Friday, April 17, 2015

CR Event Series Report: Making it What We Need

For the final installment in our Childcare-Supported Event Series, Cultural ReProducers teamed up with Glass Curtain Gallery to host Making it What We Need, a generative workshop that brought together a great mix of artists, art students, critics, and arts administrators from galleries, residencies, and museums across the city.

The event was presented in conjunction with the exhibition Division of Labor: Chicago Artist Parents, at Glass Curtain Gallery, exploring the intersections of contemporary art, career, and family life.  GC was wonderful to work with, and the exhibition offered a perfect context for brainstorming sustainable and supportive systems for cultural producers raising kids. Our childcare team transformed a nearby meeting room into a dynamic playspace with colorful tape shapes and a cozy reading corner stacked with quilts and books. We learned from past experience to
allow more time for sign-in and transition, and thanks to the gallery's flexible morning schedule we were able to start that process sooner. While the adults hatched plans outside, our kids worked with the fantastic Ash, Craig, Marieke and Andrew to construct their own visions for the future using colored sensory dough, rubber stamps, and poster-sized paper.

CR organizers Christa Donner and Selina Trepp started things off with a slideshow and discussion of the goals and Challenges of the Cultural ReProducers Event Series, from living-room meetups to childcare-supported museum events. Then the whole group got down to business. Participants were invited to fill out worksheets identifying our own needs in the art community as well as key barriers to achieving those goals. After taking some time to reflect on our own, we split into small groups to take on these challenges together. Since the groups were randomized many had the chance to work with cultural producers we'd never met before, making for new connections and great brainstorming.

Working around the time constraints of certain hungry, nap-ready kids in the next room, we wrapped up the whole event in a little under two hours. Sure, it was a bit quick to realize all our hopes and dreams … but as everyone packed up their things, we overheard several people exclaim “we could totally do this!” as they exchanged information to get in touch later. The ideas generated when we put our heads together were amazing, and it turns out, pretty possible with a little teamwork: studio co-ops with childcare, a CR certification program for institutions, reading groups, listservs, and a guerrilla campaign challenging assumptions and expectations about mamas in the arts. 

Want to get involved? We’re now in the process of connecting participants and other interested creative people through project-specific groups. Even if you couldn't make it to this event, feel free to download a copy of the MIWWN Event Report. Then take our quick  Survey to let us know which projects you're most interested in. You're welcome to join the conversation even if you live outside Chicago.

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. The childcare-supported series may be over, but have no fear – there will be plenty more chances to connect, organized by amazing cultural (re)producers throughout the city. More information on our Artist-Run Events coming soon!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Artist-Run Events: Erin M. Chlaghmo + EPAC

Cultural ReProducers is working on a whole calendar of upcoming all-ages events organized by artists in conjunction with exhibitions, residencies, and other great projects throughout the city. We're calling it the Artist-Run Event Series, and you'll find a full list on our events page with more details coming soon.

The very first launches this weekend, organized by Erin M. Chlaghmo with the Ed Paschke Center Art Center:

All-Ages Studio Visit and Workshop with Erin M. Chlaghmo
Sunday, April 26th
 10am – 12pm

Ed Paschke Art Center
5415 W. Higgins Ave., Chicago, IL 60630

Join Ed Paschke Art Center (EPAC) Resident Artist Erin M. Chlaghmo as she remixes the construction of traditional Moroccan rag rug weaving on a giant frame loom. During her time in residence, Chlaghmo has focused on creating dialogues between herself and other women artists, linking global craft traditions to the challenges of making ends meet as an artist and member of society. Light refreshments will be served, and children will be invited to create miniature rugs to take home.

Parents, non-parents and children of all ages are welcome to this FREE event.

Presented in collaboration with the artist and Cultural ReProducers. Sponsored by the Ed Paschke Art Center.

Erin M. Chlaghmo is an artist who uses fabric and felt to construct tapestries and other patterned surfaces. Pattern has embedded cultural references which allow her to address ideas of belonging and identity construction. She worked with other emerging artists to construct a collaborative weaving as well as several wall hangings while in residence at EPAC.

Ed Paschke Art Center’s inaugural Artist Residency also features work by John Metido, an oil painter who gives the centuries old trompe l’oeil technique a contemporary twist by depicting pop subject matter. Their joint exhibition is presented in partnership with the Luminarts Cultural Foundation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


On a chilly Saturday we drove out to a low, mostly windowless brick building and followed paper signs in kid-scrawl around to a narrow side door. Stepping inside, we found ourselves in a kitchen adjoining a stage area lit by Christmas lights. The space thrummed with the sonic energy of a live dance party.

The music was fantastic. This was no surprise: the musicians performing included supertalented composers and multi-instrumentalists LeRoy Bach, Mikel AveryDan Bitney, Khari Lemuel, & Matthew Lux, known for their roles in bands like Wilco, EveryPeople Ensemble,Tortoise, Isotope 217 and others, and they were clearly having a great time playing together. The unusual thing about this show was that it started in the middle of the day, and in addition to familiar faces from the city's art and music scenes it was co-populated by a small mob of young children ranging in age from about 9 months to 9 years old. They bounced on parents' laps, rolled around on giant cardboard tubes of the type usually used for cement-pouring, and giddily ran back and forth to the kitchen area, where there were crockpots of homemade rice and beans, jugs of juice, and a big bowl of peanuts to keep everyone satisfied between sets.

This is LowJam, a series of impromptu underground dance parties for adults and kids organized by LeRoy Bach in collaboration with a bunch of amazing musicians, many of whom are parents themselves or have other close connections to parents / kids. Attending a Low Jam event is like discovering your favorite band playing a secret show in somebody's basement, with the added pleasure of sharing that magic with your own children.

After two sets and a short snack break, Mikel Avery equipped the kids in attendance with small instruments and schooled them into an impromptu marching band that kicked off the Open Jam part of the show, leading everyone back into the stage area. Children excitedly piled around the professional drum kit, piano, mics, and organ and started banging away. After letting them have at it for a few minutes, Bach stepped up and helped them structure their soundmaking into a loose composition, directing spaces for groups of kids to play solos on each instrument. As he laid down a solid beat on the drums, a surprisingly cohesive intergenerational performance began to come together, fronted by two young girls who alternated crooning and rapping, "I dunno / I dunno / because it's crazy like whoah." The adults in attendance grinned and shook their heads in wonder: it sounded great. The aesthetic strengths of the Open Jam were no doubt enhanced by the musical upbringings of many kids there, but the unpredictable impulses that children naturally bring to such a situation only added to the improvisational energy.

Letting the sound vibrate through me, I realized that I hadn't enjoyed a really good live show since I became a parent. What a shame, and what a crime never to have shared such an experience with my own daughter before. It should not be all that transgressive, but such an event requires letting go of some fundamental assumptions: that a good dance party should start after 10pm, that kids will only enjoy certain types of music, that all family events should be highly-sanitized, safeguarded and sanctioned, that art created by/for adults can't also be thoroughly enjoyable for children, and vice versa. Most 'family' programming is created for children with parents along for the ride. LowJam taps into the energy of everyone present to create a rich musical experience. Period.

The next LowJam is Saturday, March 28th. Band starts at 1:30pm and will play for 30 minutes. Open Jam led by Mikel Avery starts at 2pm. A donation of $5 per guest or what you can offer is requested. Email us at culturalreproducers (at) for location and other information.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Parenting isn't hard. Being in a community with non-parents is: a reflection on my first year of motherhood

For many artists the hardest thing about new parenthood can be the sudden isolation from creative community that often accompanies it. On her blog, filmmaker, educator, and activist Sara Zia Ebrahimi Hughes writes honestly and provocatively on her blog about the frustration she found in navigating her own first year as a mother, and allowed us to share it here.

I’m not someone who ever dreamed of having a child. My daughter, now almost one year old, was a delightful surprise. When my partner and I discovered I was pregnant, one of our many conversations amidst the flurry of panic and excitement was about our commitment to our art practices. No matter how hard it was, we would not stop being artists. One of our main priorities, in addition to the health and wellness of our child, would be to support each other in being able to have creative time. We were determined to not to become parents whose lives only centered around their children, not as judgement against those people, but because we knew we wouldn’t be happy.

And I have to say, we did a pretty good job all things considered. He taught himself how to do VJing–live time video projection–and video projection mapping and performed several shows in 2014 at venues like the Trocadero and Underground Arts. I wrote and directed the first two episode of a high production value web series when our daughter was 6 months old, pumping on set and waking up three times a night after 15 hour days on set to breast feed. I also was on the screening committee and volunteered at the BlackStar Film Festival (where childcare for filmmakers and committee members was offered).

I was so worried that the lack of sleep, breastfeeding, enduring crying sessions and all the craziness that comes with living with an infant would be too hard for me. Don’t get me wrong, there were absolutely difficult moments. Surprisingly though, overall it wasn’t that bad. What has been devastating and unexpectedly difficult, however, has been trying to stay connected with communities I used to share with non-parent friends.

I describe my cultural background as “kebab, grits and kale.” I am an Iranian-American, raised by hippies in the U.S. south. I grew up in communities–both amidst the (mostly white) hippies and the Persians–where intergenerational connections were strong. When someone threw a party, all the kids were thrown into one room and the older kids took care of the younger ones. If anyone got hurt, you went and got an adult. I grew up with visions of adults who were whole people, fun and a little crazy. There was always space for children of all ages. I guess I (wrongly) assumed that would be my experience as a parent in arts and activism circles here in Philadelphia as well.

After having a kid in 2014, my social options were suddenly minimal. I receive dozens of invitations from friends, well intentioned and in the spirit of inclusion, and over and over again have to ask them: is there childcare at this event? Is there a space set up for kids? It’s exhausting. And, depressing.

After a year it’s finally becoming clear what’s been so difficult about my first year of motherhood: segregation from my non-parent friends.

I no longer can go to workshops on filmmaking, discussions on cultural representation, literary salons and poetry readings, board game night at a friend’s – because there is no childcare or or space for children made. I can’t pursue my interests and dreams of learning to DJ better, join a writing group, or tear up someone’s living room floor dancing–because there is no childcare or  space for children made.

I can go to mommy groups and talk about breastfeeding, poop or how tired we all are. But that doesn’t feed me. I don’t feel whole or alive in those spaces. They are segregated spaces for parents only. My vision of the world and the communities I existed in have never been monolithic in any way.

When you don’t offer childcare or make space for children, you exclude people from your community and deny them their humanness. Same as when you don’t offer accessibility options at your events. What you communicate by making these decisions is that parents and disabled people are not welcome in your community. It is particularly hurtful and problematic when that message comes from people who claim to be committed to social justice.

Before my daughter was born, I wasn’t great about inclusion myself. I admit. This isn’t finger pointing, but awareness-raising.

My commitment in 2015 is to challenge every invitation I get with the question: will there be childcare or a space for kids to play/sleep? I encourage you to make yours to figure out a way to say yes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interview: Mary Trunk

Cultural ReProducers presents the second in a two-part series on filmmaker Mary Trunk’s documentary  ‘Lost in Living,’ which captures the joy, exhaustion, and the many conflicts that arise as a result of being both mother and artist. Part one featured a review of the film paired with a free online screening. For part two, artist Christina LaMaster follows up with Mary for a conversation about documentary, motherhood, and making art. You can find the full, unedited version here.

Mary Trunk started as a painter, became a dancer and choreographer and has been making films for almost 20 years. She spent seven years filming four mother/artists for her most recently completed feature length documentary Lost In Living.  The currently released short documentary The Past is in the Present is about the Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Gunther Schuller. Her newest hybrid documentary project focuses on memory, age and the desire to keep dancing in some form or another. Mary and her husband are founders of Ma and Pa Films, a video and film production company. Mary also teaches film and video at Art Center College of Design, Loyola Marymount University and Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, CA. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. Find out more at  

Christina LaMaster-Doty:  Mary, are you familiar with independent curator Susan Bright’s recent traveling exhibition, “Home Truths?" If so, what was your reaction to the show - both conceptually and to the photographs included?

Mary:  I saw some of Susan Bright's work on-line but did not see the actual show. I hesitate to comment on it, but I will say that a few of the photographs definitely intrigued me. I have a little bit of an issue with photos that seem staged to me. Being a documentary filmmaker, I guess I prefer more veritè type work--when one is capturing a moment. Much like what we try to do with our children as they grow. Too often we miss the moments and only have the memories that morph into something that isn't what really happened but what we hoped happened. Memory and photographs are incredibly intriguing to me. I will probably buy her book because it looks wonderful.

Christina:  I find it interesting that you prefer the more documentary style photographs -- photographs that seem to “capture a moment.”  My own ongoing
Christina LaMaster, Katie, 2014
project,“Maternal Instincts” started with my desire to portray a more realistic idea of motherhood. These photographs are also documentary in style, and my intent was to photograph interactions between mothers and children.  During the course of the project, I realized that all photographs are constructed to some degree, as I the photographer am constantly making choices influenced by my own personal experience.  The body of work ultimately was as much about me as it was about motherhood and mothering.  To what extent do you think the making of Lost in Living was influenced by your personal experience as a mother?  Is this something you considered while you were making the film? 

Mary:  It’s true that all photographs, all films, are constructed. As soon as you point the lens toward something you are making a decision about how you see what your are pointing at. There’s no getting around that. And in many ways that is the subtext of the piece you are trying to make, which can often be more interesting than the super conscious ways we go about structuring our work. That’s when real discovery and challenge takes place, at least for me. I want to be involved in my work in such a way that it asks more of me than I think I can produce. Everything in all of my films is about what I managed to capture and that is where my point of view comes through. It was often surprising to see where I directed the camera. Why there? I didn’t figure that out until I was able to really watch the footage and figure out what kind of film I was going to make. 

I started Lost In Living because I was immersed in my personal experience as a mother and yet I felt lonely and ill-equipped. So I sought out other women who I could relate to. I was surrounded by mothers with toddlers but I wasn’t getting much out of just hanging out playing with our kids. I really wasn’t. I desperately needed to focus on it in a way that made it art, and that’s why making the film was so satisfactory.

artist Caren McCaleb in a still from Lost in Living, 2013
Christina:  Do you have any opinions about why some mother/artists make work about mothering, and some don’t?

Mary:  My opinions are purely based on my own experiences so I can only comment on that. I would guess that some women are so immersed in the mothering experience and possibly have such a need to create, that they have to use what they know - which is parenting and dealing with a child. I was more interested in the experiences of parents and what my peers were feeling about suddenly having the full responsibility of a person who was so helpless. I would say that the newness of becoming a parent is so intense and sometimes traumatic, that if you have the desire to express yourself you can't help but use that as material. Some use it well and some, to me, get self-indulgent. There's a difference between making art that is more like a diary entry and making art that has universal and personal impact. I loved Anne Enright's book, Making Babies. She was so successful at writing about her own particular struggles and joys and at the same time all mothers could relate. That book and Jane Lazarre's book, The Mother Knot, were some of the best artworks about motherhood I have read. 

Christina:  Was Lost in Living something you felt compelled to do--that you needed to express your experience as mother through your art, or was it a topic you thought would be attractive to an audience?  Was it both?

Mary:  I definitely felt compelled to follow the path that led me to making the film Lost In Living. I was not thinking about how that would express my own experience and I certainly wasn't thinking about whether it was attractive to an audience. As a matter of fact, my own husband told me that no one would be interested in a film about motherhood. He has since changed his mind about my film, but I must admit that I have to agree with him. Motherhood is something so relegated to the ghetto. Most of the time, only mothers care about

artist Kristina Robbins hustles the laundry in Lost in Living
motherhood.  I started making this film because I was curious about how other mothers/women dealt with trying to make art while daily life interrupted it. I've always worried about that. How does one continue when things get in the way? I avoided having children mostly because I thought it would stop me from doing anything but taking care of the child. (I'm also one of seven children and the oldest so I was done taking care of children.) In most of my work I don't usually have a very clear idea of what my project/film
will end up being: the journey is what makes it what it is. Regarding Lost In Living, I had no idea it would take seven years and I didn't know what it would end up saying, I just knew I was learning so much and my subjects were teaching me things I needed to learn.

Christina:  You make the comment “most of the time, only mothers care about motherhood.”  For I long time I thought this myself, but now I am not so sure.  In the photo world over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in work and exhibitions pertaining to motherhood.  So much so that the director of a prominent gallery showing fine art photography recently told me she was “tired of the whole mother thing.”  So, I guess I’m really curious about who actually is interested in work about motherhood.  Is it only other mothers?  If so, does this mean that there are simply more mothers that are making work and curating shows?  Have you experienced this attitude about motherhood as you have promoted Lost in Living?

Mary:  How could someone say that she was “tired of the whole mother thing???” That just pisses me off. We are all tired of films that blow things up, but they are still super popular and make a lot of money. I’m not even asking for money but my goodness, there will never be enough art about women, by women, and about motherhood for me. Sometimes I really think that we as women get satisfied too quickly with the exposure we are getting and we think that’s okay. I’m one of those people. I don’t really care that much about recognition and prefer personal connections anytime. But we live in a patriarchal society and we as women are just as biased as our opposite gender. We simply can’t escape our cultural influences. I was just listening to NPR the other day where Malcolm Gladwell talked about taking a test to find out if he was prejudiced against Black people. Turns out he does think more poorly of Black people than Whites. And he’s half Black. Our culture paints Black people in ways that are often terrible. That permeates our brains no matter who we are - even if we are Black. We are victims of our culture and we can’t always control behavior that is so beneath the surface of our consciousness. Which is all to say that we as women and mothers shouldn’t be satisfied with the meagre recognition of women’s art that is out there. We are so used to getting nothing that any little bit feels like a lot. That needs to change.  

Christina LaMaster, Karen, 2014
Christina: I recently became acquainted with Sara Ruddick’s book Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace, which is about mothering as a practice.  In the book, Ruddick presents the idea that all the decisions a mother makes (not only those pertaining to child-rearing) are influenced by her practice as mother.  As a visual artist, I wondered how this might apply to the concept of “gaze” and if there was such a thing as “maternal gaze.”  It turns out there are many interpretations of this idea of Maternal Gaze, and they are often in direct opposition to each other.  It seems to me that all work made by mother/artists would be influenced directly or indirectly by the practice of mothering, and that work made by mother/artists might best be viewed with a Maternal Gaze.  It’s all quite complicated, and something I’m currently researching and writing about.  My questions for you are: do you think that now that you are a mother, everything you do is influenced by this fact, including all the films you have made during or since the making of Lost in Living?  Do you have any thoughts on Male Gaze or Maternal Gaze and how gaze might influence the perception of your films?  Are these things that should be considered when making or criticizing work?

Mary:  I guess I have to ask why is Maternal Gaze any different than any other experience
one has. If I was transgender my gaze would be influenced by that. I often tell my students that when you are involved in a project, it sort of takes over your life and you see the world through that lens, whatever it is. And that goes for being a mother. I used to be a huge fan of the TV show ER but once my daughter was born I couldn’t watch it because babies always seemed to die in the episodes. We bring our experiences to everything we do in our unique ways. There are many developments that occur as you parent. My feelings and experiences as a new mother are very different than they are now. My daughter is 13 and she is very independent and is becoming her own person. That influences my work very differently than when she was a baby and needed me almost every waking moment! It’s true that mothering and fathering do seem to be quite profound. I feel that way even though I have friends and family members who deliberately chose not to have children and I support them. Yet, there is something about the creation of a child and that responsibility and the way a child forces one to be less selfish that changed me in ways very little else has. But
writer Merrill Joan Gerber shares early photos in Lost in Living
that does not exclude those people who have lived through experiences that were quite different - illness, caring for elderly parents, climbing Mt. Everest, etc. They had life changing moments that influenced everything after that experience.

I want my work to be seen and experienced without having to qualify it as something made
by a mother or something that has a maternal gaze. I made Lost In Living because I was compelled to seek out answers, to express something I didn’t know how to express without the help of the women in the film, and I knew they all had great stories that many people could relate to - mothers or not. I’d really like to know more about the different views on Maternal Gaze. Why should the Maternal be something exclusive? I honestly think we are just used to it being in the sidelines that we don’t really recognize how little importance it should have in our lives.
Christina:  Mary, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts with me and Cultural ReProducers.  I’ve really enjoyed talking with you!

Mary Trunk’s bio and Lost in Living trailer courtesy of Ma and Pa Films. 

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Christina LaMaster 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.  

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