Documenting Pizza Huts and cerebral palsy | Art Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Documenting Pizza Huts and cerebral palsy 

'Stranger Than Family' offers a case study in, well, the strangeness of family

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

"Nicks Idea," 2010. Nothing strange about death looming over a child dressed in skeleton pajamas.

"Nicks Idea," 2010. Nothing strange about death looming over a child dressed in skeleton pajamas.

"Stranger Than Family" is a great name for an art show. It has that hint of a question, What is stranger than family? The answer is, Not much. All happy families are not alike, and closeness breeds weirdness. Photographer Matthew Avignone was born in South Korea, adopted by a white couple (delivered "not by a stork," he says, "but by a Boeing 747"), and grew up in Peotone and Bourbonnais. Three of his siblings are also Korean, and the fourth is from India.

The show brings together 20 photographs that Avignone has taken of his family since 2010, including striking portraits and spontaneous shots of everyday suburban life. He documents the familiar weirdness of wide streets and plasticky houses, Pizza Huts and grilling on the patio. His multiracial family isn't placed in ironic counterpoint to the cultural whiteness of the surroundings. They're of a piece with it.

"Stranger Than Family" also features historical ephemera such as passports, adoption forms, and an exceedingly strange letter Avignone's father, Mike, wrote to his colleagues at work, in which he explains the cascading decisions to adopt the first kid, then the next ("we decided to go for another Korean baby"), and the next. One has cerebral palsy, another has spina bifida. The curious coworkers, the relentless kid collecting—it's pretty strange. Maybe the Avignones aren't quite of a piece with their surroundings after all.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
April 30
Galleries & Museums
May 07

Popular Stories