Not to be confused with tfw Kevin Arrow blows your mind with some Obsolete Media Miami.
TFW: You’re For Real Over Art Basel
But you can’t look away because art?
Last year we lamented the Art World Spring Break that is Art Basel, and unsurprisingly, this year the focus remained on pretty much anything else BUT the art (see this utterly riveting article “In Miami, Booth Furniture as Compelling as the Art” in the New York Times). Add to this year the eerie and uncanny feeling that we were experiencing more of the week via Instagram than IRL and you find there really is no need to make the trip. You’ve heard it all already– it rained a lot, someone was stabbed, and the US’s biggest art mall remains unfazed.
Self-portrait as this girl in a Neo Rauch painting.
Epic rainstorm kept patrons trapped inside the Perez Art Museum Miami after the evenings festivities ended.
So why write about it at all? A fair question, unfortunately without an answer other than to highlight what WTT? found compelling and noteworthy. (Oh yeah, and for the photos. Mostly for the photos.) If it makes you feel any better, we actually decided to bring the WTT? column back after a letter from Duncan and the stirring Homeroom program, “Self-Portrait in a Kanye Mirror” last Tuesday at the MCA (more on that later), so we’ll try to keep this one brief.
Best text I received the entire week: “We are looking very birdcage, you won’t miss us.”
Coral Morphologic naturally kept us mystified with this work at Miami’s SwampSpace.
Sofia Leiby preparing the evening before her first Miami solo at Michael Jon Gallery next to the McAurthur Milk Factor in Little Haiti.
The ever fashionable Lizzie Newberry at the opening for “redew”, a beautiful exhibition of Miami woman artists presented by Maggie Knox in Little Haiti.
Virgo performing at the opening for “redew”, by Maggie Knox.
Highlights: The schadenfreude I experienced when the “monsoon” (in my mom’s words) literally rained on everyone’s Basel parade. Did you come here to “work”, or what? Also, The Littlest Sister Art Fair (and panels) at Spinello, Anselm Kiefer at Margulies Warehouse (a seriously WTF moment of awe), Coral Morphologic’s installation at SwampSpace, bbgrl Sofia Leiby’s exhibition at Michael Jon, the multicolored breakfast at The Sagamore Hotel (what was up with that art tho?), ceviche, and nearly everything at the Artist-Run Satellite fair in North Beach (hey, not mainland, but at least it’s north of Arthur Godfrey). Snacks.
With artists Misael Soto and Reed Van Brunschot with Van Brunschot’s installation at Spinello’s reprisal of its popular Littlest Sister Art Fair in Little Haiti.
One room of many giant Anselm Kiefer installations at the Margulies Collection.
Pro Tip: Limón y Sabor.
Artists Liz Ferrer and Efrain Del Hierro outside of the Ocean Terrace Hotel, the location for the Artist-Run Satellite Fair.
David Rohn left us breathless after this gorgeously draggy performance at Fantastical Vizcaya on December 5th.
NoLa artist Local Honey inside “Stupid Bar”, part of Baltimore gallery Open Space’s space at Artist-Run fair.
Sweet piece by Derrick Adams in Rhona Hoffman’s ABMB booth.
“Where the snacks at?” The Sagamore Hotel Brunch.
Artist Carol Ferdinand showing tourists how Miamian’s do rain in front of a José Bedia sculpture by the Sagamore’s pool.
Also was very feeling Martine Syms thoughtful, haunting “Art on the Move” project, NITE LIFE, at Locust Projects and on buses and signs around Overtown (pairs excellently and unfortunately with the news that David Beckham is building a soccer stadium there after richer neighborhoods turned him down. “This will be the most responsible stadium development in Miami history,” said no one truthfully ever.).
The beginning of Rashad Newsome’s “King of Arms Miami” parade in front of the de la Cruz Collection in the Design District.
Totally perfect giant post-it note by April Childers in the Penelope room at the Artist-Run fair.
Tapestries by SAIC Alum Robin Kang also in the Penelope room at Artist-Run fair.
Wish I could buy this Jenna Ransom drawing in The Alice’s Artist-Run hotel room.
Tara Long (aka Poorgrrl) performing at the ICA Miami party in a sad Drake t-shirt by Chicago artist David Leggett.
Can we talk about Hernan Bas for a second? Ok. Thanks.
Martine Syms’ bus wrap spotted by Locusts’ Amanda Sanfillipo.
Last but not least, Rashad Newsome’s weirdly under-attended and overly-awesome “King of Arms Miami” Parade in the Design District on Tuesday, Dec 1st. The FMU musicians were rad, Newsome’s lambo was out of control, and the voguing group from NY brought it despite the lackluster crowd, comprised of what seemed like more cameras than people, a pissed off looking Jeffery Deitch and our small group. The annual TM Sisters beach hang on Monday night. Oh, and one more, the performances at Vizcaya!
Trippy install of Robert Chase Heishman photographs and Lauren Clay wallpaper at LVL3’s Untitled booth.
Chicago fashion playboy, Vincent Uribe of LVL3, impeccably matching the gallery’s booth at Untitled with work by Lauren Clay.
Keijaun Thomas and I spent some time in the beautiful curated SEDIMENT presentation in the Artist-Run fair, “Gravity Assist,” featuring none other than lost Chicago boy, David Moré!
This article continued in the third column.
The Weatherman Report
Several Circles, 1926, by Vassily Kandinsky because wtf is going on with the weather rn.
Allison Glenn presents her Kanye Self-Portrait at the MCA on Tuesday night.
Reflections of Self-Portrait in a Kanye Mirror
Homeroom Channels Doctor West at the MCA
Free Tuesdays are generally bustling at the MCA, though I was still surprised to see that nearly 20 minutes before the much-anticipated Homeroom’s School Night: Self-Portrait in a Kanye Mirror was set to begin on Dec 15th, the (Wolfgang Puck?) Cafe was already filled to capacity, with overflow seats starting to fill up in the central hallway of the museum.
Billed as “a multimedia info show with artists and educators who assemble to reflect on the art and life of Kanye West through the lens of their own personal Yeezus” the evenings event featured Krista Franklin, Allison Glenn, and Lisa Yun Lee with Kevin Coval, J. Johari Palacio and Anthony Stepter. And reflect they did.
Fred Sasaki of Homeroom opened the evening with his own personal Yeezus demons, cracking self-deprecating jokes about his unending love for Kanye and his own son’s disapproval of rap music. The vibe was right as Sasaki led the crowd in taking Kanye-inspired “I am a god” selfies and in singing bars of West’s hit “Runaway”. While the roster was pretty long, the guests were stellar and each presentation was just how I like it, short and sweet. The first speaker up, Anthony Stepter, made a compelling attempt to equate his life with Kanye’s, referencing the artists fateful car accident that launched his career. Next was Allison Glenn on Kanye’s “interruptions” as they relate to her own practice as a curator and writer.
Jesse Malmed and I make our best “God” faces.
Following Glenn was what (almost) seemed to be a spontaneous audience performance of a mash-up of Kanye lyrics. Next, coming to the stage to the tune of West’s “Mercy”, J. Johari Palacio presented a light and amusing stream of consciousness on Kanye’s presumed internal monologue, while Lisa Yun Lee opted to use the opportunity to discuss everything from conservative conceptions of “Black Excellence” to misogyny in rap music. While Lee was riveting, she was unfortunately paired with Kevin Coval, who’s spoken word poetry alternating with Lee’s speaking felt awkward. Fortunately, Krista Franklin was there to bring it all back together, offering her own poetic read of Kanye in her piece, “Devil in a New Dress, Or Making Paper with Kanye West.” Stunning.
After the presentations a surprisingly poignant Q&A followed, with Stepter describing his own “constructed” understanding of race in response to a statement from an audience member on anti-Black sentiment. Afterward, many at the MCA adjourned to the Soho House, where J. Johari Palacio satisfied everyone’s need to listen to Kanye songs over cocktails and good conversation. A+++. We heard that audio should be available soon if you weren’t able to attend in person. Pair that with the special mix Palacio created for the evening and enjoy your own KW AP.
After the program ended, Sasaki confided that the School series has a cathartic effect over his personal obsession. While he may have let go of Kanye after last night’s event, he only reignited our own interest in the controversial figure– currently bumping Johari’s mix and thankful for Chicago. 😉
Reading is Fundamental
Because we hate Top 5 lists but love books.
The Papi Project by Oli Rodriguez.
The IRL book culmination of Rodriguez’s ongoing interdisciplinary project including 3D photographic sculptures, video, photography and performance that investigates technology, gay/queer hookup culture and loss through the artist’s attempt to seek out men who had sexual relations with his own father. We *think* the book is available for purchase at David Weinberg, which recently hosted a portion of the project in the “Pearly Foam” exhibition curated by Meg Noe.
Shallow Wounds: Two Accounts of Art Basel 2015. In this collaborative essay WTT? kindred spirits and fellow Miami natives, Rob Goyanes and Dave Rodriguez, expound on the oft felt Basel-related ennui, more flat tires, and Stitches getting punched in the face.
Lori Waxman’s Best of:
We’re super not into pointless lists (*cough*Newcity*cough*), so good news to us (and art writing in general) that Waxman’s waxing on Chicago art in 2015 is a meaty and thoughtful review of her favorite projects of 2015. We were particularly tickled to see Trunk Show’s delightful missives getting love from Lori. We’d also like to add that their twitter, written from the perspective of the 1999 green Ford Taurus him(?)self, is also pretty hilarious.
T around Town
Chicago, it’s been too long!
Because we all know that reviews are boring as fuck.
Alex Bradley Cohen drawing my portrait during his residency with Alberto Aguilar for Next Art Now in the Leo Burnett building. Catch boy wonder, Cohen, at his opening for Trunk Show at Tusk this coming Saturday afternoon.
Speaking of TS, we hope you caught their installation of work by Scott Wolniak in Brandon Alvendia’s “The Great Good Place” exhibition at Threewalls which closed Dec. 12th.
Chelsea Culp breakin’ all the rules at the opening for “The Great Good Place”.
An oldie but a goodie. Bodies at the Center, a performance by Gregg Bordowitz and Marissa Perel presented at the Chicago Humanities Fest in partnership with the ADA 25 Chicago on November 7th. These powerhouses got us thinking and it hasn’t stopped.
We’re still hung over from the overabundance of beauty (and wine) at Inside/Within’s first curatorial presentation, “asperity economy asymmetry austerity intimacy,” at The Franklin this past Saturday, Dec. 12th. Pictured is Chelsea Culp’s “Untitled (Sporty Spice)” on loop girl.
Another clutch work (get it, bananas? 😛 ) by Maddie Reyna in “asperity economy asymmetry austerity intimacy,” at The Franklin this past Saturday, Dec. 12th.
The cuties of No Coast (Aay Preston-Myint & Alex Valentine) at the Medium Cool gift fair at Prairie Productions on November 21st. Affordable work by Latham Owen Zearfoss and Math Bass? Please and Thank You.
Our everyday #WCW’s, Emily Green and Kate Bowen of ACRE holding down the bar at the opening for “Tele Nature, Post Ecologies” at ACRE Projects on November 8th.
November 8th also marked the return of long-dormant New Capital in Garfield Park. Reopening in a newly renovated space with work by Rebecca Beachy, “Inherencies” was a fittingly ritualistic treatment of the gallery space, utilizing burned animal bones and other natural materials to christen every inch. On view through February 2016.
A detail of work by Beachy embedded into the walls of New Capital.
One of the best exhibitions in our recent memory (where you at, Top 10 lists of 2015?), “Twin Rooms” curated by Ionit Behar and Pinar Üner Yilmaz at Julius Cæsar. Work by Bailey Romaine (and Assaf Evron sound piece in the back!).
More work by Bailey Romaine in “Twin Rooms” curated by Ionit Behar and Pinar Üner Yilmaz at Julius Cæsar on November 15th.
Robert Smith III and Jesse Malmed show off their red coats during a late late night shift of Pope.L’s “Cage Unrequited” at the MCA on Nov 21-22nd.
New work in “Post Self”, a collection of other people taking images by Nicholas Frank on view at Western Exhibitions.
Two Milwaukeean’s walk into a gallery. Alec Regan with Nicholas Frank at the opening for “Post Self” at Western Exhibitions last Friday.
Alberto Aguilar (framed by Elsworth Kelly) discussing his work “Room for Intimacy” in the Education Wing of the Art Institute at a private reception for the installation last week. The gave a detailed explanation of the installation before handing the room over to museum education associates for their use.
If you missed Wolfie Rawk’s excellently spooky subterranean video installation “The Island” you have one final chance, TONIGHT at Learning Machine. The closing will feature performance by Sofia Moreno and Rosé Hernandez so don’t be late.
Are the most interesting conversations around socially engaged art happening in your newsfeed?
While we appreciate the effort from Chicago magazine and Jason Foumberg, the recent article “How Chicago Artists Responded to the Laquan McDonald Video” was anemic at best. The fire-y headline left us wanting more. Most lacking was any actual response by artists to the recently released video of the police shooting. It is mostly milquetoast responses by some [highly regarded] Chicago artists. There are some proverbial “shots fired,” wherein [Chicago-ish?] artist and provocateur Pedro Velez calls to Chicago’s main man, Theaster Gates, to make a statement on the situation. Gates apparently declined to comment.
While the Chicago Mag piece tamely leaves it at that, an interesting Facebook thread on Foumberg’s wall continues the conversation with quoted artists Dawoud Bey, Kate Ingold, Robb Stone and Velez adding additional context to their short statements in the article. Regarding Velez’s opinion on Gates, Bey writes “I also disagree with Pedro’s putting Theaster on the spot…as he has in other instances in the past. Not to slight anyone else, but Theaster’s tangible contribution to the city and his own community speaks volumes for his deep engagement.” A lively conversation ensues covering everything from Joe Scanlan’s lecture at UC, to Kanye West’s honorary doctorate at SAIC in 2015.
Meanwhile, in a strange and parallel universe, Chicago Tribune did manage to get a response from Theaster Gates for an article in the paper’s Lifestyle section titled “How to be a good neighbor with Theaster Gates” (can’t make this shit up). The piece does dance around some political concerns, like when Trib’s Lisa Skolnik asks, “I’ve heard you don’t like the word “gentrification.” What term do you prefer?” to which Gates responds “…I hope that what I’m doing is ethical redevelopment…”, but loses me when the “lifestyle” questions come out. Favorite mode of transit? “Roller-skating; I have Chicago Skates classic rink skates.”
MIAMI BASEL RECAP CONTINUED…
Chicago’s very own Sarah & Joseph Belknap with 100% brand new stellar-inspired work at Brooklyn-based Common People’s presentation for Artist-Run fair. Shout out to S&J for camping in the mangroves and for the empanadas and tequila shots!
We were really into this fashionably haphazard installation, “Beast Boutique” by Jennifer Avery at yellow peril gallery in the Artist-Run Satellite.
Avery actually met and married James Swainbank outside of the fair. Covered here by Michael Anthony Farley for AFC.
Speaking of AFC, we loved this dart board by Chicago artist Macon Reed in their “DYKE BAR” at the Artist-Run Satellite.
Local favs, GucciVitton branching out at DesignMiami as Giovanni Beltran with furniture by Jonathan Gonzalez in the curio section of the fair.
With Emily Green, Keijaun Thomas and Efrén Arcoiris at the SAIC 150th Anniversary at the Sagamore Friday Dec 4th.
J. Rip making deals for Green Gallery. Can’t get enough of that amazing lamp in their NADA Booth.
Lowlights and letdowns included Art Basel Miami Beach’s Most Anticipated Collaboration (according to NYT) between Ryan McNamara and Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange). I don’t think the point was to be as boring as humanly possible. I felt pretty bad for Hynes, who seemed to be the most nonplussed of all. Maybe they jinxed themselves with that Coral Castle pic. The Nari Ward show was sick tho (s/o to Diana Nawi for the great work). Never enough snacks. Visiting artists’ instagrammed obsession with the hologram lady at Miami International Airport. The Braman’s massive campaign contributions to Marco Rubio (they are, btw, the family underwriting the ICA Miami) and republicans in general. Wynwood, always. Being barraged by that image of the bleeding woman in the Nova section of ABMB (can I get a trigger warning?!). That I had to choose between taking a falafel pita from Pita Plus or a Publix sub back to Chicago on the plane with me (went for the falafel FYI).
Did the mystical powers of Coral Castle and/or Edward Leedskalnin’s ghost jinx this hotly anticipated collaboration?
So I guess my Basel was ok? At least I finally figured out how to deliberately lower my expectations, and how to change a flat tire (thanks Misa & Domingo). Until next year.
A serene moment with work by Leyden Rodriguez Cassanova at the Miami Center for Architecture & Design before leaving.
My favorite floor. MIA’s public art installation by OG Miami goddess, Michele Oka Doner.
One of our favorite parts of our favorite Miami fair, the Artist-Run Satellite at the dilapidated Ocean Terrace Hotel on 74th street was how the artists and spaces delt with the bathrooms in each suite. These are two of our favorite examples.
Lee Heinemann’s bathroom install presented by Platform Gallery.
Ningún Solicitar’s chaotic bathroom, part of their “Ningún Solicitar Hotel” installation.
Clear Acrylic Art Work
What can we say? We are from Miami, after all.
Nari Ward, Naturalization Drawing Table (2004) on view at PAMM.
Acrylic column by Jason Gringler in the recently closed exhibition New Destruction with James Bouché.
The most must-have accessory of Art Basel Miami Beach 2015
On trend at the Sagamore Hotel brunch crepe line.
Outside of the Hynes/ McNamara performance at PAMM.
Aside from their seriously crucial position in ceviche mixtos, Shrimp are experiencing a revival at the end of 2015.
Delicious and desirable Shrimp Brooch by Brittany Kowalski, available at TUSK.
This super freaking adorable guy (did I just call a shrimp named Cthulhu adorable?) is the star of Jack Schneider’s exhibition at Pilsen gallery Born Nude and the subject of this Hyperallergic review by Kate Sierzputowski.
Header image features a detail image of Sunday Painters, originally conceived by Chelsea Culp and Ben Foch for The Hills Esthetic Center and re-staged on the occasion of “The Great Good Place” curated by Brandon Alvendia at Threewalls.
Hey! We’re back by somewhat popular demand (aka Duncan said so). And we learned how to make video gifs! We hope you enjoyed this super belated edition of the T. Let us know what else you want to hear about by emailing us or hit us up on the tweeter y’all!
Exhibition will be on view September 24, 2016 through January 6, 2017
MADISON, WI— In the fall of 2016, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) will present the Wisconsin Triennial, an exploration of contemporary Wisconsin art. Artists from across the state are invited to apply to this exhibition, to be held September 24, 2016 through January 8, 2017.
As in previous years, the 2016 Triennial will be a juried exhibition selected and organized by the museum’s curatorial staff. Each of the selected artists will be represented by a single work or a small group of works. The Triennial reflects current directions in visual arts, as explored by Wisconsin artists. This exhibition has provided a stage for emerging artists and an opportunity for established artists to develop in new ways; creating what has been seen as one of the most significant exhibitions in the state.
The 2016 Triennial will be installed in the museum’s main galleries, State Street Gallery, and Imprint Gallery; other spaces, such as the lobby and Rooftop Sculpture Garden, may be utilized as well. MMoCA will also produce an illustrated publication to accompany the exhibition.
Artists who are full-time residents of the state of Wisconsin are eligible to submit examples of artworks created in the last three years. The deadline for applications is January 18, 2016. Original work in all media will be considered. Artists may download entry information from the museum’s website at http://www.mmoca.org/wisconsin-triennial-2016. For additional information, contact Tabé Dankert the museum at 608.257.0158 ext. 242 or email@example.com.
Housed in a soaring, Cesar Pelli designed building, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art provides free exhibitions and education programs that engage people in modern and contemporary art. The galleries offer changing exhibitions that feature established and emerging artists. The Rooftop Sculpture Garden provides an urban oasis with an incredible view. The museum is open: Tuesday–Thursday: noon – 5pm; Friday: noon – 8pm; Saturday: 10am – 8pm;Sunday: noon – 5pm; and is closed on Mondays.
I went to a holiday market over the weekend. I had a wonderful time, talking with friends, seeing their new work, purchasing a few items, but the market itself has stuck with me, has left me feeling uncomfortable, cold, and alone instead of gathered with a community of makers, together in a world we shape.
It is easy to think of the art market as a painting that sells for hundreds of millions of dollars, blue chip galleries, and the spread of art fairs. The reality for most people in the creative economy is, of course, far more mundane and precarious. The objects we see and buy at markets are supplemented by the work in and out of the creative economy that most artists must do – teaching, curating, arts administration, waiting tables. The proliferation of markets – seasonal markets, local business Saturday, the internet – has increased our ability to support artists and live with the unique items they produce. I love being able to buy beautiful objects from the people who have made them, yet this readiness, this instantaneous access to the local, unique object is exactly where my uneasiness lies.
The hand-made, bespoke, curated life has, not surprisingly, been turned into marketing opportunities for corporations who can sell them back to us conveniently, at the tip of our fingers. They show us a world full of just the right lamp or rug or coaster or pitcher or plant arrangement; they shape the visual culture we cannot escape in subway ads, internet banners, and instagram feeds; they give us a world full of things to be consumed. The unique, curated life masks middle class consumption, an artistic patina that coats the same marketplace that has driven us to extract oil from the ground at ever-expanding rates, lay now-abandoned railroad tracks across the globe, and develop ships and exploitative supply chains that make it easier to manufacture a shoe halfway around the world from its wearer.
By no means am I suggesting we should not support local artists, artists we know and whose work we love. We should buy their plates and prints and sweaters. We should attend their performances and readings. We must also recognize that buying one of their works is not enough to sustain them and may in fact perpetuate a cycle of subsistence. We all know artists who make a living, but how many artists do we know who are thriving? The solution must go beyond shopping locally. Capitalism’s tools cannot dismantle the house it has so successfully and seamlessly built.
How can we support all of the artists, farmers, and dancers we know beyond giving them money for goods and services? How can we shape a world more fully equal and just? We can begin by acknowledging and honoring the many types of support we all need – a friend holding our baby, a neighbor lending us a tool, a ride to the grocery store. We can recognize that, although we live within it, capitalism does not shape or underlie all of the many types of support we give and receive. We may already have the tools to rebuild an entirely new way of seeing and living in the world. We may not yet be able to topple the stalls in the market, but perhaps we can fashion a raft in the sea of consumption that threatens to drown us all.
It is that time of year again where we think back on all the great experiences and maybe not so great experiences we’ve had this year. We do so with gratitude for the learning and thanks for the love and it is with those two ideas in mind that we humbly suggest that you consider supporting these two great endeavors.
The second is a fundraiser for one of the city’s favorite culture halls. (Also, the one that Duncan (and Christian Kuras) did a solo show with earlier in the year and published a book with. So, it’s really no surprise that it’s one of his favorite culture halls in the Chicago.) Home to artists, poets, book clubs, a bar, and performances. it is bound to be a fantastic event and a great opportunity to pick out some outstanding work. Including a recent work by our own Duncan Mackenzie. But we are not telling which works we’re super interested in picking up you have to be there and find out for yourself.
from Sector and the GL…
This Saturday, December 12th, is a fundraiser for The Green Lantern Press, a nonprofit I started in 2005. At the time, it was easy to turn a loft apartment into a gallery and, with the help of a lot of friends, start publishing books. Since then the organization has grown into something more formal and deliberate. In 2007 we got nonprofit status and just last year found a permanent home at Sector 2337, a newly rehabbed storefront bookstore/bar in Chicago’s Logan Square. The press continues to publish books, produce exhibitions, and organize regular public events at Sector with visiting and local poets, artists, and intellectuals. It is a vibrant place and I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of it. (To see what it looks like, go here.)
In all of its endeavors, The Green Lantern Press platforms a rich, multi-disciplinary discourse full of free public events that encourage intellectual and cultural discussion in a non-institutional setting. Within that model, it is nevertheless committed to paying contributing artists and authors — a goal made possible with help from our audience and community. I’m sure you’re fielding any number of requests like these this time of year, but your support would mean the world.
Despite its ten year commitment to art, literature, and publishing, this is the first fundraiser the GLP has had in seven years, and only the second fundraiser in the history of the organization. With that in mind…
We hope we can all find ways to support these two great endeavors.
and frankly without the GL you would never have been treated to this magical spinning Marx Head by Christian Kuras and Duncan MacKenzie…
In her recent memoir poet laureate Elizabeth Alexander wrote of her deceased husband, “he left us with his eyes on the world.” He was a painter.
Deborah Boardman (1958 – 2015), who once described herself as a “painter and…” worked in Chicago for nearly three decades. We saw her “eyes on the world” through solo exhibitions at the Gahlberg Gallery at the College of DuPage, the Chicago Cultural Center, Ebersmoore, and, most recently, the Experimental Sound Studio to name a few that were local. There were many more nationally and abroad. An educator at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1997, she influenced hundreds of artists, some of whom became her collaborators.
Deborah worked across painting and drawing, installation, writing, environmental sustainability and sound/video, and she often employed dowsers to “map” her installations. Through it all, she became known for her approach to color, pattern and poetic text as vehicles for emotional content and narrative potential, as well as a uniquely gestural approach to mark making and hand lettering. Years ago, Deborah was of the first Chicago-based artists I discovered utilizing the bookform in a way that I found captivating. And as critic Lori Waxman wrote recently, newer work addressing her struggle with cancer grappled with the unseen and ineffable, articulating “what life looks like in that gracious limbo between life and death.”
Testimonial after testimonial gives evidence that Deborah’s “fierce,” visionary and “generous” creative ethic was not confined to her artworks, but also it governed the lived spaces of her life as an educator and collaborator: there are the students she engaged as her studio interns and treated like family; the friends with whom she sang joyfully in her living room and purposefully in the gallery; there were the women artists’ reading and figure drawing groups in the early 1990s; a spectacular dance party at Oxbow; “meaty” collaborations over years and years, and the concurrent friendships that burned slowly and brightly; pivotal residency and art-making trips to India to learn things like Vastu and develop exhibitions like Magic Mountain at Bangalorand Rooting: Indiawith Akshay Rathore and Tricia Van Eck for the Kochi Biennale. Morning walk after morning walk to Albion Beach with her beloved dogs. The students she taught to write grants, not to “overpaint” and to make artists’ books. The yoga, meditations and gurus: she was a Catholic child turned seeker, spiritualist.
Perhaps the sum of the many, many contours of Deborah’s art-making life is this: in each studio visit was an implicit gift; embedded in every syllabus was an invitation; in each collaboration an emergent provocation; and in every artwork a public offering, a lesson.
My relationship with Deborah grew over six years or so through some group shows I curated, periodic studio visits and friends in common. But was in the last eight weeks of her life that she, her family and close (and by close, I mean indescribably loving) friends invited me into the more intimate dimensions of her life to begin to do the curatorial work of considering her oeuvre, to embark on a deep engagement with her work in order to develop a retrospective exhibition down the line. To begin to locate the magnitude of her influence, position her output within a broader historical and social context, and to understand the genesis of her work over decades—is a project I am coming to understand through a new and fascinating curatorial lens and as my own biggest collaboration with Deborah.
Deborah worked through her final days of treatment and hospice—finishing her memoir, setting into motion plans for a new sound installation and making her last exquisite painting with the help of those at her bedside. By all accounts her fervor was punctuated with wit and that inimitable smile.
In an artist’s book produced for a recent exhibition at 6018 North, Deborah wrote: “Xavier Le Pinchon, a plate tectonic expert, suggests that fault lines, the open spaces between the plates in the earth’s crusts are… analogous to human frailty. Because we are vulnerable, we find it necessary to depend on others for survival. It is through our vulnerability that we bond with others and thrive.”
Deborah’s work had many facets, but it is her brave articulation of her own perceived faults, frailties and vulnerabilities—her commitment as an artist to learning in public—that will demand of us and viewers of her work for years to come a deep reciprocity, a Deborah-like generosity. Through these exchanges—made possible by the “work” of her artwork—she will live on and her ideas will continue to shape the world in meaningful, collaborative ways.