins mission, “to create photographs that show the beauty of marginalized people,” and how he executes that aim was the primary topic of discussion for the ‘Otherness & Beauty’ panel hosted by the gallery on June 1. The panel included painter, writer and disability activist Riva Lehrer, art therapist Deb DelSignore, and art historian Mark B. Pohlad. Witkin, an American artist based in Albuquerque, photographs his subjects in carefully crafted settings and utilizes manual darkroom techniques to produce surreal images. The subjects are often “intersex, post and pre-op individuals, and people born with physical abnormalities.” Lehrer makes artwork depicting similar marginalized people, with one very important difference—she is a portrait artist. Lehrer works collaboratively with her subjects to …

Abundant & Diverse: An Overview of Visual Arts at Riverwest FemFest

Since 2015, Milwaukee’s Riverwest FemFest has become a popular and important festival within the city’s creative community, one that supports artists and musicians across multiple venues through concerts, performances, exhibitions, and workshops. As a platform for femme, gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans, POC, and womyn creators, FemFest acts as a fundraiser for various non-profits and donates all proceeds from the week-long event to local organizations that support womyn, LGBTQIA+ individuals, families, and marginalized groups in the city. The festival ran from May 26 – June 2 and this year, all proceeds were donated to Milwaukee Women’s Center, an organization that provides services to people who have been affected by domestic violence, addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, and poverty, and Diverse & Resilient, a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ+ individuals through programs that encourage sexual health, build leadership skills and confidence, and provide anti-violence initiatives and support for substance abuse. Since its inception, FemFest has grown in size, concept, and location and now extends into neighborhoods beyond just the Riverwest community in Milwaukee, where it first got its …