All posts filed under: Interviews

In House: Pilsen Community Books with Mary Gibbons

This is the first interview of “In House,” an oral history series entering the places that house books across Chicago. Sections of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.   I first heard the rumor from a fellow reader who in turn heard it from another reader (word travels fast amongst readers): Pilsen Community Books was for sale. On July 19, the owners of the three-year-old bookstore broke the news to devotees, explaining their decision to focus on their other bookstore, The Dial, and also announcing prospects of a buyer. The future, however, was uncertain.   When Mary Gibbons and Aaron Lippelt opened Pilsen Community Books (PCB) in February 2016 at 1102 W. 18th St., they filled a need on the Lower West Side not only for a bookstore but for a place to host literary events and local publications, a place to connect. In a “triple-secret unofficial” email correspondence from PCB employee Manuel Morales y Méndez, Méndez celebrated one such connection between a young writer and artist whose meeting at PCB led …

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Alina Estrada (English & Español)

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. Crafting has always been part of the fabric of the Southwest Side. Even as Crafts by Claudia, a neighborhood store that has been running for almost 40 years in Back of the Yards, prepares to close its doors, artist Alina Estrada is working on expanding her own crafty business, Party Mama Crafts. This Latina-owned business hosts painting and piñata-crafting workshops and classes. I had the …

Beyond the Page: Regina Martinez & Threewalls’ In-Session

“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 Regina Martinez, Threewalls’ Artist and Artistic Engagement Manager, about the In-Session program — a critical interdisciplinary salon that incorporates reading, conversation, and performance together, now entering its third season. I spoke with Martinez in late July about the ideas and values behind In-Session, the theme she chose for its coming season, sensitivities of working between artists and institutions, and Martinez’s own path to and through this work. Check out In-Session’s third season, themed “The Art of Memory.” Find Threewalls @threewalls on Twitter and @three-walls on Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about In-Session! I’m so glad I went to Udita Upadhyaya’s In-Session event in March, because I think this program has such a great premise and I’m excited to hear how other artists engage with it. Especially for readers who may …

Jenn Freeman, Po’Chop, and The People’s Church of the G.H.E.T.T.O

In 2017, I followed  burlesque dancer and performing artist Jenn Freeman, also known as Po’Chop, on Instagram while researching Jeezy’s Juke Joint, a renowned Black and Brown burlesque show. I was researching it with the hopes of being a performer, not an audience member. As a queer-married intersectional feminist, I saw burlesque as an outlet to express my sensuality and expand my art practice. However, in my research I didn’t find classes for Black women. Fast forward to August 2019. I received a direct message from Po’Chop on Instagram requesting to commission some of my portrait drawings for an exhibition about the empowering divine Black energies of Audre Lorde, Jackie Ormes, Elder Lucy Smith, and Beauty Turner. Po’Chop receiving a referral from a gallery I previously worked with aligned me to the motherload of manifested interactions. During our conversation about the commissions, we talked about the hurdles of Black feminist scholarship and the joys of performing it through our artistry.  The first time I saw Po’Chop perform was the first day of our phone call. …

Founders and the CTA: Interview with Floating Museum’s Faheem Majeed & Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford

Floating Museum does not look like your typical arts collective. Their public installations and artworks incorporate the ways people navigate the city’s infrastructure. Since 2016, Floating Museum’s practice has evolved from increasingly regular installations in the city’s parks to the widely celebrated River Assembly, in which artworks from collaborators across the city were floated on a barge on the Chicago River — not an easy feat. This summer, Floating Museum took on a new infrastructure challenge: the Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA.  Their latest project, Cultural Transit Assembly, partners with the CTA and the Chicago Park District to focus on the CTA Green Line, utilizing train cars as gallery and performance space. They simultaneously made use of community sites adjacent to the train line as locations for their weekly pop-up installation of a 25-foot-tall inflatable sculpture, Founders, which blends Chicago history with their desire to connect local institutions such as The Field Museum and the DuSable Museum of African American History.  I sat down with Faheem Majeed and Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, two of the founders and …

Featured image: Chelsea Fiddyment performing at Unreal at Schubas. Chelsea stands at the front of the room, notebook in hand, speaking into a microphone while looking out at the audience. Behind Chelsea is a copper-colored wall, made of a grid of low-relief tiles; above that are several decorative beer cans on a ledge and a dark green section of wall. Chelsea wears a black cropped tee and red and gold sequined shorts. The backs of some audience members’ heads are fuzzy in the foreground. Photo by Joshua Clay Johnson.

Beyond the Page: Chelsea Fiddyment & Unreal

“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 Chelsea Fiddyment, the creator and emcee of Unreal — a fiction-focused, experimental open mic, now in its fourth year. In late June, I spoke with Chelsea about their reasons for starting Unreal, their own practice as a writer and performer, and the importance of creating welcoming spaces for experimentation. Check out Unreal on the third Tuesday of every month, in the upstairs space at Schubas (note: this space is accessible by elevator through the attached restaurant, Tied House; ask a Schubas manager for navigation support). Find Unreal @UnrealChi on Twitter and @UnrealChicago on Facebook, and Chelsea @whatthefidd on Twitter. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Congratulations on a lovely third-anniversary show! Chelsea Fiddyment: Thank you so much! MSL: How are you feeling about that and how it went? What are you bringing out of it with you? CF: I’m absolutely ecstatic …

Intimate Justice: John R. Harness

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. Hyde Park resident John R. Harness wears many hats: he’s a creator of table-rop role-playing games that are aggressively gay, a blow-job extraordinaire, and an expert Klingon speaker (helping coin the first term for the LGBTQ community). I met John at his apartment over the summer where we sat between his two cats in his living room and discussed gay bathhouses, fascists, and what heteronormative spaces can gain from gay spaces.  This interview was edited for length and clarity.  S. Nicole Lane: So I don’t know really anything about games… John R. Harness: My work is in the realm of table-top role playing games. I learned about Dungeons and Dragons when I was a young kid—I was like 6 or 8. A friendship of mine deteriorated because my friend’s father had been into D&D and introduced me to it and suddenly that was all I wanted …

Image: Damian Duffy sits at a table in a brewery and works at a laptop computer. In front of his computer are paperback copies of Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Talents”, an advanced reader copy of his graphic novel adaptation of Butler’s “Parable of the Sower”, and an open notebook with sketches. An empty beer glass is set to the side. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Writing Comics We Want to Read: An Interview with Damian Duffy

If you’ve been paying any attention to pop culture lately, you’ve noticed that we’ve become enamored of comics and graphic novels. Like most media, the authors and subjects have been predominantly white, and it’s hard to remember that there are other stories being told. As comics become more mainstream, there’s an opportunity to expand the genre to feature different voices through authorship, artistry, and subjecthood. The inherent collaborative nature of comics—artist working with author, most simply—makes it ripe for bringing like-minded individuals together to manifest a story not yet pictured. This summer, I had a beer with comics author and artist Damian Duffy. Duffy is an Eisner-award winner (that’s the prestigious award handed out by Comic Con International in San Diego), and a New York Times bestselling author. With artist John Jennings, Duffy is the co-author of “Black Comix” and “Black Comix Returns” and the adapter and author of “Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation,” the first visualization of celebrated author Octavia Butler’s work. He’s also the adapter and author of the forthcoming graphic novel adaptations …

The Art of DJing: Miss Twink USA

DJing is a curious art form and rarely discussed as one. It is rarely discussed at all, except by other DJs in industry publications; what is there to say that can’t be expressed more vigorously on the dancefloor? If you’re talking, you’re not dancing, and you’re probably standing in the way of people trying to dance. Is it art? It’s entertainment, it’s a trade, it’s a party. I hear André Leon Talley in the documentary Catwalk, wrinkling his nose at a parallel question about that other commercial art form: “No, no, no. Is fashion art? No! Fashion is hard work, gritty; it’s not glamorous”—the questions is an embarrassment to both art and fashion. Or DJing. To consider the question at all means that the answer is at least “sometimes.” DJing is work in the realm of aesthetic experience; it is a discipline with a touch of wonder and mystery and creative talent. DJs hear what others don’t, they surprise us with a blend, they tell a story, they improvise, they observe the energy of a …

The Art of DJing: Morenxxx

DJing is a curious art form and rarely discussed as one. It is rarely discussed at all, except by other DJs in industry publications––what is there to say that can’t be expressed more vigorously on the dancefloor? If you’re talking, you’re not dancing, and you’re probably standing in the way of people trying to dance. Is it art? It’s entertainment, it’s a trade, it’s a party. I hear André Leon Talley in the documentary Catwalk, wrinkling his nose at a parallel question about that other commercial art form: “No, no, no. Is fashion art? No! Fashion is hard work, gritty; it’s not glamorous”—the question is an embarrassment to both art and fashion. Or DJing. To consider the question at all means that the answer is at least “sometimes.” DJing is work in the realm of aesthetic experience; it is a discipline with a touch of wonder and mystery and creative talent. DJs hear what others don’t, they surprise us with a blend, they tell a story, they improvise, they observe the energy of a room …

The Art of DJing: Ariel Zetina

DJing is a curious art form and rarely discussed as one. It is rarely discussed at all, except by other DJs in industry publications; what is there to say that can’t be expressed more vigorously on the dancefloor? If you’re talking, you’re not dancing, and you’re probably standing in the way of people trying to dance. Is it art? It’s entertainment, it’s a trade, it’s a party. I hear André Leon Talley in the documentary Catwalk, wrinkling his nose at a parallel question about that other commercial art form: “No, no, no. Is fashion art? No! Fashion is hard work, gritty; it’s not glamorous”—the questions is an embarrassment to both art and fashion (or DJing). To consider the question at all means that the answer is at least “sometimes.” DJing is work in the realm of aesthetic experience; it is a discipline with a touch of wonder and mystery and creative talent. DJs hear what others don’t, they surprise us with a blend, they tell a story, they improvise, they observe the energy of a …

Counter Balance: Dance, Community, and Legacy

Integrated dance may be a new concept for some, but the fierce team behind Counter Balance: The Power of Integrated Dance have been bringing this powerful type of performance to Chicago audiences for years. Co-artistic directors Ginger Lane and Stephanie Clemens, along with Access Living, Bodies of Work, and MOMENTA, presented this 9th annual showcase of physically integrated works by choreographers and dancers with and without disabilities in early September.   The audience, which included families with children, disability community members, and dance enthusiasts, were treated to eleven pieces in two acts. Local choreographers included Ginger Lane, Sarah Cullen Fuller, Anita Fillmore Kenney, Kris Lenzo, Sarah Najera, and the internationally known Alice Sheppard. I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Najera who not only choreographed the particularly lovely “Duet in C Major,” but also recently took the helm as Executive Director of MOMENTA. As the resident performing arts company of the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park, MOMENTA has been working with dancers and choreographers with disabilities since 2003. In speaking about …

Captioned: An Interview with Liza Sylvestre

“The space of this film is expanding.” It is indeed. Liza Sylvestre, a recent graduate of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), captions 2001: A Space Odyssey on a perpendicular wall from Space is the Place, also captioned. These films roll with Sylvestre’s comments and captions coming with them for an interpretation of the two films. How do these two films operate in our culture? Who gets to access them?  This show at the new space, New Genres Art Space, in Rockford, Illinois, is developing programming around digital art, and its ability to be educational, therapeutic, and community-driven. The small gallery space has been used to the max with this exhibition, as these monumental films stretch floor to ceiling. There are captions that don’t match the films. Instead, they describe a separate narrative of the artist’s thoughts and experience watching the movies. I think these captions make the film more approachable highlighting the accessibility of the films.  This interview has been edited for clarity. Anthony Hamilton: Could you introduce us to your work and the Captioned …

Un/Published with Andrea Alessi and Joel Kuennen of ArtSlant

Running an arts publication is not easy. Often a labor of love and volunteer energy, many platforms are started by those who recognize a gap in coverage for art being produced by the artists whose work often misses the pages of local newspapers, global arts magazines, and online cultural publications. Although many of us can name several publications doing this work or have been featured in their physical and digital pages, the efforts that make these platforms possible go largely unseen. Un/Published was created as a way to acknowledge the minds behind the platforms, to illuminate the role they play in propping up the corners of cultural production that are largely undercovered, and call attention to the back-end challenges of sustaining an arts publication at a time when the media is in crisis, with decreased mainstream coverage of culture and a decrease in  jobs available for those writers. Un/Published will act as a place to dig into this work and will include a series of interviews highlighting arts publications that critique, document, archive, and support …

Featured Image: Andre Keichian, 'Salt in the I' (detail), 2019. View of negatives from Keichian's family photo album adhered to a glass window as part of the exhibition installation at table. Photo by Kim Becker. Image courtesy of Kyle Bellucci Johanson.

New Political Imaginaries at the table: Interview with Kyle Bellucci Johanson

In a 2017 interview for the Brooklyn Rail, poet, critic, and theorist, Fred Moten said: “Everything always needs new language. We constantly have to renew the language of any mode of inquiry. Some of the tools for that are in art history and some are in other places. If you’ve really got to do something, and it’s really important, you don’t give a shit where the tools come from. You get the tools wherever you can find them and then you deal with the consequences that attend those tools as you work with them. You don’t reject tools out of hand just because they come from this or that place. To me, that means you aren’t serious about getting the job done—you’re serious about something else, maybe about some bullshit notion of purity, but you’re not serious about getting the job done.”  This statement reverberates through table, a temporary project space organized by Kyle Bellucci Johanson, who has turned to building coalition through initiating critical discussions of contemporary art in the dining room of his …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead in Conversation

Candai Calmon is a dance artist and educator based in Salvador, Brazil. Candai has obtained an artistic education in Brazil and Uruguay, with a concentration on contemporary dance and Afro-referential, decolonial, and feminist practices. She holds a Bachelor’s in Gender and Diversity Studies and a Master’s in Dance from the Universidade Federal da Bahia. In her current practice, she creates workshops and immersive artistic experiences based on dance and improvisation with Black women in the quilombos [1] of Bahia. Anna Martine Whitehead is a multidisciplinary artist and dancer based in Chicago. Their work and research address a Black, queer relationship to time, as well as the prison industrial complex and the experience of incarceration. Anna Martine Whitehead has held residencies at 3Arts, Headlands, High Concept Labs, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. They have also written for a number of publications and lectured at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead are two dance artists working through Black, queer, and female experiences. Both are part of …

Perto de Lá <> Close to There: TANTO and Edra Soto in Conversation

Note: Portuguese sections of this interview are in bold, and the English sections are un-bolded. Daniel Sabóia, Patricia Almeida and Fabio Steque are the members of TANTO Criações Compartilhadas, a collective art and design practice in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The three artists have degrees in Architecture and Urban Planning at the Universidade Federal da Bahia. TANTO’s projects include installations and sculptural objects, designed spaces for creative action, and graphic design, often in collaboration with other artists, publishers and organizers. Edra Soto is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and curator born in Puerto Rico and based in Chicago. She works between social practice, immersive installations and architectural interventions, employing materials and practices from post-colonial visual cultures to address issues of colonization, cultural identity, and relationships between communities. Edra Soto is also co-director of the outdoor project space THE FRANKLIN, in her backyard in Garfield Park. Daniel Sabóia and Patricia Almeida, from TANTO, and Edra Soto are part of “Close to There Perto de Lá”, an artist exchange program between Salvador, Brazil and Chicago organized by Comfort Station …

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Rolando Santoyo (English & Español)

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. Back of the Yards is one neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago that is often mentioned by the media in connection to violence. Many people forget that this same neighborhood inspired the muckraker Upton Sinclair to write his stomach-turning 1906 novel, “The Jungle.” Now, in 2019, a brilliant artist by the name of Rolando Santoyo has made his own tribute to the book …

Brotha El spinning at the Smart Museum in front of Charles Gaines' Numbers and Trees, Central Park, Series I, Tree #9, 2016. Photo by Cecil McDonald.

Sandbox Symphony: Interview with Brother El

As fellow South Side residents and former college classmates, I was happy to sit down with Brother El, or Lional Freeman, to talk about his growing annual event Sandbox Symphony IV on Chicago’s Oakwood Beach, held on Saturday, August 10. When we were both at Loyola University Chicago, we met and collaborated to create WLUW 88.7FM’s first and only hip hop radio show in the college station’s format—“The Hip Hop Project.” We often discuss the creative process in music and writing, but for this interview we wanted to talk about how this festival came about and the influence of his late mentor, the sculptor Milton Mizenburg.  Mizenburg may be familiar if you’ve seen a few YouTube clips like this Chicago Tribune piece from 2013 or seen a couple of stories in The Chicago Reader. Others may know his work from Mizenburg’s outdoor gallery cameo in Sam Trump’s 2016 video for “Brother” with Add-2. His legacy is manifest in the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art on Chicago’s South Side featuring epic heads that nod to an …

Image: Alejandro Jiménez-Flores, una noche maravillosa —a wonderful night, 2019, soft-pastels, flower petals dyes, and plaster on muslin, 9x11 in. Photo courtesy of Apparatus Projects.

Alejandro Jiménez-Flores: Always Touches on a Flower

Earlier this year, the two-person show Always Touches on a Flower at Apparatus Projects (February 17 – March 24, 2019) featured the work of Alejandro Jimenez-Flores and Cathy Hsiao. Enveloped in the themes of flowers and language, Jimenez-Flores’s work created an intimate and beautiful space at Apparatus Projects. Their work of soft floral transfers and paintings deal with themes of memory and plays with the language of flowers, both in Spanish and English. Pulling from personal memories, poetry, time traveling, and everyday experiences, Jimenez-Flores’s work is not to be missed.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Cecilia Kearney: Let’s start with some background, tell me a little bit about yourself.  Alejandro Jiménez-Flores: I’ve been an artist since high school. I mean, I always doodled and sketched growing up, but when I went to high school I took photography classes after school. And then I was an arts major. For undergrad, I went to UIC. I majored in Studio Arts (drawing and painting), but I was kind of all over the place–I was …

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 …

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. …

Black Monument Ensemble: Looking Back From Now

“Please join me in welcoming the Black Monument Ensemble.” The crowd roars with claps, whistles, loud whoops, and yelps. Applause melts behind wind chimes and bells as the band, singers, and dancers make their way to the stage. The audience quiets in anticipation. The voice of Damon Locks resounds in the room before his body appears. “Knowing what we know now, the mind searches for reconciliation…”  Stationed behind the singers, dancers, and drummers, he stands near his keyboard speaking into a telephone receiver attached to a soundboard. His voice reverberates throughout the space, bouncing against the drum sounds and vibrations as he recites his “Statement of Intent.” The drum intensifies and reaches a crescendo. “Some things never change–Black monuments!”, Locks yells. Angel Bat Dawid begins playing her clarinet. The choir begins.  I become transfixed by the electric synergy that emits from the band to the dancers, from the dancers to the singers, from the collective to the audience. The voices of Ruby Dee, Angela Davis, and Lena Horne coil around and reverberate within our ears. Suddenly …

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with Joseph Dole

Libyans sometimes refer to being arrested and taken away without warning as being “taken behind the sun.” This interview series celebrates—through conversations with currently and formerly incarcerated artists—the ways in which an artistic, creative life can transmute the impact and redefine the legacy of an experience within the Prison Industrial Complex. Joseph Dole is an artist, writer, journalist, jailhouse lawyer, and government watchdog. Incarcerated since 1998, he spent nearly a decade of his life in complete isolation at the notorious Tamms Supermax Prison, before intense pressure led to its closure in 2012. Joe is currently serving life without parole and continues to fight his conviction pro se. He has recently uncovered evidence suppressed by the State. Joe has written numerous articles, essays, poems, and research papers. Two of his policy proposals were catalysts for Illinois legislation. He has won four PEN America Writing Awards for Prisoners, was selected by Eula Biss as the winner of the 2016 Columbia Journal Winter Contest, and has published two books. His artwork has been exhibited throughout the country and …

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with Patrick Pursley

Libyans sometimes refer to being arrested and taken away without warning as being “taken behind the sun.” This interview series celebrates—through conversations with currently and formerly incarcerated artists—the ways in which an artistic, creative life can transmute the impact and redefine the legacy of an experience within the Prison Industrial Complex. In 1994, Patrick Pursley was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, despite no eyewitness identification, confession, DNA, or fingerprint evidence. Patrick’s case was repeatedly rejected by wrongful conviction advocates, citing the fact that there was no legal recourse to force a re-evaluation of the one piece of evidence—ballistics—that the state had used to convict him. Instead of giving up, Patrick helped write and advocate for an amendment to the Illinois post-conviction forensic testing statute. The amendment passed in 2007, clearing the way for Patrick’s own exoneration—the first post-conviction exoneration based on ballistic testing in the nation.  In addition to being a legendary jailhouse lawyer, Patrick is an author and producer. We met up in Hyde Park to talk about his creative path, the …

Arranging, Abstracting, and Transforming at Experimental Sound Studio

Entering Without Within at Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) in Ravenswood, you encounter a variety of sculptural objects comprised of glazed ceramic, cuts of wood, and metal panels made by multidisciplinary artist Mie Kongo. The pieces, an amalgamation of these natural materials, are combined so carefully and intentionally as they emanate a calm confidence. One piece features an amoeba-like, white structure that exists on top of a tree log that’s been cleanly chopped on top and bottom. Two rectangle tiles grow out of the amoeba and a small metal panel cleanly sits atop all of this chaos.  Surrounding this visual experience is the subtle influx of sound that oscillates between somewhat recognizable and minimal industrial sounds to more complex abstractions, created by sound artist Norman Long. This sort of arranging, abstracting, and transforming lies at the heart of the exhibition, curated by Ruth Hodgkins, the current Bentson Archivist and Assistant Curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Throughout the exhibition, both artists take inspiration from the world around them but choose to adjust, amend, and …

Image: Elliot stands under scaffolding along a brick building, with the street to the right. One hand holds onto a post on the scaffolding, and he's leaning out to the left towards the frame. Photo is in black and white. Photo by Ryan Edmund.

The Art of Adaptation: An Exit Interview with Elliot J. Reichert

In 2013, just days into his position as the Assistant Curator of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Elliot J. Reichert was doing what curators often do. After being thrown into the installation process of a new exhibition, he was flexing his ability to fuel wildfires while demonstrating his resourcefulness in locating unusual materials at the very last minute in service of an artist’s vision. In this case, the artist was the late musician and sculptor Terry Adkins and the wildfires were the brand new works that had been sitting on the back shelf of Adkins’ mind for years that he now had the opportunity to bring to life. When Elliot took this role, the museum was preparing to mount Recital, a substantial solo exhibition of Adkins’ work which had traveled from the Tang Teaching Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York to Chicago. When Recital was being mounted, there was no way of knowing that this mid-career retrospective would, in fact, be a definitive moment in Adkins’ career and would also be marked …

Time, bodies, and objects: An Interview with Guen Montgomery

Champaign-Urbana is home to a multitude of artists and creative people. The visual arts community in C-U is one that can, broadly speaking, be divided into three groups: local artists with no institutional affiliation; faculty, staff, and students at Parkland College; and faculty, staff, and students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a whole, they generate a vibrant intellectual and creative energy not often found in other similarly sized cities. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s School of Art + Design has nationally and internationally recognized faculty working in all media, but there aren’t very many opportunities to spend time with faculty artwork here in C-U. As faculty at a research-focused institution, they regularly have successes at the national and international levels. The combination of only a handful of exhibition spaces in C-U, and the university’s encouragement for non-local exhibitions and lectures, makes it common to know someone fairly well but have a very hazy sense of their creative work and research. I first met multimedia artist and UIUC Teaching Assistant Professor Guen …

A portrait of Tara Aisha Willis, the Associate Curator of Performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Tara is standing with elbows on a ledge, hands up toward her face and fingers intertwined. She stands in a space where there are plants and golden yellow lights hanging from the ceiling. Photo by Kristie Kahn.

Dance Manifold: A Conversation with Tara Aisha Willis

“…completely new yet familiar territory.” These words echoed after I revisited the accompanying publication for Relations, a performance that brought together pioneering artists Bebe Miller, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and Ralph Lemon on the MCA Stage in November 2018. In her introduction for the publication, curator Tara Aisha Willis offers a series of questions and propositions that draw from the historically-anchored yet generative tone set by Miller, Houston-Jones, and Lemon, while also honoring the shapeshifting and indefinable nature of Black dance and movement practices. When considered in full, Willis, too, is the “new yet familiar” manifested in many ways. As a returning Chicago native whose dance career has developed largely outside of the city, there’s a fresh familiarity to her perspective. The new is also visible through her role as a curator of performance and when considering the artists and projects she is bringing to the MCA Stage. Then, an additional familiarity is present within her work due to an awareness of historical context, a body of knowledge that is harnessed, in part, through her work as …