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Local Artist Week

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fuckin' Chicago, I love you

Posted By on 10.19.12 at 10:17 AM

When you're fed up with Chicago, do the right thing . . . complain.

That's what Johnny Sampson did in May of 2011 when he was forced to buy a sweater due to an obnoxious streak of Chicago cold. "Fuckin' weather!" he thought to himself.

Pair that disgruntlement with the fact that Sampson was reading Ivan Brunetti's book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice at the time, and the idea for the comic strip Chicago: A Love Story was hatched.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Performance artist Karen Finley, oracle

Posted By on 10.18.12 at 03:11 PM

A portrait of Karen Finley in her golden years
  • Timothy-Greenfield-Sanders
  • A portrait of Karen Finley in her golden years
Karen Finley became notorious in the early 1990s, when (a) archconservative senator Jesse Helms used her work to help make his argument that the National Endowment for the Arts was one of the handbaskets that America was going to hell in; (b) NEA chair John Frohnmayer responded by rescinding her grant, along with those of three other artists, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes; and (c) the so-called NEA Four sued, initiating proceedings that ended—badly for the Four—in the U.S. Supreme Court. Until then Finley was known to a much smaller audience as the fiercest and messiest member of her generation of performance artists, creating works that had her applying substances like chocolate syrup and peanut butter to her nearly naked body while making profane speeches.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Man in a skirt

Posted By on 10.17.12 at 10:36 AM

Artist Allie Kushnir says she couldn't wait to get rid of this piece of juvenilia. Painted when she was 17, for a New Trier high school art class, the acrylic rendering of a man in a skirt was a mere solution to an assignment.

She gave it away, along with some other schoolwork, and never expected to see or hear about it again.

So she was surprised when I called her last week. She had forgotten that her name was on the back of the canvas.

Now 24, Kushnir's a University of Iowa grad living in Logan Square and hoping to land a job in graphic design. The old paintings are nothing like her current work, which is mostly in oil, she says. She's been documenting some of that in process:

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We shouldn't pretend it's pretty

Posted By on 10.16.12 at 06:44 AM

No ones beefing about this Goldberg.
  • No one's beefing about this Goldberg.
I jumped at the opportunity to contribute to Local Artist Week because one of Chicago's liveliest ongoing controversies turns on what to do with a problematic piece of local art.

Inconveniently, it is also a piece of architecture.

What do we do with a master's lesser works? If it's a book we don't read it. If it's a painting, we let it hang on the gallery walls of a tiny liberal arts college in Ohio. But if it's a building, we live with it, we put a new face on it, or we tear it down.

A little cosmetic surgery can work wonders, for instance turning this:

Chicago Historic Society, 1970s
  • Chicago Historical Society, 1970s

into this:

Chicago HIstorical Museum, these days
  • Chicago History Museum, these days

But that's no way to treat a master. Genius would rather be spurned than suffer rewrite.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Chicago Artists Month, so it's Local Artist Week

Posted By on 10.15.12 at 06:41 AM

This week's Variations on a Theme celebrates local artists, in conjunction with Chicago Artists Month. All week long, check back here to read Reader writers on Chicagoans who are making (or made) art that you should be checking out (and if you missed Ideas Week, last week's Variations on a Theme, you can read it here).

For my introduction, I'd like to throw a little shine on a Reader contributor. Todd Diederich has shot photographs for a few big features, including Mick Dumke's "Besieged" and Elly Fishman's "Pariahs Amid the Rainbow" and "Grit & Glitter"; in the lattermost story, Todd contributed a particularly spectacular slideshow.

I've known Todd for around two years, and ever since a friend of ours showed me his Tumblr, I've been following his work closely. I find him to be particularly skilled at spotting unusual-looking situations or people and framing them in stark, lovely compositions. This portrait of a nude walking through a marsh reminds me of Titian or Monet more than it does any photograph I've ever seen. And a recent photograph of a man in a jet pack propelling out of the water is equal parts hilarious, odd, and graceful, the kind of randomness that Todd is able to transform into something simple and moving.

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