Friday, January 16, 2015

CR Event Series: Making It What We Need

Brittany Southworth-LaFlamme + Etienne LaFlamme
still from "Illuminate Each Other," single-channel split screen video, 2014
On Saturday, January 31st at 10am Cultural ReProducers presents Making it What We Need, a workshop and conversation generating concrete ideas in addressing the needs of cultural producers who are also working it out as parents. This is the final installment of the Cultural ReProducers Childcare-Supported Event Series, and also a chance to help shape what happens next. MIWWN is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Division of Labor: Chicago Artist Parents on view at Columbia College’s Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash, Chicago IL.

Led by Cultural ReProducers organizers Christa Donner and Selina Trepp with the participation of students, arts administrators, exhibiting artists and others, Making it What We Need considers alternate models for living, making, and making a living as artists. Non-parents are welcome to join the conversation, which will be relevant to anyone working toward a sustainable life in the arts.

During the event, kids in our on-site childcare area will construct their own visions for the future using colored dough, washable ink and poster-sized paper. Cultural ReProducers events are free, but space is limited. Childcare is available through pre-registration only.

Eventbrite - Cultural ReProducers: Making It What We Need

The Cultural ReProducers Event Series is a roaming series of free lectures, performances, and other events designed to allow parents with small children participate more actively in the art community. Events take place on weekend mornings and feature great artist-curated programming, on-site childcare and all-ages receptions. Our goal is twofold: to give parents and their kids the chance to participate as critical members of the arts community, and to inspire cultural institutions to better serve artists and audiences, providing positive models for future programming. This project is made possible through support from the Propeller Fund.

ChristaDonner and Selina Trepp are internationally-exhibited multimedia artists. As parents they actively engage issues of creative practice and family life. Donner uses drawing, installation and small-press publications to re-vision the human body through physical sensation and imagination. Her work has been exhibited internationally including recent projects for BankArt NYK (Yokohama), the Museum Bellerive (Zurich) and the Horst Janssen Museum (Oldenberg, Germany). Trepp merges multiple dimensions through animation and a hybrid process of painting, performance and photography. Solo projects include exhibitions for Document and Comfort Station (Chicago) the Migros Museum for Contemporary Art (Zurich), and Le Centre Culturel Suisse (Paris). She is also half of the video-performance duo Spectralina in collaboration with her husband, musician Dan Bitney.
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I’m not a parent. Can I come? Absolutely, and bring your friends. While focused on the challenges of family, this event is relevant to anyone working toward a sustainable life in the arts. It’s vital to have non-parents as part of the conversation, too.

I am a parent. Does my kid have to be in childcare, or can I keep them with me? Parents who'd rather keep their children with them during the lecture are welcome to do so. We're just offering the option to participate without the distraction of wrangling small children.

Why do I need to pre-register for child care? For safety and legal reasons, space is limited to 18 children per event, and we expect it to fill quickly. Registration is first-come, first-served.

What time should I arrive if I have children? Sign-in starts at 9:15am. The event itself starts at 10:00 and will last about an hour and a half. Of course, timing with children is often a bit unpredictable. You’re welcome to sign in and quietly join us at any time during the event. 

Who will be watching my kids? We’ve hand-picked a great selection of experienced babysitters and playgroup facilitators who will lead hands-on activities linked to the events that parents will be attending. These are people we know and trust with our own kids. Keep in mind that this is a grassroots, artist-run childcare project, not a licensed daycare facility. You will be asked to read and sign a waiver before registering your child.

What about parking and public transportation? Glass Curtain Gallery is located about 3 blocks from the Roosevelt CTA Orange/Green/Red line station. 

Street parking downtown can be challenging. If you plan to drive we suggest using a service like  SpotHero to locate and reserve discounted parking ahead.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // Yi-Ping Hou, Sylvia Krüger, and Charlotte Lohr

photo © Nils_Klinger
The following was announced on the windows of a small blue house at dOCUMENTA (13), the summer 2012 installment of the international art exhibition that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany: The “60 wrd/min art critic” is available. Reviews are free of charge, and are written here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 1 and 6 p.m. Lori Waxman will spend 25 minutes looking at submitted work and writing a 200-word review. Thoughtful responses are guaranteed. Completed reviews will be published in the Hessische/NiedersächsischeAllgemeine (HNA) weekly, and will remain on view here throughout dOCUMENTA (13).

Lori Waxman is an art critic and historian who lives in Chicago. For d13 she decamped to Kassel for three-and-a-half months, together with her husband Michael Rakowitz, an artist also included in the exhibition, and their daughter Renée, who at the time was two-and-a-half years old. Lori wrote a total of 241 reviews during the course of the project. A few of them were for artists whose work revealed their existence as parents; some were even for children.   

A book of the entire project was published by Onestar Press, with an afterword by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13). It can be purchased in print or downloaded as a free PDF.  Cultural ReProducers is pleased to share a series of reviews excerpted from the project, which recognizes children and parents as relevant participants in cultural dialogue.

Yi-Ping Hou

Yi-Ping Hou

 Yi-Ping Hou and I have been sipping oolong tea for 20 minutes, as part of an artwork she calls “Serve Tea.” Her set is delicate and she uses it with sureness. Her three-year-old son Jasper flits around, wondering if it’s time to pour yet, time to paint. Are young children compatible with “tea,” a centuries-old practice meant to take the participants out of the space and time of quotidian circumstances? We discuss this and decide they are not. This feels painful but true. Is the self-conscious nature imposed by my open, public performance space compatible with “tea,” a ritual whose mastery involves slowing down and relaxing into intimate, subtle communion? We discuss this and decide it is not either. Finally, we take the wet, open tea leaves, scatter them on thick white paper, and together with Jasper’s help, ink them down in black and a bit of red. (Hou took up printmaking when her pregnancy forced her to stop using oil paint.) Would one of the Japanese masters Okakura writes about in “The Book of Tea” recognize or even appreciate our interaction? If he was a true master, then yes, if only for the deep honesty, flexibility and generosity that Yi-Ping Hou’s “Serve Tea” brought out in us all.

—Lori Waxman 9/12/12 4:06 PM

Sylvia Krüger

Sylvia Krüger

The compatibility of motherhood and art making is not a given, but it is excruciatingly important to raise as a possibility. Sylvia Krüger, a weaver and the mother of a boy who will turn three next week, is currently working out her own answers to its complicated questions. This feels like more of a necessity than a choice, as it similarly was for feminist artists like Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Mary Kelly beginning in the 1970s. Krüger, like her predecessors, works with and in her domestic and quotidian environment: she shreds and re-weaves used dishtowels; embroiders nighttime musings into her pillow (when finally there is enough quiet to think adult thoughts); builds the image of a house as a kind of feminist portraiture; spins yarn on a record-player bobbin, marking the constant passage of time; carves found sticks into hundreds of spools; and even fashions conventional, fairy-tale like tapestries. It is not easy to raise a child, and it is even more difficult to do this while making art; Krüger reveals these tensions with great honesty when she cuts up an unsettlingly chaotic tapestry, allows the record player to spin endlessly, and leaves the angry wood chips of her whittling spread across the floor, with three kitchen knives nearby. Redemption comes when these gestures and materials join together to form works of art.

—Lori Waxman 9/15/12 2:09 PM

Charlotte Lohr

Charlotte Lohr
Charlotte Lohr is six years old. She has made her first canvas, and it is a picture of a red bird. The bird stands dead center in the middle of a large white expanse, filling it with its round body, pointy beak, tail feathers, two feet and one eye. A phrase runs along the top of the chick’s head. From this description, you might imagine a sweet blob of red paint and some cheery ditty, all squashed onto a wee canvas. You would be wrong. Lohr paints her 90 cm square composition with a bold, thoughtful line, and her sense of restraint appeals. The bird isn’t colored in, and its schematic form feels original and cheeky. The caption, meanwhile, is not only stamped on in a nifty font, it’s an impudent play on one of the most annoying of sayings: The early bird catches the worm. Instead, Lohr wrote: I don’t give a shit about the early bird. This is surprising coming from a six year old, but also not. Children absorb and question everything in their environment, and the alternative maxim hangs in the Lohr family kitchen. So Lohr junior decided to interpret it and picture it. What’s so novel is the witty minimalism of her illustration, a style any grown-up would be hard-pressed to follow.

—Lori Waxman 8/25/12 2:00 PM

Also in this series:
60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // Walter Peter and Anna Yema Ditzel
60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // Julie Bernattz and Sofia Frank de Morais Barreira

Monday, December 22, 2014

CR Event Report: Division of Labor Opening & Co-Occupations Zine Release

This has been a busy season for Cultural ReProducers in Chicago - In November we came out en masse to celebrate the opening of the exhibition Division of Labor: Chicago Artist Parents at Glass Curtain Gallery, curated by and including a whole lot of remarkable Cultural ReProducers alumni (for the full list and curatorial essay, you can download the exhibition catalogue). The show had not one but two openings: an evening reception on November 19th, and an experimental family-friendly Saturday-morning party on the 22nd, which drew an
all-ages dance party with Tiny Cover Band
incredible crowd of artists and their families. While adults mingled over the snack table, Columbia College's Art Education Department kept the kids busy with a collage project based on included artist Anne Toebbe's layered domestic collage-paintings. Tiny Cover Band played an energetic set of tweaked indie classics on child-sized instruments, and at one point handed out small percussion instruments (maracas, bells and clappers) so everyone could join in. The result was a transformative all-ages dance party that brought everybody together on the dance floor.

One of a handful of recent exhibitions in which parenthood is a point of discussion, Division of Labor has already drawn some positive attention, including a Critic's Pick on and and a notable mention in the Chicago Tribune's Best Visual Art of the Year. Cultural ReProducers is excited to present the final installment of our childcare-supported event series there on January 31st. More on all that very soon.

Candida Alvarez on the relationship between family & abstraction
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On Wednesday, December 10th Cultural ReProducers launched its new zine, Propositions, Manifestos & Experiments, at Sector 2337 with the event Co-Occupations, a multimedia extravaganza organized with Caroline Picard that featured presentations by artists connected with both the zine and the Division of Labor show.

After introductions, Christa Donner kicked things off with the Cultural ReProducers

Manifesto and later shared an excerpt from Palle Nielsen's "Model for a Qualitative Society." Thea Liberty Nichols read from Ellen Lanyard's short essay in the influential M/E/A/N/I/N/G #12, Lise Haller Baggesen performed her new "Yo Mama" essay, Candida Alvarez shared a slideshow considering the influence of both motherhood and daughterhood in her work, Fred Sasaki's how-to videos created with his father and young son were screened, Claire Ashley delivered her own manifesto alongside images of relevant work, and Keiler Roberts brought her deadpan humor to the floor with a live comics reading. Husband-and-wife duo The Speers rounded out the evening with a thrumming electronic sound performance while their two-month-old baby dozed in the back room. All in all, it was a lively, jam-packed evening.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lost in Living: Review and Online Streaming

We're pleased to present part one of a two-part series featuring filmmaker Mary Trunk's documentary “Lost in Living,” which can be streamed online free of charge through December 25th, 2014 at Trunk does a remarkable job capturing the joy, exhaustion, and the many conflicts that arise as a result of being both mother and artist.  Don’t miss this opportunity to view an important film that accurately portrays many of the issues mother/artists deal with on a daily basis.

 by Chrissy LaMaster-Doty

Mary Trunk’s feature length documentary, Lost in Living, deals with the emotional and practical tensions which arise when artists become mothers. Trunk films and interviews four artists over the course of seven years. Two of them are young artists: Caren McCaleb, a painter and video editor, and Kristina Robbins, a filmmaker. These two women are close friends and experience pregnancy and the birth of their first children at about the same time. We are allowed to see first hand the impact rearing babies and toddlers has on their lives as mother/artists. The other two women featured are writer Merrill Joan Gerber and visual artist Marjorie Schlossman, both of whom have adult children and who reflect upon the impact of their young and growing families on their careers as artists. These reflections are more dramatic when some of their grown children speak of their childhoods, and recall some of the difficulties of being the child of a mother/artist.

What is so impactful in this film are the ambiguities expressed by these mother/artists—the need to be creative contrasted with the often mundane activities of child-rearing and house work; the feelings sometimes amounting to desperation when they speak about the interruption of their artistic careers and the difficulty of getting back on track; the cavalier dismissal by many in the art world of the value of motherhood; and the regret expressed especially by the older artists at the feeling that they neglected their children for the sake of their art.

Trunk’s own struggle with both motherhood and filmmaking inspired her to make the film, and her objective/observational role as a documentarian allows each woman’s journey to be understood. Lost in Living, does not make a case for choosing between motherhood and art.  Trunk does, however, with both hard-eyed realism and immense sympathy, show us how difficult it is to manage both. In this film mother/artists will see themselves and their struggles laid out before them and perhaps feel a little less alone, a little more recognized for their efforts. This documentary is a must-see for all artists, women, and mothers who may consider themselves “lost” in living.

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Chrissy LaMaster-Doty is a photographer, installation and video artist.  A fifth-generation Nebraskan, she has spent most of her life in the Midwest, teaching and holding various program and administrative positions at museums and community arts centers.  She now calls Central Illinois home, and recently earned her MA in Studio Art from Bradley University.  She is particularly interested in women’s issues, motherhood and the idea of the “maternal gaze.”  Chrissy is the mother of two college-aged children, and has spent the last 20 years attempting to find a balance between motherhood and art.   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cultural ReProducers: Propositions, Manifestos, and Experiments

At long last, our first zine project, Cultural ReProducers: Propositions, Manifestos &
Experiments is finally in print. This risographed think-tank explores the intersection of contemporary artmaking and family life through text and images from 28 international artists published by and with the collective Temporary Services in glorious duotone with a centerfoldout poster of the Cultural ReProducers manifesto. Due to the multilayered nature of the zine (44 pages in 3 colors with a centerfoldout manifesto poster) it was painstakingly collated, folded and stapled by hand and there are just 400-ish copies in existence.

Orders within the United States are just $7 US plus shipping ($8.50 postpaid). You can support the work of Cultural ReProducers by ordering your copies directly from us here:

Thanks to Temporary Services the zine will also soon be available as a lovely e-book and archival PDFs at $2 each through their imprint Half Letter Press.

For those of you in Chicago, join us for the event Co-Occupations, a reading, curated bookshelf and zine launch co-organized with Caroline Picard for Sector 2337 on Wednesday, December 10th at 7:30pm (doors open 7pm) including a live performance by musicians/parents The Speers. The event is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Division of Labor: Chicago Artist Parents, curated by Christa Donner and Thea Liberty Nichols and on view through February 14th at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery. Please join us if you can! Sector 2337 is located at 2337 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL.

Propositions, Manifestos & Experiments features contributions by: Christa Donner, Candida Alvarez, Laura Berman, Andrew Yang, Lise Haller Baggesen, Keiler Roberts (Powdered Milk), Lenka Clayton, Jennie Temple (Project!! Wakaka!), Stephanie Diamond, Selina Trepp, Chiara Galimberti, Lauren Weinstein, Alberto Aguilar, Fred & August Sasaki, Orla Whelan (AtHomeStudios, the Mothership Project), Crystal Ann Brown & Eliot Hown (The Hown's Den), Libby Clarke, Rebecca Niederlander & Iris Anna Regn (Broodwork), Jane Marsching & Andi Sutton (Plotform), Kyle Schlie (S.A.C.K.), Melissa Potter, Claire Ashley, Andre Francke & Kim Dhillon (Invisible Spaces of Parenthood).

Friday, November 28, 2014

Collaborations: Melissa Scherrer + Maeve

Collaborations is an ongoing series of creative projects undertaken by artists with their children. Milwaukee-based artist Melissa Scherrer makes collages, paintings and photographs with her daughter Maeve as part of her larger body of work, included prominently on her website under Professional Collaborations. Melissa is also the producer and host of Mother Friday, a weekly internet radio talk show exploring the many complexities of mothering, fathering, and creativity. Find more at

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview: Melissa Potter

Melissa Potter is an outspoken feminist and multimedia artist whose award-winning work investigates womens’ rites of passage from marriage to motherhood through a unique combination of social practice, printmedia, papermaking, sculpture and film. Melissa has exhibited at venues including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, White Columns, the VideoDumbo Festival, and Galerija Zvono in Belgrade, Serbia. She is founder of the NY-based feminist art collective, Art364B, and her critical writing has appeared in numerous publications including BOMB, Art Papers, AfterImage, and Flash Art. She has also become an advocate for open adoption, and generously shared with us her experiences with artmaking, travel, gender roles, and new parenthood. 

CR: For starters, tell us a little bit about your son. 

Melissa: Landon Aranzamendez Potter, age 5.5 months. His temperament is extroverted and affectionate. His giggle fits are popular with pretty much everyone. He’s really a delightful baby and is usually described by his admirers as mellow.

CR: What has your process been like for returning to a studio practice as a new parent? Any surprises or strategies for work-life balance you'd share with other artists?

Melissa: Actually, I didn’t put my practice on hold during our adoption process. Landon’s birth mother chose us two weeks before she was due, and he was born weeks before my one-year sabbatical at Columbia College Chicago. The timing was exquisite.

I also have a partner with whom I share 50% of all domestic and financial responsibilities, and so I was able to keep work and art plans pretty much in place. He took the initial leave for the first three months of Landon’s life.  The leave was unpaid (another issue altogether), but I was the summer chair of my department, which helped us make ends meet.

working with Maggie Puckett in the Papermaker's Garden
Maggie Puckett, Melissa & Landon in the Papermaker's Garden
I went to Taiwan for a week when Landon was about six weeks old, and my parents came to help out, as have other dear friends and family members (they are all out East where we used to live.) In the spring, I’ll be doing a three-month Fulbright in Sarajevo. It will be an interesting challenge bringing Landon for some of that time. My husband’s job doesn’t allow him to join me for more than a couple of weeks, so we are cobbling it together with friends and my former student, Jillian Bruschera, founder of The Mobile Mill, who is coming to help with art production.

My friends in less privileged countries taught me it is possible to raise a family in a one-bedroom apartment. We try to keep life as simple and inexpensive as possible. I spent a lot of my career making art in faraway places, but I now realize how important it is to invest in the community where you live full time, too. My former student, Maggie Puckett, and I spent the summer working on our Seeds In Service project in the Papermaker’s Garden, and Landon came along a lot of days. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

CR:  You have experienced some dissonance between parents and non-parents in the art community. How have your own perspectives shifted now that you’re raising a child? What conversations or alternative structures do you think could be useful in bridging that gap?

Melissa: I was in the “no kids” tribe for half my life, and then I was a switch hitter. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but there has been some puzzlement and even an indirect question or two about what will happen to my career (which I don’t think would be asked of my male colleagues).  I made it through 12 years in NYC on less than 30K a year in a basement apartment with a broken toilet; I'm pretty sure I can do this! We define ourselves by our life choices, and I think artists are particularly this way. Basically, I think the binary distinctions between “kids” vs. “no-kids”;  “mother” vs. “childless” are distinctions of power, privilege, and social control that negatively impact women's financial and social well-being.

We have a long way to go to help women make choices instead of compromises. Something as simple as Walter Mondale’s plan for universal childcare would have created a world we couldn’t even imagine today. Non-biological parenting gave me a lot of choices with my career in our broken social system, and for that I’m really grateful. I’m equally grateful that even though the academic system is not particularly family-friendly, my former colleague worked hard to create provisions in the tenure document to accommodate family choices and responsibilities. But there is still so much more work to do so that a woman dropping out of the workplace isn’t a practical default. We need the ERA ratified!

CR: Until Landon’s adoption is finalized in November you’ve understandably decided not to write or make work about parenthood. How do you think parenthood will impact your creative work?

Melissa: Adoptions are very stressful legally. In domestic adoptions, the time from
banners from the project Feminist Felt,
with women in the Republic of Georgia
placement to legal finalization is six months. Unknown birth fathers can be located through public announcements and databases by certain states. There are endless meetings, updates, police reports, DCFS visits, and a million other fairly invasive investigations into adoptive parents’ lives, homes, employment and families. I can’t wait for the process to be done so that I don’t feel the need to censor myself. It’s probably paranoid, but the process can trigger that fear.

As an artist whose work revolves around questions of gender, I realize that open adoption is one of the biggest gender experiments possible. Adoption forces us to reconsider everything we know about the nuclear family and conventional motherhood, from patriarchal naming conventions, to the role of two families - adoptive and biological - in a child’s life. We are also a society obsessed with self-actualization, and I think adoption challenges these notions as well. We are at an exciting moment in parenting history. There are new movements to raise compassionate children, boys in particular. Gender norms are being called into question through news and writing outlets like The Good Men Project. Victim blaming and shaming is being replaced by calls for personal responsibility through organizations like White Ribbon Campaign, a coalition of men working to end violence against women.

I’m sure there will be many challenges when culture takes its hold, but as a feminist I have to believe that we can change the system with our individual choices. I believe in the axiom, “the personal is political.” The personal is also the source for a lot of my work, most recently through my blog, Gender Assignment, where I write about my life and engage others in conversation about gender roles and rituals. I can’t wait to start writing about the adoption experience in this context.

I feel like this process has made me a much more experimental and flexible person even in this short time. As well, it has really helped me renew my commitment to questioning the status quo. In regard to my art practice, I am reminded and humbled by the fact that one of the things Landon’s birth mother liked is that I am a professor of art, and that I travel a lot. It is great to be recognized for what I can bring to the table through my art career, especially since the process of adoption tends to favor more traditional lifestyles. Landon’s birth family is a whole new and active part of our community - a challenge, but a really great one. I think about them all the time and we are in contact regularly. It’s a big job, but it is satisfying and artistically inspiring in ways that I still don’t quite have language for.