by Jessica Cochran
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 Bangalor and Rooting: India with 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.
Nina Katchadourian (Armenian; born 1968, Stanford, California) is an Armenian–American artist. She is known for conceptual works that explore themes of mapping, translation, and public space. Her projects have been exhibited widely, including a solo show of video installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in July 2008.
Nina Katchadourian was born in Stanford, California in 1968, and grew up spending summers on a small island in the Finnish archipelago, where she still spends part of each year. She received a BA from Brown University in 1989, and an MFA from UCSD in 1993. She attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York in 1996. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Nina Katchadourian has worked in many media, including sculpture, photography, video, and sound. The underlying concept is often marked by an intrinsic sense of humor, characterized by a whimsical, intelligent, ironic and systemic reordering of natural processes. Her work is simple yet effective.
The return of the Amanda Browder Show!!!
She brings back her favorite memory from episodes past…
This week Mark is back from Europe!
From Waterside Contemporary…
Colin Guillemet’s (b.1979) work highlights the difficulty of describing art, concepts and ideas. Where self-expression is concerned it seems words are not enough. Confronted with his work mixed senses of confusion and comprehension occurs, the viewer is convinced they understood something, but does not know exactly what. Guillemet has exhibited at the Helmhaus, Zurich, Lisson gallery, London and Hayward touring.
Tanya Gill interviews Mumbai artist Manish Nai at Kavi Gupta’s Elizabeth street space as he prepares for his June 6th opening. This is Manish Nai’s debut solo exhibition in the United States. He is using this opportunity to create wall murals and a compressed jute sculpture just for the space. The media used in Nai’s work are both humble and quintessentially Indian. He transforms everyday materials, such as newspapers or clothes, through labor-intensive processes. The result is a very personal translation of time. For more information on the exhibit visit www.kavigupta.com.
219 North Elizabeth Street
June 6, 2015 – August 1, 2015