All posts tagged: featured

Featured Image: Work by February James. We Laugh Loud So The Spirits Can Hear, 2020. Installation view. Five highly expressive, framed watercolor portraits hang in the gallery. Image Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.

The Artist as Changemaker: A Conversation with February James

I’m not even going to belabor the conversation about how we are all living through some of the most challenging times that we may ever see in our existence. We are simply trying to survive a global pandemic amongst civil unrest in the wake of police brutality and efforts to dismantle white supremacy, all during an extremely high stakes election year.  As an artist, I know I’m not the only one who has received these types of emails over the past few months,  “We hope you understand that your exhibition has been postponed due to circumstances surrounding the global pandemic.”  “The gallery has implemented a virtual platform to promote your work in lieu of an in-person exhibition opening.” “Your health and well-being is extremely important to us, which is why we have decided to cancel your upcoming event.”  The pandemic has changed every aspect of our daily lives. Schools, jobs, social gatherings, shopping, exhibitions, festivals, events, and countless others can be added to the never-ending list of things that no longer operate as they once …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Inaccessibility as Material: an interview with Alison O’Daniel

Alison O’Daniel is a visual artist and filmmaker whose ongoing project The Tuba Thieves interweaves elements of sound composition, sculptural installation, performance, and film. Beginning in 2011, The Tuba Thieves has been screened and exhibited in numerous iterations, expanding and complicating the notion of a filmic whole. Using a film as a site through which to explore how continuity, equivalency, and legibility intersect O’Daniel’s work complicates the presumption of normativity inherent in traditional cinematic and narrative modes. Building a vocabulary of missing information, misunderstanding, and processual aesthetics, The Tuba Thieves asks us to rethink differing sensory experiences as a generative and imperative storytelling force.  The following is an excerpt from a longer conversation conducted over Google Meet between the artist, Christopher Robert Jones, and Liza Sylvestre. Google Meet was chosen after discussing various video conferencing platforms and their inadequate accessibility features.  Liza Sylvestre: How do you wake up? Alison O’Daniel: My dog wakes me up. She comes in and punches the bed. She is a deaf boxer and she wakes me up every day at …

New Beginnings and Jeni McFarland

I interviewed fiction writer and Michigan-native Jeni McFarland about her debut novel, The House of Deep Water. We spoke about her writing process, the small Midwest farming town that makes up her book, and the novel’s themes of biracial identity, depression, family, new beginnings, and a community with secrets.  The House of Deep Water is available now from G.P. Putnam & Sons. Find McFarland on Twitter @jeni_mcfarland. Emily Stochl: Tell us about the writing process for The House of Deep Water. Jeni McFarland: I started this project when I was in graduate school. I was taking a class taught by Robert Boswell, and he gave us a prompt based on four different books we were reading—one was told in vignettes, one was told all in one day, one was told all in one year, and one was a novel in stories. He wanted us to try out different forms and see what felt good. I started writing about this small town, which looked kind of like the small town I grew up in, and it …

Intimate Justice: Sarah Bastress

“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 with Rogers Park resident, Sarah Bastress, who hails from West Virginia and paints the queer body. S. Nicole Lane: How did you end up in Chicago? How did being raised in West Virginia impact your work? (I’m from North Carolina! Southern queers unite!) Sarah Bastress: I came to Chicago to do my post-bacc at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then went on to do my MFA there, too. I ended up really enjoying my neighborhood and staying. I appreciate you asking about West Virginia. It has impacted my work a great deal. I don’t have an answer for you that isn’t incredibly long-winded. Since Trump won, the question is much more complicated. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I miss mountains–the ones that have yet to be blown up to make …

Purple Window Gallery: A Quarantine Initiative Brings Exhibitions to Our Windows

Full disclosure: S. Nicole Lane is a participating artist and board member of Purple Window Gallery. Lauren Iacoponi is an artist, curator, and writer who is the co-founder and director of the gallery.  Due to COVID-19, her plans of opening up the store-front gallery space have been postponed. As a result, she has launched an at-home initiative for artists all over the world to participate in. This interview took place via email in early April.  S. Nicole Lane: Can you tell us a little bit about the opening of Purple Window Gallery and when you decided to open up your own space? Lauren Iacoponi: I’ve spent the past several months initiating a project space called Purple Window (coming soon to Avondale, Chicago). I’m the director and co-founder of this upcoming space.  Purple Window is artist-led and community-supported. As an artist cooperative, Purple Window is jointly owned and democratically controlled by its members, so I don’t personally view Purple Window as “my own space.” But I did initiate the co-op and invite each of its members …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: Adriana Araujo and Josh Rios in Conversation

Esta entrevista foi editada para garantir clareza e comprimento, e foi traduzida para nossos leitores no Brasil com as seções em português em itálico, e em inglês em tipo normal. Adriana Araujo: Gostaria de começar nosso encontro pelo meio, esse tempo aqui agora, nos constituindo continuamente.  Estou neste momento ao lado de uma árvore a quem chamo de Generosa, é uma mangueira do quintal da casa que vivo, que dá frutos suculentos e doces, ela abriga pássaros, lagartixas, morcegos, formigas, entre outros seres vivos, alguns invisíveis. Além de abrigar um mundo inteiro em si, Generosa produz sombra e ameniza o calor nos dias ensolarados da cidade que vivo faz pouco menos de cinco anos, Santa Maria da Vitória. Aqui quase todos os dias (às vezes penso que as noites também) são de sol intenso. O céu hoje amanheceu parcialmente nublado, mas quase sempre o céu é bem azul. Quando sinto muita saudade de Salvador, o lugar onde nasci e vivi a maior parte da minha vida, é só olhar para o céu e me inventar mais perto do …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: João Oliveira and Amina Ross in Conversation

Esta entrevista foi editada para garantir clareza e comprimento, e foi traduzida para nossos leitores no Brasil com as seções em português em itálico, e em inglês em tipo normal. Amina: Oi João, eu estava olhando as gravuras feitas com as peles de animais de plástico abertas e achei que temos um interesse em comum naquilo que existe alem da superficie do dia-a-dia. Como você expressou tão bem, eu vejo seu interesse em uma “força capaz de romper a superfície daquilo que se acostumou.” Existe alguma coisa que você procura encontrar no desdobramento de um corpo? No rompimento da superfície? Há ainda alguma coisa que você não encontrou? O que continua a te mover nessa exploração? This interview has been edited for clarity and length, and translated for our readers in Brazil with the Portuguese sections in italics, and the English sections unitalicized. Amina:  Hi João. I was looking at the prints made of the unfolded plastic animal skins and I think we share an interest in what exists beyond the surface of our everyday. As you put it …

Image: Installation shot of Iceberg Projects exhibition “David Wojnarowicz: Flesh of My Flesh,” June 23 – August 5, 2018. In the middle of the room, a sculpture sits on a white pedestal, encased in glass. A world map with words overlaying the image is hanging on the wall to the left, and a video screen is displaying a video on the partial brick wall directly in front of the viewer. Image courtesy of Iceberg Projects.

Tip of the Iceberg: A Conversation with Iceberg Projects

Iceberg Projects is a non- commercial art gallery in a converted coach house at the northernmost tip of Chicago. Over the past ten years, Iceberg Projects has hosted a number of historically important shows, especially of queer and other underrepresented artists, including group shows like the Art+Positive archive, Feel Me?, and Broken Flag to solo shows of David Wojnarowicz, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Kevin Killian, Barbara DeGenevieve, and Steffani Jemison.  Inseparable from the history of Iceberg is the man behind it, whose backyard anchors Iceberg Projects. Dr. Dan Berger is an HIV specialist who helped develop the drug cocktail widely used for treatment. Recently, he released a video offering expert medical insight into how COVID 19 as it particularly affects HIV and queer communities. But his commitment to queer community extends beyond his medical practice and into his art collection, which focuses on queer and black artists.  I visited Dr. Berger in his Rogers Park home to talk about the history of the space. We also talked at length about institutional risk-taking and archiving queer legacies.  + …

SLAYSIAN: An Abundance of Stories

Jenny Lam curates interactive and compelling exhibitions that spontaneously create community, bringing people together in fun and unexpected ways. Her 2012 exhibition I CAN DO THAT (named “Best Art Exhibit” by audience choice in NewCity’s 20th anniversary Best of Chicago issue) took on that often dismissive and frustrating phrase heard by many an artist at an opening and handed out art supplies for viewers to go ahead and try. Lam’s  2016 show LEXICON replaced the ubiquitous artist’s statement with blank paper for the audience to supply their own reactions. In 2020, she was all set to follow up these acclaimed shows with SLAYSIAN, a show celebrating Asian American artists from Chicago and the Midwest. And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Even before Illinois’ shelter-in-place orders, Lam made the responsible decision to call off the public opening reception. But that doesn’t mean the end of the show. Since she couldn’t bring audiences to see the show in person, she brought SLAYSIAN directly to audiences, transforming it into an online exhibition we can view from the safety …

Blackness, Images & the Space Between

A conversation with Milwaukee based fine artist Nick Drain and Genesis Gallery owner, artist, and organizer Randy Brown. Nick recently held his first solo exhibition “In Plain Sight” at Genesis and our collective discussion quickly found its way circling around and through larger topics like race, identity, viewership and the politics of the Milwaukee art scene. Over the course of the last few months, I let our conversation sink in and settle where it needed to in order for me to get down to the guts of what the discussion meant for all of us. I have a distinct memory of the moment I stood in front of Picasso’s “Guernica” at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain. It was the summer before college, I was only 18 years old and I didn’t think of myself as an artist then. I think back to that trip reflecting on the enormity and impact of viewing that painting in the flesh, and I realized it was a moment that hit me too early in …