All posts filed under: Featured

Featured image: Overview of LtdWear5 installed at the bright LVL3 gallery. The image is a landscape shot of about thirty colorful aprons and oven mitts displayed on racks on the far white wall of LVL3 gallery. In the midground of the shot is a long wooden bench and a white pole that cuts the gallery in half. Hanging from the ceiling are large plastic fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, grapes, and tomatoes. On the far wall, a large plastic baguette is hung on the wall as well offering a cheery, kitschy feeling to the gallery. Photo courtesy of LVL3.

Review: LtdWear5 at LVL3

The building door opens and a soundtrack comes wafting down the stairs that sends me to a mythical childhood where I can afford an Easy-Bake oven and all the mixes. I smell frosting, I’m loved, and nothing ever burns. Entering the gallery up the stairs does not break my fantasy. The space is washed in light, it is clean, it is playful and kitschy, it is Julia Child for children. Plastic baguettes, cabbages, and tomatoes dangle from the ceiling and crawl easily over the walls in a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle moment. Through their cheerful bobbing, I can make out over fifty one-of-a-kind wearables hanging on pegboards and laced across the windows of LVL3 gallery. This show is the fifth iteration of LtdWear, a group exhibition and fashion collection put on collaboratively by LVL3 gallery and Tusk Chicago. LtdWear is a wearables collection/exhibition where participating artists are sent a basic wearable item and invited to alter/change/remake the item for exhibition in the gallery as a retail installation. It’s a “cake in a box, but make it …

HMong & American & Artist: Tshab Her

I recently interviewed Chicago artist and second generation HMong-American Tshab Her, where we discussed her latest artwork, what it was like to grow up as a second-generation HMong-American, the process she took to create her newest installation, and what it means to create space through art and storytelling as a HMong-American artist.   To understand the HMong diaspora in America, we have to start when it all began during the Vietnam Conflict. Fearing Communist takeover, the United States government, under the leadership of the CIA, recruited the ethnic minority group HMong in Laos in the early 1960s-70s to fight in the Conflict in what we now know as the “secret war.” According to the Migration Policy website, in May of 1975, the United States began evacuating 1,000-3,000 HMong into Thailand and by December, 1975, when the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was formed, over 44,000 HMong fled into Thailand as refugees. As of 1999, official refugee camps were closed because the Thai government had never officially allowed HMong resettlement within its borders. Due to their involvement in the US-led …

image: Nelissa Carrillo is looking down, holding the sleeve of a multi-colored jacket with a large orange patch. The jacket is on a rack of garments from Ciprianamía that take up the right side of the photo, ranging from green jeans to a yellow knit to glimpses of white sweater vests and more denim. Photo by Kristie Kahns.

FOLD/UNFOLD: Interview with Nelissa Carrillo

FOLD/UNFOLD: fashion designers and artists on dress, tactics, community, and power in zhegagoynak/zhigaagoong (Chicago) and beyond. Chicago-based fashion designer Nelissa Carrillo has an open-door energy about her, a welcoming magnetism that she inherited from her grandmother, Cipriana. The namesake of Carrillo’s label is still beloved in her small town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico — entering the town as her granddaughter, people go out of their way to offer coffee and treats to Carrillo in her grandmother’s honor. Carrillo’s label, Ciprianamía, seems to be built on an unfurling series of such generous encounters. Meeting a stranger to sell them a vintage piece turns into a business partnership. Someone who shows out for her pop up falls in love with the brand and eventually becomes its sustainability lead.  Entering Ciprianamía’s downtown showroom in the historic Fine Arts building, you get a sense of what draws people towards Carrillo and her visions. A floor length crochet dress made of vintage knit pieces from Carrillo’s grandmother grounds the space in her cultural inheritance. During our meeting, Carrillo …

Image: An illustration of an aquifer by Ryan Edmund Thiel.

An Epistemology on Aquifers, and all things related

Groundwater is asked to fill up the vacuous spaces, fluid in the way it always knows how to take up the least space and the most space. Its simplicity lies in the way it prefers the path of least resistance. Some may call it passive in the way it does not scale mountains but instead trickles down. Others will ask what ways the body serves as a site of resistance if it is merely being everything it is allowed to be. ……… In third grade, I bought rubber geckos from Dollar General, cupped them in the shady cove of my palms, and ran around giving my peers a peek of my “live” pet, whisking them away before anyone could see the manufactured rubber edges. I was strong-willed, rambunctious, cocky—brimming with a pride and swagger my mother had painstakingly nurtured and protected. I traded bubble gum for Pokémon cards. I put Ziploc bags over my head — who doesn’t need astronaut helmets if class is a distant oxygenless galaxy? I played in the boys-only soccer games, …

Imagen de portada: una ilustración de una mesa pequeña con una silla blanca. Un lino de color lechoso cubre sobre la mesa con una orquídea púrpura en un jarrón de vidrio por encima. La ilustración está colocada sobre un fondo negro texturizado. Ilustración de Damiane Nickles.

Fille Colonisée: A short story by Short Latina

This story has been translated and recorded in Spanish. Listen to the English recording: After the bell rings, I walk to the restaurant squeezed between two bare and luxurious boutiques. Every day, I wait for my father to clock-out from his shift. When it’s not busy, I pull the golden handle of the impenetrable and elegant stained glass front door and walk in. The maître d’ working today knows me and I wave as I sneak in through the front to avoid running into king size rats in the alley. I know to go straight upstairs and not go looking for my father. I go through the bar and into an elegant and large lounge filled with sofas and low bamboo tables. They are surrounded by palm trees that dress the entire restaurant. I sit among the satin cushions leaving the Chicago winter and feel the hot Vietnamese air. I hear croaking frogs and singing crickets. I know to stay low and not make a sound to prevent any danger. I am to be an …

An abstract illustration of many different colored overlapping squares cut from tissue paper.

June Art Picks

🏳️‍🌈 Happy Pride Month, lovelies! 🏳️‍🌈 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.   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.  Featured image: An abstract illustration of many different colored overlapping squares cut from tissue paper. Illustration by Ryan Edmund Thiel. This is a growing list, so check back often with new additions. Through June 5, 2021Joanne Aono: Harvesting Ethnic RootsBoundary: 2334 W 111th Pl, Chicago, ILFree Through June 5, 2021David Leggett: Four Door LexusAspect/Ratio: 864 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, ILFree Through June 12, 2021Ebony G. Patterson: She …

Scrolling Thru Air Max 90’s, Trying to Run from Black Pain

Everybody loves the sunshine. Have you heard the song by Roy Ayers? It’s incredible. “My life, my life, my life, my life. In the sunshine.” If you close your eyes and listen closely, you’ll be transported to another world, a golden world filled with Black joy, a sanctuary filled with every Black nostalgic favorite thing, and “bees and things and flowers.” If I listen really close, I can smell BBQ and even feel a cool breeze. It’s the same feeling I get from Will Smith’s song, “Summertime,” or the feeling I get when I watch a Spike Lee movie, or when I get to laugh loudly with my family, or reminisce on early 2000’s BET: pure, unadulterated Black joy. A feeling like this only happens at home, with my folks (friends included), or in my Black-ass mind. Outside of those spaces, and the feeling is fleeting.  I want to soak up Black joy as much as possible. It’s my duty. I want to revel in Black joy like it’s my church. I want to wear …

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 …

My Linh Mac: Life After F-1

All artists graduating from institutions experience the anxiety and fear of what comes next, entering “the real world” and trying to figure out a lucrative career path (in a not so lucrative field). However, most artists have the option to work outside of their field of study. This is not the case for international artists (F-1 Students) who have one year to find employment in a relevant position under Optional Practical Training (OPT). Following a single year of work, foreign artists are expected to gain enough professional experience to submit a work visa to stay and work in the United States. Moreover, most international students pay 2 to 3 times more tuition compared to domestic students. Chicago-based Vietnamese artist My Linh Mac (Millie) is intimately familiar with the challenges following F-1 Status: the immediate search for employment and visa sponsorship, visa application fees, lawyer fees, the pressure to demonstrate her value as a foreign worker within the United States – the list goes on. Mac is originally from Vietnam and pursued an education in Singapore, …

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 …

Learning and Making: Reparations for the Earth

Learning and Making invites teachers, students, artists, and people who are all three at once to explore the radical possibilities that exist at the intersection of making and learning. Learning is the act of deepening human experience and increasing human agency. Many artists work as educators and consider this work as part of their practice. Arts programs in and out of schools foster intergenerational communities that not only generate critical contemporary art but act as laboratories for radical experiments in power, care, and collaboration.  The Reparations for the Earth Curriculum, created by the Young Cultural Stewards team at the Park District, offers strategies for sowing seeds of creativity and collective power that transcend discipline. Over Zoom, I spoke with the two program stewards, Irina Zadov and Najee Zaid-Searcy, and Teaching Artist, Juliet Montelongo to better understand the foundations of their collective practice. Our conversation touched on returning to art as an experience of personal healing, putting reparations into practice, learning from nature, and the nuances of flocking.   This interview has been edited for clarity and …

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 …