The Tiniest Gallery

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Walking from brunch with a friend I passed a storefront on Damen Ave with a series of tiny abstract paintings lining the bottom of it’s window.

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They look like Polaroids from a bit of a distance away but up close you can see they are paintings on paper. The gallery is called “The Ledge,” of course, and the paintings were by Burleigh Krinquist.

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They appear to be mini Rothko inspired paintings in neutral colors. The great thing about this little gallery is that you can always see what’s being displayed there. It’s things like this that make me lovey city even more.

Winding Down

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I got a message from Franco asking me for advice.

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When Franco was my student he would tell me how his parents already had his future planned for him. They knew there would always be jobs in health care so that was what he would study. It didn’t matter that Franco was good at art and loved it. I see this sort of thing a lot. In most cases the child will follow their parents plan but at some point they will abandon it, having wasted a lot of time and money, and return to art. Or, they follow the plan and always wonder what they would have made of themselves had they followed their own dreams.
Franco is a good artist and a good communicator; I told him I thought he’d make a great teacher. Then he expressed interest in my #SummerOfArt14 project so I came up with a plan to meet in the gallery district and wander around. I posted the event on my page and my friend, Jean, joined us.

IMG_2412.JPGThere was a downpour of rain for an hour at our meeting time. Franco was an hour late (and Jean teased him about that throughout our walk) so Jean and I caught up while sipping coffee inside and sheltered from the rain.
We walked through many galleries but all agreed that nothing we saw was really very moving. I really liked a couple paintings we saw by Valery Koshlyakov. They seem like quick travel sketches recreated on enormous stretched canvas in washes of cream, white and gray.

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IMG_2402.JPGHowever, what I enjoyed most was having the owner of Ann Nathan Gallery walk us around and tell us about what was being shown in her space. She really took interest in Franco and let him pick up one of the kinetic sculptures she had that was carved from one trunk of wood.

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I was really inspired by this woman. She didn’t have to walk around with us, we don’t look like buyers and she wasn’t going to make a sale on us but it didn’t matter. She just wanted to share with us what she loves.

Mother Nature’s Composition

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The North Woods, Wisconsin are often called “God’s Country” by people who live and visit there frequently. When marveling at the beauty of nature it is difficult to believe the earth is without a creator or higher being. While on a canoe with my nephew and sister in law I noticed how perfectly lilly pads were dispersed before the reeds and pussy willows projecting vertically from the water. As if Mother Nature intentionally scattered them exactly where they were the way a decorator sprinkles candies on cakes. The compositions that contain repetition and variety with round pads and zig zagging grasses are hard to look at without thinking they were placed there by a landscape architect.

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And then there were the sunsets.

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During a “girls weekend” with Dora and Vero we planned to only sit on the pier with glasses of wine our last night there, but the sunset was too lovely to have blocked partially by trees so we hopped on the boat one last time and rode toward it.

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Laying in the sun I glanced through the trees to where the swamp is; the sun illuminating the distance and leaving the trees black silouettes.

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Vero commented, “it’s like someone turned up the high contrast tenfold on the photo edit.”

Hodag

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While vacationing at my family’s summer cabin in the North woods, Wisconsin, there isn’t a great variety of art galleries to visit. About ten years ago one opened up in our little town of Lake Tomahawk. I was pretty surprised and excited when I spotted a giant metal sculpture outside of the gallery. The sculpture is an abstract bending skeletal fish and indicates more modernity than what you will find inside.
The gallery is owned and operated by artist, Rob Umlauf. Umlauf is a soft spoken man who will be happy to talk to you about his work or that of the other artists work in his showroom. The work is characteristic of what you will find in most art galleries Up North, and is probably what most people there are looking for. Umlauf paints fish, turtles and mythical sea creatures like mermaids.
My favorite piece in the gallery is a portrait of a Hodag. In 1893 a Rhinelander, Wisconsin resident, land surveyor and prankster, Eugene Shepard alerted the media to his capture of this giant beast that required dynamite to be killed.

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The story grew to gain national attention and when experts from The Smithsonian began an investigation Shepard came clean about staging the whole thing. The legend of the Hodag, though, lives on and it’s imagined likeness can be found on T Shirts and other souvenirs. Umlauf’s depiction is almost exactly like the giant statue of the beast that sits outside Rhinelander’s Chamber of Commerce.

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The Hodag is not North America’sonly mythical creature. Perhaps you’ve also heard of the jackelope?

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Another Instant Friend

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The first graduate program class I took was taught by Yale Factor at The Field Museum. It was an amazing class; we spent every Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. working with this incredible museum as our classroom. We had a space to work in that was apart from the exhibition space but we could also wander around and use artifacts, exhibits or spaces as subjects of study. On the first day we got a behind the scenes look at all the storage of the museum and the labs that the archaeologists worked in. It was during this tour that I found Dena. She was a talkative redhead with a deep tan and I can even tell you what she was wearing: a white T-shirt, cutoff shorts and sandals. She looked my age and I knew I had to make her my friend. “What time do you think we have to stay until today?” I asked her, looking at my watch. “I know it goes until 4:00 but it’s my birthday and I have tickets to the Cubs game.”
“First of all, happy birthday.” She said, “secondly, I LOVE going to Cubs games! What a fun way to spend your birthday. Just tell Yale that it’s your birthday and ask him if it’s ok that you leave a little early. He seems cool.”
We spent every Friday after that working side by side, “oh my God! I’m a high school art teacher too!” We signed up for a couple more classes together after that and I’m sure we annoyed the rest of the students with our no-pausing-for-air conversations with each other.
We are still friends and we will both tell you that Northern Illinois University has an excellent art program. We will also still annoy you with a no-pausing-for-air-conversation if you hang out with us.
We always worked in somewhat similar styles using acrylic paint on paper with a limited color palette. However, after graduate school Dena kept working. She got shows in little cafés and art centers and then got invited to join the 33 Collective in Bridgeport. Her artwork has even been displayed in Spain. I use her as an example to my students of how working many hours on your artwork will pay off.
Since I went to NIU for undergrad school as well as graduate school I get emails from the Alumni club about networking events in the city. Last week was a meeting at the Chicago Arts Club in the Gold Coast. It’s a private club and neither of us are members nor do we anyone who are so it was decided that we had to go so we could see a space otherwise off limits to us. The decor was lush and gorgeous, “can you imagine trying to keep this carpet clean?” We met a couple of young ladies in undergraduate summer study programs, we noshed on fancy horsedevours, and we played “who do you think this artist is?” While admiring the art collection there.

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After the event we walked to The Pump Room, because neither of us have ever been there.

IMG_2246.JPG we looked at the iconic photos of celebrities that used to line the walls of the restaurant but are now outside the bathrooms (and noticed there are a lot of doubles). Then Dena took a picture of the hotel’s entrance chandelier and I took a picture of her taking a picture. Which was hilarious to me after sipping on one of the delicious cocktails we ordered.

2nd Fridays

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IMG_2268-0.JPGI met Karin Friday night for 2nd Fridays art walk in East Pilsen. “I read somewhere that Pilsen is the next up and coming neighborhood,” she told me as we walked from gallery to gallery. This is always a little hard to hear. We all want improvement but there aren’t many affordable places in the city left to live that are close to the lake and downtown. Pilsen has long been a good option for students and artists and “up and coming” can also mean higher rent and loss of some character. You will not find a neighborhood in Chicago more accepting of street art and supportive of public art. Some of it is really amazing and some of it- not so much. But the acceptance of this is what is so great about it. Here are some pictures of what I saw on my walk this morning in Pilsen, from where I live to a coffee shop on 18th.

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I am writing this entry while at my favorite Pilsen coffee shop, Cafe Jumping Bean.

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Anyway, back to the art walk. There are a number of artists who open their studio spaces to the public every 2nd Friday of the month for you to browse through. You can watch young models in training put on a little fashion show, stay in galleries who also have DJs playing and have some wine, get some chocolate or sweets, listen to live musicians on a sidewalk while being offered milkshakes and hotdogs (that happened), or be invited into an expansive shared gallery to see sculptured paintings and lively street inspired art by the artist himself as he hands you a can of Old Style (yep, that happened too). You will not feel underdressed or intimidated. These artists are friendly and happy to have you by.

Bring your wallet if you want to add to your art collection. These artists are offering great deals on their work as they are displaying in their own spaces and do not have to give up any money to a gallery owner.

If Wishes Were Horses

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My Gramma Sperindeo used to say that all the time, “if wishes were horses then beggars would ride them.”
I started collecting the wishbones from my roasted chickens many years ago. They reminded me if my Gramma. She told me that instead of breaking the wishbone you could let it dry out then paint it with clear nail polish and wear it as a pendant. “That way you could make wishes as often as you like,” she told me smiling.

IMG_0867.JPGThe first wishbone I painted that was stolen.

IMG_0869.JPGThis wishbone I created to auction at a benefit event.

I have painted a few pieces that feature wishbones, they are simple compositions that highlight the beauty of this lovely bone. The paintings are popular and I’m sure it’s because the wishbone reminds us if when we were children and we took hold if one end wishing our wish and hoping for the large end. So many times the bone simply shatters into pieces destroying the wishes of both parties and the chance to ride the horse is gone.

Last summer I found myself in a situation where my travel plans coincided with the end of my apartment lease. I couldn’t renew because they wanted $300.00 more a month. It was my most favorite apartment ever but I would have had to give up travel to afford it and that was just not going to happen. My friend, Karin, offered her second bedroom as a place to stay until I could find a new place when I returned from my travel.

It was fun living in a roommate situation again. We sat on comfy couches across from each other at night describing the messages we got from men on our online dating accounts. “Oh jeez, he has four kids!”
oh hell no, move along. “
“Ha! The guy that blew you off last week just sent me a message.”
“Jerk. He’s not even that cute!”
We took long Saturday morning walks with the dogs to get coffee, we brunched at Lula’s and chatted with our favorite bartender and we watched Orange Is The New Black together. Both of us in our forties we felt a little like we were in our twenties again.
Karin went through some emotional struggles during this time and so did I. We are lucky that we had each other to lean on, to talk to, to share our fears.
When I finally found a new place I think we were both relieved to get our own space again but we were also sad. Karin would not accept money from me so I knew I’d have to repay her with a painting. She expressed interest in one of my wishbone pieces that I sold so I created one just for her. I wish for us to always be friends.

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Is This Your Mother?

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I’ve known Julie longer than any of my friends, I was the new girl in our Kindergarten class and she was also a bit quiet and loved crayons and clay as much as I did. Instant friendship. I always thought she was a little bit cooler than I was, I loved her hair and her clothes and her name. When she wasn’t around and I was playing “house” my name would always be Julie. Over the years I became cooler yet Julie has grown to be WAY cooler.

Examples:
I teach art, she is in the corporate world as a designer. Cooler.
We are both stylish but my clothes are inevitable stained by drops of red or purple paint because some kid got paint on a table I walked by or dropped a brush on me.
I eat lunch in a windowless cafeteria, Julie works in the loop so she’s got world choice cuisine to choose from daily. Maybe she has power lunch meetings with other cool corporate people. Either way: lots cooler.
My work computer runs on Windows 97, I’m guessing Julie has a Mac at work, probably with multiple screens. By default, cool people have Macs.
I have a dying tomato plant on the tiny balcony of my apartment in Pilsen. Pilsen is pretty cool, I’ll admit, but Julie lives in a gorgeous Craftsman cottage in Oak Park with a quince tree in her backyard. Come on.
We both broke bones in this past year. I broke my hip when I slipped on ice; Julie broke one bone riding an ATV and another in a Roller Derby bout. Seriously, seriously…it’s not even fair.

When I roped her into my #SummerOfArt14 project I suggested Intuit Art Center in River West. Being the way cooler of us two, Julie knew of the art exhibit there because her friend was the artist. Intuit Art Center is a non profit museum dedicated to the work of self taught artists. Julie’s freind, Jeff Phillips, has a photo exhibit there until August 30th. In it are large format color photographs that tell the story of the travels of a couple from the mid 20th Century. Jeff found a large quantity of color slides in a second hand store in St. Louis. Using his photography skills he turned the photos into prints and then posted them on a Facebook page called Is This Your Mother?and asked for the help of the public to find the family of the couple. Finally, a niece of “Edna” identified herself in one of the pictures and the mystery was solved. We walked around the gallery marveling at how our world has changed since these photos were taken, we tried to guess the ages of the people in them, we identified similarities in photos of our own families, admired the clothes and cars and hairstyles and then we took this great selfie with Edna in her cruise ship drill outfit.

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Now Edna’s cool factor has gone up like mine does every time I get to hang out with Julie.

Skokie Sculpture Walk

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There’s a two mile grassy strip that sits between McCormick Boulevard and the Northshore Channel about a 40 minute drive from downtown Chicago in Skokie, Illinois. Walk along it on an early morning and you can see some people rowing in the channel but at any time of day you can stroll, run or walk along the paved pathways. Speckled along the path are a number of fantastic sculptures for you to stop and admire.

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I met my friend, Mandy, here on a Monday morning for a long and sunny walk. It was perfect for us because we go long lengths of time between catching up and the walk creates the perfect setting for that. If you are a teacher, like myself, you may consider the park a place to take students for a couple hours of sketching or inspiration for their own 3D piece.

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Or maybe you just need a cool backdrop for some awesome selfies.
Skokie Sculpture Walk

The Provocateurs

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With Art Alliance, and alongside Lollapalooza 2014, Chicago, Shepard Fairey curated an art show at Block 37. It included works for sale by popular urban artists including Fairey himself, Dzine, D*face, RETNA, Space Invader and Keith Haring.
The works I enjoyed most were by Camille Rose Garcia. Her paintings are super shiny acrylics of fantasy images that vibrate with complementary colored lines placed next to each other.

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Also impressive were political statement paintings created on flags by Andrew Schoultz.

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Back in 1993 I was dating a guy who hung out with Dzine on occasion. I remember visiting the loft he then occupied with some other guys and thinking this whole graffiti scene was pretty cool. It was my introduction to the art form and I have come to be a huge fan of it ever since. These guys were artists who most often used spray paint. Now Dzine is creating installations and is appreciated as a fine artist around the world. It’s amazing to see the evolution of what at first was considered to be art of criminals and thugs by those who just didn’t understand turn into sought after collectibles.

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