Monday, March 31, 2014

Unexpected Encounters With Art


The Kelsey Mystery: Last Friday while I was riding the Red Line from my dentist appointment in Skokie to a freelance assignment downtown, a young blond woman got up from where she had been sitting with some guy and started handing out small squares of paper. One one side was a circular black and white graphic featuring a casually dressed Rapunzel along with an ominous hooded figure who looked like he might be playing keyboards. On the other side was the handwritten name, Kelsey Skutnick. As far as I could tell, she didn’t explain to anyone what the squares were for; she merely smiled as she gave them out.

Intrigued, I later Googled ‘Kelsey Skutnick’ and discovered she’s a graphic artist who cites Edward Gorey as a major influence, and creates cool ink and marker portraits of musicians. She also does various other types of art. All in all, this was a pretty effective way to drive people to her site. So the next time I’m on the Red Line, I might distribute some paper squares with a picture of one of my favorite bands on one side, and ‘Terry Flamm’ on the other.

The Ripple Effect: I wasn’t aware of echoes of chicago until it threw a 177th birthday bash for the city this past Saturday night at HQ on Milwaukee Avenue. The nonprofit organization’s motto is “When a drop hits, it ripples!” and it stages events like this on a regular basis for the purpose of networking and building an arts community. Happy Birthday Chicago gave 34 local artists an opportunity to each showcase a single piece, and also featured live music, comedy skits, dancing, and a raffle.

My niece, Allison Flamm, was one of those artists, and she chose to exhibit Chi Flag, her interpretation of the city’s flag. This version is augmented by the lion bookends from outside the Art Institute, as well as some added texture to the blue portions of the flag. It won The People’s Choice award at The Beverly Arts Center’s 2013 Evolving Artist Competition. Other works on display at Happy Birthday Chicago included Gerardo Villareal’s A Night In Chicago; Juan Hubbard’s Ferris; Anna Rybchenkov’s Lightning From A Lincoln Park Rooftop, Patricia O’Neal’s Hot Day View from the Aquarium; and Lisa Brosig’s Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow piƱata. The full list of artists can be viewed on the echoes of chicago website.

The three music acts that performed while I was there—folk/indie rocker Maryann Michael; rapper Blaise B.; and cutting edge rock band Impulsive Hearts—were all entertaining. (The jazz/soul quartet Low Spark performed later.) Happy Birthday Chicago attracted a large, mostly 20-something crowd with a smattering of older family members, and the bustling, good-natured vibe was reminiscent of when Mary-Arrchie Theatre celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival at The Den Theatre (also on Milwaukee Avenue) last August. In other words, lots of ripples.

So Much For That Theory: Anyone who watches the The Big Bang Theory sitcom on CBS is likely to come away with the idea that hanging out in comic book stores is strictly a guy thing. A Nerdy Guy Thing. But just as my weekly visits to a downtown comics store surely dispel the geek stereotype, there’s a group of female artists and fans aiming to pulverize the notion that women don’t dig comic books or graphic novels.

They meet on the first Wednesday of each month for Ladies Night at the Graham Crackers Comic store  at 77 E. Madison Street, downtown. The next meeting is this Wednesday, April 2nd, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Some of the participants have banded together to create the Ladies Night Anthology Presents Vol. 1 TPB.  It’s available from Graham Crackers Comics for $9.99.

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