Friday, May 24, 2019

An Excerpt from my new art book, The Sum of its Parts



I just published my fourth art book, The Sum of its Parts. It is about the artwork that I made between 2014 and 2018, and the process behind all of the work during that time. If you've been reading my blog, you already know what a difficult time it was in my life, between trying to make a name for myself as an artist despite a series of disappointing shows, not being able to find an agent for my young adult novel, getting dis-engaged, and losing a beloved aunt. You can read an excerpt from the book below the title page.




A NECESSARY LUXURY 


I didn’t want my online presence to be merely a reaction to what people in power were doing, nor did I want that for my art career. Though there were many issues I cared about deeply, I felt no desire to address all of them in my paintings. I’d rather use my platforms to promote my art. I remained steadfast in my refusal to debate people on Twitter and Facebook. How could I, knowing that I experience internet debate as soul-wearying and nerve-wracking, subject myself to it? Why was it my job to teach people not to be racist? I’d rather paint.

Why was there an expectation that I should speak out about every single injustice that happened every single day online? It seemed as though the expectation to be a constant commentator on social ills was informed by the belief that Black women don’t feel pain either because we are subhuman or superhuman, that we should bear the burdens of the world, to paraphrase Zora Neale Hurston, like mules. Rallying and demonstrating can be cathartic at first, but a constant, daily, tireless grind of struggle against systems of injustice could really take a toll, physically and emotionally. Though I greatly admired the work of activists and supported their efforts, I didn’t want to become one myself. I had seen the stress that too many activists suffered and didn’t want that, to say nothing of the very real threats on their lives. All over social media, videos of people being brutalized were being shared in the name of spreading awareness but seeing them appear without warning was deeply disturbing. I didn’t want to make art like that. I wanted to create a cohesive body of work and didn’t want its subject matter to be something so full of anguish. My art had been a refuge, my studio, a sanctuary.

Did caring about the state of the world mean that I was obligated to make protest art all the time? Did my work lack depth because I didn’t channel all my negative emotions into my paintings? Would it make me a hypocrite if I didn’t always embody the archetypes of the Strong Black Woman and The Tortured Artist? Was it wrong for me to seek balance?

I came to realize that there was value in making art that was an escape for both myself and the people who view it, and that just because I appreciated social commentary art and even made it occasionally, I didn’t have to make it all the time. In spite of the requirements of grants that sought to reward artists for essentially acting as social workers, art for art's stake still has value. In spite of what the art market seemed to expect of Black artists, my art could express other emotions and states of consciousness besides outrage and righteous indignation, like joy, fascination, wonder, transcendence, or, as Barnett Newman called it, the sublime. I had every right to willingly remove myself from the ugliness of the news cycle whenever I needed to. I didn’t have to reproduce it in my work. Concerning myself with composing beautiful color palettes and assembling pleasing compositions of shapes is also a worthy artistic pursuit. Beauty is a necessary luxury.



To order the book, please click this link.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Return of The Other Art Fair



Over the weekend, The Other Art Fair was back in town. This time, instead of being a satellite to a more well-known show at Navy Pier, it didn't have much competition. If you read my blog post about my experience in the inaugural show last fall, you already know how that experience went for me. This time around, when I stopped by yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, I was glad to see that not only were there still a lot of people looking at the art, but also that many of the artists had sold the work in their booths. Here are some of my favorites:


Robert Robinson

Robert Frankel


Sofia Chitikov
Paul Chang


Fanny Tang

I was glad to see that this time around the participating artists had a bigger audience and more buyers. They certainly deserve it.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Spring 2019 One of a Kind Show

It was hard to capture in this photo, but this year the wall was a shade of coral, the Pantone color of the year.


Though it started out pretty warm on Friday, this weekend has become the kind of weekend that makes you want to stay indoors and out of the cold, soggy weather. The Spring One of a Kind Show is a great reason to stay inside the Merchandise Mart, with so many talented artists, artisans, and chefs. It was nice to see some of my favorite vendors return, like Christopher Royal, Case Island GlassMark Gleberzon, Gourmet Goodies, Mohop, Tara Locklear Jewelry, Zooguu, Necknots, Jenny Johannsen, Chula House, and Larissa Loden. Here are the new artisans whose work caught my eye this year:


https://akesestylelines.com
Akese Stylelines

Nicola Rix


Susan Haas Glass
Susan Haas Glass

Indigo Ink Designs
Indigo Ink Designs
Triple A Gourmet Treats
Triple A Gourmet Treats

Lincoln + Hobbs
Lincoln + Hobbs
Stone Fashion by Bill Stone Studio
Stone Fashion by Bill Stone Studio



Plankroad
Plankroad

Malka Chic


KJ Made
KJ Made

Made by Nico
Made by Nico


Han Bruzan Studio
Han Bruzan Studio


http://gloriakirk-hanna.com/
Gloria Kirk-Hanna

Rush Creek Glass
Rush Creek Glass

Lost Art Woodworks
Lost Art Woodworks
Andrew Iannazzi
Andrew Iannazzi

Courtney Vészi
Courtney Vészi

The Hedge Studios
The Hedge Studios
Kimberly Polka
Kimberly Polka

Elizabeth Edwards
Elizabeth Edwards


Lambkin Studios
Lambkin Studios

Patricia Coleman-Cobb
Patricia Coleman-Cobb

Laser Eye Shop
Laser Eye Shop

Second Touch Art
Second Touch Art

Dosa Natural Skin Care Products
Dosa Natural Skin Care Products


Brainchild Conspiracy
Brainchild Conspiracy

Sarah Mimo Manufactory
Sarah Mimo Manufactory



The show continues tomorrow and ends at 5 p.m. See it if you can.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Art of Leonardo Drew

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an artist talk by Leonardo Drew, one of the artists whose work I saw for the first time at Solidary and Solitary show at the Smart Museum. He is an artist who likes to challenge himself. He started out doing amazing figurative work and made a name for himself at a young age. Then he decided to metaphorically tie his hands by only creating work without drawing.

There is a tension between order and chaos in his work. It is concerned with the cyclical nature of life, decay, and regeneration. He worked with roadkill and even learned taxidermy so that he could incorporate animal skins in his work among the branches and pieces of charred wood. One installation was made of cotton balls and rust. He likes to work with found objects that he has collected in his travels but is not content with using ready made items. He would rather work with them in a process.





I really enjoyed hearing about his process. Making Number 43 involved cooking cardboard boxes on a stove in his apartment. The resulting smoke alarmed his neighbors, whose 911 call summoned firefighters who removed his apartment door because they thought his home was burning. Apparently when he told them he was an artist, they were very understanding.



He made another series of work with molded white fabric that looks like plaster. Then he broke down everything that had been in the installation and put it into glass jars and displayed it in another installation. Then he took those pieces out of the jars and made them into a wall installation. It was fascinating to see how he was able to repurpose his own work.



During his talk, he often referred to his pieces as "monstrosities." He sees art as a moving language. When he began creating his abstract works, he decided to give his pieces numbers instead of names. He does this because he believes that viewers should complete the work, bringing their own perspectives and sense of meaning to it. He said that he finds failure stimulating and that not knowing where he's going is a catalyst for him.



My favorite pieces of his that I've seen so far were the ones in the Solidary and Solitary show, like this one.


The show continues through May 19th and the Smart Museum has free admission. It's definitely worth seeing.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Sinister Art World of 'I Am the Night'

SPOILER ALERT: It's impossible for me to write about this show without giving some plot points away, so the best thing for you to do if you haven't seen I Am the Night is to watch it first, unless you're one of those rare people who likes to know how a story ends before beginning it.




The art world in I Am the Night is a sinister and scary place. I began watching the TNT miniseries not knowing that the journey of the main character, a teenage girl named Fauna Hodel, would take her into a world of menacing-looking surrealist art and happenings populated with creepy characters, among both the performers and the audience.





The truth of Fauna's story is stranger than fiction. A teenage adoptee's quest for her identity leads her to uncover horrible secrets about the family that gave her away. Her grandfather, George Hodel, is a shadowy figure who is also a fixture in the art world.




His private collection of macabre paintings is on loan to a Los Angeles art museum. In the context of the film, the dismembered female figures are more like crime scene photos than art.



I am reminded of the part of Nanette where Hannah Gadsby talked about art history and women, and of a conversation I had with my late aunt while looking at abstract art with her at the Art Institute. What happens when women are reduced to mere parts by male artists? And what kind of men make art like that? And what do they really think of women? Have these artists made this work as a way to sublimate their true desire to act violently against women? Does this art primarily appeal to collectors who are themselves violent men? Have they confused sadism with a true creative vision?




At one point, it's hard to tell if her step-grandmother's contempt for her is out of racism or art world snobbery.



But despite her condescension, she teaches Fauna a few things about the contemporary art of their time that she is able to use to devastating effect in a dramatic confrontation with George Hodel. This California noir is like a V.C. Andrews novel in many aspects, and also has the Gothic element of a gloomy mansion.




 After listening to the podcast series, Root of Evil, that Fauna Hodel's daughters released in conjunction with the series, I learned that some of the situations and characters were added to give the story what my screenwriter cousin Darrell calls "Hollywood sizzle." But an interesting fact that was not included is that Fauna Hodel grew up to work in an art gallery.

For further reading, here's an article about the set design from Architectual Digest and an article about the artwork created for the show from Vulture.
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