May 30, 2015

2015: Julia Haw on Leaving Chicago

Biography: My name is Julia Lynn Haw. I'm 33 years old, and I hail from Davison, Michigan. Davison is a small, middle-class city: fifteen minutes east of Flint, and one hour north of Detroit.

Above: Julia Haw, May 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Image provided by artist; black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
I began life as a blonde-haired farm girl with dirt behind her ears. I was a tomboy; I hated shopping.
My family's land was near the edge of a fading, old swamp. And I spent the better half of my childhood there playing outdoors: climbing trees, collecting rocks, and scouring the freshly-tilled fields for arrowheads. I held swirling ideas of mysticism and fantasy, and carried an abundance of creativity with no reliance on the world of internet, video games or cable television.

My dad never used credit cards; he tore the collars out of his uncomfortable shirts; and he burned our family's trash in a huge stove in one of the many barns he built behind our house. My mom, now retired, was a fourth-grade teacher in an elementary school. I truly "made her feel like a mother,” in the words of my best friend, as I was very rebellious in my teenage years.

I was painfully shy in kindergarten, and I spoke as little as possible; my teacher asked my mom if everything was OK. I believe I wasn’t used to the confines of a classroom and received most of my inner guidance from cats and trees.

In second grade I got glasses: pink plastic glasses with a silver heart on each corner. I had a crush on a guy in my reading group, and I'd hide my glasses each time I went there.

Above: Julia Haw with Jerry Saltz at the Expo Chicago art fair, September 19, 2013. Image provided by artist; black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
In middle school I started to come out of my shell. Romantic and idealistic, I believed I was in love with boys without ever having spoken to them. I wore vests with sunflowers, and silver earrings which dangled. In eighth grade, I discovered the Beatles when I threw “Meet the Beatles” on my dad’s old record player in the basement. I obsessed over them, acquired bell bottoms before anyone else did at that time, flashed peace signs when I could and mourned the fact I wasn’t alive for Woodstock '69.


In the basement of our home I shared an art studio with my sister. I considered myself the black sheep of the family, and I maintained a slight inferior complex: constantly compared myself to my older brother and sister.

Above:  Julia Haw, 1996, Davison, Michigan, USA. Original halftone newspaper print reproduction of a photograph from The Davison Flagstaff. Image provided by artist; converted to black & white; cropped and resized for publication.
Then, in eighth grade I won best of show in the Davison Art Show. I had developed more faith in my personal work and continued to create with a VERY unnecessary ego. My new high school art teacher battled my ego, and had a "chin wagging" with my mom; but he appreciated my abilities, and I won a few more prizes, and I was invited to recite poetry at the annual art show.


In high school I got braces. I was a band nerd, having played percussion since the fifth grade. I went to band camp in the remote cornfields of Ohio, and I became very outgoing. I had friends from many different “groups.” I was at once an outsider and an insider.

I attended college at Western Michigan University. I switched my major a couple times: from fashion to photography to painting. When I was accepted into the painting program I knew that it was the right path for me. From 2004 onward, I developed a serious, professional interest in the world of painting. At WMU , the painters were tucked away in a historic building called East Hall, which sat on top of a huge hill overlooking the city. We blasted music late through the night. The walls flaked their lead-based paint; but that didn’t matter. We were the painters! With the help of the Gwen Frostic Foundation, WMU has since erected a new, beautiful building; it has huge sunlit studios and several large galleries. We were “roughing it" back then!

Above:  Julia Haw's "Human Fodder" 2006, acrylic on canvas, produced at Western Michigan University. Image provided by artist; black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
In 2006 I won best of show while in my senior year at WMU. I won for a slightly abstract piece entitled “Human Fodder,” which was painted with acrylic house paint over board and canvas wrapped in string. The piece honored fallen soldiers, and played on the term "cannon fodder," viz., a “derogatory term for combatants who are regarded or treated as expendable in the face of enemy fire.”


Expectations: I used to frequent a dive bar in Kalamazoo, Michigan, called Green Top. One night there I ran across a man named Mark Turcotte, who, in my opinion, is one of the best living poets today. He gave me a copy of his book "Exploding Chippewas," for which Tony Fitzpatrick had produced a cover.

Above: Julia Haw with Mark Turcotte at Erin and Claire's, a/k/a Studio 1020's, "The First Ward Ball," an interactive community performance scripted by Scott M. Priz, July 31, 2011, at 3220 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL.
I was deeply moved by the portion of that book called “Road Noise,” which dealt with Mark's grief following the the death of his estranged father. And thereafter I received a grant from the Kalamazoo Arts Council which subsidized a series of paintings based on Turcotte's literary work. I also had solo show at which Mark did a reading.


Mark guided me to Chicago, first by means of a visit to Tony Fitzpatrick's huge show at the Cultural Center in 2008. I was fascinated by Tony's work. And then Mark brought me to Tony’s studio; at the time, Tony was still working in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. I had never before been to a working artist’s studio. I was blown away. Being a fresh 26 year-old, meeting Tony was a momentous occasion for me. A week away from signing a lease in Brooklyn, I scrapped my plans to move to NYC, and I came to Chicago.

Above: Tony Fitzpatrick with artwork, candid, at Studio 1020, March 27, 2010.
Mark (Turcotte) passed through Chicago again, and he brought me to Tony’s studio a second time. Tony offered me a job. While in his employment, I expected to learn from him: a working artist. And I did have a number of opportunities made available to me. For example, at (curator) Dan Cameron’s Prospect.1 biennial in New Orleans, Tony brought in a few artists (including myself) and gave us our own wall in the old funeral home where he was showing work.


Through Tony (Fitzpatrick) I met: Claire Molek, Mike Pajon, Damara Kaminecki, KS Rives, Dan Cameron, Steve Conrad, Jon McNaughton, Dmitry Samarov, and Wesley Kimler. I also shared an Italian dinner with his friends Neko Case and The New Pornographers! I had never been a part of this sort of creative life before: here was an artist who made a solid living, and surrounded himself with a beautiful cast of characters. My eyes were OPEN.

Above: Wesley Kimler, in his studio, December 20, 2009.
After working for Tony, I worked for Wesley Kimler, and then Steve Conrad. I ran a household for a doctor and lawyer; I managed an art, wine and car collection for Carl and Marilynn Thoma; and, I  learned to hustle. For the past three years I've been able to work for myself. I’ve shown art with Claire Molek (The Studio, Hauser Gallery, Brave New Art World), Illinois State Museum, Chicago Cultural Center and Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (New Orleans). I’ve enjoyed a considerable amount of press in the past few years, especially with my recently completed body of works titled “The Western Veil.” It, “The Western Veil,” has just reopened at the Illinois State Museum, Lockport. Currently I'm working on: (1) a body of work entitled “Comfort and Control,” (2) the release of my first artistic catalogue published by The Chicago Perch, and (3) a collaboration with Gracie Hagen concerning relationships.


School: I did not attend school in Chicago.

Activity: To summarize my time in Chicago: I've been in practice here for eight years. And I've enjoyed much, if not all, of my success on my own terms. I've had no representation--other than Claire Molek. The community here is amazing, and essential to me. My particular community includes artists and curators, as well as non-artists and non-curators.

I'm enjoying my peak experience right now, because my work is better and more seasoned than it's ever been. Having written that, I've had many frustrating moments in the short arc of my career, e.g., rejections, or showing in spaces that weren’t the right fit, and I've had periods where I had no sales and my anxiety was through the roof.

Above: Erin and Claire (Molek) at center, a/k/a Studio 1020, and Stephanie Burke at right, July 31, 2011.
Notoriety: Chicago knows me via my work. Chicago knows me as a colorful, confrontational, and empathetic painter with a story behind every piece. The narrative aspect of my work has really hit home with many members of my audience. I feel I have been more understood than misunderstood, because I am simply sharing the common experience of every man and woman through my work.


I think “Power Pussy” was my most misunderstood or controversial work to date. It was a combative piece, created in response to George Baselitz’s statement in a Spiegel interview that “women can’t paint,” and it was accompanied by an essay with sexist examples from the past year. Women felt very empowered by that piece. I hear it has now been resold for triple the amount I sold it for, and I’m trying to find out who owns it as the seller hasn’t been in contact with me.

Departure: I leave Chicago often. I leave Chicago at least once a month--even if it's only for a short trip home to Michigan to see my family. I spent over six months in Australia this past year as I fell in love with a man who lived in Byron Bay, NSW. We traveled around to the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. I painted at the apartment when my partner went to work.

Above: Julia Haw at Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, in 2014. Image provided by artist; black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
On my first trip to Australia I spent too much time in the ocean. The second time I went, I buried myself in a new series completing ten works; the pieces were rooted in new perspective, slight humor and of course my signature darkness. They're a departure for me and have been received well. Soon, I plan to head to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Travel is essential for my work and overall health. It (travel) helps to maintain the perspective
necessary for me to create; it opens my soul and vision to new worlds. I walk and I experience, I breath and laugh and cry. I need to leave Chicago in order to RETURN to Chicago, and to truly understand the beast that Chicago is.

Perspective & Connectivity: While traveling, and looking at Chicago from the outside, I better see the community we have here. I've established a family here. And we are hustlers. We get out and talk to each other; we attend each others' shows. Sometimes, when we haven’t had a sale, we don’t eat as much as we'd like. And when we have dinner parties everyone breaks off a piece of bread to bring home with them. Our work is different and strange, it comes from the gut, it comes from a blue collar, Midwest ethic.

Above: Julia Haw's "The Fall of John Lease" 2010, 28 x 34 inches, oil on canvas, Collection of Sandbox Industries. Black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
I feel that positioning Chicago as an
“underdog,” or a “second city,” striving to be like New York, is really cliche. We are our own beast. We don’t have to be anything else; and why would we want to be? Perhaps once we collectively realize we don’t have to be something else, or become more unified, or talk more, or show more, or open more galleries, or gain more press, we'll be in a better place. We ARE there. We ARE here. And we keep spiraling out into the global sphere. Chicago is its own entity, and it’s awesome.

Information: I stay up-to-date through regular visits, long talks with friends, and some online media sources when I’m away.

Above: Julia Haw's studio in use, in 2015, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Image provided by artist; black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
Place:
I've developed a practice which allows me to work anywhere. And wherever I go in the world I will always return to Chicago, whether to live, or to work, or to show my art. 

For me, “place” is wherever I feel I need to be at any given moment; in that sense, yes, place is important. That said, it's less-and-less important where an artist IS; the internet has changed things. What matters, now, is only that the work is created, and it’s taken to that next level.

- May 14, 2015 (C) Julia Haw


Learn more about Julia Haw and her work by visiting her website: http://www.juliahaw.com/

Images (1-4, 9, and 11) provided by Julia Haw; black and white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.

Images (5-8, and 10) above copyright (C) 2009-2011 Paul Germanos.

Edited by Paul Germanos. Apologies for errors and omissions. Contact using the information at right.

Amended by Julia Haw, on May 30, 2015,
to preserve her idiom in text.

May 22, 2015

2015: Mark Staff Brandl on Leaving Chicago

Paul Germanos: Hold old are you? Where are you from? When did you come here? Is Chicago one of many stops on your journey?

Mark Staff Brandl: I just turned 60! I am an artist of the venticento, was born, mid novecento, in 1955 in Peoria and went to high school in Pekin, Illinois. I visited Chicago a lot as a child and after my initial studies moved there in 1980. I immediately fell in love with the city; Chicago is my hometown in my heart till this day. I left in 1988. Since then I have lived with my Swiss wife Cornelia in several places around the world including Tortola in the Caribbean and have lived primarily in Switzerland.

More about me: I am an associate professor of art history at the Kunstschule Liechtenstein and Schule für Gestaltung in St.Gallen, Switzerland. My shows include galleries and museums in the US, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Egypt, the Caribbean; specific cities include Paris, Moscow, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

As a critic, I've been a contributor to London’s The Art Book, Sharkforum on-line, a podcaster for Bad at Sports, a Theory Editor for Chicago's Proximity magazine and a Contributing Editor for New York’s Art in America. I am also the curator of The the Kunstgrill and the Collapsible Kunsthalle.

Works of mine have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Whitney Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the St. Gallen Art Museum, The Thurgau Museum of Fine Art, The E.T.H. Graphic Collection in Zurich, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the International Museum of Cartoon Art, the Art Museum Olten and others.

Above: Mark Staff Brandl. Image provided by artist; black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
PG: For what did you hope when you came to Chicago? A degree? A job? What did you think that you'd find here? What was your first impression of the city?

MSB: I began to have many possibilities to exhibit my work around 1980, so I left graduate school and moved to Chicago. I went to Chicago for the artworld. I also quickly got a job building exhibitions, dioramas and the like at the Field Museum of Natural History. Among other things there I was deeply involved in or built with my co-worker friends are the Eskimo house and the Egyptian hall, especially the Mastaba.

At first the artworld was great, with N.A.M.E. Gallery, ARC/Raw Space, Artemisia, Randolph Street Gallery and on and on. Many Kunsthalle-like places to show experimental work. There was a real feeling of breakthrough in the air, the very beginnings of Postmodernism, with amazing artists like Raoul Deal, Wesley Kimler, Michael Paha, Tony Fitzpatrick, Gary Justis, Jeff Hoke and me getting lots of attention. That changed later and is one of the reasons I left.

PG: Did you attend a school here? Which school did you attend? How long were you in school here? Did you receive a degree here? When did you receive your degree?

MSB: I studied art, painting, art history, philosophy, literature and literary theory at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (BFA), Illinois State University in Bloomington (MA), Columbia Pac. University in California (MA), and received my Ph.D. in Art History and Metaphor Theory magna cum laude from the University of Zurich in Switzerland. So, no, I did not directly study in Chicago. But I learned so much from Chicago's music, the museums, the artists. Like Phil Berkman and Edith Altmann.

PG: How long were you in practice here? Did you enjoy success on your own terms? Can you recall some peak experience? If you felt frustrated, what frustrated you? Poor sales? Lack of publicity? High rent? Crime? Inefficient transportation? Public apathy? Bad weather? What was the total amount of time that you spent as a resident?

MSB: My career as an artist began in Chicago. I must be a Chicago artist in my soul, for as Tony Fitzpatrick's daughter Gabrielle mentioned when we got together in Florence, Italy recently, I still have a Chicago accent in English. I got lots of media attention for my art, sold well, won some awards, was listed as best installation of the year (or something like that) in The New Art Examiner once for a Raw Space piece. And so on. It was going upward, but as you know art careers have ups and downs. I found Chicago's music, literature and comic art world's wonderful. I believe Chicago is a wonderful place to live; my wife loved it too in the year she lived there, and misses it: those amazing neighborhoods, the food, the various ethnic groups. Art too. The Artists. But not it's artworld.

PG: How does Chicago know you? Does Chicago know you? Have you been misunderstood?


MSB: I suspect that my rather wild lifestyle was more notorious than my art at the end of my "welcome" in Chicago ( I have since settled a bit.) I think as an artist, especially pre Neo-Academicist-Conceptualist Chicago days, I was and am known as a somewhat too abrasive, rebellious intellectual. Someone who is insufficiently sophistically behaved. A highly critical conceptual painter, a mongrel addicted to art, personal freedom, philosophy, painting and several vernacular arts, including comics and sign-painting.

Above: Mark Staff Brandl. Image provided by artist; black & white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.
PG: Was there an event which precipitated your departure? For which other city did you leave? What was waiting for you in that other city?

MSB: I left at the end of the 80s, when it appeared that there was nothing more for me in Chicago's visual artworld. In one of my recurring, sporadic changes, I had abandoned my earlier Late Conceptual Art and began pursuing the painting-installation-vernacular-art mongrelization that I still engage in. (Although all my "directions" have dealt with the same core content and subject matter.)

As I decided to abandon the Windy City, a brand of art was beginning to be enforced --- an exceedingly trendy, art magazine-derivative Neo-Conceptualism (then still linked to Neo-Geo). The SAIC Kirshner-Klan as we called it then. That, together with all the other aspects of Chicago's recurring provincialism, and a dreadful, dissolving love relationship, made me think, "Why the hell, then, don't you just go directly to that worshiped Mecca --- i.e. NYC?" I could see that Chicago was once again strangling its own creativity and would fade, as it indeed did, from Second City to Third, as LA was up-and-coming --- believing in itself!

I started on my way, yet then met my future wife (in the kitchen of my studio, strangely enough, due to a Maxtavern connection). She is Swiss, and after an unexpected further year in Chicago, and a later year in Tortola in the Caribbean, we headed off to Europe. I have now lived in one place or another in Europe for 27 years. Whenever I live for extended periods in the US, I never seem to make it out of NYC.

Above: A detail of Mark Staff Brandl's installation "My Metaphor(m)" 2013, oil and acrylic on canvas, paper and wall, entire work 15 x 148 feet (450 x 4500 cm). Image provided by the artist; original photograph by Balz Kubli; black and white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication. See below an embedded YouTube video documenting the "My Metaphor(m)" installation vernissage at the Jedlitschka Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland.
PG: (a) Does Chicago look different to you since your arrival to it and/or departure from it? Do you have advice for someone about to begin what you've finished? (b) Do you expect to maintain a connection to Chicago and its art world? What's your incentive to stay connected? Have you left friends or family here?

MSB: (answering both questions) Said a bit too roughly, Chicago is a great place to be from. To be FROM. Leave it. But keep up contacts. There are great, creative people there like Lynne Warren, Paul Klein, Bad at Sports, and so on. But Chicago is too provincial. Chances are better elsewhere. Provinciality is best construed as a state of mind, rather than one of geography. Once upon a time, provinciality consisted of knowing nothing of the world-at-large, only looking at local art and culture. Now that has inverted. The new provinciality is a form of consensus globalism, where you are always looking elsewhere, copying New York or the Biennale or documenta and never really looking at the great art occurring around your own corner.

I stay connected because I know that outside of the boring consensus-correct art, there are always wonderful artists creating unique, original, personal work in our city. Think of Chicago's theatre scene, literary world, and rich music, especially Blues, history. The same is true for visual art. Or can be.

PG: By what means do you stay abreast of developments in the arts in Chicago? Print? Social media? Visits?

MSB: Internet! Visiting, etc. From Sharkforum to Bad at Sports to emailing and facebook.

PG: In the end, is place important? Is physical location a matter of consequence in 2015?

MSB: For your day-to-day life, yes. But not really for art. A curator of a Kunsthalle told me in discussion that I had forgotten that it is the duty of curators in provincial areas to educate the local artists through confrontation with influences from outside. This is completely idiotic. Such "instruction" is totally unnecessary in our globally networked society. Most of us who live and work outside the few urban centers for culture immediately know everything that occurs in them. Normally, I have seen what is happening in New York City directly there, and Zurich, and Berlin, and London, and Florence and Istanbul, and more. And then 8 to 10 years later I am "instructed" about it? This teaching consists mainly in telling us which curatorially correct and momentarily accepted tendencies we should kow-tow before — something of a "Top o' the Pops" for the artworld, or even more banal, "Art World Star Search." As the artist Alex Meszmer opined, behind this lies the attempt to achieve "a little piece of Documenta, or New York, finally in every province." This thought process is what destroyed the originality of much of Chicago's art scene.

PG: Was some important subject omitted from this query? Please introduce any additional material which you believe to be relevant.

MSB: Artists in Chicago: if you do not leave, you can do something even more important. Start and maintain your own artworld, artvillages. Be antisophistic; stop being apparatchiks in your own "dissing." Cooperate with other artists. Ignore the current gatekeepers; they too shall pass. We will not. Art is a huge, millennium-long discussion among artists. The others are listening in. We can welcome them, but stop letting them dominate.

In the whole artworld, but clearly so in Chicago, we are in an academicist, mannerist situation that both artists and curators should rethink. Encourage self-reliance and the acceptance of responsibility on the part of artists, primarily, but also the rest of the Chicago artworld.

- May 20, 2015 (C) Mark Staff Brandl


Learn more about Dr. Brandl and his work by visiting his website: http://www.markstaffbrandl.com/

This article has been presented in its entirety, unedited.

Images (1-3) provided by Mark Staff Brandl; black and white (halftone) filter applied; resized for publication.

Contact editor using the information at right.

YouTube video of "My Metaphor(m)" installation vernissage at Jedlitschka Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland:

May 12, 2015

2015: Steve Ruiz on Leaving Chicago

Paul Germanos: Hold old are you? Where are you from? When did you come here? Is Chicago one of many stops on your journey?

Steve Ruiz: I'm 29 years old. I was born near Chicago, and lived in its suburbs most of my life. I went to school first at Northern Illinois University, and then at the University of Chicago. "Chicagoland" was my home for the whole of my life--till I left the place in April of 2015. That said, for a kid from the suburbs, moving to the city was a journey in its own right.

Above: Steve Ruiz by Max Herman, converted to black and white (halftone) for publication.

PG: For what did you hope when you came to Chicago? A degree? A job? What did you think that you'd find here? What was your first impression of the city?

SR: After completing my undergraduate education, I came to Chicago to be an artist. I came to join an art community which I had followed from a distance while I studied at college. I wanted, eventually, to go to graduate school. But, more than anything, I wanted to find a place where my personal talents, habits, and way of engaging the world generally, might be useful, might have an audience, and might "link up" with other people who were doing similar things.

I don’t know that I can recall ever having had a first impression of the city, inasmuch as I grew up so near to it. But, when I started to make a habit of spending time there, whatever preconceptions I had were proved untrue. There was a lot that I didn’t understand; there were a lot of people who I didn’t know; the place and its peculiar history
held a lot of meaning that I had yet to absorb.

PG: Did you attend a school here? Which school did you attend? How long were you in school here? Did you receive a degree here? When did you receive your degree?

SR: Yes, I attended the University of Chicago between September 2011 and June 2013. And I earned an MFA.

Above: Steve Ruiz at left, co-curator, with Andrew Blackley and Stephanie Burke, of Quarterly Site #4, seen here standing with a friend before work by Anna Kunz, at LVL3, 1452 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL, on October 9, 2010.

PG: How long were you in practice here? Did you enjoy success on your own terms? Can you recall some peak experience? If you felt frustrated, what frustrated you? Poor sales? Lack of publicity? High rent? Crime? Inefficient transportation? Public apathy? Bad weather? What was the total amount of time that you spent as a resident?

SR: I wrote and made art in Chicago between 2009 and 2015. I enjoyed success relative to the goals I set for myself: to meet artists and others interested in art; to connect with creative people; to write about art; and, to make paintings. I was able to show my art alongside some very excellent artists. And I believe that people took me seriously: in what I did, wrote, and made. My frustrations included: a sense that financial reward was very distant; a lack of routes outside of the city for art and other cultural production; and, in general, a feeling that I was in the minor leagues--that there wasn’t enough to go around. I spent about five years in the city itself.

PG: How does Chicago know you? Does Chicago know you? Have you been misunderstood?

SR: Within the art community at least, Chicagoans knows me for my writing, my art, and my management of The Visualist: the city’s visual art events and openings calendar. I co-founded The Visualist in 2011 with Jenny Kendler and Chad Kouri; I've been editing it ever since.

I was most active as a writer
(at Chicago Art Review, then later ArtSlant and Daily Serving, among others) between 2009 and 2011, during which period many people might have known me best as a writer. More recently though, I’ve done less writing and more painting. So, I feel that there might be some year-to-year difference in my reputation--depending on when people knew me.

I had some of the "many hats" misunderstanding which is common to the city’s artists; but there were only a few months when that bothered me: between the initial gladness of having a reputation at all, and the later satisfaction of having more than one thing in which to take pride. Having written that, the stakes were so low that I never felt like I missed out on anything.

Above: Steve Ruiz, foreground, and Lori Waxman, background, participating in the "Crisis-Free Arts Criticism" salon at threewalls, 119 N. Peoria, Chicago, IL, on March 1, 2011.

PG: Was there an event which precipitated your departure? For which other city did you leave? What was waiting for you in that other city?

SR: I moved to Cambridge, England, to be with my fiancé, Marie. We met while I was at University of Chicago; she was finishing her doctoral program at Cambridge, but was spending a quarter in Chicago when I met her. Many flights later, and after some period of uncertainty regarding where we would end up, she secured a job back in the city and I got my visa to join her.

PG: Does Chicago look different to you since your arrival to it and/or departure from it? Do you have advice for someone about to begin what you've finished?

SR: When I first came to Chicago, there was still a strong tradition of independent activity and scene-building. At the time I interpreted it as a moment of excitement and potential; but, in the end, it turned out to be a perennial quality of the city’s art world. In other words, the freedom and ambition that I sensed in Chicago are still there, and are still exciting--but by the time I decided to leave the city I no longer felt that it was the type of freedom and ambition that precedes change.

My advice to someone with similar interests (writing, community infrastructure, learning about place and other artists) would be to place peers above city, to focus on making meaningful connections with artists you like, to tell their stories, and to promote the work you see and enjoy, rather than to try to make something happen. I probably had it right at the start, when I was just cranking out art reviews of basement shows and artists’ first solo exhibitions.


PG: Do you expect to maintain a connection to Chicago and its art world? What's your incentive to stay connected? Have you left friends or family here?

SR: Absolutely. For the moment I’m still running The Visualist. So, I still spend several hours every week researching shows which are upcoming, submitting and editing event listings, emailing gallery directors, and clicking "Maybe" on Facebook events. I have a few shows in Chicago this Fall. And I would love to continue exhibiting my work in a city which is familiar with the place my work comes from--a city of artists who might recognize their own influences in what I do. My family still lives in Chicago, and (for now) most of my best friends do too.

Above: Steve Ruiz, at right, standing beside Sonja Alhäuser's butter buffet billy goat during the opening reception for "Feast" at the Smart Museum, University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood, Chicago, IL, on February 16, 2012.

PG: By what means do you stay abreast of developments in the arts in Chicago? Print? Social media? Visits?

SR: Running The Visualist keeps me up to date, though I read reviews of exhibitions fairly regularly, and I follow the certain careers of artists I like (whether I know them well) who are still in, or exhibiting in, Chicago.

PG: In the end, is place important? Is physical location a matter of consequence in 2015?

SR: Yes. The paintings I’m making these days come directly from the experience of deep place that I had in Chicago: a city animated--brought to life--by the layers of memory, history, narrative, and myth which lie over it. For me, living in Chicago was like living in an imaginary place, fully furnished with an infinite amount of detail and meaning. As a resident of anywhere, it is impossible to keep that layer of imagination out of your head; and if you’re in the business of expressing yourself in words or art, it’s impossible to keep place out of what you produce.

Above: "Prospect" 2015, 5.5 x 7.5 inches, gouache, ink, and enamel on paper, by Steve Ruiz; converted to black and white (halftone) for publication.

PG: Was some important subject omitted from this query? Please introduce any additional material which you believe to be relevant.

SR: This interview didn’t ask who I knew, who was important to me, or who inspired me to stay as long as I did. With many omissions, and in no particular order, that list would include: Philip von Zweck, Ed Marszewski, Jamilee Polson Lacy, Marc Fischer, Magalie Guerin, Ryan Travis Christian, Marcie Oakes, Matt Irie, Scott Wolniak, Geoffrey Todd Smith, Deb Sokolow, Abraham Ritchie, Matt Irie, Deborah Boardman, Chad Kouri, Dana Bassett, Britton Bertran, and Nelson Bland.

- May 9, 2015 (C) Steve Ruiz

Learn more about Steve and his work by visiting his website: http://steveruizart.com/
Image (1) above provided by Steve Ruiz, copyright (C) Max Herman; filter applied.
Images (2-4) above copyright (C) 2010-2012 Paul Germanos.
Image (5) above provided by Steve Ruiz, copyright (C) Steve Ruiz
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Edited by Paul Germanos. Apologies for errors and omissions. Contact using the information at right.

May 10, 2015

2015: Jeriah Hildwine on Leaving Chicago

I'm 35 years old, and I'm originally from San Diego, California. At the age of 20, I moved north to Arcata: transferring to Humboldt State University after enduring a few years of community college in San Diego. I was at HSU from 2000 to 2005. Then, in 2005, I was accepted into the Hoffberger School of Painting MFA program at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. I graduated in 2008 and moved to Chicago to be with my wife, Stephanie Burke, while she attended SAIC's MFA program in Photography. She began her coursework at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008, and she graduated in 2010.

Above: Jeriah Hildwine, left, with Tom Torluemke, right, at Linda Warren Projects, 327 N. Aberdeen, Chicago, IL, on March 16, 2012.
When I came to Chicago in 2008, nothing awaited me. Again, it was my wife, Stephanie Burke, who had been accepted into SAIC's graduate photography program. I was just tagging along. Of course, I knew that Chicago had a good reputation as an art city. And so I hoped for two things: a teaching job and a gallery.  

Not too familiar with the geography of the place prior to our arrival, Steph picked the neighborhood where she thought that she wanted to live. We ended up in Belmont Heights on the Northwest Side--technically within Chicago, but basically indistinguishable from the adjacent Village of River Grove. It was pretty in September, in a suburban, tree-lined sort of way. I needed work. And so I started walking the blocks around our residence, submitting applications for employment wherever they were taken. Within a week of beginning my job search I was hired at River Grove Ace Hardware.

Above: Jeriah Hildwine outside Studio 1020's "The First Ward Ball" at 3220 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, on July 31, 2011.
Immediately, I set about my plan for infiltrating the art scene. There were, basically, three parts to it: Firstly, I set up a studio in the spare bedroom of the house we were renting. I made stupid, ugly paintings for a year; but at least I was working. Over time the work got better. Secondly, I started going to gallery openings, all around the city, every Friday night. And I wasn't walking up to gallery owners with my hat in one hand and a sheet of slides in the other hand; I was just going, looking, and getting a feel for things. After I'd met a gallerist a few times I might mention my work, and shoot 'em an email with a couple of jpegs. I applied for juried shows too, and so on. Thirdly, I applied for teaching jobs. I applied for every full-time gig I saw listed online, even though I got no positive response. More, I emailed art centers and community colleges, and I even walked into the art department office at Wilbur Wright Community College.

Above: Jeriah Hildwine with his longsword, photographed in a gangway near the intersection of Damen and Foster, Chicago, IL, on September 21, 2013.
The results were such that by March 2009 I had picked up a few classes to teach at Lilstreet Art Center and Hyde Park Art Center. And I was Lillstreet's Artist in Residence for painting. In August of the same year I started teaching a drawing class at Wright. Then, in September, Steph and I moved to Ravenswood: closer to school for her, and closer to the art centers for me. I had enough classes to teach that I quit the hardware store on my birthday, one year to the day after beginning...so I got that week's paid vacation I'd been promised. Later, I also started teaching at Malcolm X College. My paintings kept getting better; I got into a bunch of group and juried shows. And then in 2012 I finally got my solo show: at Linda Warren Projects. That was the fulfillment of a goal I'd had for a long time.

Above: Jeriah Hildwine as a bat in "Flesh and Bone," curated by Stephanie Burke, Annie Heckman, and himself, at Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan, Chicago, IL, on October 30, 2010.
I got some attention for my exhibitions. Ed Marszewski at Co-Prosperity Sphere was particularly good to me. And in some ways I'd say that the exhibitions which he facilitated led more-or-less directly to my show at Linda's, as well as some of my studio sales. I got a little bit of press. But, I'd say that I probably was, and likely still am, best known for my writing at two websites: Bad at Sports and Chicago Art Magazine. People love it when you write about them. I guess I'm also somewhat infamous for a few shenanigans, like doing Turkish Oil Wrestling with Joseph Ravens at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago as part of Jake Myers' Fight Night.

After my solo show at Linda Warren Projects, I started applying for full-time teaching jobs again. I sold one piece from the show at Linda's, and a couple others out of my studio (each time I asked Linda if she wanted to handle the sale, but she let me keep everything from my studio sales, which was very kind of her). It was nice, but never more than frosting on my teaching income, which was barely enough to get by on. Four different institutions means a hell of a commute. Some days were 14 hours long, from the moment I left home til the moment I got home at night. I did get a lot of reading done on the CTA, though.

Above: Jeriah Hildwine visiting with Meredith Weber during the opening reception for his show "Living Dead Girls" at Linda Warren Projects, 327 N. Aberdeen, Chicago, IL, on April 27, 2012.
My departure from Chicago was brought about by a single factor: employment. Had I been offered a full-time teaching job in Chicago, I would have stayed. (As said above, I applied for many.) Likewise, if I hadn't been offered a full-time teaching job elsewhere, I wouldn't have left the city. It's that simple. As it was, I applied for every teaching job I could find, regardless of its location. Ultimately, I interviewed for jobs in central Illinois, on Long Island in New York, on the island of Honolulu in Hawaii, and finally at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. That last university offered me a position, which I accepted. I have been teaching at NAU since Fall 2013.

I look back on Chicago fondly, and with some regret at having left. The art scene there is and was fantastic. So much more approachable than New York or LA, both of which have more art, and some better, but I really appreciate the way you can just walk into a gallery in Chicago and be part of it. I had hoped to maintain my relationship with Linda Warren after my departure, but unfortunately that hasn't worked out as I'd hoped. I maintained a studio in Chicago for a year and flew in every month or so for the first year I was gone, but it just proved too difficult to schedule a follow-up studio visit for second show. Long-distance relationships have their challenges. I don't have any hard feelings towards Linda and hope to work with her again in the future, circumstances permitting. Failing that, I'd love to show with another gallery in Chicago. It's a great scene and I really do miss it. I have been back several times to participate in group shows at Peregrine Program, The Franklin, and Co-Prosperity Sphere, as well as with you (Paul Germanos) in your show at Antena, and it's always a great time.

Above: Jeriah Hildwine and Stephanie Burke, co-curator, with Andrew Blackley and Steve Ruiz, of "Quarterly Site #4" at LVL3, 1452 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL, on October 9, 2010.
Advice: Be everywhere. Be at every gallery opening, but also be in your studio constantly. Work pays off. Charm pays off. Be genuine. Well...I don't know. Being genuine is one strategy, my strategy. I'm honest, genuine, and help everyone that I can. It got me...it got me where I am. Other people seem more strategic, more “what can you do for ME?” about it. I saw one of their names in a glossy art magazine at Barnes and Noble today. I'm not saying who, or which magazine. But maybe that's a better strategy, to be disingenuous, to be nice only to people who can do something for you, to be selfish. Maybe it's smarter but it's just not me. I'm neither one to bite the hand that feeds me, nor to lick the boot that kicks me.

Social media, blogs, and print publications are all great. Websites are important. But in the end, physicality is still foremost. Place matters, absolutely. You need to be able to hug, shake hands, get drunk with people, see work in person. That's what I miss most about Chicago. It was a great art scene to be a part of, big and vibrant but not closed off. Flagstaff is so small; there are a couple of cool galleries here (and a bunch of regional craft galleries which are great if you like ceramics, landscapes, etc.), but it's just small. If slow sales and few collectors was a challenge in Chicago, it's far worse in Flagstaff. You really can't sell challenging work here. There's very little money, and what money there is tends to be Phoenix tourist money, and they want paintings of aspens, of horses, of the mountains or the Grand Canyon. I still show here, when I can, and I'm working on relationships with the galleries here. But even the dealers tell me how hard it is to sell grown-up work here. So I'd love to show outside of Flagstaff as well, and especially back in Chicago.

- May 8, 2015 (C) Jeriah Hildwine


Learn more about Jeriah and his work by visiting his website: http://jeriahhildwine.com/home.html

Read more of Jeriah's thoughts on leaving Chicago in an article published nine months ago, on the occasion of his first year away from the city: http://badatsports.com/2014/one-year-away-from-chicago/

Images (1-6) above copyright (C) 2010-2013 Paul Germanos.

Edited by Paul Germanos. Apologies for errors and omissions. Contact using the information at right.