Chicago Book Release Talk and Reception


Join award-winning, fine art photographer Jane Fulton Alt as she discusses her recently published book, The Burn.  This series of arresting photographs, begun in 2007, captures the beauty, violence and regenerative power of controlled prairie burns — “the ephemeral moment when life and death are not opposed, but are harmonized as a single process to be embraced as a whole.”
Thursday, November 7
6-8 PM
6 PM Reception, 7 PM Artist Talk

DePaul Art Museum
935 W. Fullerton Avenue, Chicago
A book-signing will follow the artist’s talk.Museum exhibitions will be open for viewing.Admission is complimentary. 
RSVP by November 4 to:
847.234.1063 or
Enjoy our convenient round trip shuttle for just $40/person. Advance reservations required. Meet at Ragdale, 1230 N. Green Bay Road in Lake Forest at 4:30 PM. 
Presented in cooperation with The Ragdale Foundation and the DePaul Art Museum

The Burn Project / An Interview with Jane Fulton Alt from Jane Fulton Alt on Vimeo.

Portrait of an Art Critic ~ Michael Weinstein

Every Chicago photographer is familiar with Michael Weinstein, the photo critic for the NewCity weekly. He is one of the city's treasures...always present at art openings,  lending a critical eye to the work  and always generous with his insights and time. Michael has an uncanny ability to contextualize work for an artist way before the artist has articulated it for themselves. He sees deeply. In a time of diminishing resources, when there are fewer and fewer critics, Chicago is very lucky to have Michael in our midst!

I asked Michael if he would be willing to be interviewed for this blog post, and he cheerfully agreed.
Here is the interview....

JFA: What is your concept of the role of an art critic?

My practice as an art critic is what the Italian philosopher of the first half of the twentieth century, Benedetto Croce, called "immanent criticism." By that he meant that the critic should not come to a work or body of work with a set of standards or values that would then be applied to judge the work, but, instead, should seek to get inside the work and re-live it as the artist intended it to be experienced, if at all possible. Having followed that procedure to the best of his or her ability, the critic would then seek to express the experience of that work in words. The way I put it is that the work is a gift given to the viewer from the artist, and I want to honor that gift by experiencing it as much as possible as the artist wants me to appreciate it. I would not have any interest in art if it did not provide me with access to the vision of another person, not my own vision or a vision that I personally prefer. Immanent criticism allows one to grow, and my reviews are meant to help readers to grow and to provide a bridge that the readers can cross to the work so that they can experience it for themselves.

Immanent criticism stands for appreciation and against "gatekeeping," the personal preferences of the critic, judgments based on pre-ordained theories, the attempt to push one kind of art at the expense of others, trendiness, making art subserve political or moral positions, criticism as an excuse for the critic to express his or her own ideas about this or that, and helping out friends at the expense of other artists. All of those have no interest for me; I am in front of the work so that I can receive an infusion of visual intelligence. The great photography theorist Rudolf Arnheim said that photography embodies visual "form at a primary level," and is an independent object of intelligence, that is, visual intelligence (which is not my strong suit). I am grateful to photographers, who have visual intelligence, for expanding my experience. To repeat, I would not want to be a critic on any other terms. I do not favor one genre over another, one technique over another, one form of representation over another in my reviewing - I take each on its own terms. Certainly, I have my own personal preferences, but what possible good could it do for readers or artists if I paraded my personal preferences in print? After all, they are simply personal preferences and everyone has personal preferences; mine have no higher standing than anyone else's. What I can do is to use my accumulating knowledge of photography to gain access to a work and then dwell within it as intensely as I can.

JFA : When did you first know you were going to become an art critic?

In 1989 I began a sabbatical, which meant that I was not teaching in my specialty, which is/was political philosophy. At that time I felt that I had accomplished everything I had set out to do in philosophy, which was to figure out and put into writing and have published a philosophy of life that was true to the way I was living. I was at what I call a "zero point" at which "everything is possible and nothing is necessary" with "nowhere to go and anything to do." So, what to do? I hit upon the idea of learning about something that was mildly distasteful to me just to see what would happen - and I chose photography. So, through the summer and fall of 1989, I took pictures, read about photography, and visited galleries. I read an essay by Edward Weston in which he said that he kept a journal of every photographic encounter that he had, and I decided to do the same. One day in February, 1990 I was sitting in the old Houk Gallery in River North writing my journal after viewing an exhibit by Alexandr Rodchenko, and when I read it over I realized that I had written a review. I decided to walk it over to NewCity, my favorite newspaper at that time and now, and met the editor and owner, Brian Hieggelke, who was stationed right in the front room. He looked over my review, said he would publish it, and offered to let me write reviews for NewCity every issue. I've been doing so ever since with a few absences due to illness. My relationship with NewCity has been a highlight of my life; without NewCity, I would never have become a photography critic. That's Chicago - a place where you don't have to be in a clique and don't have to have connections to strike off in a new direction and get encouragement.

JFA: What were the experiences and influences that led to your being an art critic?

As I just explained, there were no conscious influences that led me to become an art critic. Leaving out my psycho-history, through which I have made sense of what happened in retrospect (but that again is personal), the big influence was philosophy. I had read all of Croce's major works before I made my photography experiment, so it wasn't difficult for me to see that immanent criticism was the way that I would go.

JFA: What have been the more challenging aspects of being an art critic?

There have been no challenging aspects of being an art critic from the get-go until now. To me, it's pure enjoyment. What's not to enjoy about receiving and appreciating gifts from people with visual intelligence, and then putting the experience I have into words? I have the freedom to engage the work on its own terms - it's always new and exciting. That's why I'm into my twenty-fourth year of doing it.

JFA: Can you identify any shifts in your perspective as an art critic over the years?

My perspective as an art critic has not changed a bit. Why should it? Immanent criticism always remains the same; it shifts on its own accord from one work and one genre to the next, always open to fresh developments and artists, always alert to the nuances in new manifestations of an extant genre and an established artist.

JFA: How has being an art critic influenced your own photography?

In order to get into taking pictures in 1989, I chose the simplest photographic problem that I could think of - the recording of a two-dimensional still subject in daylight. Aaron Siskind's wall abstractions were crucial for me in showing me how that simple problem could be worked on to get intense (at least for me) results. It led me to graffiti, distressed sides of railroad cars, peeling posters, and so on. I won't claim to be an accomplished photographer in the slightest, but I can say that shooting flat subjects in open-air seclusion has led me to powerful zenlike experiences in which vision narrows to what is in the view finder and one's consciousness is consumed by it. At times the subject seems to become animated and to "dance." It's a "natural high," for sure.

JFA : How would you characterize the current Chicago photographic art scene?

I have been a great lover of the Chicago photographic art scene through all the years I've been part of it. It has always been vibrant. Grassroots galleries continue to pop up, there are always commercial galleries showing a variety of work from local photographers and from the four corners of the earth, there are big and little museums, galleries in businesses, galleries in community centers, university and college galleries - you name it. There are great people to meet if you go to openings. There is that welcoming and open Chicago spirit. There are independent centers of creation rather than a single establishment. When it comes to the Chicago photographic art scene, it's "sweet home Chicago." 

JFA : Now you know why Michael is such a gem. He is one of the few people I know who really sees clearly AND lives in "sweet home Chicago!"

Multiple Exposures Exhibition at Bridgeport Art Center

"The privilege of a life time is becoming more of who you are."
                                                                                         Joseph Campbell

This quote guides the focus of a photographic critique group that  I began 5 years ago....
I envisioned the group  as a way of providing a forum for sharing work with the goal of helping each photographer further refine their personal vision... Once the work is  fully realized, suggestions are offered up on how to send it out into the world. 

I am happy to announce that the group will be have an exhibition on May 17th at the Bridgeport Art Center. The artists included in the show are  Ilze Arajs, Nelson Armour, Susan Annable, Art Fox, Alan Leder, Janet Mesic - Mackie, Yvette Meltzer,  Mary Rafferty, Neil Spinner and Jessica Tampas and yours truly.

The exhibit is going to be very exciting. The show focuses on nature and humanity. The work spans psychological renderings of complete strangers, roller derby life, discarded dolls, in addition to abstractions from nature and architecture.  This compelling exhibition  will be shown in the beautiful exhibition space at the Bridgeport Art Center.
Here is a sampling...

Alan Leder ~ Architectural Elements
Ilze Arajs ~ Holding fast in ebb and flow
Janet Mesic-Mackie ~ Horses
Jane Fulton Alt ~ The Burn
Nelson Armour ~ Park Avenue Beach

Jessica Tampas ~ Unbroken

Yvette Meltzer ~ Revolutions

Mary Rafferty ~ Derby Life
Neil Spinner ~ I Am The Other

Susan Annable ~ Memento Mori
Art Fox ~ Facing the Homeless

There will also be a presentation on Thursday,  May 30th from  7-9pm on the life and work of Vivian Maier, presented by Author Rich Cahan and master printer Ron Gordon. 

I have personally been working on two books that will be released in late September on the burn. The "trade" book will be published by Kehrer Verlag in Germany.

I have also collaborated with Chicago book artist, Teresa Pankratz, on a limited edition artist made book titled


fire /smoke

I am thrilled that the artist book will be available for viewing at the Bridgeport Art Center show. We have been working all winter on the structure and design and are currently going into full production. The "book" (more like an object) will be available in a limited edition of 18. All pre-orders will include a signed copy of the trade book.

Hope to see you at the Bridgeport Art Center on Friday, May 17th from 7 - 10pm....
Refreshments and live music by Raman Hen. Come celebrate the arts with us!

1200 W. 35th Street
Dan Ryan to 35th Street, west about a mile 
(free parking on north side of building)

The Art of Human Rights and Healing ~ Survivor Quilts

Some amazing work had transpired in Chicago under the creative brainpower of Greg Halvorsen Schreck, a photography professor at Wheaton College
Greg collaborated with Chicago’s Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center in creating a photographic/quilt project with survivors of politically sponsored torture. The Kovler Center transforms the lives of individuals recovering from the complex consequences of torture,  providing medical, mental health, and social services.

Constructing the quilt 

"We had discussed possible photography projects for years. However, the need for survivor confidentiality made conventional documentary approaches impossible. Instead of a traditional documentary project, too often cementing images of individual victims, we decided to use an approach that visualized a community of survivors. Through a collaborative group project, we were able to create a process that promoted dialogue and understanding between survivors, students, and staff members. We all wanted to create an image of a supportive community that would present survivors with dignity and beauty. Posing torture survivors for photographs might reiterate the problem of someone exerting control over them, so we allowed each person to depict themselves in ways that offered self-expression, autonomy, and anonymity. The basic set consisted of a computer monitor next to a camera, allowing the subject to see each image on the screen as it was made. Most importantly, we gave them a remote control to make their own self-portraits. We wanted the survivors to see themselves in community—in solidarity with case workers and other service providers—so the Kovler Center staff participated as well." 
"After making photographs to their satisfaction, the survivors were invited to choose two photographs that they liked the best. The images were cropped into squares and printed on-site. The photographs were then cut into strips and woven back together. The editing and weaving process allowed the participants another way to alter their identity, as needed. They could control exactly how they would appear. Finally, the completed squares were sewn together to create a quilt. Students were responsible for various parts of the collaborative process: helping with the camera; editing, cropping, and printing the images; cutting the images and weaving them back together; troubleshooting and overseeing the visual design of the quilt; and sewing the quilt together. The production room was festive and energetic, with students, survivors, and Kovler Center staff working together in various combinations. The quilt was reinforced and finished at Wheaton College."

The participants’ response was overwhelmingly positive:
 “They did the worst things to me, the worst. I have scars all over from where they hurt me. I thought I didn’t have a body anymore . . . I brought my therapist with me, and then I felt okay. I made some pictures, and I started feeling happy. I could do it by myself, without the therapist anymore. I liked the pictures I saw. I started moving and having fun.”
“I realized that I could have a body again; I could be in my body. I could move. I realized I could have a life here. I could start again. I felt like I was a model, that I was beautiful.”
“After what they did to my body, I never knew I could feel this way again.”
“You made me beautiful . . . I am beautiful!”
“I felt immortal.”
"A non-traditional intervention, the finished quilt has proven to be uplifting, empowering, and transformative, beyond what any of us could have imagined. Something magical and healing occurred when survivors took the remote control in their hands, determined how to pose their own bodies, and decided when and how their image was to be recorded."

Greg shares more ideas from this past fall on working  with another underserved population in the Chicago area...
 "I started my class this semester working with the escalating refugee population in Wheaton.  Mostly from Congo and Burundi; the civil war there is pretty harrowing.  A number of us in Wheaton donated our backyards for some of them to farm.  My students documented the gardens and we had an exhibition a few weeks back: all the African gardeners came.  There was abundant Congolese and other food that they made.  Only a few of the homeowners came.  The refugees had never been to an opening, nor had most of them seen pictures of themselves.  It was quite a wild time.  So Karen and I invited our gardeners for dinner this afternoon with another refugee family.  Talk about culture shock..."

 You can read more about the quilt project HERE.

The Art of Human Rights

Charles Gniech, Chief curator of The Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago and fellow artist, is at it again. He has organized an alternative exhibition at the Zia Gallery in Winnetka to support the amazing Heartland Alliance of Chicago. His energy and curatorial abilities are impressive. The show will only be up for a few short days, so if you are interested in supporting both artists and a wonderful social service organization, be sure to stop by.

Zia Gallery, 548 Chestnut Street;  Winnetka, Illinois
Monday, August 27 – Exhibition opens
Thursday, August 30 – Main event: 5-8:30 
Saturday, September 1 – Exhibition Closes

Taking the Summer Mary Schmich

Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune wrote a wonderful essay yesterday that I wanted to share with you, Taking the Summer Quiz. I am grateful for her wisdom as I thought about it this morning while swimming in the exquisitely delicious waters of Lake Michigan.

Light House Beach, Evanston © Jane Fulton Alt

Mary Schmich

August already.

The flowers are open wide. The air's still warm and as soggy as wet cotton. The days are still longer than the nights.
In other words, we've reached the season's peak, and perched here above summer's downhill slope, it's time to pause. Assess. And, if necessary, correct course in the summer time that's left.

Here's one of our occasional quizzes to help you. Select one answer in each category. Points are awarded for attitude as well as achievement.

1. Summer Harvest

A. I go to the local farmers market regularly! +10 points

B. I have Googled farmers market locations and fully intend to go to one before the summer's over. +1 point

C. Anything I can get at a farmers market I can get cheaper at Jewel, without the preening people, their annoying dogs and that bleepin' hammered dulcimer. -10 points

2. Water Sports

A. I've gone swimming so much that my bathing suit has a suntan! +15 points

B. Spare me the skin cancer, but I've read four trashy beach books lying in my backyard with a glass of sweet iced tea. +5 points

C. Why would I swim when I can lie on the couch in the AC and watch Michael Phelps? -10 points

3. Outdoor Entertainment

A. Millennium Park, Ravinia, neighborhood festivals! I've done them all! +25 points

B. Ravinia is too far. Neighborhood festivals are too loud. But I fully intend to go to Millennium Park now that that bleepin' electronica "music" is off the schedule. +2 points

C. Why would I go outside when I can lie on the couch in the AC and read about Kristen Stewart's love life? -30 points

4. Outdoor Exercise

A. Hardly a day goes by that I don't take a long walk/run/bike ride! +20 points

B. I walked over to Chick-fil-A to see if those sandwiches were worth the fuss. 0 points

C. If God meant humans to exercise outdoors, she wouldn't haven't invented temperatures over 75 degrees. -15 points

5. Lollapalooza

A. I'm in! +10 points

B. I am too old for Lollapalooza. +15 points (For self-awareness.)

C. What is Lollapalooza? -3 points (Age is no excuse for ignorance.)

6. Summer Dining

A. I've gorged on fresh tomatoes, peaches, corn, etc. + 15 points

B. Fresh tomatoes are overrated, but I'm all about brats on the grill. +1 point.

C. Does eating Cheetos while lying on the couch in the AC watching the Olympics count? -15 points

7. Heat Appreciation Index

A. Heat is the soul of summer, and I've savored these hundred-degree days! +15 points

B. Heat sucks but I'm not ready for winter. 0 points

C. I cranked up the AC in April and haven't turned it off since. -25 points

8. Summer Vacation

A. I spent half my vacation posting photos of my vacation on Facebook. -10 points

B. I spent half my vacation on Facebook, jealous of other people's vacation photos. -10 points

C. I spent my vacation without checking Facebook or email once. +30 points

9. Summer Reading

A. I finally read that fat classic I've been meaning to read since high school. +25 points

B. I've read four trashy novels and all my old magazines. +10 points

C. Does Facebook count? -40 points


Above 100: No summer regrets necessary.

0-100: Still time to improve.

Below 0: Remember this when you're grousing about winter.
© Jane Fulton Alt

The Art of Human Rights

What do these 24 people have common?

They are among the established artists, selected by curator Chuck Gniech, to be exhibited at
The Art of Human Rights - March 10, 2012. All commissions from the exhibition benefit
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights.

to benefit Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights

Coalition Gallery - Chicago Artists' Coalition
217 N Carpenter Street (West Loop)
Chicago, IL 60607
$125 in advance or $150 at the door.
Purchase tickets now

For More Information:
Call (312) 660-1339

Interested in purchasing art now?

Check out the Art Catalog and Price List for details.

Alan Leder ~ The Pod Project

I will now take you into another realm....that of Alan Leder. Alan has many interesting bodies of work, including The Pod Project. His painting background clearly influences how he sees and interprets the world.
I will leave the rest for Alan to explain...

In Alan's works...

"In my photography, I tend to document and study images of natural forms and industry's detritus. I'm drawn to the elements of our known world as they are transcribed through the lensing of natural light. At the same time, I am transfixed by the unknowable world, all that glitters in the infinite dark space enveloping our blue planet.

Unable to see what the far distant future might hold for us, I can only imagine; I search for hints in mundane micro matter, for hidden glimpses of a nuclear core or the striated surface of a lifeless stellar mass. The yield is a re-animated crop of primal ovoid forms, invented "astral projections" at once beautiful and mysterious. I imagine these as transformative cosmic events from a galaxy far, far away. Perhaps that galaxy was ours."

Alan will be showing this work at the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 West 35th Street , Chicago, scheduled to open in May of 2012. Be sure to check out his website HERE.

Suzy Halpin ~ American's Beauty Show

Every wonder about what it would be like to be back stage as models are getting ready for the "lime light?" Take a look at what Suzy Halpin has done. The black and white photographs are beautifully choreographed by Suzy's eye and timing with the release of the shutter button.

In Suzy's words...

"Voyeurism is an unkind word, but perhaps accurate. I have always wanted to be on the inside of people and understand what they are thinking and feeling. My mind has always created stories about the people I notice. The more interesting the person looks, the more interesting the story is. Now, spending my time so often behind the lens, I find I have even more questions as I look at each of my photographs, and my stories get even larger.

This series of ‘American Beauty’ is my latest attempt to understand a group of people who all share a common interest outside of my own interests. As I look at each of these images I notice the drastic contrast between the stylist and their model. Is there something to be learned from this? Does it inspire you to create? Is beauty silent? I wonder all of these questions and many more from these images. What do you wonder?

As always, I am always grateful and encouraged by the openness of the subjects of my photos. All of these people knew they were being photographed and I would thank each of them by name if I could."

You can see more of Suzy's work HERE.

Maggie Meiners ~ Exposed Under Cover

Ever wonder what it would be like to do a series of self portraits? Take a look at what Maggie Meiners has done in her series I Am Who You Want Me to Be. The photographs are so well seen, direct and incredibly compelling.

In her words...

"This is an on-going series of self-portraits that began with an examination of the many roles I play, both assigned and elective. The works detach from the traditional notion of portrait in two ways. The square format allows each work to occupy a space separate from landscape or portrait, just as one’s own experience; environment and appearance map our identity. In addition, the exclusion of the face removes individual identity suggesting that while I possess unique particulars, the role of the any individual is multi-tiered and complex.

Every individual has aspects of their life that they would prefer to deny or disguise. Here, each vignette is unapologetically filled with the accoutrements of my day-to-day life. Cindy Sherman and her commentary on the representations of women in society have certainly influenced me. Yet these works remain personal observations commenting on my own experience, while nodding toward the multiplicities that comprise the totality of every contemporary woman.

My previous work has, even at its most abstract, dealt with specific places, experiences and forms. I am largely self-taught, and as my practice developed, I believe that I had to gain a better understanding of my self. I am an individual, and I am also a wife, mother, consumer, athlete, daughter, sister, and cook, to name a few. Yet, as an artist in an unexpected socio-economic construct I am often a novelty. Looking clearly and unapologetically at these various roles has afforded me a larger view of the human condition; and an awareness of the self we expose and the self we keep private."

Here are a few images to prime us for the upcoming holidays!

You can see Maggie's work up close and personal at the Zia Gallery in Winnetka, IL

Art Fox ~ Walls @ Chicago Cultural Center

In the next several works I am planning on presenting some work of a very talented group of Chicago photographers. I hope you enjoy it! Art Fox currently has work up at the Chicago Cultural Center in his first solo show. He helps us to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

In Art's Words...

"How, Why, When, and Where: Walls"

"After food and clothing is shelter. Shelter means walls. Even our great cities are made of walls. The lucky dwellers have four and a roof; the unfortunate borrow one as haven from wind, rain, and man. But think China. Think Berlin. Walls keep you out and they keep you in. And ever since the petroglyphs they are blackboard, mural, signboard, journal. Cold and flat but the very mark of mankind. Walls tell us about people."

"I have always been a collector of the common unappreciated objects of art which fill our world. Ever since childhood I have squirreled away curious rocks, fossils, seeds, odd pieces of wood, or manmade objects, for their colors and contours. Walls are a fusion of the natural and the manmade, and like these smaller things, also present fascinating abstract patterns and textures. Street artists may have used them as a canvas worthy of preservation. Walls are too big to bring home, but they are patient and will wait for me, until the light is right or the car moves on. They are forgiving of depth of field and shutter speed. They are also a convenient stage-set, upon which we can view the people around us. I see myself as a collector of light patterns reflected off the walls of our world."

Here is a review from photo critic, Michael Weinstein from the New City Art

"Shooting in lush, muted color, Art Fox continues the modernist tradition of wall photography pioneered by Aaron Siskind, and redeems the ruins, as Siskind put it, by capturing the enthralling blend of textures, splashes of paint, pock marks and blistering lettering and rust that bedeck weathered surfaces that can exert a hypnotic effect. Fox’s images range from straight representational shots to nearly pure abstractions, the latter of which are the most successful by virtue of our ability to concentrate on composition and color to the exclusion of everything extraneous. Fox reaches the perfection that Siskind sought of besting abstract expressionist paintings in “Wire and Wall,” in which the involving cracked and striated gray concrete surface is broken by a vertical swathe of red, orange and yellow paint within which a rigid black vertical line (the wire) sections off the composition."

Through December 21 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington

Pushing the Boundaries of Photography ~ Greg Halvorsen Schreck on The Art of Fixing a Shadow

If you are interested in what is new in photography, be sure to check out the work of Greg Halvorsen Schreck. His work is nothing short of amazing. It is just a matter of time before this goes mainstream. Greg is a Chicago treasure.

in Greg's words....

"Lambertian photographs are digital photographs made out of wood. There is no pigment, ink, or emulsion that define them, nor are they projected images. Rather, the photographs are formed by light and shadow as it rakes across the surface contours. The science of the images is based on Lambert’s Law, from 1760. The equation calculates the diffuse reflection intensity of a surface based upon the angle of illumination and the angle of observation. Programmers have used Lambert’s Law to render objects realistically in 3-d computer programs. Mark Woodworth, a friend, an industrial physicist, coded Lambert’s equation into a software program that translates grayscale pixel densities into angular surface changes that can be milled on to a wood surface. Each photograph combines around 96 separately machined pieces of wood viewed from the side. In normal room light, the images can barely be perceived. They look like a peculiar chunk of wood; maybe something is carved into the surface. Illuminated properly with a single light source, the wood magically transforms into a black and white photograph."

"The poetry of each portrait comes from their concave quality. The photograph is hollowed out of the wood, a subtractive process. So the sitter leaves a space behind, an absence. That absence is reminiscent of the shadow that symbolizes the origins of art, when the Corinthian maid traced the shadow of her beloved the night before he left for war, so she could remember him. As a result of this myth, both art and photography have been described as “fixing a shadow.” John Berger speculates something similar as he reflects on one of his drawings, “What is a likeness? When a person dies, they leave behind, for those who knew them, an emptiness, a space: the space has contours and is different for each person mourned. This space with its contours is the person’s likeness and is what the artist searches for when making a living portrait. A likeness is something left behind invisibly.”

Greg teaches photography at Wheaton College and has his work up at the Schneider Gallery in Chicago until December 31st. His work is extraordinary and must be seen in real life to fully appreciate it.

Dia de los Muertos Celebration

12: 05 AM

It is two hours since the last guest left. We just had a fund raiser/salon for Ragdale . It felt like a performance art piece that touched all the senses. Art/food/ and friends gathering to celebrate and support the arts.

As I cut each marigold blossom from my yard in preparation for assembling the altar, I was thinking how extravagant it felt to have so many flowers adorning my home in addition to the 50 votive candles transported from Oaxaca. Flowers and candles are just the best along with the very colorful tissue cutout flags. My home was my pallet and when the sun went down and all the candles were lit, it felt like the entire house was floating on air!

The altar was dedicated to the Shaw family who founded The Ragdale Foundation which provides residencies for artists of all disciplines. I loved setting up my home to reflect the generous spirit of both the Shaw family and Dia de los Muertos, a life affirming remembrance of the departed thru celebration. The food was exquisite (as in transformative thanks to Howard and Kevin) and was followed by a fabulous talk by Chicago Chef Rick Bayless on the significance of food in memory, celebration and the creative process.

Every time I passed the altar I kept wanting to photograph it...just couldn't help myself!

The chocolate skulls were made by Nicole's Homemade Treats...and they were yummy! The mescal, Fidencio, was so smooth and from a distillery we visited this past summer in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca.

Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead!

Pae White at the Art Institute of Chicago

I feel like I should be working for the tourism board of the City of Chicago. There are so many cool goings on in the city.
Last night I attended an event at the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. I had never been to the restaurant, Terzo Piano, and the setting took my breath away. The terrace, with spectacular views of Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue, is encased with a site specific work by artist Pae White titled Restless Rainbow. She has wrapped the space with an abstracted rainbow. While planning for the installation, White wondered... what would happen if a rainbow fell from the sky?

You could go see for yourself.

While we are on the subject of rainbows, here is a stitched iphone photograph of a double rainbow.

© Alden Griffith

Who even knew they occurred in nature?

Chicago Theater ~ On Rothko and The Pitmen Painters

Everyone knows how fabulous Chicago Theater is. There is always something wonderful to see. I am passing along 2 suggestions for anyone reading this blog who resides in Chicago. The Pitmen Painters at Time Line Theater is about a group of men who work in the coal mines who hire a teacher so they can learn about art. When the teacher learns they know absolutely nothing about the history of art, he suggests they pick up a paintbrush and start creating their own art. What follows is an insightful and delightful discussion about art.

I jotted down these quotes to share...

"Art isn't about finding's about asking questions."
"Art is not about technical proficiency, it is about feelings."

A nice article about the book that the play was based on, The Pitman Painters: The Ashington Group 1934-1984 by William Feaver is HERE.

Last night I saw Red at the Goodman Theater which is by American writer John Logan about artist Mark Rothko. I was deeply moved by the play as it touched so many of the themes in my life. Happily, I bought a copy of the play in the lobby to more fully consider it's riches. One thing Rothko asks his assistant was if he had every read Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. (I haven't but just downloaded it onto my kindle).

He goes on to discuss his concern for building up the luminosity of the painting, (something I am currently struggling with and am at the point of being discouraged but not defeated). "I do a lot of layers, one after another, like a glaze, slowly building the image, like pentimento, letting the luminescence emerge, until it's done."

The Rothko character also states, "These pictures deserve compassion and they live or die in the eye of the sensitive viewer, they quicken only if the empathetic viewer will let them. That is what they cry out for. That is why they were created. That is what they deserve."

For more information on the NYC production, there is an online interview with Charlie Rose HERE.

The Dorchester Project ~ Theaster Gates

I don't know if you have seen the movie the Interrupters, but if you did, it may have left you wondering what you could do. The arts have always been a vehicle for healing. I just read this article in the University of Chicago Magazine and instead of trying to paraphrase it, I thought I would just share it. The project is truly inspired and reminds me of how some artists have transformed Detroit neighborhoods.

Culture Wares

Theaster Gates hopes to transform a neighborhood through art.

It's as if he wants to get this part out of the way first: Theaster Gates knows that the South Side of Chicago has long been burdened with a bad reputation—and that the reputation is at least partially merited. "We know there's violence, and we know there's gang activity," Gates says. "We know there's not a strong economic core."

What Gates most wants to talk about, however, is the potential that gets lost in the discussions of the problems. "What we don't consider enough is the rich cultural legacy," Gates says, "the kind of cultural curiosity, the alternative histories. ... There is a deep intellectual reservoir that has never been fully tapped. And if it has, its voice has never been amplified loudly enough."

© Lloyd Degrane

Gates, a University resident artist, visual-arts lecturer, and director of arts-program development, has dedicated himself to amplifying that voice.

His Dorchester Project is the most ambitious example of his goal to find run-down spaces in struggling black neighborhoods and transform them through art and culture. Although the South Side's Grand Crossing neighborhood serves as the locus of his movement, Gates's art has been the subject of exhibitions in other cities, including St. Louis and Seattle. He has purchased property in St. Louis with the idea of transforming blighted spaces there, as well.

Gates, a West Side native who has arts, religion, and urban planning degrees from Iowa State University, has accumulated an eclectic body of work from pottery to music—his Black Monks of Mississippi ensemble includes musician Leroy Bach, formerly of the alt-rock band Wilco. The ongoing project in Grand Crossing, however, promises to be his magnum opus.

The Dorchester Project's centerpiece is a once-abandoned two-story house at 6916 South Dorchester. To create what he hopes will become a South Side cultural hub, where artists and other visitors can congregate both informally and for planned events, Gates went on a bargain spending spree. He purchased the property for $16,000. Then he bought 8,000 vinyl albums from a Hyde Park record store, Dr. Wax, which was closing. He added to the mix approximately 14,000 used books and thousands of photographic slides that the University of Chicago was planning to discard. Every item serves a double purpose—arrayed throughout the home, each one becomes part of the overall decor while also providing cultural material for artists and other visitors, a conversation piece unto itself.

The house is the first of many spaces on the block that Gates, who has also purchased two vacated foreclosures nearby, plans to transform. For stigmatized neighborhoods, he says, art can be the springboard to renaissance. "There's dignity everywhere," Gates says. "It's easy to overlook because the people who write about culture in the city live north. The people who have the capacity to create new cultural opportunities usually create them in a place that seems economically viable, where you can bank on a certain kind of person going to a certain kind of thing."

For Gates, who joined the University in 2007, his job is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the campus arts culture and the surrounding neighborhoods. He intends to connect the two even more, developing a role with the University under the working title, "Director of Arts and Public Life."

"I'm having this conversation with my friends at the University of Chicago," says Gates. "How can our students become more cultured? How do we get our students more embedded in the cultural life of the city? How do we ensure that our students have a voice and are engaged in the community? ... How do we make sure the community has access to the cultural life of the University? ... Is there a way I can help contribute to that?"
With his Dorchester Project, Gates is leading the discussion.

The link to the article is HERE.