Meeting Beatrice Fisher a Little Too Late: In Memoriam

November 16, 2009 · Print This Article

Guest post by Damien James

Beatrice Fisher, Going Home

Beatrice Fisher, Going Home

I walked into Woman Made Gallery on Wednesday, October 14th, to view and review the Beatrice Fisher retrospective, which surveyed fifty years of art making. Intrigued by the gallery’s website, which noted that this was Fisher’s first solo exhibition and that she had studied under such renowned Chicago artists as Karl Wirsum and Don Baum, for better or worse I had fairly high expectations.

Everything had just been hung, and the space was still a bit of a mess—the opening wasn’t for two more days and I hadn’t let anyone know that I was coming—then I realized that the mess consisted mostly of Fisher’s work, of which there was just too much to fit on the walls. (I was told that Fisher had thousands of pieces in her Evanston studio. Thousands was later corrected to hundreds.) After a moment of orientation amidst the clutter, I was able to focus on the walls, on her art, and was instantly taken, overtaken, by not only the range of her work but its consistent beauty and energy.

Beatrice Fisher, Under the Table

Beatrice Fisher, Under the Table

Fisher’s Attachment/Separation series focuses on divorce in the most physical terms; bodies in surreal Siamese union, some split apart by knives or attached by zippers rendered with a level of detail which brings the stark flatness of the paintings and their sharp lines into a kind of focused intimacy that looks cleanly through you. At least, they seemed to look through me. Some are paintings of women and men joined at the hips or shoulders, others of women joined to women, skin stretching into long bands waiting to be broken, their faces staring so pointedly, hypnotically. On another wall were military-themed works which dressed disembodied penises in camouflaged field gear, while across the room a group of small paintings of Jesus clad in ruby slippers and floating in the clouds shimmered. The slippers were glitter. Jesus had a beatific and tranquil face. Maybe it was the shoes.

Truthfully, there was so much work that this could easily have been a group show of six or seven entirely different artists, though it wasn’t difficult to see the common thread—the unique handwriting as it moved through all the pieces; the tongue-in-cheek humor, the cultural critiques, the exploration of sexuality and religion—yet each period in her career seemed to point to the absolute need to make art, out of anything and everything available. It was without a doubt the life of an artist on the walls of Woman Made, not just her art. [Read more]

Off-Topic | Shawnee Barton

November 12, 2009 · Print This Article

We are pleased to introduce a new series to the Bad at Sports blog.  Off-Topic invites artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to discuss a subject not directly related to the practice of making art. We would like to welcome Shawnee Barton as the first participant in this series with her post, “Thoughts on Feminism and Poker” . Shawnee is currently working on a project in which she keeps a roaming blog on other blogger’s sites. She also will be in the show ” Artist: Unemployed”, a solo installation at LivingRoom Gallery in Chicago, on November 20th. Check back in the coming weeks to see other contributions to the series.

Guest post by Shawnee Barton

Thoughts on Feminism and Poker

The last time I was at the underground poker club on Ashland and Division in Chicago, it was 3 a.m. when I noticed that there was porn on every television in the card room. The porn wasn’t on at 9, 11, or even at 1 a.m, but apparently social conventions left at 3. This club has since been robbed and moved to another location, but when it was still in business, 3 a.m. was also the time when the tiny female server in an even tinier black dress stopped serving cocktails.

I’ve given a lot of thought to what I should wear to work, and by “work” I mean the poker table.   The media clearly rewards female poker players who show cleavage.  If I want to be famous in the poker community, which is a lucrative aspiration, getting my own little black dress would certainly be a shortcut to one measure of success.  Unfortunately though, showing some skin can have consequences at the table.

One of the easiest ways to spot a bluff is to watch someone’s chest to see if the person stops breathing.  People naturally have a freeze/flight/fight response to stress, but because poker players can’t run away or smack the guy across the table, they will often just sit there frozen and hold their breath after bluffing.  Similarly, when people are excited (like when they look down and see pocket aces), the large vein running down the side of the neck pumps blood so hard and fast that you can often see it pulsing from across the felt.  Both of these tells are much more visible on a woman wearing a low cut tank top than on a big guy in a hooded sweatshirt. [Read more]

Damien James on the Chicago Humanities Festival

November 10, 2009 · Print This Article

Matt Groening and Lynda Barry circa 1984 by Michael Sepcot.

Matt Groening and Lynda Barry circa 1984 by Michael Sepcot.

Guest post by Damien James

In the brief Chicago Humanities Festival preview posted a couple of weeks ago, I listed what I hoped would be some highlights, and I wanted to take a moment now that the festival is about halfway through its run to tell you about two events I recently attended so you get a picture—maybe fleeting—of how this years programming is meeting my admittedly high expectations.

In the near future I’ll share more about specific events as well as thoughts on the festival theme—laughter—with the intention of communicating how important the Humanities Festival has been for me, maybe how important it is to the city itself, and possibly beyond. It’s also my hope that it will become important to you, if it isn’t already. After all, each of us is a part of the greater festival of humanities as it plays out in our own lives every day, in the choices we make which not only effect ourselves, but everyone in our local and even global community.

And if this happens to be your city, the excellence of CHF earns you some bragging rights. Privatized parking meters, bogus mayoral claims of how green Chicago is, Land of the Lost-sized pot holes and shitty CTA service, our former governor’s “reality” TV career, and our failure (thank Jesus) to win the Olympic bid are not the only things we have going for us… [Read more]

Dan Graham | Beyond

November 6, 2009 · Print This Article

PhotobucketGuest post by Jen Gillespie

Walker Arts Center October 31, 2009- January 24, 2010

The Show was also at the Whitney and the MOCA

Opening Lecture Saturday October 31st with the curators from all three galleries as well as the band Japanther.

Last weekend I made a pilgrimage to see Dan Graham’s first retrospective in the United States, in its third and final destination, the Walker Arts Center.  The Walker is in Minneapolis, and if you’re from Chicago and you haven’t been, you really should make the trip. Dan Graham’s exhibition Beyond earlier this year was shown at the Whitney in New York (June 25 – October 11, 2009) and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (February 15 – May 25, 2009) and was co-curated by Chrissie Iles (Whitney) and Bennett Simpson (MOCA).  Beyond traces Graham’s influential body of work highlighting his mirror and video installations as well as his conceptual work.  Graham’s work, though over time has changed in its physical product, or the method of his conceptual delivery is tweaked, the work consistently deals with subject-hood, identity, duration/distance and the interconnectivity of environment/subject/object relationships.    Graham’s discussion that took place at the Walker last weekend with the co-curators of the exhibition as well as the band Japanther was a fantastic one.  In this instance it was a rare example of three discordant aspects of the art world making the sweet, sweet music of politely agreeable disagreement.  Each with their own agenda, the curators, Dan Graham, and Japanther, these separate entities all contributed their perspective on Graham’s work, though certainly Dan Graham got the final word. It is after all, his, that’s only fair.  Check out the link to view this discussion, Dan Graham is absolutely a legend and shouldn’t be missed.  I highly recommend the journey before the show comes down in January.

[Read more]

Top three Halloween Picks

October 30, 2009 · Print This Article

Guest post by Jen Gillespie

I am headed out of town for the Halloween weekend, a trip you will undoubtedly hear about next week. I am headed to Minneapolis to see Dan Graham speak at the Walker Art Center.  Though I am extremely excited about this mini-break holiday weekend I am experiencing some pangs of regret, or perhaps just longing for the things I will be missing out on in Chicago.  There are, as always far more things going on this weekend than any one person could hope to do, see, or experience.  Though Halloween is often a time for mischief, costumes, and toying with fear, my suggestions are all to do with participating, since Halloween is also a time to get out and be part of the community.


Chicago Critical Mass If you have never been part of their monthly ride its likely you’ve at least seen them, the hundreds of cyclists clogging the streets that have come together to ride into the night… hard to miss.  The last Friday of every month bicyclists meet at daily plaza and ride throughout Chicago.  Critical Mass happens all over the world and Chicago’s turnout, especially for the ride this weekend, is definitely one to be a part of.  The Mass always has a tinge of a political presence that reminds the public to be aware of cyclists by presenting an army of bicyclists coming together in their shared passion and support for biking in whatever role it takes in individual lives and greater civic culture. This ride, the Halloween ride, each year though it is festive with the spirit of Halloween throughout the crowd, it is also a memorial to those that have been injured and killed in bicycle related accidents.  Everyone is welcome, costumes are encouraged, and the only thing you need is your bike.

5:30pm Friday, October 30

Chicago Critical Mass bike rides start from Daley Plaza, Dearborn & Washington at 5:30 pm on the last Friday of each month, regardless of season or weather. They are free and fun.

For more info:

Neo-Futurarium- An Andersonville safe-haven for a unique experimental theater project that has been around Chicago for nearly 20 years. Built on such platforms as “just when you thought we couldn’t neuter anymore dogma” and “theater that signs your yearbook with a puffy silver pen and promises never to seduce your brother again.”

Neo- Futurists- A local theater collective best known for their production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes.  This fall they present their Halloween performance:


Last shows- Friday October 30th and Saturday October 31st 7:30 pm

Conceived and curated by Noelle Krimm.  The Neo-Futurists call this performance art tour “a thinking man’s haunted house.”   Comprised of vignettes including, but not limited to, one with a creepy serial killer about fetishes and violent impulses, to do with Edgar Allen Poe and all things terrifying.  As with all Neo-Futurist performances the ‘now’ is not evaded or ignored, they don’t go for the ‘suspension of disbelief’ gimmick. The Neo-Futurists’ ‘Fear’ should not be missed. At the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. $15; T: 773-275-5255

For more information about this show or others by the Neo-Futurists:


National Museum of Mexican Art

Day of the Dead is this Monday November 2nd; every year this museum puts together a solid exhibition with a cultural education bent that is lovely.  I’ve been several times over the years, if you haven’t been, you should visit this year.

Camino a casa: Day of the Dead

Exhibition runs through December 13, 2009

Museum Hours 10 AM – 5 PM 
Tuesday – Sunday

The National Museum of Mexican Art’s 23rd annual Día de Muertos exhibition, the largest annual Day of the Dead exhibition in the Nation, featuring more than 20 artists from Mexico and the U.S., a special ofrenda (offering, usually made on or of an altar) created for Arturo Velasquez Sr. (1915-2009) and an ofrenda created by the acclaimed author Sandra Cisneros as a tribute to her parents.  The National Museum of Mexican Art is the largest Latino cultural organization in the country and the only Latino museum accredited by the American Association of Museums. The Museum is located at 1852 West 19th Street, Chicago, IL 60608 in the Pilsen neighborhood, adjacent to Little Village. Closed Mondays. Admission is FREE for exhibitions. Performing Art events are subject to ticketing. Donations are graciously accepted. Contact Phone 312.738.1503 Museum Hours 10 AM – 5 PM 
Tuesday – Sunday

For information on this exhibit:

I hope you have the very best Halloween, and if you can, try to support a local arts organization or participate in an event in your community in the process!