EDITION #5

March 18, 2013 · Print This Article

MCA programming edgier than a basement party in Pilsen

In her recent AFC review, Robin Deluzen wrote that the MCA is “on a roll” and What’s the T? couldn’t agree more.

This Tuesday will mark the opening of Jason Lazurus’ much anticipated and hotly discussed 12×12 BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works Exhibition. The exhibition appears to actually be three in one and has more programming than Michigan Avenue has drunk people on St. Patricks Day. The schedule includes (but is not limited to) signs for strolling, piano performances, a gif film screening (April 18th at Gene Siskel Film Center/ Conversations the Edge), and sign-making tutorials. The exhibition(s) and performances will be on view through June 18th.

Next Tuesday, March 26th, Chicago’s White/Light will be performing with [freaking] Kim Gordon. The only thing more exciting would be a Sonic Youth secret reunion show, but WTT? isn’t complaining. Tickets are free (!), but space is limited. Get our your camping gear out, this will be one for the ages.

As if all that and a bag of chips wasn’t enough, Oak Park natives, Tavi Gevinson and Jonah Ansell will be at the museum on April 23rd to discuss their work on the animated short, Cadaver. No offense Jonah Ansell, but OMG TAVI! The event includes a screening of the short and a discussion with Gevinson and Ansell moderated by Heidi Reitmaier, the MCA’s Beatrice C. Mayer Director of Education.

Oak Park Suburbanites, Gevinson and Ansell

Reading is Fundamental

Local band Fish proves e-cigs still trending. Image courtesy of The Foundation for Jiggles.

Local bands play music at bar

If you’ve ever walked by The Mutiny, you’ve probably noticed the “Bands Wanted” notice prominently displayed in their front window. If you’ve ever actually been inside the Fullerton Ave bar, you probably know why.

Regardless, a consortium of artists from The Hills to The West Pilsen Sculpture Garden have somehow managed to further expand their practices and are now “with the band, man.” The innocuously named “Chicago Music CDs showcase / CD release party” promises to be a glorious happening of music and stuff.

The show will feature “emerging new chicago music and experimental performance talent” such as FREE THE UNIVERSE (members of Fish, New Capital, Auditor), Fish (members of FREE THE UNIVERSE, Auditor), Ghosts (members of My Bad) and My Bad (members of Ghosts), amongst other bands no one has ever heard of because they probably didn’t exist until this show.

At least it’s free.

Thursday, March 28th at 8PM. The Mutiny 2428 N Western Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60647.

Michelle Obama has bangs!

Brandon Alvendia’s Sofa King What?

Show was worth the trek to Bridgeport. His practice invigorates others and that’s what’s important.

Header image is a detail shot of Heather Mekkelson‘s recent installation at +medicine cabinet in Bridgeport, near Sofa King.

‘The Alley’

SMALLTIME ARCHIPHILE:

The Fireside Bowl

‘Over the line’ and ‘Hey motherfucker, we’re that Spic band’ aren’t two expressions you might simultaneously hear unless you like The Big Lebowski and Los Crudos. But you may have heard it at some point in the 1990s while bowling your mediocre 104, eating a pizza and watching an iconic hardcore punk show at Fireside Bowl. Seldom do you get the productive slippage between national slacker pastime and radical teenage angst that would have been a mainstay at Fireside. This modern gem modularly clad in red-and-white metal tile façade, symmetrically planned with bowling on one end and horizontal circulation on the other, activating corner spaces where the action happened – stage left and bar right – looks more like a Firestone than a punk bowling alley.

Los Crudos show, 1999

Beginning with its 40 ft signage that is part pop-advertising, part surrealist call-to-bowl, Fireside’s modernism plays out in typical plan, allowing basic front-to-back bowling to occur next to stage dives, dog piles and circle pits in a circulatory space no wider than 15 ft – folding slow-paced sport and high-energy hardcore into the same form. Sporting seedy bar décor and MS-DOS-like scoring machines, Fireside’s ability to transport you to a time you never experienced is uncanny. Built in the 1940s, no doubt typified by modernist aesthetic leanings, Fireside is a monument to simplicity of a pre-digital era, where you could’ve killed two birds – bowling and slamdancing – with one roll.

Night shot of Fireside facade

Fireside still has shows, although not as iconic or plentiful as this show list from the mid 90s. Take a gander, go to Logan Square and be a shitty bowler, while this building still exists between eras, pastimes and subcultures, easily annihilating any validity to cosmic bowling.

The Fireside is located at 2646 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647.

Alvendia and Sofa King proprietor Christopher Smith speaking with a visotor at the opening.


Comfort Station regains will to comfort

The much-beloved Logan Square Comfort Station is much-missed during the winter months when the tiny art shelter is too cold to host their usually full schedule of exhibitions, screenings and musical performances. As a result of actual community effort, the 1915 structure is embarking on a much needed and environmentally friendly weatherproofing, funded in part by a Kickstarter and in-partnership with Logan Square business, Biofoam, a sustainable insulation company.

Limited Edition Print by Sonnenzimmer available through contribution to LSCS Kickstarter Campaign.

Not only will the Comfort Station get a physical makeover, their programming returns on Saturday, April 6th* with the exhibition “Sounds from the second floor: Isak Applin and Adam Ekberg”. What’s the T? has also heard rumors of a brand new website and more new programs for the Station’s 2013 Season.

Comfort Station Logan Square has impressively reached their Kickstarter goal with over a week to go, but if you donate now you still have a chance to get the most Logan of Squares tote bag possible and your name on a list alongside Chicago art luminaries and trendsetters (this reporter included).

* Which is, thankfully, not in conflict with the April 7th two-hour Mad Men Season 6 premiere.

Week in Review

March 17, 2013 · Print This Article

THIS WEEK! Some great posts — Aiding his ongoing comparison between the Big East Coast City Life and Small Town Midwest, Shane McAdams got a speeding ticket.

Belfast_2-Skrandis _LT

Social Practice Tuesdays featured Mary Jane Jacob’s post about Belfast, Ireland, where she participated in an EU endeavor called City (Re)Searches:

“The Belfast conversation was not just about supporting enrichments or extending access to entertainment, though these ways of experiencing culture were there, too: from classes to community care programs to opera to technology. But it was also about imagining a wider narrative that can enable a realization of the part we each play—not divided into dark and light matter—and one where the possibility of everyone’s own agency can come into the foreground. This is maybe not always result in changing the world, but it can lead to life well lived. “Cultural agency is not dependant on artists, though their way of seeing and practicing can offer moments of insight and real vision. One thing we know well in Chicago is that by working in collaboration, participating in making culture, we have agency in the world. This cultural agency is about self and collective determination.”

And Abby Satinsky’s reflections on Mess Hall, and how to measure socially engaged art projects:

“I really am going to miss Mess Hall. I say that with unabashed sentimentality. It will remain a compass for me because of its messiness, its utopian promise, its desire to be so wholly other than the typical art institution and outside the market, and because its sweet belief that social and economic justice could exist coterminously with a desire to be an ethical, socially-engaged culture-maker. Go see them before they close, the final party is on Friday, March 29. As they say: Join us for our final gathering in the space. We will say our farewells with a parade, a key-tossing ceremony and a night-long party. The current key-holders do not wish to leave the space alone. We will leave it as we found it: together. “PS: Never the Same is doing a free seminar this summer on archiving Chicago’s politically and socially engaged history, their call for participation is here!”

Rachel Mica Weiss, Engulfing the Elusory, (detail), 2013. Industrial nylon net, paint, epoxy, wire, string, plastic bladders, water, dye, LEDs.  Glacier/figural form: approx. 70” x 36” x 40”.  Install view: dimensions variable

Rachel Mica Weiss, Engulfing the Elusory, (detail), 2013. Industrial nylon net, paint, epoxy, wire, string, plastic bladders, water, dye, LEDs. Glacier/figural form: approx. 70” x 36” x 40”. Install view: dimensions variable

The San Francisco report came in via Jeffrey Songco. “To be blunt,” Songco writes, “It’s been quite difficult to write about Rachel Mica Weiss. Her seemingly simple artwork of woven fibers, heavy rocks, and large tapestries of knots deliver moments of considered contemplation. For me, that contemplation reduces my chances of finding something to write about. It’s like taking a really wonderful bubble bath, and then realizing that you’ve just been soaking in all your grimy dirt, so you have to get up and take a shower.” Songco  goes on to interview Weiss about her first solo show, a window show nylon nets, plastic bladders, salt, pigment and lights.

J: Can you share some ideas that were present from the start of the project and then some that emerged post-press release? R: I guess this project, like a lot of my work, started with the idea of self-containment. I’m thinking about the ways in which we place limitations on ourselves. J: You mean like self-control? “I’m only going to have one more cupcake.” R: Sure. This project in particular kind of took on a more global or geologic perspective. It was definitely informed by human practices around climate change, but in a more general way, it’s talking about our attempts to contain that which doesn’t want to be contained. These crates – or what should I call them – these box forms are trying to hold on to pounds and pounds of salt, but it’s a ridiculous task because it’s pouring out of the net. It’s futile. I guess the other side of the installation deals with the opposite extreme: trying to hold on to something so tight that you lose access to it, like the plastic bladders of water that are wrapped in net, and then wrapped in another layer of net – it’s this precious resource nobody can even get to.

Feeling blue? Follow some of Richard Holland’s mood remedies. This week, Holland suggests som COAST to COAST AM radio. 

Sarah Crowner, Ciseaux Rideaux, Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

Sarah Crowner, Ciseaux Rideaux, Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

A couple of weeks ago, Eric Asboe wrote to me to point out that Bad at Sports had failed to include a dispatch from the great Minneapolis. Thanks to Asboe, I am happy to say that my editorial oversight was officially remedied this week via his dispatch. Asboe addresses two shows in “Process, Here And There: One View of Twin Cities” —  Painter Painter at The Walker Art Center and R.U.R. at The Soap Factory,  calling them “spare, quiet returns to formalism.” Asboe goes on to say, “These glimpses into the processes of the artists point to the larger concerns of both exhibitions generally. As static and formal as the works appear to be, the exhibitions are truly invitations to move beyond the walls of the gallery, to delve into the process of art making, to begin exploring the artists’ bodies of work and their relations to contemporary art practices.” Sokolow2013_promo Richard Holland interviews the highly esteemed and ever illustrious Deb Sokolow, about her solo show at Western Exhibitions — a show inspired bySokolow’s residency in Norway last summer: “The story is loosely based on the residency’s environs and I wrote the residency’s administrators and the other artists there into the story as characters… I don’t want to reveal too much- but the idea for it comes from this feeling I had about the place. The entire two months I was there, I kept thinking, ‘What’s the catch?’ Because the place is an artist’s fantasyland: Each artist receives a monthly stipend, a travel stipend, a beautifully designed cabin and a large, gorgeous studio with a whole wall of windows looking out on the most beautiful Nordic forest scene ever, and there is a significant amount of uninterrupted time to work. Everything about it just seemed too good to be true, so I thought that maybe the place could be a front for something else.” (Editor’s note: To emphasize their wisdom, I emboldened that last sentence.) Sokolow’s show opened this last Friday and will be up until April 20th. transference_720 Stephanie Burke’s TOP 5!!! (A phrase that should always be shouted through a megaphone, in the same style used by Monster Truck Rally-ers nation wide). I also announced a panel discussion about Service Media that took place at the Cultural Center this last Saturday.

chainmaille at the Arizona Ren Fest; I regretfully lost their business card

chainmaille at the Arizona Ren Fest; I regretfully lost their business card

Danny Orendorff put together a fantastic post about visiting your family, finding kinship at a Renaissance fair, and ruminating on the potential of craft to both document and celebrate alternative familial pasts/presents/futures. “Yes, I went to The Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace,” Orendorff writes. “Sure, there were obscene amounts of turkey legs and synthetic fairy hats. But, there were also inventive, and unusual, and entirely self-determined lives being lived by an all female group of traveling weavers, by a motorcycle posse displaying self-designed insignia, by the self-described ‘Family of Artisans‘ hand-making gorgeous moccasinsas part of Catskill Mountain Leather Co., by the cute fire whip master being assisted by the falconer’s girlfriend, and even by the falcons themselves – rescued and rehabilitated by this hodgepodge group of folks. I met an older gentlemen carving wood spoons and thought to myself, despite my complete lack of artisan skill, that I could do that too. I wondered about apprenticeship as a possible alternative for the establishment of intergenerational connectedness. I encountered an oddball bunch of chainmaille artisans who looked at me knowingly, with love, as I admired their sexy two-tone halter top – the one with a silver women’s symbol subtly entwined with classic gold chain.”

Ann Toebbe, "Margie and Neal," 2012 mixed media on panel, 32 x 40 inches

Ann Toebbe, “Margie and Neal,” 2012
mixed media on panel, 32 x 40 inches

I interviewed Chicago painter Ann Toebbe about her show at ebersmoore. When asked about the way she painted windows in her interior spaces, Toebbe replied: “A friend told me that he knows my world until he looks outside my house. I take a lot of liberty in painting the outdoor views that will be covered by curtains or partially hidden from view by furniture. I desperately want to paint loose and to be expressionistic and these obscured outdoor spaces give me the opportunity to be painterly. I use washy, sponged, and pooling paint in the window views in the newer work. Another clue that the room is a painting and isn’t grounded in reality.” public_collectors001 Bailey Romain talks Public Collectors: “I may have been largely attracted by the gold sparkly cover when I picked up a copy of “Public Collectors” at Zine Fest a few weeks ago. The glittery paper is wonderfully complemented by the diagram of a fragmented and grimacing human face – shown both frontally and in profile, and topped by the caption “FEELING AND EMOTION IN EVERYDAY LIFE” (the image is scanned from “Psychology: The Fundamentals of Human Adjustment,” published 1946).”  

“Feeling and Emotion in Everyday Life” / Collecting and Collecting Collections

March 17, 2013 · Print This Article

Public Collectors is a self-proclaimed paper blog, as well as a website and Tumblr feed, that seeks to archive and make freely available material that may have no other venue: lists, conversations, collages, notes, fliers, temporary tattoos, classified ads, etc. “Public Collectors” is library, museum, zine, reference center, and studio simultaneously (and probably – necessarily – it is more then that as well).

I may have been largely attracted by the gold sparkly cover when I picked up a copy of “Public Collectors” at Zine Fest a few weeks ago. The glittery paper is wonderfully complemented by the diagram of a fragmented and grimacing human face – shown both frontally and in profile, and topped by the caption “FEELING AND EMOTION IN EVERYDAY LIFE” (the image is scanned from “Psychology: The Fundamentals of Human Adjustment,” published 1946).

public_collectors001

A disparate and well curated collection of images and ephemera, it includes such gems as a handmade flier for a lost hat, and a photo of a sign featuring an image of the drag queen Divine.

public_collectors003 public_collectors004

The project is run by Marc Fischer of Temporary Services. The material included is gleaned from Fischer’s own collections, but also is donated for public accessibility. The website version of “Public Collectors” is an amazing reference for – well, probably things that you didn’t know you had to be referred to yet but maybe, somehow, you always wanted to be. It has links to a woman’s blog on which she has posted PDFs of all her notes from college, a link to a fantastic video of Danzig discussing his book collection, a link to photos someone posted somewhere on the internet of the inside of their mother’s house (she’s a hoarder). There is a list of links to web documented collections, including cigarette lighters, “do not  disturb” signs, hip hop party fliers, the sound of cats purring (a personal favorite of mine), pictures of celebrities playing tennis, and creatively designed periodic tables. The world is a wonderful place.

I don’t know what Fischer’s curatorial restraints are – perhaps it’s purely intuitive – but the general trend is towards subcultural ephemera, such as the poster for an Alice Cooper tribute band or the page from “New Dominant,” a British publication of dominatrix classifieds.

public_collectors002

What strikes me most about “Public Collectors” is the nurturing formation of alternative collections – collections based on, formed and informed by a unique and maybe not coherently logical set of interests or constraints. I don’t know if I entirely agree with Fischer’s assertion in his curatorial statement that the material in “Public Collectors” is passed over by libraries and museums. I myself work in a library where one of my responsibilities is to file additions to our collection of ephemera related to the history of printing. This includes finely printed broadsides and prospectuses, but also just a lot of what would generally be classified as junk mail. Additionally, several collections from CPLs Harold Washington Library are referenced; the cover of the collection of non-musical recordings in included in the issue I own.

public_collectors005

Also, an interview with the former curator of Harold Washington’s picture collection is included on the website in a download-able PDF booklet.

I think more to the point is the culling of these materials from their disparate locales into new aggregate collections. It is this method of collecting – both a relic of the victorian era and/or a focused re-interpretation of the image overload received daily from the internet and digital media – that is not fostered by many institutions. It is D.I.Y. collecting at it’s finest and most articulate. In scanning these images and re-blogging them, I guess I am adding “Public Collectors” to my own collection, and to the collection that is Bad at Sports.

Bailey Romaine is a printmaker and bibliophile (and maybe a collector of sorts) currently living in Chicago.

 

The Floor Gives Away: An Interview with Ann Toebbe

March 16, 2013 · Print This Article

Ann Toebbe, "Death Beds," 2012, mixed media on panel, 60 x 46 inches

Ann Toebbe, “Death Beds,” 2012, mixed media on panel, 60 x 46 inches

Ann Toebbe is well known for her stylized, architectural paintings — paintings of empty rooms occupied only by objects. These are rooms at rest, between uses, and the furnishings within them stand enigmatic and remote, at once pointing to a network of human relations while being simultaneously autonomous; it is as though these things are preoccupied with a non-human work. Toebbe’s chairs seem to be doing very well for themselves, even when not fulfilling their intended, anthropocentric function. In her latest solo show at ebersmoore, The Inheritance, Toebbe introduces humans for the first time. The human figure shares space with its furnishings, pointing to a narrative that seems, at first, more accessible. It is a narrative that invokes the artist’s biography as well. By way of a press release, we learn that these ornate tableaus tell a story of inheritance and greed — “Dorothy and Jessie also left shares of their P&G stock to their handyman and caretaker, Ron; to their church pastor, and to a man from their church named Loreaux. But when Dorothy and Jessie died, Loreaux claimed a greater share and sued the estate. While the lawsuit was pending the stock market crashed; by the time it was all over, the fortune was all but wiped out. Toebbe’s parents had counted on the inheritance for their retirement, but because of Loreaux’s greed, all they inherited was frustration, disappointment, and anger.” While this narrative hovers like a background noise, the figures depicted seem remote from it at first. They stand or sit, static as any area rug, bed or book case. Together, these various, human and non-human, elements conspire to create an illusion of stability and cohesion, an illusion that ties in directly with our expectations of domestic life. The home is supposed to be a solid and reliable structure. It never is simply that, however, especially when one considers the transmission of its objects between generations. As a result the given narrative reminds the viewer that what one assumes based on a constellation of objects is only ever half of the whole story. While Toebbe presents calm scenes of the home, she nevertheless reminds us of an unpredictable and dynamic vitality therein, incorporating shifting POVs and gestural marks that evoke the emotional somersaults in a home and its family. Somersaults not always visible from the sphere of personal affects. It is perhaps the way any home works, being at once functional and flighty, recognizable and strange.

Caroline Picard: How do you think about the objects in a given space?

Ann Toebbe: I have a knack for flattening space. It wasn’t considered a great asset in my early training in drawing and painting but I have cultivated my skewed perception — often called folk or faux naïve — of space. I imagine objects flat first, then bend and fold them in creative ways to make everything fit in a given room.

Ann Toebbe, "The Benefactors," 2011 cut paper, paint, pencil on paper, 42 x 35 inches Private Collection

Ann Toebbe, “The Benefactors,” 2011
cut paper, paint, pencil on paper, 42 x 35 inches
Private Collection

CP: Yeah, there are points in a given painting with the orientation of a viewer to the scene will completely shift form, for instance, a bird’s eye view transforms into an eye level sight line.

AT: I started out using predominantly a bird’s eye view. My early paintings look like cardboard boxes with the lid taken off. You’d look in and see a room in my version of three-point perspective. I drew the lines of the wall in perspective making the floor look like it was in deep space. As I painted more rooms the architecture flattened out — it’s simpler for me to unfold the walls rather than try to use extreme perspective to include everything. The rooms are unstable in terms of gravity but since I know from the start how the painting will be oriented and place things accordingly, they feel grounded.

CP: That’s what’s so striking to me: even though the POV shifts dramatically, the objects you paint feel grounded and stable — even the way you incorporate materials like doily fabric, or the grounding pattern running across the floor — everything has this visual tactile quality, but then you’ll suddenly twist the POV — can you talk about that a bit?

AT: The Inheritance is my first mixed media show. I included fabric from my mom’s wedding dress, yarn, store bought Christmas lights, and grass paper intended for train sets. My mom inspired The Inheritance and she loves kitsch.

Ann Toebbe, "Margie and Neal," 2012 mixed media on panel, 32 x 40 inches

Ann Toebbe, “Margie and Neal,” 2012
mixed media on panel, 32 x 40 inches

CP: This is the first time I’ve ever seen you incorporate the human figure into your work — how did that transition came about? Did the human form felt like an intrusion in your conception of space?

AT: I’ve wanted to include the figure for a while. I can’t count the times I’ve been asked why human figures aren’t there or if I’d ever include them. I wanted to give it a try — why not? I just had to come up with the right body of work. Without figures the mood or emotion in the rooms is very different — it’s still or even embalmed. The rooms represent many similar memories compressed into one picture — so the paintings are always in the past and the memory centers around how the room was decorated and the furniture arranged.

The Inheritance is a story about a specific time and place and also about a specific set of relationships. The people don’t feel like an intrusion in this particular body of work. It wouldn’t have been interesting to paint the rooms without them.

CP: What is the difference between living subjects and furniture in your paintings?

AT: It’s not evident from the digital images but the figures and furniture in The Inheritance are cut paper collage not painting. I constructed everything in the rooms with the same level of care and detail — a folk art thing. The furniture and figures are stiff, sort of like a carved wood sculptures. I carefully chose the figures’ poses especially how they positioned their hands and feet. A posed figure is different from placed and positioned furniture. The figures change the role of some of the furniture. Instead of being stand-ins for the figure, as in previous paintings, the chairs and couches become props for the people sitting on them.

CP: What is it about the domestic setting that compels you?

AT: I started using domestic settings in New York in my twenties. I lived in Brooklyn and was homesick. I had no real intention of returning to Ohio but at the time everything in my life was topsy-turvy and uncertain. I stumbled into painting interiors because it felt comfortable and so many things about living as an artist made me uncomfortable. The funny thing is now that my life is more like Ohio, I miss unruly Brooklyn; so I’ve made several paintings about my Williamsburg apartment. Painting interiors calms me down and allows me to focus on formal concerns — composition, color, shape, texture. I spend my studio time inventorying life and putting things in order, this works for me as an artist.

There’s a story behind each painting and collage. In the early work they were my stories — sleepovers at my grandmother’s farm, mopping my kitchen’s white tile floor, the neighbors messy house where I babysat. In the newer work I ask people to draw and describe rooms from their memory — my husband’s apartment with his ex-wife, my mom’s attic bedroom growing up, my uncle’s one bedroom apartment…

Ann Toebbe, "The Ex-Wife's Plants and Things," 2012 cut paper, colored pencil, paint, gouache on paper 39 x 42 inches Collection of Fidelity Investments

Ann Toebbe, “The Ex-Wife’s Plants and Things,” 2012
cut paper, colored pencil, paint, gouache on paper
39 x 42 inches
Collection of Fidelity Investments

CP: I am also really interested in your depiction of the outdoors — the “natural” landscape is always framed by a window, and your treatment of that outdoors is totally different, the way you describe trees, for instance, feels much more gestural and abstract — as though it is composed in a different vocabulary of mark making. How did that variation came about, and what does it say about the domestic tableaus you create?

AT: A friend told me that he knows my world until he looks outside my house.

I take a lot of liberty in painting the outdoor views that will be covered by curtains or partially hidden from view by furniture. I desperately want to paint loose and to be expressionistic and these obscured outdoor spaces give me the opportunity to be painterly. I use washy, sponged, and pooling paint in the window views in the newer work. Another clue that the room is a painting and isn’t grounded in reality.

CP: Maybe this also ties into a similar idea of framing and mark-vocabulary, but I you also quote other paintings — you know, because it’s a domestic scene so of course these people have paintings on the wall, and then you copy them. But here again, there is a stylistic break that I’m really interested in. What happens in those moments? Those little framed images also feel so pastoral, or decorative, and that seems like a kind of meta-conversation that you are having as a painter painting these very decorative, domestic tableaus…..does that make any sense?

AT: Perfect sense! My compositions are made up of the all objects in a room. And as you said this includes the artwork or pictures on the walls. My approach or technique for depicting the art within the art is to do what is most economical. For cats or fruit I look online for simple images and abstraction often comes from cut outs of paintings made by my young daughters. The miniature art works channel the Sunday painter in me along with my admiration for dollhouse craft. It’s much easier to paint small — each little artwork can be very detailed but only takes an hour versus weeks to make.

The stylistic breaks you mentioned, the outdoor spaces and miniature artworks, are ways for me flex different artistic muscles and at the same time ride the balance between modern and folk and representation and abstraction.

 

 

Travelogue: Craft & (Queer) Kinship

March 15, 2013 · Print This Article

Angela Ellsworth, Lady Ties for a Line Dance, 2010

Angela Ellsworth, Lady Ties for a Line Dance, 2011

Family was most certainly on my mind as I traveled to the Southwest this past month. My immediate biological relatives all currently reside in the Phoenix-metro area, where they’ve either retired or chosen to start new families of their own. As a single, unmarried, sorta-employed, queer, urban artist-type in my late twenties, the experience of visiting brothers and babies, parents and grandparents, is often fraught with self-conscious anxieties over belonging, and adulthood, and dependency, and mixed feelings of togetherness. While I am privileged to have my connections to blood-relatives be strong and loving, when left alone to wander I found myself not only imagining, but actually encountering, unconventional and affectionate familial bonds existent outside the heteronormative nuclear unit, outside of a romantic or sexual dyad, and even outside of this, perceived, time period.

The Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Fair

The Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace

Yes, I went to The Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace. Sure, there were obscene amounts of turkey legs and synthetic fairy hats. But, there were also inventive, and unusual, and entirely self-determined lives being lived by an all female group of traveling weavers, by a motorcycle posse displaying self-designed insignia, by the self-described ‘Family of Artisans‘ hand-making gorgeous moccasins as part of Catskill Mountain Leather Co., by the cute fire whip master being assisted by the falconer’s girlfriend, and even by the falcons themselves – rescued and rehabilitated by this hodgepodge group of folks. I met an older gentlemen carving wood spoons and thought to myself, despite my complete lack of artisan skill, that I could do that too. I wondered about apprenticeship as a possible alternative for the establishment of intergenerational connectedness. I encountered an oddball bunch of chainmaille artisans who looked at me knowingly, with love, as I admired their sexy two-tone halter top – the one with a silver women’s symbol subtly entwined with classic gold chain.

chainmaille at the Arizona Ren Fest; I regretfully lost their business card

chainmaille at the Arizona Ren Fest; I regretfully lost their business card

I neither want to reduce nor romanticize the profundity with which I felt the recognition of a feeling, and felt recognized by this feeling, from these encounters. It’s a feeling I’m attempting to call familial. It’s produced, in part, by observing the craft, the labor, of people doing things together, of living lives made possible because of that craft, that labor, that togetherness.

Angela Ellsworth with Seer Bonnets, 2009-2010

Angela Ellsworth with Seer Bonnets, 2009-2010

Angela Ellsworth is not only an artist I’ve worked with, but one that I’ve enjoyed knowing for many years. Much of Ellsworth’s recent performances and artworks (as with Lady Ties for a Line Dance, appearing at the top of this post) situates domestic handicraft, pioneer-era material culture, and visual archetypes of the Mormon sister wife within decidedly feminist, erotic, and often irreconcilable contexts. Her 2009-2010 series of pearl corsage pin adorned cotton bonnets (known as Seer Bonnets) produces this irreconcilability with great impact. These are glorious, textural, glistening objects – like fetishes – elevated through Ellsworth’s resourceful, laborious application of pins into cloth, producing heavy, dangerous, intimidating, and (thereby) thrilling compositions. Varying in height, sometimes connected by cotton, and altogether arranged into indecipherable arrangements, there is both uniformity and uniqueness amongst this work.

Line Dancing at Cash Inn Country

Line Dancing at Cash Inn Country

Ellsworth happens to live in Phoenix, and teaches at Arizona State University. Upon my arrival, much of my aforementioned family-visitation anxiety was quickly alleviated because of one simple invitation she extended; “Two words for you: Line Dancing.” Within 24-hours of my arrival to the Valley, I found myself at the wondrous, decidedly lo-fi lesbian bar Cash Inn Country literally able to enter, in unison, a queer, alternative context. Variation and variability was everywhere (in fashion sense, in gender expression, in age, in line-dance know how), and the silliness of dancing came with the relief of realization that this was, indeed, an integral, important, beloved part of Ellsworth’s uncommon art practice.

LJ Roberts, The Queer Houses of Brooklyn in The Three Towns of Breukelen, Boswyck, and Midwout During the 41st Year of the Stonewall Era, 2011

LJ Roberts, The Queer Houses of Brooklyn in The Three Towns of Breukelen, Boswyck, and Midwout During the 41st Year of the Stonewall Era, 2011

As luck, or a severe Chicago winter storm, would have it, a delayed flight allowed me to meet up with another craft oriented queer artist occasioning Phoenix for biological family, as well. LJ Roberts and I first met in San Francisco, when I was too young to truly realize how much we have (or would come to have) in common. I knew Roberts as the artist who in 2005, with great aplomb, re-added the word ‘Crafts’ – in bright pink furry yarn – to the signage announcing a reconverted warehouse space as the current, recently retitled home of the California College of the Arts. However, it was Roberts’ sprawling, dazzling work The Queer Houses of Brooklyn… (2011), that I had just recently seen at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC, that was on my mind when we met in Phoenix. The piece operates like a soft, interactive map of radical queer lives lived politically otherwise both past and present. Appropriately, I was fascinated to learn that the work was produced while Roberts was living collectively in an anarchist household outside Richmond, VA. This added bit of information only helped make more clear what I already suspected about this work; it is a testament, a document and gesture, honoring the families we can choose – be them queer, Renaissancian, whatever.