Art Facts: a chronicler of strange obsessions | Calendar | Chicago Reader

Art Facts: a chronicler of strange obsessions 

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Canadian photographer Marcus Schubert has traveled all over Europe and North America photographing visionary environments--many of them obsessively decorated homes. His quest has taken him to out-of-the-way spots in Germany and France, to places like the Watts Towers in Los Angeles, and to 1544 W. Chestnut in Chicago, the site of the Cross House.

Once a modest frame dwelling, the Cross House (or Casa de Loco, as the neighbors call it) is now a prickly exhibitionist. Behind its fences, gates, chains, and locks, it is Polish and proud, Catholic and manic, star-struck and heraldic. A thicket of wooden crosses (bolstered by wooden shields, hearts, and swords) rises from what was once its front yard and marches straight up every surface in sight, covering stairs, tree, doors, windows, and walls in a riot of regal color, grand proclamations, and famous names. Anne Baxter is there; so are Cleopatra, Zorro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rudolph Valentino, Lancelot, and Jesus Christ. The pope figures prominently, as do Jane and Kathy Byrne ("Queen of Chicago" and its "Cinderella"). As for the reclusive resident artist: he doesn't like to talk to visitors but identified himself to Marcus Schubert as Mitchell, and the rusty, vintage black Lincoln parked out front is said to be his. License plate: KING M.

Schubert's photographs have been published in a 1991 book, Outsider Art II: Visionary Environments. He will discuss them in a slide lecture sponsored by Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, scheduled for 6:30 Wednesday at the Three Arts Club, 1300 N. Dearborn. Tickets are $6, $4 for Intuit members and students; call 759-1406 for more information. If you miss the lecture, you can catch a show of Schubert's work at Aron Packer Gallery, 1579 N. Milwaukee. The show opens with a reception from 5 to 9 Thursday, September 2, and continues through October 2. Gallery hours are noon to 5 Wednesday through Saturday. Call 862-5040.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter Barreras.

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