Lise Haller Baggesen. “Mothernism,” 2013-14,
mixed media audio installation
By Matt Morris
I’m the sort of queer person who hangs out in places where you hear the word “breeder” tossed around; this isn’t really a unifying trait of these places, actually, because I’m often the one saying it. I’m dubious about moves to increase visibility for the material conditions of parents and families. I usually remain unconvinced that these agendas to further elucidate the particulars of family life can resist being co-opted by a forceful patriarchy that rigidly orders gender roles to align with the reproductive determinations of our bodies. It’s a particularly fraught conversation within the art world at least in part because advancements to naturalize current norms threatens cultural producers who aim to innovate and imagine more possibilities for how to live than we’ve previously been offered.
Into the midst of these chilly philosophical divides, artist and writer Lise Haller Baggesen strikes with “Mothernism”—a project comprised of both her traveling multimedia tent installation and a new book released this fall from Green Lantern Press and Poor Farm Press. With the excesses (and excessive generosity) of Baggesen’s artwork and book, she loosens the divide that would place motherhood at odds with a pursuit of rebelling against status quo oppression. As she writes in the book’s chapter “Mother of Demolition”: “Beginning with the old feminist premise of the female as ‘the second sex,’ and lesbianism as a third, I suggest that motherhood is a fourth… and hell, who knows? Maybe menopause is a fifth and so on… Because if we can accept motherhood as one sex among many, we can perhaps relieve the inevitable burden of motherhood perceived as a stagnant destination.” Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Beth Woods at work on nail-art-related projects
“I don’t actually care about painting people’s nails,” Sarah Beth Woods confesses. “I love making these little nail tips and adorning them. I love the material and the kind of bricolage aspect of it. But I really love what happens when you put it out in the world for people to interact with. I think so much can happen when there are other people putting them on and sharing their stories.”
Woods’ artistic practice bridges the fine-art world with the beauty shop. She creates elaborate, exaggerated braided headdresses and press-on nail tips, often bringing them into fine-art contexts to adorn visitors. Neon-pink nail tips are decorated with oversized gold dollar signs. Red and blue shower poufs have been deconstructed and then woven into intricate hair weaves. Her ghetto-fabulous aesthetic looks straight out of a Nicki Minaj music video, yet her personal appearance is surprisingly neat and conservative. She keeps her hair and nails short, her friendly smile decorated only with clear lip gloss.
Last month, Woods opened her exhibition “Bricoleur” with an event she described as a “collaborative, interactive fiber installation and hair braiding experience” at Azimuth Projects, an apartment gallery in Logan Square with hair braider Fatimata Traore. Visitors took turns having their hair braided and then “accented” with shiny door-knocker earrings and colorful tassels. Woods’ sculptural works comprised of hairpieces and jewelry remain on display in the space. Read the rest of this entry »
Tim Leeming at a recent exhibition opening/Photo: Kelcey Leeming
Tim Leeming paints to accommodate the world rather than escape or celebrate it. Though he shows with the Plein Air Painters of Chicago, his depictions of festering dumpsters beneath a gunmetal sky really don’t fit there. Rather than the qualities of sunlight and a nostalgic sense of place, he’s more about how life feels, and for the past five years he’s felt immersed in Chicago alleys, teeming with the energy of urban life, but not its bright and shiny side. As an attorney in the office of Cook County Public Defender, he’s more familiar with the world of drugs, murder, rape, robbery and mayhem.
While walking or driving through the city, Leeming hunts for views that satisfy his pursuit of compositional balance. When he can’t work on site, he snaps a photo, taking it back to the studio, a small corner in the basement of his family home, marked off by a strip of blue tape on the cement floor. He selects a limited, muted palette for each painting and then applies it in gutsy, calligraphic brush strokes to resolve whatever compositional elements are involved. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’ve spent any amount of time observing or participating in visual art in Chicago, you know it’s more community oriented and inclusive than competitive or exclusive. In Chicago, everybody’s in, and no one is out. That said, Newcity publishes this ranked list of influential artists every other year in order to celebrate the accomplishments of a few people who work hard and smart, and who happen to call Chicago their home. The Art 50 also serves as a primer for newcomers—know these names and their practices and you can start to understand Chicago art pretty quick. This year we rotated out a bunch of artists who made the pick in 2012. This doesn’t mean we don’t care for their artwork anymore; we just wanted to open up the list for more voices to be heard. (Jason Foumberg)
Art 50 was written by Jason Foumberg, Matt Morris, Kate Sierzputowski, Anastasia Karpova Tinari, Maria Girgenti, Erin Toale, Abraham Ritchie, Collin Pressler and B. David Zarley.
All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at the Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago. Top photo in front of Judy Ledgerwood’s “Chromatic Patterns.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Comfort Station in Logan Square
My first exposure to Comfort Station coincided with Matthew Hoffman’s 2013 exhibition “Independence.” A mysterious placard was erected in the shadow of the Illinois Centennial Monument. Like most of Hoffman’s work, it was aggressively present on social networks. In the background of some of the photos was a puzzling Tudor-style building that looked comically out of place in trendy Logan Square. The text read: “A motivational sign in a grassy field is nice and all, but it’s not going to do the hard work for you. That’s up to you.”
This wording resonates with the ethos and initiative of Comfort Station. It is a unique architectural landmark that places equal emphasis on both programming and exhibitions. In a recent conversation I had with both of the directors, Jordan Martins characterized their vision as such: “We identify as an ‘art space’ not just due to the exhibitions, but through all of our programs as a totality. The most important thing for us is the plurality, multiplicity and simultaneity of these events and programs and how they activate the space.” Read the rest of this entry »
Miller & Shellabarger. “Again Gone,” installation view
“Western Exhibitions shows all three of us,” say Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, meaning the Chicago gallery separately represents Dutes, Stan and S&M, their collaborative practice as Miller & Shellabarger. The two met as undergraduates studying ceramics and organically began to work together on artistic projects. Twenty-one years later, the couple shares an Irving Park home and studio where individual art practices continue to grow alongside joint projects. Teaming up as Miller & Shellabarger periodically dominates their individual practices, while at other times independent work demands a hiatus from the collaborative. They have found an effortless ebb-and-flow, and three is not a crowd in this household.
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“Bernice,” acrylic on linen, 2014
“Sometimes they are quite shocking to even me,” says artist Margot Bergman about her paintings as we walk from canvas to canvas at Corbett vs. Dempsey prior to her opening. Newly opened at the gallery, a solo show by the artist titled “Greetings” features brash and vigorously emotive neo-expressionist paintings. Large flat female faces with rough features and tense expressions stare directly at incoming viewers from some of the paintings while others exist as perverted, almost violent still-lifes of abstracted flowers and patterned wallpaper. Four-eyed “Marie Christine” and “Bernice,” who has no nose at all, manage to make me feel alien rather than the other way around. The bold directness and volatile energy of the paintings conjure the rough aesthetics of children’s drawings, while maintaining self-aware and complex psychological depth. Read the rest of this entry »
Macon Reed and the gymnasts who performed “Team Spirited” in her installation “Physical Education”/Photo: Mat Wilson
“I lived outside for a year in my mid-twenties,” says Macon Reed. This was communal full-time camping in Santa Cruz’s redwood forests. We are speaking by phone while she is on a road trip, and she exuberantly tells me that she is calling from another forest along their travel route. A few years after this outdoor social experiment, Reed founded Camp Out in 2012, a summer camp outside Portland, Oregon, for campers aged eighteen to twenty-three who self-identify as female. Their only requirement to participate is that each of them had to teach a workshop on any topic they chose. “People brought what they needed to the camp,” Reed says. “I think of structures that create community as a medium.”
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“L – Legal, Law,” intaglio print on Somerset cream paper, 2014
Rebecca Gray Smith’s suite of black-and-white etchings currently on display at Bert Green Fine Art took nearly twenty-five years to complete. Personal histories, comedy and spirituality are infused into each of the intricate prints that feature a letter of the alphabet along with skeletal beings that act out foreboding narratives. The engravings, originally intended as a response to the AIDS crisis, evolved over time into an examination of all death and became a cathartic process for Smith’s grief after losing her husband to lung cancer. “The whole fact of death is absurd to me,” she says. “I still can’t believe that these people I loved so much aren’t here any more.” Smith also grapples with her father’s death and mother’s suicide in her work.
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Judith Brotman. Photo: Kurt Peterson.
This is the sixth installment of the Visiting Artist column, in which we ask an artist to produce a text in response to their art practice. Shortly after experiencing intense carpal tunnel symptoms, longtime Chicago artist Judith Brotman dramatically altered how she makes art. Formerly a studio artist who crafted intricate, hand-sewn sculptures, Brotman has turned her attention to writing and performance, and composed “Dreams for the Month of May” for Newcity.
Dream 1 You ask me why you are not like other people. I will tell you but you will not like the answer.
Dream 4 You begin to hate your neighbor’s wife in ways that seem slightly scary and obsessive. One day she invites you over for tea and you steal her wigs. The following day you regret not taking her children, too.
Dream 5 You are a black leather glove. You are somewhat germ phobic and have concerns about what you will be required to touch.
Dream 6 You desperately want me to love you, and I tell you that I do. Five minutes and seventeen seconds later I will change my mind about this.
Dream 8 You are in the arms of the love of your life. Unfortunately the rest of the body is missing.
Dream 9 You wait for your sex drive to return from the road trip it took to Oklahoma. Read the rest of this entry »