Sep 30, 2009

In the Studio: Study for Video Installation

I've been working on drawings for an new video installation. Slowly I'm constructing all the components for what I hope will be a successful piece.

Sep 25, 2009

Watch: Marcel Dzama's Department of Eagles Video

Like many people I take wandering trips through YouTube. I spend a good deal of time re-watching Bjork videos and searching for new images of kittens and pugs being cute. It's not what a busy grad student should be doing but I can't stop myself. This week I happened upon a video for from the Department of Eagles album In Ear Park. It looked like a Marcel Dzama drawing come to life. Then I did a little research and found out that is exactly what it was. Dzama is an amazing director and I hope he makes a feature length soon. Take a moment to check it out. I can't stop watching it.

Museum Culture: the Quick +the Dead (Part 2)

I love taxidermy. A few weeks ago I mentioned David R Harper's work which is deeply embedded with references to 19th century cultural history. The Quick + the Dead gave me an opportunity to see some more contemporary taxidermy which like McQueen's video Running Thunder, considers the presence a body can sustain beyond life.

Maurezio Cattelan’s Taxidermied Dog, lays discreetly in a corner of the exhibition. It appears to breath and its disrupts the museum's "White Cube." I thought to myself.. "A dog in the gallery that's crazy.." Then I realized it was dead and my thoughts changed to. "A taxidermeried dog in the gallery that's creepy and awesome!" Cattelan's pieces reminds us that although dogs may be a highly respected animal, they are also just an animal and like most things man touches their companionship becomes a sort of comdity.

Humans of course are rarely stuffed for display but there is a body in this show, albeit a burried one. Anoymous Two, by Chris Martin is an unsettling testisomony to the unknown nature of death. In the gallery is a certificate giving the gps location of a human skeleton that was painted yellow and buried on the Walker's grounds. The skeleton was donated to science then aquired by Kiki Smith and gifted to Chris Martin. The identity of the body is unknown so like Cattelan's dog and McQueen's horse it becomes just an anonymous vessel that once held life.

Jason Dodge’s Four Carat Black Tourmaline and Half-carat Ruby Inside an Owl, like much of the work in the show appeared somewhat mundane until further inspection. Essentially it's a dead owl preserved not to emulate life but to sustain the moments after its death. The artist says that it's body is filled with precious gems. The viewer of course has no way of knowing what is inside the bird so they are left to trust that the artist is telling us the truth.

Pieces by Robert Barry, Harold Edgerton, Robert Hiorns, Stephen Kaltenbach, and Bruce Nauman were also highlights for me. There was so much work that required deep consideration in this exhibit that I can't begin to discuss it all. I hope this show tours so that more people will have an opportunity to check it out. I would love to see this show reconfigured with additional work other collections. The show closes Sunday so if you don't make it to Minneapolis there is an amazing catalog of work of the Quick and the Dead published by the Walker and edited by Peter Eleey that is worth owning. The Walker (like most museums) restricts visitors from taking pictures so I used images from the catalog for this post (which presents a different set of problems I'll ignore). I look forward to their future publications and exhibits and will definitely be making several return trips there while I'm living here in Chicago.

Sep 21, 2009

Museum Culture: The Quick + the Dead (Part 1)

This weekend I took an eight hour journey from Chicago to Minneapolis for my first visit to the Walker Art Center and a chance to see some friends.

After an amazing night hanging out in my friend's backyard grilling burgers and playing with fire, we got up early and headed to the Walker Art Center. Being my first visit I wanted to experience the permanent collection before diving into the Quick & the Dead Exhibit. I was very excited to find a collection of props from many of Merce Cunningham's collaborations. Included were works done with Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Claus Oldenburg. Most of the pieces were sets pieces, props, or costumes. When seen through the lens of contemporary Fashion & Fiber Studies much of the work has become more important than the original dance pieces it accompanied.

The Walker's permanent collection is easily one of the best I've seen in a small museum. It consists mostly of work from the 1960's and forward which means no impressionist or early abstract paintings to waste valuable gallery space. In fact the collection was generally light on paintings which means they must have a contemporary-minded acquisitions committee.

I continued to be impressed when I entered the Quick & the Dead. Earlier this summer Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes posted a link to a rather bitchy/uninformed review of the show by a St. Cloud State University student (Let's hope this kid plans on becoming an actor or an American Idol). The student's sloppy walk through a deeply conceptual show only made me want to see it for myself. He wrote, "A motor spinning against the wall burning the rubber off of it into little particles collecting on the ground and I’m suppose to believe that that…that…THAT’S ART?!" The art in question was a 2006 piece by Michael Sailstorfer called, Zeit ist keine Autobahn - Berlin, (Time Is No Highway, Berlin). Saistorfer's piece perfectly captured much of the exhibit's zeal. With this work he managed to balance a sense of danger, while referencing disembodiment, and a sense of perpetual movement.

The show was extremely dense and gave me an opportunity to experience work from Steve McQueen (below), Adrian Piper (below), and Francis Alÿs (above) that I had never experienced in person. The 53 artists selected for the show use a vast range of media but are all conceptually similar. Each artist is trying in their own way to make sense of or attain the unattainable. This lofty goals lends itself to a lot of serious immersion with each piece.

Since much of the work was so engaging I will narrow my focus down to the highlights and spread this post over several days. As I mentioned Steve McQueen and Adrian Piper's work was compelling to see in person. McQueen's 11 minute film, Running Thunder, reminds viewers that death itself is can only be seen through a human lens and the still footage of a recently deceased horse remains peacefully far from gory. Wile Adrian Piper (one of the original make the private public artists) invites to MOMA to take possession of her ashes after her death as a final performance.

(Continued tomorrow)

Sep 18, 2009

In the Classroom: CTA Orange Line Collage

After my extensive tour of the Orange Line I made a collage of sorts inspired by the journey.

In the Classroom: CTA Train Installation

One of my classes this semester is Installation with Amy Honchell. I have been trying to move away from the language of painting and put my work in more considered spaces. This course is going to be perfect and one of our first class shows is Chicago Art on Track. CAoT was started last year by an SAIC graduate and it allows artists from multiple Chicago art organizations to install work on a CTA train for one day. Luckily my class is representing SAIC. Today I'm doing a little research and taking a very long ride on the Orange Line. Check my twitter for live updates from all seventeen stops on the Orange Line (Madison/Walbash to Midway and back).

Sep 16, 2009

In the Studio: Porno Banner

Today was a great day in the studio. I made some progress with my gay porn banners... I think it's time to pump up the images though. Hopefully I can get some screens made before this weekend.

Sep 14, 2009

In the Studio: Back to Work

I finally got my studio set up. Of course the first thing I did was silently freak-out for a few days... after a lecture on the work of Josh Faught, I decide it was time to get to work.

Sep 12, 2009

Galleries: 9/11 West Loop Crawl

In DC when there is an opening I was always overwhelmed by the crowds. There were easily 300% more galleries and people at on Friday night in the west loop. These kind of crowds are to be expected in a city the size of Chicago but the sidewalks were overloaded with art goers and the galleries were packed like a rush hour train. Its great to see that Chicago's contemporary art scene is so healthy but fuck... it was so crowded that I saw several people stumble over one art's work.

Over at Bad at Sports, Claudine Ise beat the crowds and put together a rundown of the hi/low-lights. I love Ise's piece but it failed to explain why so many people are responding to the work of Melanie Schiff. I think the crowds affected my take on Schiff's photos. I plan on returning to Kavi Gupta and giving her rocks, urban abandonment, and skateboard parks another try.

Photo by Melanie Schiff from

Sep 8, 2009

Introductions: Matthew Schlagbaum

When SAIC interviewed me for the Fiber Department I had the opportunity to meet Matthew Schlagbaum. He has since joined me as a first-year grad student. Schlagbaum is a collector and his work often looks at contemporary life though that lens. He's from South Florida which gives something a insight into the "American" experience. This of course is a vague and broad statement but if you have visited Tampa... you'll understand. Schlagbaum says that many people come to Florida to die and with them they bring a lot stuff so in this piece below, Burden of Accomplishment, he uses discarded trophies as his primary material. Schlagbaum's work is infused with this sardonic sense of humor. "I couldn't grow a beard." He said. "So I decided to make one." He proceed to create several clip-on beards from discarded materials like sawdust, tobacco, ash, and peanut shells.

Explore more of Matt's work here.

Sep 7, 2009

Introductions: David R Harper

Last Saturday night the MFA Fiber department held a mixer/slide show for all the MFA students in our department. For the first time I finally had an opportunity to see the work of all my colleagues and professors. It was a stunning array of work that moved from performance, to installation, to printmaking, into weaving and far beyond. I want to discuss the work of all my classmates but covering everyone at once would hardly do any one of them justice. So today I'll start a feature called Introductions. This series will highlight the many outstanding artists I will work with over the next two years.

David R Harper is a Canadian artist working primarily with taxidermy and craft materials. His craftsmanship is flawless and while I haven't had a opportunity to engage in an extensive conversation with him, themes of the body, gender, and the monument are prevalent in his work. Here are a few of my favorite pieces. For more go check out his website. I'm sure I will much more to say about his work as the year progresses.

Sep 3, 2009

MFA Life: New Studio Space

Today we were assigned studio spaces. The MFA Fiber students are going to be in the Sullivan building. Our spaces are brand new and our critique space has a view of the "L" and the Chicago skyline. My studio space is so big. I'm going to have to make a lot of art.

Sep 2, 2009

City Life: Oli the Amazing New Housemate

After living with a convicted felon, several dirty hippies, a preacher's daughter and many inspiring/amazing people... it is no surprise that I'm very hesitant to move in with a new housemate. It took me a few years to figure out how to live with people in DC. My last year I had many solid housemates whom I formed great friendships with. Before that I don't know how I picked them. I'm pretty sure I just let anyone I found on craigslist live with regardless of their ability to pay bills or wash their dishes.

When my Chicago housing search started a friend of mine suggested I live with Oli. He graduated from SAIC's MFA Film and New Media program last spring. He grew up in Chicago so he knows the city very well and he found our beautiful cheap place in Pilsen. So far things have been going well with Oli. Our cat's haven't hit it off on as well. Their screams and hisses often wake us in the middle of the night.

After living with Oli for a week my friend Carolyna suggested I ask him about his art. As soon as he got home from work I asked him. Luckily a lot of Oli's work is on YouTube so you too can fall in love with his thoughtful pieces as I have. The video I'm attaching is a split screen of Oli playing baseball. In the left screen you'll see documentation of his infiltration of a little league team. On the right you'll see documentation of a group of artists performing the scene on the left. Oli and his mom provide the play-by-play.

Sep 1, 2009

Chicago Re-Launch

A couple weeks ago I left my comfortable little condo in Dupont Circle and headed west with a boyfriend, two cats, and lots of stuff. Shortly thereafter I arrived in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago's West Side. As I began unloading my truck a skinny 23ish boy rode his bike up to my boyfriend and I and asked, "Do you ride?"

I looked at this scruffy hipster boy for a few seconds. First a assessed if he was trying to rob or date me. Both scenarios seemed unlikely. So with great hesitation in my voice I answered. "Yeah I ride. Ride bikes...why do you ask?"

"I just wanted to say hi. I ride too. My name's XXX I live down the street. Do you need help carrying boxes?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I thought to myself, Where the hell am I?

It turns out I was in Chicago. Throughout my move-in people stopped by to say hi and introduce themselves. I even had one person hand me a list of take-out recommendations. Five years in the Nation's Capital made me a little hard and although DC is one of the best places on Earth... it is not the friendliest of cities. Personally I have given countless tourists directions to the National Mall by pointing to the Washington Monument and saying with intense harshness, "Walk toward that thing. You'll find it."

Chicago with it's famously terrible winters, corrupt political structure, and massive size was already a much warmer place. Of course I am going to miss my extended family in DC (they are irreplaceable) but it seems like Chicago is going to be an easy city to make my new home.