All posts filed under: Featured

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

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

Intimate Justice: Ricardo Partida

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

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

September Art Picks

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

Image: Installation view of Cameron Spratley's exhibition "730" at M. LeBlanc

Harnessing the Helter Skelter: An Interview with Cameron Spratley

Cameron Spratley’s abrasive artworks wield mechanisms of prejudice against themselves. Famous and invented protagonists populate his canvases, enmeshed in morbid tags, raunchy ads, and biting lyrics. From Michael Jackson to Dale Earnhardt Sr., Spratley selects celebrity subjects engulfed in tragedy and controversy not to lament, but rather to evoke monocultural moments. His work compresses time like the walls of subway stations, with layered declarations of shared simulacra and common turf. Spratley tags, tattoos, sprays, stains, and fissures the surface of his work in a disruptive mark-making that renders ephemeral techniques with permanence.  While at first they may come off as irreverent, Spratley’s artworks are effigies to the anxiety, vitality, and complexity of being young and Black in the United States. As objects, his paintings serve as vessels for distress in a moment when a nation plagued with systemic racism confronts complicity and reckons for justice. Spratley’s work is challenging. He asks viewers to untangle visuals and text, like “NO AIRBAGS / WE DIE LIKE MEN” and “LIFE SENTENCE”, a forced investment that requires deliberate deciphering …

Heaven Gallery: Relic, Ritual, and Remedy

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

MCAccountable’s Demands

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

The Flying Trapeze: Camille Swift, the Monstress Madame Mantis

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Circus artist Camille Swift came to the world of circus through an unexpected avenue: Meishi-ha Mugai Ryu Iaihyodo or a form of Japanese sword fighting. In her mid-20s, Swift had gotten into anime and decided to buy herself a sword. But when she realized it was “lame not to know how to use it,” she started taking sword fighting lessons. Swift took classes but stumbled upon the circus when her sensei told her about an underground circus show, known as Circo Cheapo (since moving into Aloft’s permanent location …

Louise LeBourgeois: Life on the Great Lake

I first met Louise LeBourgeois on the rocks. I’ve called myself a “rock person” for a few years, ever since I first landed in Hyde Park and my skin was warmed by the large formations that line the shore of Lake Michigan on the Southside. I’ve formed friendships with fellow rock people throughout the years, but it was only recently that I decided to finally meet up with the Point swimmers, a group of open water swimmers who meet in the early morning (some even swim year-round). I’m more of an afternoon swimmer myself, but there’s something exhilarating about seeing folks kicking in the waves of Lake Michigan while the sun rises—the sun rearing its pretty head and reflecting on their pink and yellow swim caps. After grabbing coffee with the swimmers, we went our separate ways. But before I departed, Louise LeBourgeois handed me her card. LeBourgeois’ large panel paintings confront you with their vastness; a neverending-type-of-feeling. You want to sit inside of them. Do you dare to touch it? Do you find yourself …

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

August (Virtual) Art Picks

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

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

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

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

Flying Trapeze: Yes, Ma’am Circus

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Ever think to combine John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost with acrobatics and aerial arts? Or the dulcet phrases of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with trapeze and juggling? Yes, Ma’am Circus has successfully brought these works to the circus world in the past few years. Executive Director Amancay Kugler didn’t expect to be running a small theater company but through her dual dance and psychology degree, she was exposed to the circus craft. She had taken a required class on dance composition which resulted in her developing an …

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

Support for the Arts Supports Us All

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

Beyond the Page: Tanuja Devi Jagernauth

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

Out of Site: Public Performance goes Virtual

Since its inception, Out of Site (OoS) has sought to create wonder through “unexpected encounters in public space.” Performances took place in unusual places, such as alleyways, parking lots, underneath the El tracks, as well as during the middle of Wicker Park Fest. However like many performance art groups and initiatives during the coronavirus shutdown, Out of Site pivoted to present innovative performance art through live streaming tools. Started by Carron Little and Whitney Tassie in 2011, this public performance art series has brought artists from all around the world and on to the streets of Wicker Park, Noble Square, and other parts of the city. Performances varied in tone whether it was two women, Elena & Erin, pushing a cabinet down Milwaukee avenue or Austin-based artists performing an underwater puppet show with a truck-sized whale in Ballenarca.  Taking performance art into the digital realm seemed like a natural step. Out of Site teamed up with Experimental Sound Studio’s (ESS) The Quarantine Concert series on May 26th to present Out of Site Virtual Performance. Donations …

Image: An illustration by Teshika Silver of Breonna Taylor.

July (Virtual) Art Picks

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

The Flying Trapeze: Raks Geek

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Raks Geek is a cabaret of belly dancing, fire spinning, and other arts celebrating geekdom. Think Chewbacca dancing or Thor fire dancing.  Dawn Xiana Moon, Raks Geek’s founder and director, hadn’t originally planned to start the group. It had come out of her own interests as a self-professed geek who wondered if anyone had combined belly dancing and geekery. After searching on YouTube, Moon saw some geeky belly dancing but felt that it wasn’t high enough quality. As a professional belly dancer and singer-songwriter, Moon explains …

Works Cited: Assotto’s Child at the Altar

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

The Flying Trapeze: Cyril Rabbath, Master Juggler

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. For Cyril Rabbath, master juggler, the “sincerity and authenticity” is what pulled him into the circus. He’s been in the top circus shows throughout the world including Cirque du Soleil’s North American tour for Dralion, Friedrichsbau Varieté’s Bitter Sweet in Germany, and Wuqiao Circus’s Festival Winner’s Show in China as well as a street performer. Not to mention, he’s also won many awards over the years for his work. He has taught all over Europe, Canada, and the US. And lucky for Chicago, he’s been bringing …