Michael Miller was an incredible educator, a great printmaker, a good friend, and my world feels a little smaller without him.
I met Michael in 2000 when I came to tour the School of The Art Institute of Chicago as a prospective graduate student. I went on to assist (TA) his classes for a couple of years and I learned much from his easy demeanor and casual laugh. He brought an unusual sense of calm to those of us lucky enough to be in his presence. As a TA, Michaels classes were heavenly. He gave me a bunch of materials and told me to work constantly and bring as much energy to the class as I could muster. If he thought I was doing something interesting, he would have me demo it for the students. It felt like the gift I needed to keep me connected to printmaking. I spent most of graduate school exploring video, photography, sound, and electronics, and I often felt like I was floating away from the discipline that had brought me to art in the first place. Michael seemed to instinctively recognize this and made sure I had a home there.
He had a remarkable commitment to his students and the students of the department of Print Media, where he taught for 40 years. He was the kind of professor you could reach out to several years after leaving school and he would happily buy you a beer and help you with your problems. His advice was always spot on and I was lucky to be have often been its beneficiary.
The thing I will miss the most about Michael is the warmth he showed. He could always be relied upon to be a sympathetic face in an unfriendly crowd and his presence made a room easier for those of us who had to inhabited it.
I’m going to miss him.
by Lisa Wainwright.
Artist and educator, Barbara DeGenevieve, passed away on August 9 and now the world is a little less interesting without her.
Barbara was irrepressible. I first learned of this willful spirit while a graduate student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where she was on the art and design faculty. There was a great hubbaballo as she had called for the melt down of a 19th sculpture whose sexist bravado [gorilla with naked maiden] had been prominently placed in the entrance of the new Krannert Museum. Barbara’s was a conceptual call to arms with text and photos, aided by her longtime colleague and friend, Alan Labb, and the intent was to incite conversation. This was her steadfast M.O. Years later, when I was her Dean at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—where she taught since 1994, I was obliged to rein her in with some of the riskier projects. At one point I even placed a letter in her personnel file about not touching students’ genitals, but that’s a longer essay. She and I would laugh about it later, about the infamous penis and its sober critique panel. Then there was her porn class. She was one of the early pioneers to offer studio courses in this arena, and it also got her into some trouble–of course. Semester after semester, I tried to counsel her, temper her a bit. She won mostly. And bully on her. It was about artistic integrity and Barbara had this in spades. Barbara was irresistible. She could charm the pants off you –literally.
She was strikingly good looking. Thin, statuesque, with a mane of wild grey hair—she was that Medusa she had coined as her penname on one of her naughtier websites. Barbara had amazing hands with elegantly manicured nails in lurid green and decadent black, and a sexy barbed wire tattoo that wrapped around her wrist. Her voice was deep and seductive. She dressed well—somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Chrissy Hines [She’s cringing at the Stevie Nicks reference]. Barbara always looked great as she was essentially always on the prowl–for sex, for ideas, for engagement, for life.
Barbara was irreplaceable. She was an amazing teacher with an enormous following. For she gave her students permission to act and think and make with uncompromised abandon. And at the same time, she insisted on their being deeply immersed in art history and theory, particularly around the leitmotifs of power, class, and race. The rigor of theory undergirded her promiscuous practice and she taught this matrix to her students. And they followed. Social media sites have been buzzing for weeks since her death. Across the country and around the world, legions of students are honoring Barbara with their thoughts and condolences. She impacted so many. More recently, Barbara became enchanted with the pedagogy of professional practice. Ironic I thought for someone who liked to break the rules and push the edge. But she was as fierce in her commitment to teaching artists how to manage their careers as she was in helping them find their voice.
Barbara was subversive and kind, radical and caring, unconventional and humane. She was a complex creature with a heart of gold–trimmed in leather. We miss her madly.
images thanks to Hyperallergic
Fans of culture and brats, this THURSDAY (5-8pm) we come into our own, and we tailgate in appreciation of art.
Bring your foam fingers, tailgating supplies, beverages and a radio. We will be micro broadcasting with David Rathman, Brian Frink, and Amy Toscani. Together we are going to chat up the MN art scene and bask in the glory of an institution one can only really love.
PS. I will let you know the frequency tomorrow!
Sad news for all of us who knew him.
From Philip von Zweck…
Jim suffered a heart attack while waiting for a bus to work on July 27 in Taiwan, where he’d lived for four years with his wife Zen “Mimi” Lulu; they’d been married just under a year.
Jim completed a BA in English in Seattle University in 1995 He then relocated to Chicago to pursue a BFA and then an MFA from School of the Art Institute Chicago. While in graduate school he was so broke that, against policy, he secretly lived in his SAIC-provided studio. He befriended the security staff, learning their routines so he could hide his sleeping mat and hot plate in the storage cabinet when they came through for inspection.
As an artist, Jim was interested in wonder and discovery and in demystifying art itself. He may best be known for his Two Foot Square art gallery, which he set up in parks and other public spaces to engage the casual passersby in a discussion about art. He was also known for his long-running project with Hui-min Tsen, The Mount Baldy Expedition. Inspired by historic voyages during the Age of Discovery, they built a boat to sail from Chicago to the Mt. Baldy sand dune in Indiana.
To make a living, Jim did what many young artists do: he was a preparator and mount builder. He worked at the Smart Museum of Art and in other exhibition spaces before site-managing SAIC’s G2 (later Sullivan Galleries). He later became the galleries’ Exhibition Manger. It may be in this work that Jim’s greatest legacy lies, for somewhere in his job description was the one word that kept him coming back, despite the stressful work, low pay and occasional verbal abuse by a sleep-deprived students with no concept of how to install a video projector; and that word was mentor.
Jim was a recognizable figure on State Street, where he took his breaks in his Sox cap, horn rimmed safety glasses, Carhartt shorts, tucked-in, oversized t-shirt and work boots, chain-smoking Reds and elegantly balancing his cup of coffee on top of his thermos.
He loved baseball, Iggy Pop, the Cramps, cooking and the work of Tehching Hsieh. He often tried to get me to accompany him to tango lessons: the man loved to tango. He also loved to regale anyone who would listen with tales of the chaos caused by the Monkey King from the classic Chinese novel The Journey to the West. To the chagrin of the administration, Jim made the Monkey King the unofficial mascot of Sullivan Gallery.
Most nights after work Jim would say, “Let’s get a quick one,” which we both know would be neither quick nor just one. Over whiskey at the Exchequer, George’s, or the L&L, where Jim had been a regular for years, talk would inevitably turn to our student workers: “the crew,” then “the kids” and by the end of the night, “my kids.”
He loved his “kids” and taught them all he could—not just about hanging art, but also about being an artist and a stand-up person in the world. Jim assembled not a team of student workers, but a family. Through his work he impacted the lives of countless SAIC students, the crew and every student who exhibited in the gallery, which means pretty much every graduating student. Jim missed the good parts of SAIC, and for many of us, he was certainly one of them.
Jim is survived by his wife Ye Mimi, his mother, the cowboys, SAIC, countless friends around the globe, and of course by his “kids.”
Philip von Zweck
WTF? We are lecturing at an Apple store. BOOM. Yes. It is true.
We will see you and all of the Chicago area art enthusiasts at:
Apple Store, North Michigan Avenue
April 23rd at 7pm.
Bad at Sports (B@S) can be tricky to describe – it’s a weekly podcast, a series of objects and events, and a daily blog that features artists and “art wonders” talking about art and the community that makes, reviews, and participates in it. Founded in 2005, the series features more than 20 principal collaborators and has included more than 450 interviewees. Join Bad At Sports cofounders Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland for a conversation about this constantly evolving series.