All posts filed under: Featured

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 …

An abstract composition of shapes comprising of pink and blue half circles, yellow squares, and ripped blue paper on a light blue background.

April 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.   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 composition of shapes comprosing of pink and blue half circles, yellow squares, and ripped blue paper on a light blue background. Illustration by Ryan Edmund Thiel. This is a growing list, so check back often with new additions. Through April 4, 2021Spring Art AuctionPilsen Arts & Community House: OnlineFree Through April 4, 2021Michael K. Paxton: InterpolationsEvanston Art Center: 1717 Central St, Evanston, ILFree Through April 9, 2021The Grilled Cheese …

7. Chris Bradley, installation view of Usual Objects. From left to right: Attic, 2021. Wood, stainless steel, steel, aluminum tube, 3D printed PLA, black cord, LED, acetate, paint, 15 x 14.5 x 14 inches. Cellar, 2021. Wood, steel, 3D printed PLA, epoxy putty, paint, LED, modeling turf, twine, 12 x 15 x 10 inches. Breeze, 2021. Wood, steel, stainless steel, 3D printed PLA, PET plastic, LEDs, muffin fans, fabric, 19 x 19 x 19 inches.

Usual Objects in Unusual Times

“All of our worlds shrunk down to our homes and our thoughts,” writes artist Madeleine Leplae about this past year, during which she began to appreciate time spent outdoors and decided to paint trees, albeit ones with unreal proportions and vibrant backgrounds. Her painting Sappy Tree, 2020, with its unusually long trunk and button-like appendages, appears almost human. The piece is currently on view as part of the group show Usual Objects at Carrie Secrist Gallery, now housed in the residences at 900 West (Washington). Featuring the work of Chris Bradley, Nicole Dyer, Brendan Getz, Madeleine Leplae, Matt Lipps, Liliana Porter, and Amanda Ross-Ho, the exhibition focuses on the still life genre, which might seem quaint (outdated?) in these socially and politically charged times, but is in fact apropos to our current moment. Many of the works were created in the past year, when all of us, artists included, spent much time at home, among our possessions. The first three artists in the show present objects that are dramatically smaller than life size. This can …

Featured image: An installation view of Sergio Lucena: The Blue that embraces me... at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. Three paintings hang on a white wall. Photo by Evan Jenkins, Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim.

Review of Sergio Lucena: “The Blue that embraces me…” at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Any other time, it would go without saying, but in 2021, it’s worth mentioning that art is best seen in person. As we inch toward a return to normalcy, we exist in a half-in, half-out lockdown world, leaving us trapped in a sort of art show purgatory. Do we roam the viewing room online first? Do we go in sight unseen? Or perhaps we just do a little peek at the viewing room on the bus on the way to the gallery. To address those concerns directly, The Blue that embraces me… is a show you must see at the gallery. You can, of course, glance or pour over the online installation views here, but for that oomph, that deep breath of cleansing air, the show can only be seen in person. The brief show at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery is made up of six works by Sergio Lucena. Although blue hues are present throughout, as the title suggests, each canvas is an exploration of a range of colors. Lucena’s paintings all follow a similar theme: …

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 …

Image: Deep Water and Drowning Are Not The Same Thing by YoYo Lander, 2019. The mixed-media piece shows a nude woman with brown skin sitting with her head in her arms. She wears a red head wrap and sits on blue sheets. Image courtesy of the artist.

Not All Fair: The Black Female Nude in Art

In Greek mythology, Andromeda was a princess like many before her, achingly beautiful, conspicuously silent, and waiting to be rescued. In her young life, her beauty had been her foil; her mother, Queen Cassiopeia, boasted that her daughter was more beautiful than the Nereids, the daughters of Poseidon. When the Queen’s blasphemous words got back to the beautiful sea nymphs the enraged Nereids demanded justice from their father, the god of the sea. Justice came swiftly in the form of a wild sea beast that ravaged the coastline of the princess’ kingdom. The ruler of that kingdom, King Cepheus, concluded that the only way to appease the angry sea god would be to sacrifice his precious daughter to the monster. And so poor, beautiful Andromeda was chained naked and shivering to a rock in the ocean to meet her fate. When the hero Perseus flew over in his winged sandals, he first saw her on the rock and mistook her for a marble statue. Entranced by her beauty, the hero and demigod swooped down, murdered …

Seeds of Resistance installation view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, 2021. Photo: Eat Pomegranate Photography. Image courtesy of the museum.

A Seed, a Flower, a Field, a Battleground: A Review of Seeds of Resistance at the Broad Art Museum

I grab a knife and puncture a small slit into what I consider to be the top of a watermelon. The knife stands erect, and I push it down as if it is a lever as it smoothly slices the fruit. I hack up the red, juicy contents inside, and begin to pick out tiny black seeds and discount them into a pile. As a kid, I worried that if I accidentally ate a seed, an entire watermelon would grow inside of me. I laugh about this fear now, but I can’t say that it was entirely irrational. This is a fear, or an intrigue, that most of us have experienced at least once back when we were brand new to the world. Even with our brains still folding and our understanding of the world expanding, we recognized the power and potential of a single seed. The exhibition Seeds of Resistance at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, curated by Steven L. Bridges, features 12 globally diverse contemporary artists. The title alone makes me …

Featured image: A photograph of the Struma river, which cuts through the middle of the image (and also through the middle of Sandanski, Bulgaria), flanked by levees on either side. The water level is pretty low, so there is vegetation growing along the levees. On the left side of the river is a street and apartment complexes. On the right there is a street beyond which the edges of a school yard are visible. There is a mountain range visible in the distance. Photo by the author.

Existing as a Pharmakon: claiming the liminal space of language and location as a birthright

I have been thinking, lately, about what it means to want a home. Actually, I have been thinking about what it means to want a home for the last fourteen years of my life, except only recently have I begun thinking about it obsessively. I mean, if home becomes reconfigured into something you are constantly striving for, can you ever truly have it? If your entire relationality to a safe space is summed up in yearning, how can you ever truly trust or know it? Is home a birthright? I have no actual answers to these questions. All I know is, I was born across the Atlantic, in a small country known as Bulgaria, in a southwestern city almost at the border of Greece and Macedonia, called Sandanski–the hottest city in the state. My mother’s body was my first home and when I emerged screaming and crying, I was baptized into an air that would soon expel me, too.  When a home is unable to provide for you, you find your own way out. At …

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 …

A collage illustration of turquoise and light grey stripes on a black background. Image created by Ryan Edmund Thiel.

March 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.   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: A collage illustration of turquoise and light grey stripes on a black background. Image created by Ryan Edmund Thiel. This is a growing list, so check back often with new additions. Through March 21, 2021K. Kofi Moyo and FESTAC ’77: The Activation of a Black ArchiveLogan Center for the Arts: 915 E 60th St, Chicago, ILFree March 1-31, 2021Cozy WarmCircle Contemporary: 2010 W Carroll Ave. Chicago, ILFree March, 2021POP4 Online ExhibitionLincoln …

Review: November at Beeler Gallery, Columbus College of Art & Design

This is a disclaimer for the review since I am driving some of my methodologies in my writing from the White Pube’s Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad’s practice of expanding what it means to be an art critic and the ways we interact with art. If you have not read any critiques by the white pube – I highly suggest to (because the reviews are great) and also the way I will be writing breaks away from the traditional model of the “art critic”. This way of writing centers the emotionality of art, the problematic issues inherent in the art world, and the theoretical hopes and violences that are used against and for the nature of art. * * * Emojis:  /5 To write this review, I have to get something off my chest. I’ve had this feeling for a while now as it relates to art, institutions, and community. This feeling isn’t singular either – I think lots of people feel this way. It’s the same feeling that brings you here, dear …

Featured image: A black and white photograph of branches with organic, yellow shapes. Create by Ryan Edmund Thiel.

Chronic

I hate medical offices. The one I’m sitting in now is especially bleak and harsh. The tiny exam room makes me feel trapped with its cold floors and blinding fluorescent lights. This loathing is all I’m thinking about as I wait for the pain management doctor. I’ve given no thought to what he might say during this first visit. By now, I’m used to doctors not having answers for me and I have no reason to think this doctor will be any different. I’m assuming shots are the most painful possibility for today. Even if I anticipate the diagnosis I’m about to hear, I can’t know how it will make me feel. Like so many things in life, you don’t know until it’s happening to you. The casual hello the doctor offers upon entering the room provides no clue to the emotional whiplash I’m about to experience. Turns out the shots would have been less painful. The doctor quickly begins a brief report of my symptoms. He speaks in monotone and I notice my back …

The Flying Trapeze: Michelle Reid, Photographer and Dancer

Photographer Robert Frank is credited with saying, “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” Photographer and dancer, Michelle Reid manages to capture the humanity of dance and circus in her exquisite photography. Reid discovered photography in her senior year as a dance major at The Ohio State University. She had “the urge to find a new way to express myself.” Reid took the “Dance for Camera” class at Ohio State which was the first time she held a camera. She ended up buying herself a camera and going around Columbus, OH, taking pictures of people and buildings. When Reid graduated, she came to Chicago with the hopes of finding work as a dancer. Unfortunately, she found it hard to find dance jobs that paid well. She hadn’t thought about photography as a source of income but it was a skill that she could use to support herself. She began to look up photography jobs and found her first job photographing newborns at the hospital. It was commissioned based and …