2 Nights, 70 People, Countless Post-its, and Limitless Connections: The First City-Wide 20 Neighborhoods Artist Meetings at WMG

First 20 Neighborhoods Artist Meeting: Discussing how and where we connect with other people in our neighborhoods and communities

The first week of August marked the first two city-wide 20 Neighborhoods meetings at Woman Made Gallery, focused on bringing participating artists, teaching artists, and partner organizations together to meet one other, share experiences and aspirations, and contribute to the development of the upcoming exhibition. With about 45 people present for the first meeting, and the about 25 present for the second, both evenings were alive with vibrant with conversation, shared ideas, and at some points, strong emotions.

Two women discussing the symbolism of the feather, while the group in the mid-background discusses the hammer, and the group in the left-hand background discusses the plate, fork, and knife

In the spirit of found-object assemblage, attendees first gathered around stations containing various objects (a hammer, a feather, needle and thread, colored pencils, a plate, fork, and knife) to meet one another and discuss their shared and diverging interpretations of the objects’ symbolism.

At the station containing four pencils of ranging colors, two women remarked that they identified most with the blue pencil, which for them was reminiscent of the sky and also contained symbols of freedom, openness, and levity.

A number of women connected with each other over the needle and thread because it reminded them of their mothers with their thrift and ingenuity in fixing the family’s clothing and taking care of their homes. One woman shared that she recently came close to throwing out a purse because the lining was ripped up, but then she remembered her mother and decided to mend it, which brought her a sense of satisfaction: “I felt really good!”.

Two women introduce themselves as they discuss the symbolism of the feather

From there we switched from the exploration and discussion of objects to discussing questions about our neighborhoods and communities such as: “What would make you feel safer?”, “If you could travel anywhere in Chicago where would you go?”, “What do you like about the schools in your neighborhood, and what would you change?”, “If you could put your artwork from this project anywhere in your neighborhood for others to see, where would you put it?”. The conversations that emerged from these questions were rich with experiences and ideas that intertwined, connected, and diverged.

Writing and drawing ideas on post-its

After discussing these questions, we wrote and drew our ideas on post-it notes and put them on the wall under the discussion questions. Here is some of what emerged:

“There’s just enough happening but I don’t always feel like I’m part of it. I wish there were more community events in the streets”. “I would like to see more art in my neighborhood that is made by locals or by the school children”. “Art in trees! Art on tables! Art in windows!”. “I would like to feel safer in my neighborhood. If there was a regular walking patrol in the neighborhood (at least a bike patrol in the residential portion)”. “I like that the schools in Pilsen have art programs or are close in proximity to FREE arts programming. I would change outdated books and add sociology to the curriculum by law”. “I wish using PACE was easier so I can meet new people”. “I refuse to be afraid”.

One of the most interesting conversations to emerge from this activity was in response to the statement “I would like to quality education for the children of my neighborhood”, which sparked a lively debate on education and parenting. One woman from the workshops at Imagine Englewood If brought up that her son gets out of school suspension for 10 days just for talking back to a teacher. She expressed that this kind of disciplinary action is making it hard for her to parent and for him to learn since there is no mechanism for him to get caught up once he returns to school, and it is hard for her to keep an eye on him during the day when he is out of school for suspension.

Many in the room agreed and voiced concerns about how the system could be improved to make out of school suspension less frequent and to put mechanisms in place to help students catch up if they are suspended. Another woman, who is a teacher and is participating in the South Side Community Art Center workshops, offered her perspective about how hard it is to teach when students are disruptive, and that disciplinary action is the only tactic or power teachers feel they have, and parents need to do more at home to make sure their kids are better behaved.

Another woman from the Imagine Engelwood If group brought up the work that their organization does around lead abatement and mentioned that lead poisoning is linked to learning and behavioral problems, and that it is important to address this in any conversation about education and discipline in Chicago schools. While the discussion felt tense, it also felt like productive. There was somewhat general agreement that these issues are part of a systemic problem and that we need to keep talking and learning from one another.

Discussing what’s on the post-its

We ended both the meetings discussing the exhibition and all of its various components, with the hope that participating artists can be fully integrated in the exhibition process.

At the first meeting we began to discuss what kinds of panel discussions and artist talks could coincide with the exhibition. We are already looking forward to presentations from the workshop of women war veterans at Living Arts Center, as well as the artists at Center on Halsted, who are interested in a public exploration of their group’s diversity in age, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

At the second meeting we had a little time to talk about the layout of the exhibition and brought up some of the questions we will be dealing with more explicitly at the exhibition planning meetings. For an example, we posed the question: “Should the assemblages be grouped by neighborhood/ organization, or intermixed?”. Many people in the room voiced that they would prefer to see the assemblages grouped together with others from the same workshop group as a way to understand the city. Many brought up various ways that a geographic or spacial presentation of the city could be linked to the display of assemblages in the space. Ideas included:

-Designating the back of the gallery as North and the front as South, or the downstairs as South and the upstairs as North, and placing assemblages accordingly

-Using the image of the subway system to designate neighborhoods, either with colored electric tape on the floor, or colored tape, string, or wire on the ceiling

-Hanging signs (maybe that look like street signs) from the ceiling to show which neighborhood is which

Kristina Tendilla, the teaching artist from Benton House, in Bridgeport brought up the idea of creating some kind of activity book or scavenger hunt, either printed separately or as part of the catalog, that would allow visitors to connect the work of women in one neighborhood to the work of women in another by finding similarities and differences.

We are looking forward to focusing in on the exhibition at upcoming city-wide 20 Neighborhoods meetings on August 15th and September 5th. Stay tuned for updates!

To see more photos from the meetings, check out our facebook album and make sure to “like” 20 Neighborhoods on facebook if you haven’t already!

Woman Made Congratulates Artist, Activist, and Friend Peggy Lipschutz

Peggy Lipschutz in her Studio

Wonderful news! In conjunction with UN Human Rights Day on December 10th, Peggy Lipschutz, an important artist, activist, ally, and friend, will be honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Humanities. The following day, Peggy will celebrate her 92nd birthday!

Peggy Lipschutz is a painter, political cartoonist, book illustrator, labor unionist, feminist, pacifist, and humanist. She pioneered the “chalk-talk”— a performance art form combining drawing and music before a live audience. She traveled the country, performing her drawings with musicians and personalities such as Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Studs Terkel, Win Stracke, Arlo Guthrie, Fred Holstein, Holly Near and many others.

A longtime Chicago area resident, Peggy Lipschutz worked as an illustrator, political cartoonist and served as editor for the newspaper, Labor Today, before devoting herself fully to painting eighteen years ago. Her work has been shown at the Art Institute of Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the ACA Gallery in New York.

Peggy Lipshutz - "The Screenwriter", oil on canvas

Woman Made Gallery had the pleasure of showing Peggy’s work in a 2007 solo show entitled Women in Dangerous Professions.

Two years ago filmmaker Jerri Zbiral released a film on Peggy’s life and work entitled “Never Turning Back”. Visit the film’s website to learn more about Peggy’s inspiring achievements and view the trailer.

Congratulations, and Happy Birthday, Peggy!

– WMG Staff

Meet Three Online Registry Artists

 I. LINDA FILLHARDT

“My mixed media works comprise of etchings mounted on wood panel with encaustic. Layered within these works are the representation of desert vegetation and the patchwork patterns of simple shapes – squares, wide strips and lines – that call to mind the traditional weavings inspired by the deserts of North America. Desert Crossings was inspired by my many travels—my many desert crossings– throughout the southwest.

Artwork by Linda Fillhardt

I work as a contemporary mixed media artist. I am interested in printmaking, painting, and encaustic and work in a combination of the mediums. This current work is a collage of a variety of works on paper, which may include monoprints, monotypes, and solar plate etchings. These are then mounted on wood panel and encaustic is then added which adds a smooth dull transparent surface to the work.

Desert Crossings is inspired by my many trips into the desert landscape. Over the last 15 years I have, on a yearly basis, traveled in the deserts of the southwest. I now live outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. These landscapes and the plants that live in the desert haunt me. Their means of survival in the harsh environment fascinate me. Parts of these images are ending up in my work. I am very interested in the panoramic vistas, the plants that survive there and the water and lack of water that is there.”

II. CATHERINE WIESENER

Artwork by Catherine Wiesener

“I choose to use porcelain in most of my work because it is a unique material that can reference everything from historical ceramics and dinnerware to teeth and sanitary ware. These unusual associations are definitely important to my thought process and concepts because they are all essentially linked together. I draw inspiration for my work from multiple sources such as the idealized portrayal of animals in the media, nature guides, and tales of animal heroism as well as gastronomic re-interpretations of these animals.

I am interested in how our culture preserves and displays animals as well as how we reconcile eating our furry friends and the resulting objects. I am fascinated by the ornate and what it can reveal or conceal about our complex relationships with the things we do, need, eat, or desire. And last but not least, humor, sometimes, dark, finds its way into my work as a result of mixing these ideas and having fun in the studio.”

III. ELZBIETA (ELKA) KAZMIERCZAK

“I have been making linoleum prints and artist’s books of visual typography for over two decades. The time it takes to carve meticulous figurative designs or carefully chisel visual typography is my personal time for self-reflection, meditation, and empowerment. Thematically, my works explore the oppression and marginalization of women. I use the feminine body as a signifier of patriarchy, its abuses and the struggle against it. I use compositional and figurative dramatizations to express emotional states and explore issues of displacement, loss, transformation, and individuation in women’s lives. The air of woman’s existence in many of those works is warped by the dramatic gestures and the screams shrouded by silence of a printed image.

Artwork by Elzbieta Kazmierczak

I combine printmaking with fiber art to bridge fine arts and the tradition of women’s work. I use stitching as a drawing method to communicate emotional states and identities.

Stylistically, I am fascinated by images that do not quickly disclose themselves and capture attention for the time required to interpret them. Interplay of positive and negative shapes I find pregnant with peculiar beauty that leads me to create images that echo German expressionism and cave painting.”

Artist and WMG Member Spotlight – Kelsey Curkeet

“Like watching clouds, the viewer can search for something familiar within the images, allowing a subconscious extraction from their own memories and imaginations.”

–Kelsey Curkeet

Ellen - inkjet print; 20 x 30 inches

Looking at Kelsey Curkeet’s photograph, Ellen, exhibited in January/February 2010 in the student show, “While in Class”, I immediately sense a powerful and mysterious story in the direct stare of the woman who is the subject, and in the watery texture of the background from which her face emerges. I want to know the details behind this haunting tableau, and I learn from Curkeet’s writing that this story I sense is entirely her creation:

Flippant Cadence - macro photography; 36 x 24 inches

“My work tends to walk the line between the grotesque and the beautiful. My photographs are not documentation of the world around me, but instead are non-existent in the sense that a painting is non-existent. The images could not exist in the real world, only in the images that I have created. They have the same sense of discovery as the first-time viewing of a painting. They don’t depict places or events you might have visited or people you may have met.”

Similarly, Curkeet’s more abstract photographs, whose rich textures mirror elements of the background in Ellen, are also images of her creation. This work is the result of experimentation with various liquid chemicals, all of which she mixes in Petri dishes in order to achieve captivating abstract landscapes with slippery looking bubbles, liquid twists, and dramatic shadows. Like Ellen, I find these photographs to be incredibly soulful, particularly with the understanding that they are all the result of Curkeet’s exploration and manipulation.

Diluted Diesel – photography; 13 x 19 inches

It is easier to understand this mysterious and soulful quality emerging from Curkeet’s images when I learn that she often works around the theme of the female body: “The images that I create tend to deal with the female figure or represent her in some way. It manifests itself in themes like body image, self-esteem, and loss of innocence and naivety.” Perhaps it is from this source that Curkeet draws her inspiration and ability to create such strong and masterful photographs, which are especially confident considering that she is still a student. Woman Made Gallery is honored to have exhibited Curkeet’s incredible work, and looks forward to all that she will create.

*Curkeet was one of three students awarded an honorary Gallery Membership for her outstanding work in the “While in Class…” show. She is a student at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.

  • All of our Gallery Members can be found here.
  • For more information on our Gallery Level Memberships please click here

– Ruby Thorkelson, Gallery Assistant

Ruby is Woman Made’s new Gallery Assistant as of July 2010.

Artist and WMG Member Spotlight – Amanda Dandeneau

I search for the small, subtle signs and symbols of shared perceptions, particularly about beauty and the female body, that connect women to other women and from which we learn and grow as individuals.

-Amanda Dandeneau

Us, lightjet print; 40 x 50 inches

Amanda Dandeneau first captivated Woman Made when her poignant photograph entitled Us was selected to be in the “Family Album” exhibition this past year. I remember opening up her crate during the exhibition’s installation and immediately being taken aback by it. I casually propped the large photograph against the wall and called over to Emanuel, WMG’s preparator, exclaiming, “you have to see this!” We both stared, initially out of shock, but were gradually consumed with the work’s incredible, yet subtle details, though never leaving the questions: What is going on? Is that her mother?

 This photograph, along with My Mom’s Picture (currently in our “13th International Open” exhibition), are part of a series entitled “Us”, which features several images of her and/or her mother around the house. These conceptual and formal juxtapositions, whether they are together in the bedroom, in the backyard, or in the driveway, provoke a feeling of voyeurism. In many of the photographs Dandeneau and her mother gaze directly out at the viewer—is this confrontation a challenge or an invitation? Or perhaps both, as this discomforting yet affecting ambivalence certainly elicit questions with regard to familial relationships, particularly those between a mother and daughter.

Winter (2007)

 Dandeneau writes, “my curiosity about female relationships is what initially inspired me to observe my own relationship with my mother. I hoped that if I learned to understand our relationship, it could lead me to learn something important about myself, which would help me develop and better understand my own identity….When I photograph the two of us together, my goal is to explore the subtle bonds that link mother and daughter, as a sub-plot to the obvious differences between aging mother and youthful daughter….I try to make my work honest and truthful; I don’t want to manipulate our relationship, but rather reveal and understand it.”

*Amanda was awarded an honorary Gallery Membership for her outstanding work in the “13th International Open”  exhibition.

  • All of our Gallery Members can be found here.
  • For more information on our Gallery Level Memberships please click here
  • More information on Amanda and her “Us” series can be found here
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    -Kristen Carter, Gallery Coordinator