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 the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's MFA program in Photography. She began her coursework at SAIC 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 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 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:

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:

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.


  1. Has any one heard from Jeriah Hildwine this month? He is missing with n NAU student, and they found a suicide note from them -

  2. If you have seen Ashley Darby or Jeriah Hildwine, please contact the Coconino County Sheriff's Office at (928) 774-4523. Website:

  3. So hard to understand. I wish I could have helped. I wish I could have answers.


    2000 - Jeriah Hildwine moves to Arcata, California, to attend Humboldt State University.

    ? - Jeriah Hildwine and Stepahnie Burke meet at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California.

    2005 - Jeriah Hildwine moves to Baltimore, Maryland, to attend the Hoffberger School of Painting MFA program at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

    2006 - Jeriah Hildwine and Stepahnie Burke marry in Arcata, California, on (?) August 5.

    2008 - Jeriah Hildwine graduates from the Hoffberger School of Painting MFA program at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

    2008 - Jeriah Hildwine and Stepahnie Burke move to Chicago, Illinois.

    2013 - Jeriah Hildwine moves to Flagstaff, Arizona, to work as an instructor at Northern Arizona University.

    2013 - Stepahnie Burke maintains her residence and employment in Chicago, Illinois.

    2014 - Jeriah Hildwine ceases to regularly visit Chicago.

    (continued below)

    1. 2015 - Jeriah Hildwine becomes involved with Ashley Darby.

      May 10 - I publish an interview with Jeriah Hildwine in which he describes Stepahnie Burke as his wife in the present tense.

      ? - Stepahnie Burke initiates a divorce from Jeriah Hildwine.

      ? - June or August? One of Hildwine’s 22-year-old students tells officers with Flagstaff Police Department she was a victim of sexual misconduct at the hands of her instructor. FPD refer to CCSO.

      June - Jeriah Hildwine travels by car to California, from Arizona.

      June - Jeriah Hildwine travels by car to Arizona, from California, returning 2 weeks prior to his trip to Vermont.

      ? - Jeriah Hildwine travels by car to Vermont, from Arizona, presumably during the first week of July.

      July 5 - Jeriah Hildwine's Vermont Studio Center residency begins.

      July 17 - I drive Jeriah Hildwine's now ex-wife, Stepahnie Burke, to two gallery openings in Chicago. At Aspect/Ratio gallery, with three people other than myself, she's willing to discuss her divorce from Jeriah Hildwine, stating that it's basically complete.

      July 18 - Stepahnie Burke stops responding to e-mail and phone calls.

      July 31 - Jeriah Hildwine's Vermont Studio Center residency ends.

      ? - Jeriah Hildwine travels by car to Arizona from Vermont, presumably during the first week of August.

      ? - On Instagram, Jeriah Hildwine uploads a photo taken at Winnemac Park, Chicago, across the street from the apartment he shared with Stephanie Burke, captioned: "For five years this was my favorite place in the city. I am not certain that I shall ever see it again."

      Aug. 4 - Jeriah Hildwine publishes an article on the Bad at Sports blog in which he describes his position at NAU as being "fairly secure," and states that he's planning for the Fall semester upcoming.

      Aug. 5 - Jeriah Hildwine and Stepahnie Burke's 9th wedding anniversary.

      Aug. 16 - Jeriah Hildwine's last activity Twitter is on this date; his last use of Instagram appears to be near the same date.

      ? - After nearly a year of inactivity, Jeriah Hildwine subscribes to "Active Self Defense" on YouTube.

      ? - No information available in this 2-week period. What happened? If Jeriah Hildwine was out of state in July, was this the timing of the alleged sexual misconduct or its reporting?

      Aug. 29 - Jeriah Hildwine resigns his position as lecturer at Northern Arizona University.

      Aug. 29 - Jeriah Hildwine travels by plane to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Ashley Darby is visiting her mother.

      Sept. 2 - Jeriah Hildwine and Ashley Darby are last seen, together, at a lawyer’s office in Flagstaff, Arizona, at approximately 3 PM (Mountain Time).

      Sept. 3 - Ashley Darby is reported missing by her father.

      Sept. 3 - Two unidentified hunters report seeing Ashley Darby's (company-owned) maroon-colored Chevrolet HHR at the Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop trailhead parking area.

      Sept. 8 - Jeriah Hildwine is reported missing by his mother.

      Sept. 19 - Forest Service Fire Prevention Personnel locate Ashley Darby’s vehicle in the parking lot of the Abineau/Bear Jaw Trailhead.

      Sept. 19 - Searching inside Ashley Darby's vehicle, investigators find a note, written by Ashley Darby, which indicates that the two intended to commit suicide.

      Sept. 19 - In the afternoon, Search and Rescue personnel search the Abineau/Bear Jaw Trailhead parking lot, and surrounding area, but are unable to locate either person or any further clues as to their whereabouts.

      Sept. 22 - The Coconino County Sheriff's Office publishes a call for assistance in locating Jeriah Hildwine and Ashley Darby.

      Sept. 23 - A second search in the area of the Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop trailhead parking area is conducted. Jeriah Hildwine and Ashley Darby are found, dead, 1 PM (Mountain Time) 1/3 of a mile away from Ashley Darby's parked car. A handgun is found in Jeriah Hildwine's hand.

      ? - Bodies are taken to the medical examiner; double suicide and homicide-suicide scenarios are investigated.

      Oct. 1 - No news yet available.

    2. Fuck him and may he burn in hell!

  5. Hey Folks, This asshole murdered Ashley Darby in Flagstaff Az...