This weekend, I went gallery hopping to enjoy the new fall breeze and the enormous quantity of quality work coming to the city for the season and EXPO (which I will explain more about).
I spent Friday night in River North for their many, many openings. Sadly I was only able to make it to a hand-full in the couple hour window that is the event. Personally, it was highlighted by the Benjamin Cook show at Zg gallery. Cook has a colorful fun assortment of paintings and some fibers installations, each category exploring materiality, mass produced color and graphic qualities that can be both found in street art and now the mass market- mass produced fashion for the street. To top it off, the gallery had some temporary tattoo reproductions to take, which I am now strongly boasting. Friday, on an entirely different spectrum of the art market/ cannon, I enjoyed the Tetsuya Noda retrospective at Andrew Bae gallery. While looking at beautifully rendered prints from 50 years of Noda's life, there was a little nod to engagement with diary entries posted by each piece that gave additional insight into the artists life and thoughts, and added an extra layer of power and meaning. Diary entries are personal and often kept secret or prized, yet these feelings of change, humor, uncertainty and growth can be understood on a basic human level, bringing the contemporary Chicagoan viewer to Noda's context.
Saturday afternoon, I went over to the west loop to Woman Made gallery for the closing of their internationally juried show. What a gem! I wish I was telling you about an opening rather than a closing because it feels like such a taunt and lost opportunity (It is well documented on their website though). This was a well curated show of a variety of artists in a variety of mediums, so I did not know what to expect form the artists' talks, happening with the closing. I was pleasantly surprised about the multi generational aspect of the artists involved. As they spoke about their work, informally for about ten minutes each I was struck by the artist community that was in the room, rooted in a shared identity and practice. Occasionally an audience member would spout out a feeling or reading that would fill in the gaps of the artist's preceding explanation.
For me there were two highlights of this show that I just want to mention. The first, the ceramic piece by Cathy Schwalbe that she described as a retrospective of sorts because she has gathered images and stories over the years that are referenced in the various tiles. The piece asks the audience to touch and take, to interact with these historic traditions of the Midwest. The fun alliteration title, "sewing, sowing" brings the content and the relationship between the male and female work to the fore front. The second piece, by Angela Swan "listen", is beautiful in its simplicity. Is is a large printed photography of a sculpture project of two phones connected. The audience decided on a variety of symbols: sex, integration, dialogue of past times, race relations, a stand off, marriage, etc. all pointing to the power in a message that can be understood in a variety and on multiple levels.
I can not wait fro Chicago Expo and especially the After Hours event, featuring more alternative spaces and works. If you are in the Chicago area you should mark your calendar!
This past year I have been struck by an unshakable artist's block. Unlike previous unproductive phases stemming from lack of creativity, I find myself asking "how does an artist make art today when the world is so broken?" "how can there be art after Ferguson?"
This past week these question become more concerning as the news again is plastered with broken bodies. My question is not one out of neutrality ( as a white, straight, female I feel the need to clarify and acknowledge my privilege), but one coming out of hurt and anger at the system that I live in and perhaps sometimes unconsciously enabled. I feel helpless and tired that the communities that I am a part of, and friends I respect continue to see the issues in black and white rather than through a lens of humanity, where reconciliation could bring about change.
We live in the era of the hashtag, constantly updating to reflect the next tragedy, yet not full encompassing the entirety of the issue. But perhaps these quick snippets is all we can handle because if we go too deep, release ourselves to the progression of paint on canvas, shout out our cries to the Lord through music, or go to the streets in dance, we may drown in the darkness that is our reality.
The World Wars drastically changed the trajectory for the arts. The Dada's explored meaninglessness after there months dug into the trenches. The Surrealists no longer trusted the conscious on its own, realizing that the subconscious could pull and sway, coming out into unexplainable art. The poet Theodor Adorn blatantly wrote that there could be no art after Auschwitz. I am also reminded of the Chicago based Monster Roster, who distorted the figure and expressed pain while much of the US art world had reverted to abstract expressionism. These movement all have in common there lack of concern or perhaps more offensive breakdown of beauty.
The cannon of art history leads me to believe that art will continue to happen even while black men must fear for their lives but it must take on a new form. What that may look like, I, with regrettable curiosity,look forward to finding out. Jackson Pollock once said: “It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.” (interview with William Wright, 1950)
I would like to end with a beautiful piece by Amena Brown, which I came across on a Liturgist podcast a while back but I find new power and relevance in after recent events.
This year has brought us tears and sorrow
1. Discernment- AKA Life is hard.
This is my daily struggle. But is it really so unclear? An interesting read for the spiritual, or not.
2. Need some inspiration: Find it HERE
The semester has started but maybe you are uninspired. Here you go.
3. Get a Jump Start to Spring Cleaning with Spark Joy
Man, two of my favorite things: spring and cleaning! This is a free pdf that is worth the read. I managed to clean out 6 garbage bags worth of clothes and shoes out of my closet and hopefully they have now found a new home.
4. When Change is Scary
A beautiful post by Without Borders. It may give you chill bumps.
5. Need a good cry?
I understand, we all have those days.
6. Louis Bourgeois sketchbooks
insight about the sketch book practice from a prolific artist.
7. Sketchbook Look- John Hendrix
Hendrix sketches at church, creating a dialogue between the verses and his interpretation as an artist
8. The Outsider Art Fair
I was not aware that this existed but it's great. Adding to my bucket list stat, plus they have an informative list of artists online.
9. Renovation of the CAA
Great writeup and pictures the really capture the retained character of a Chicago landmark
Instagram is by far my favorite form of social media. I follow mainly artists, museums and other creative individuals that I would not have otherwise known about and they offer me constant inspiration and heightened dream goals. I have decided to start a new project series on the blog and curate some of my favorites, thinking of technology as the new gallery space and how one can present groupings to a different viewership than a traditional gallery.
This past summer I added a "Must Read" feature to my home page because I am constantly told about or stumble upon interesting websites (wow. Isn't technology astounding?) and wanted a place to share them, even if I did not have time to write an entire post about it. But recently, I realized that I have no documentation of these recommendations, and once I update it is lost forever. So... I am starting an archive! When I am done with links on the front page, I will move them here to the blog. This also means I will not hesitate from updating it more often. Win, win.
October - January List
1. An Amsterdam Museum Asks Visitors to Pick up Pencil and Paper
This article is a new interesting take on smart phones in the museums. As a hopeful-future-museum-educator I fully advocate for this move.
2. Current Train Ride Read: The Devil in the White City
Man this book is a goodie! It is full of facts figures and a little bit of suspense. Pick one up at your local library!
3. Known As A Collector, Gustave Caillebotte Gets His Due As A Painter
It is about time! Thanks NPR and the National gallery.
4. What I Wish I Could Tell Them About Teaching in a Title I School
from Love, Teach blog.
A great reality check for myself and others interested in working in the Title 1 system, and for those in decision making roles in our school systems.
5. Salmela Architect.
I can not get enough of this firms work.
6. Art Palooza! Engaging High School Students in Art History through Fashion Design
This is what I am excited about, with the countless productive ways art can be used in the classroom.
7. 11 Contemporary Authors Every Christian Should Read
You know I love lists, so I thought I would share my next reading one with you.
8. Need new Music? Why not check the Runway.
9. This is my city on the news
A different outlook on the news of the Charleston shooting, one that hits close to home.
When I was little, my favorite, most ingenious prank to pull was tying my little brother's shoe laces together as he innocently watched cartoons. As the TV held his complete attention I would tighten and twist and quadruple knot his laces into an unmanageable mess. It always ended up the same when the cartoon ended: my brother cried, I was sent to my room and my mother diligently untied every knot until my brother could again use his shoes for the designed purpose. Yes, I was a little devil child.
Since the Pope's visit a couple of weeks ago (I meant to get to this earlier, alas, grad school), I have been thinking about knots physically and metaphorically. In Philadelphia, a group of artists created a community based, interactive sculpture called Knots Grotto, designed and built by Meg Saligman, Dan Ostrov, and Stephanie Cole. It is a beautiful piece that invites visitors to write down their challenges, wishes, hopes, and prayers, then tie them onto the grotto, so adding a literal knot. The artists also collected knots by mail and at local pop-up events for months in advance, making for a wide encompassing project with many participators and a large impact. The work was inspired by one of Pope Francis favorite devotional paintings Mary Undoer of Knots by Johann Georg Schmidtner.
There are many examples of prayers said by Pope Francis to Mary, the untier of knots but this one is my favorite:
Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during the day of your life, you accepted with full humility the Father’s will, and the devil was never capable of tying you up with his confusion.
Once with your Son you interceded for our difficulties, and full of kindness and patience, you gave us example of how to untie the knots in our life.
By remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order and make more clear the ties that link us to the Lord.
Holy Mother, Mother of God and our Mother, to you who intie with a motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands (the name of the person), and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks.
Through your grace, your intercession and your example deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters.
Since, I am a protestant, I do not pray to Mary as intercessor but I still find comfort in the idea of our heavenly mother and father working to untie the many knots in each of our lives because Lord knows there are many. There are the knots, obstacles and daily happenings that keep us from really truly living to God's fullness such as maybe a tiring job or unhealthy relationship. There are the knots that keep us tied to something else, a distraction. But then there are also the positive knots that are our ties to the Lord, they show us a path and lead the way. I am reminded of a trail at camp called the Beaver Pond Trail that is marked by a rope full of knots that help visually impaired campers walk on the path. They feel the knots and know they are on a safe path and that soon they will reach a braille plaque with information just for them. These are positive and comforting knots.
I am reminded of knots as obstacles at camp as well. During staff training one summer, the Hope Females had to work as a team to go through a spiderweb made of knotted rope. It is complicated and we can only make it across if we work together as a team. After one day of knowing each other we had to be honest and physically close to work together which was at times very uncomfortable for those of us who have a large personal bubble. But we eventually made it and came out on the other side as a real team. Friends and family can act as undoer of knots as they carry, push and support you past life's obstacles.
The sculpture, Knot Grotto, asks each participant and viewer to think of the many obstacles and negative knots in their lives and release them. By tying them together into something beautiful the problems are given to the community for support, each member can work together to get the others past so in a way making a positive knot, a reassuring spot an the path. The prayer talks about Mary uniting knots which is a beautiful image, with her pristine fingers diligently untwisting our messes like my own mother did back in the day, but perhaps what is even more comforting and relevant is that God works through wondrous ways and he can use others to also untie the bad knots and point to the knots that eternally bind us to Him.
Yesterday, in need of inspiration and quiet repose, I adventured over the state lines to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. I go pretty often yet the trip never ceases to satisfy. The museum is having some pretty great exhibits right now that may get overlooked since they are not big names.
Greeting you outside in the pavilion is Los Trompos, a colorful assortment of interactive spinning tops. It has become the children' favorite but also an Instagram star. I loved watching the school kids race out of the stuffy Early American section to the "play ground" on their lunch breaks. The littlest ones and even the "to-cool-for-school" high schoolers ran around and interacted with these tactile spinners. This is a great exhibit to get anyone and everyone excited about art. So if you are anywhere near hot-lanta you should go and enjoy the sunny day for atleast a bit of time.
Los Trompos is a great community project because it brings its a place for people to gather together. It provides a venue that can be experienced and enjoyed b all, bringing everyone to the same level, high art connoisseurs to the youngest children. It is all about joy and beauty, easily understood feelings but still necessary and emotions that people want to experience. There is nothing trivial or silly about Play!
The High also is showing to young, Atlanta-based artists in their large special exhibition place. Imagining New Worlds: Jose Parla and Fahamu Pecou was not what I had expected, not that I had preconceived expectations because I had never heard of the artists nor had any idea the exhibit was on view until I was there. I was most interested in Pecou's work, which encompasses drawings, paintings, sound and sculptural installation to make an active environment, hopping with reflection and inspiration. Pecou talks about race and the African American culture. He elevates it through his paintings, depicting Young African American men in what may be preconcieved/ misconceived as "gangster" apparel on magazine covers or leafed in gold. He has interactive sound boxes and head phones where viewers can live in and experience a part of Black culture by making and listening to their own music beats. Viewers can create their own beat by taking clips of rap bass, African poetry and other parts of the culture. The installation was an interesting juxtaposition of graffiti and small voodoo like objects in a sancturary-like place. The viewers were overwhelmed by the size and all encompassing colors just this made one hone in on the small details of votive candles and little plastic toys. It was really a great piece on present day race and culture relations.
Lastly, the High is having an exhibit to celebrate the anniversary of Coca Cola by looking at the design of the iconic Coke bottle. When I heard about this show I will not lie, I was not excited, but it was a bit surprising because it was very well done. I can se that it is a good exhibit to teach people the history and art behind the dish and then how that design was used in art like Warhal and the pop art movement. I was just a bit bored until I came to the last piece, an installation of coils of recycled material that are in fact abstracted coke bottles. So I shall leave you with this beaut!
Until the next adventure of whimsy and time,
Though I sadly do not have enough hours in the day to write about each lecture I was able to attend, I do want to summarize some my favorite parts and my overall feelings at and post the NCECA conference.
The first lecture I went to was about the subversive nature of ornamentation given by an undergraduate student, Djnnaya Stroud. Ornamentation has evolved over many periods from the ancient to the contemporary ceramics, it has been used for propaganda, religious narrative and now social issues. In the most basic sense ornamentation makes a pot "pretty" and so appeals to and attracts viewers. Stroud specifically looked at the works of Grayson Perry. Perry points out how our, societies, tastes are given to us by the "default man". Minimal taste is no longer revolutionary because it is the typical upper middle class surroundings. Ceramics is rooted in every day life so by adding ornamentation to the functional, the issue becomes approachable.
Chris Staley is a loved, soon to be retired, professor at Penn State. His circle of love and support after the lecture was overwhelming. He spoke about teaching clay and how it involved three factors: clay, student and teacher. Clay is physical and tactile. It is collaboration. Teacher and student must trust each other for the classroom to work.
Then comes the list of advice that scribbly covers my sketchbook.
1. Ask quality questions that lead to bigger questions
2. Everything you, or your students produce is a metaphor. When you make something, ask what that metaphor is?
3. As a teacher, share how much you see so the students can see more.
4. It is ok not to know. The idea of wonder is the essence of learning.
Michael McCarthy is also a ceramics teacher but in a completely different setting. McCarthy leads the ceramics studio at the Austin Riggs residential psychiatric center, a place where the studio and the hospital overlap. He talked about the basics of the studio: it was not a privilege so was not taken away from patients, it was always available to them for expression and exploration. McCarthy tries to combat the idea of "failure" and pushes the idea of "students" (not patients) learning.
Then there were the many emerging artists lectures on Saturday. Each were unique and invigorating for technical, conceptual and social reasons. Roberto Lugo was by far the most moving and instead of me summing it up I recommend you just see for yourself.
As I read over my notes and recollect from the past weeks adventure I notice one thing in common- The potential of clay for social change! So many artists and teachers are doing so many great things and then so so so many more artists and students are excited about the potential and sitting in lectures to learn, grow and then do. Clay is play but also academic. Clay is approachable and accessible. Clay is a material, and object and a process. Clay can be used to teach views in a museum, or used to help overcome an illness in a residential museum. I believe in Social Clay and I am pumped to be in this world with so many "mad potters"!