Interview with Darin Latimer

We asked Darin some questions ahead of his next solo exhibition opening, “SuperDeath Pt 1 (Let it Bleed)”….

“Red Altar” by Darin Latimer

How did you get involved with Elephant Room Gallery?

I’ll try to do this in Bullet Points because it’s a little convoluted. In 2001 I wrote a screenplay entitled ‘Deathlessness’. It nearly, but did not quite, make the Top 10 for the then-still-important Sundance Filmmaking Labs. It being my ‘Jesus Year’ I decided to take a Hollywood Hiatus from my life consuming gig running Zingerman’s Delicatessen and pursue this. I got a part time gig at a wonderful Antiques and Auction place where Lina and I were enthusiastic and very modest customers and worked there for a couple of years. We became part of the family (This would be Schmidt’s Antiques in Ypsilanti, MI – now a 5th generation family business). I kept in touch. 

We moved to Chicago. Some years back Schmidt’s came into possession of a late, largely undiscovered New York Artist’s estate – James C. Harrison, the ‘C’ added to differentiate him from the famed writer). I got curious about it and asked if I could come back to help out. I proposed a Chicago show. 

I knew Kimberly because we frequently walked past Elephant Room and, one blessed day, signed up for an art talk by my now-beloved colleague Jennifer Cronin – about her then new series of breathtakingly detailed paintings of condemned Chicago houses. We bought a print. Friendship formed. When I made my profoundly inept rounds of inquiries to Chicago galleries about a show, Kimberly was the one who saw the merit in Harrison’s work. 

When she came over to pick out final selections for the show we finally put on (‘Buried Alive’) she looked up at the walls covered with paintings and said ‘What’s all this stuff?’. That was my stuff…that’s how it started and that’s why we’re here. 

“Buried Alive” by James C. Harrison

Your upcoming exhibition is entitled “SuperDeath pt 1 (Let it Bleed)”. What is the meaning behind this title?

It’s a Description as much as anything. Right before the first show a routine chest x-ray revealed a lesion on my 9th rib. I want to pause and note that lesion was 8 ½ ct. long – because even my maladies, apparently, must be film references. The consensus was that I had Multiple Myeloma (and I do) The expectation was that many more lesions would be discovered through more thorough testing and I would be…doomed, effectively. 3 years maybe, 5 years possibly. 

But I only had the one so the ‘Multiple’ part got kicked down the road a bit. I’m in treatment now – Chemo and Stem Cell replacement coming up as my personal ‘Rites of Spring’ but, again, early so the prognosis is a bit more chipper. So the title just describes that – it has started. It’s a blood cancer and there is no cure…but I think there will be at least a Pt. 2, maybe even 3. What is Life without Adventure? 

A lot of your previous work has been inspired by some of your favorite actors, directors and movies. This new body of work reflects a shift towards drawing inspiration from your favorite artists or works of art. Can you expound on this shift and how the process of creating this current work feels? Is there a difference in how you approach the canvas?

Do you remember that early 90’s movie by Kevin Smith ‘Chasing Amy’?…it was his only kind of realized actual adult movie – the protagonist is a comic book artist, his second banana guy is his ‘inker’, a crucial role in the industry. In an early scene at a comic convention a fan of the artist turns to the ‘inker’ and declares you’re just a ‘tracer’, you just trace what he does.”

When I went ‘deep’ for the first show I unearthed my old sketch books, shoe boxes, spiral notebooks – some containing drawings 35 years old. And I turned them into paintings, but a lot of the paintings were mostly inked impressions of the old drawings (We’ll talk about Krink Ink at the end)…but it all came from what tradition calls a ‘drawing practice’ and I have a million of them. I am my Tracer. 

To crystallize the Film Stuff we have to talk about Otto Preminger. He can stand in for the rest. It’s complicated. My works are rife with film titles, portraits (arguably recognizable), but for purposes of explanation Otto will suffice. 

He was offered the full control of Nazi Germany’s Filmmaking Enterprise, just like Fritz Lang had been before him. Like Fritz Lang he fled to America. 

Preminger made the first movies that talked honestly about Rape, Homosexuality (not exactly the way you wish but he did it first), the Differently Abled, Racism, Questioning the Military Dominance of our culture. He was the first public figure to have an open relationship with a woman of color. He should be exemplar of 20th Century Liberalism (and in many ways he is). 

But he was awful. He destroyed lives. He was an egomaniac, a screamer, a Monster. 

I’m going to keep trying to understand him (he’s on the T Shirt)

The Film Stuff is never going away…Maya Deren, Brakhage. I’m just going to cut it off now…but go see ‘Drive My Car’ if you don’t think they still make great movies every single year.

“Leopard (100 Rooms)” by Darin Latimer

You’ve shared in your new work you “fixated on rooms depicted in paintings, compressed, even crushed spaces – back to my old formative heroes Picasso, Giacometti and, particularly Matisse (Cezanne and Cecily Brown too…)” can you share more about the choice in representing architectural spaces, particularly spaces that are compressed/crushed?

The ’crushed space’ was specific – first to Giacometti’s ‘Pear on a Sideboard’, he did a number of these, the subsequent more severe than the (for him) relatively exuberantly colorful original, but that’s the one I thought about. I didn’t revisit it in my ruminations for this show and I don’t have the confidence to say I really understand it…but he broke something – in perception, in aspiration. Not for everyone, but certainly for me. I don’t have an answer for that painting. 

The next other, before we talk about Matisse, is Picasso’s ‘Skull’. Picasso remained in Paris during the Nazi Occupation. He was a celebrity by then, but this was still brave (the less photogenic Matisse fled to the South). Picasso received unwilled Nazi visitors and one asked, looking at the sculpture of ‘Skull’ – “Did you do that?”, Picasso replied flatly “No, You did That.”

So, let’s talk about Matisse. He is a 19th century painter who became the bedrock of 20th century modernism. He also started painting seriously when he was ill (he would be ill a lot). His mother gave him a set of paints in the hospital. 

I have dubbed ‘The Quarantine’ my doubled-damned hibernation because of my malady…but it hasn’t been all bad. It drove me back to my books and the first ones off the shelf, some not cracked for 20 years, were Matisse. There’s no dearth of landscapes but I fixated on the rooms, the odalisques, the studio paintings, the apartment in Nice – which I actually visited. The granting of a single color to be the Architecture of a single image. His whole career he worked like a coal miner and went through horrible struggles. I’m going to cut it off now because I could go on for 19 pages. This show is for him. But not about him. We will have to talk about that Armchair later. 

You’ve been able to produce work in volume recently. This is partially attributed to several challenges you and the world has faced in the past few years. Can you share how it feels to create at such a quick pace?

It feels like the correct pace for me. While there has been a lot more actual painting in this bunch, I haven’t really slowed down. I don’t think it’s a working philosophy to apply to the rest of the working Artist World, but it works for me. I just love working. A lot of people don’t. That’s a Tragedy. There can’t be a Practicall Element (‘Oh, You’re just running out of fucking room…’, Trust me, I’ve run out of room for them)

Your primary mediums are Krink Ink markers and acrylic paint on paper, canvas and panel. Can you speak to why these particular materials interest you?

Krink is Fast. Lina read an article about Krink Ink in the New York Times 20 some years ago and bought me a set of the 6 original broad top markers. I went to Town. A Town I had no map to. When I say my ‘process’ is founded in not actually knowing how to do Anything, I’m not lying. The first wave of works were kind of idiot monotypes…blotted without certainty. I work flat. I’m not an easel painter. I initially preferred panels for the ink effect…but the effect has evolved. I’m not just an inker anymore.

It’s been a few years since you’ve had an exhibition at ERG and a lot has changed in the world. What changes have you seen in your work and/or process and how are you feeling about this show in particular?

Regarding the Show, people will look at it or not, get it or not. Never underestimate the Role of Luck (that’s from ‘The Hustler’) in the estimation of Art. The ‘Process’ has become a bit more ‘crushed’, back to a past comment of mine. For me anyhow. I started out (formally, not that long ago) making pictures about pictures. It was a point of pride. I am clearly not doing just that anymore. 

I don’t know why but I’ll keep making stuff until I figure it out. 

What is your favorite piece in this show and why?

I am related to Diego Velazquez by marriage (Journey of a Smaller World) and so have an additional emotional investment in his painting ‘Las Meninas’ and I have some company. Picasso painted dozens of variations of it while he was dying (they crowd the last gallery of the Barcelona Picasso Museum). 

I have called ‘Las Meninas’ – ‘The First Movie’. It broke pictorial history in half. To the question ‘What is this a painting of?’ there is only one answer. 

You, the viewer are the subject of this painting. 

I only did one version. I can’t ever do another.  

“The Girls” by Darin Latimer

Interview with TotesFerosh (Josh Epstein)

“Plant Daddy” by TotesFerosh

When did you start to consider yourself an artist or when did you know that you were on that path?

I’ve always loved art and knew I would have some sort of art-related career. I went to college at an art school in Detroit and studied graphic design which I felt was a blend of art and computer graphics. I quickly realized that my career choices skewed further from the artistic side and more towards marketing, user experience, and technology. For ten years, I’ve been a user experience designer, but within the last two years or so, I’ve taken big steps to get back into traditional art and have started really referring to myself as an artist. I’ve built out an official studio in my home, I’ve opened up an Etsy shop with art-forward products, and I’ve been regularly going to gallery openings and exhibiting.

How did you get interested in linocut specifically?

When I first explain my process to new people, they often say “Oh, I did that process in 7th grade!” I have been drawn to the meditative nature of hand carving linoleum blocks ever since I was a teenager. The style of linocut is very stark in contrast and reminiscent of the illustrative style used in comics. My work and aesthetic are largely influenced by a childhood infatuation with superheroes and anime, specifically intensified during my time living in Japan. These characters often present one significant trait which ostracizes them from society, not unlike many Queer people.

What were the themes and intentions behind your work when you first started as an artist?

I really want to tell stories from my community, from myself, from people I know, and people I’ve observed. Living in Chicago, you see a lot of interesting people, and I want to capture that in my subjects. One of my most popular shirt designs “Pikachu on a leash” is inspired by a real-life experience. It was Halloween 2013 in the North Halsted neighborhood (formerly Boystown). My partner and I had just started dating and I convinced him to let us dress up as Pikachu and Ash. It was your typical hand-crafted wholesome costume made from felt and thrift store finds. Our costume was probably one of the most popular of the night. Until we came across another Pikachu/Ash couple at the bar. There was one major difference with their costume from ours. Pikachu was completely naked other than a yellow thong with a tail, yellow ears, and a leash. I found the contrast between our costumes fascinating and I knew I had to capture this moment with my medium. 

This being your first solo exhibition, what were your intentions and expectations behind the work? 

My art has always been heavily influenced by anime and comics, and when you think of anime, most people default to cute characters with expressive faces and fanciful outfits. In years past, my work has been focused on handsome, fashionable characters, but sometimes lacked a narrative and depth. This year, I’ve really had time to think about what I want to say with my art, and that is to celebrate the diversity of my community. Sexual and body positivity is a huge piece of Queer culture that is still seen as taboo, even by many people within the community. So I would say my intent was to have more narrative focused artwork, and with that, it started to become sexier and more raw, and show faces that feel more authentic and less perfect. 

“Peak Chic” by TotesFerosh

With the mixed media aspect of “My Dazzling Queer Fantasy”, what is your process like from start to finish?

My work highlights my signature linocut style as the key medium. Each subject of my work is carved by hand from a block of linoleum, taking up to 20 hours per block. I then ink each carving and press them into paper using a hand-operated press, revealing unique multiples. Once cut out and prepped with a sealant, the linocuts are assembled on cradled pine wood panels and adorned with a colorful assortment of acrylics, charcoals, and other media. Lastly, I pour the ArtResin mixture on top of each piece, encasing all components under a dazzling, hyper-glossy surface.

What is important to you when putting your work out into the public? 

In Chicago, I’ve struggled finding other Queer artists. I know they are out there, but I haven’t met many in the mainstream art scene. As someone beginning to be known in that scene, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make a statement with my work. I don’t want to speak for the entire community, but I’d like my presence to feel like an invitation for other Queer folx to attend. My Man Up series (which I showed with Elephant Room Gallery at the Blackstone Hotel in 2019) was really my first introduction into that. I initially produced that series for a high profile show which I knew would see at least 1000 visitors on opening night. This platform was a great opportunity to speak for the unheard and amplify the voices who are often censored or not asked to show in these sort of gallery spaces. Generally, this series was a huge hit. At the show, I gave out free mini prints of the pieces, and every so often, I come across a photo of an artists’ studio who has one hung up, or I meet someone who says “Oh YOU’RE the artist that made that?” 

How did the pandemic and all that is going on in the world affect your practice as an artist?

Something I found extremely rewarding during the pandemic was starting to get into public artworks and murals. Living right downtown, most of Chicago became boarded up quickly during the pandemic. These board-ups were quickly seen as blank canvases for artists, and I jumped right in to help beautify these neighborhoods. My favorite artwork I created was with the Elephant Room Gallery at the Blackstone hotel last summer. It was my first public piece which was specifically related to Pride and we auctioned the piece off to donate to a local LGBTQ charity. Other pieces I’ve worked on were more message-based and encourages passer-bys to donate and educate to BLM.

TotesFerosh painting a board-up at The Blackstone Hotel in 2020

As an artist who works in linocut, are you interested in the history of linocut as a medium? Do you ever see yourself departing from that or is that a very important part of your identity as an artist? 

I think understanding the history of your medium and art in general is crucial for creating a new future. Many classic linocut techniques inspire what I am doing now, but I modify them to meet my needs and current lifestyle. Linocut is an extremely time consuming method, so anything I can do to speed that up, I’ll try it! I’ve always felt linocut was my signature medium, and I love trying out other techniques, but I seem to always come back to linocut. Plus, I have a printing press in my home that is extremely large, heavy, and expensive, so I’ve officially invested enough into it that I can’t give it up! 

What is next for you and your work?

This is a great question! Having a solo show has been a goal of mine since 2016 and I’ve been working with the Elephant Room Gallery on this show since pre-pandemic. With all the great reception from my show, I feel empowered to keep trying new things, test out other content, and expand my net outside of Chicago’s mainstream scene. I want to continue with initiatives that share my values, have a philanthropic aspect to them, and empower other LGBTQ people to tell their stories through art. Right now, I’m working on curating my first show, which will be a Queer-focused group exhibition. It’s still in the works, but I’m thinking it will open this October at BLNK Haus in Logan Square. Stay tuned for more info. 

“Fishnet Flair” by TotesFerosh

“My Dazzling Queer Fantasy” is on exhibition at Elephant Room Gallery June 4th – 27th. Contact with inquiries on available works and check out the artist’s Etsy shop.

Interview with Delisha McKinney

self portrait

1. What are your first memories of creating art? 

I have memories as far back as being unborn. I can remember how I got my finger prints lol… from finger painting on the walls of my mother’s womb… and then carrying that same behavior to her apartment walls.

2. How has your work evolved over the years? Are there certain elements or intentions that have remained constant for you during your creative process?

I’ve evolved as a person and my work has been a reflection of that. My creative aesthetic is the same, but the subject matter has become profound with purpose. The blue bear, Hero, has remained a constant for me; representing resilience.

“Chicago 1996”

3. Many artists have certain rituals that they go through as they begin to work. It could be setting the mood with music, having tea, meditation, lighting, etc. Do you have any rituals connected to your art-making or things that help you get in the headspace to create? What are those things and how much do you rely on them to help you feel satisfied with your work?

Tea time is VERY important to my creative process. Good tea, lol. Strawberry matcha for breakfast, English breakfast for lunch, and a nice herbal tea for the evenings; as I sit quietly and look out a window. I love the process it takes to make a cup from loose tea and different components. It’s spiritual even. Keeps one grounded to the concept of time and quality.

“Cousins at Grandma’s House”

4. Your work often includes child-like references and imagery. This makes your work feel relatable as we all remember our childhood and often can connect to one another regarding this common ground, whether the memories are positive or negative. What is it about that theme that influences you and how much does it relate to your life? As a mother, has this theme become more personal for you?

I sympathize with children. I wonder how confusing and hard it is on them to grow up in a world that doesn’t value their best interests. I also wonder what kind of world it would be if adults had that chance, when they were children, to be free. Being a mother has made that subject more personal for me, because I know that all they really want, is to be loved. Not beat, or abused, neglected, screamed at, shamed… just nurtured.

“Strange Bee”

5. You have a solo exhibition coming up in March. There is so much to reflect on in what is happening in the world just over the past year. Do you feel this new body of work reflects your feelings and thoughts on that?  If yes, how does it? As an artist, do you feel compelled to respond to current events or moods in your work?

I feel I’ve put all our problems into one box and categorized it as trauma. Plain and simple. Everyone is hurting from the decisions of our past, whether it happened 1,000 years ago, or yesterday. I don’t understand how we all live together just to make each other feel small. It’s stifling. So I create works to combat that.

6. What is this new body of work about and how does it differ from previous work? 

The old work is my previous work, disguised as new work.

7. Some artists choose to embrace all reactions to their work, as artwork can mean different things to different people, while some artists are very intentional with how they want their work to be perceived. How important is it to you that viewers see your intentions behind the work? What are those intentions?

I feel as though my intentions are pretty straightforward, and I don’t mind if a person’s interpretation of my work are different from my own (art is therapy). Maybe they can see things I sometimes can’t. I believe my work is more about getting the viewer to feel something.

“Blue Zulu”

8. Your artwork seems to be getting more attention lately. Do you feel that you are on a trajectory towards continued recognition for your work? Does this at all affect the work you decide to create or how you share your work?

Yes! I want a long artistic career! I’ve had my entire life to think about what kind of mark I would like to leave, and I’ve been documenting it all along the way; a personal library of ideas, sketches, color-ways, and written stories; at my disposal. However, making it all make sense is another task. Sometimes I have to fill in the blanks in my sketch books but they guide me towards what’s next to create.

9. Who or what inspires you as you begin to sketch out your ideas?

Musicians inspire me! Fashion designers as well. I’m fascinated by the process in which they start an entire album, or create a full fashion line. I definitely take those processes into consideration when sketching.

10. What is next for Delisha McKinney?

A lot! lol The Creativity never ends.

“The Never Ends” solo exhibition by Delisha McKinney runs March 12th – April 10th, 2021 at Elephant Room Gallery in Chicago. The exhibition opens online and by viewing appointment only. For more details, visit the gallery’s website:

Interview with Cujo Dah for “A Quarantine Daydream”

How did you begin this body of work? What brought it about? 

This body of work started with several sketches and ideas I thought could become really dope paintings. As the world dramatically shifted with Covid19, racial injustice, protests, etc, so did my thoughts about what I was painting. I wanted the work to create a space for people to stop and think about their place in the world. All while addressing issues like race, time, and the environment, without being overtly literal. 

How do you arrive to the characters featured in your work? Your work has been described as both abstract and Afro-futuristic. Are the subjects in your pieces also influenced by these genres? 

My subjects are basically Chicagoans. I love my city. We have a very unique style and way we move through life. I try to bring those qualities and vibrations into my characters and wrap them in a lot of culture and colors. The abstract pieces have a ton character as well. Similar to a galaxy or an atom they can be read as a unique source of energy/life. 

What are the major differences between this body of work, A Quarantine Daydream and your previous works? 

‘Black’ by Cujo Dah

It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve had a solo showing. I have grown a tremendous amount as a person as well as an artist. The obvious differences would be the level of execution and the composition is much more structured and thought out. Another major difference is the relationship between the pieces of AQD. They are much stronger and function more as a complete unit than most previous bodies of work.

Who are some of your biggest/favorite artistic influences? 

I like Kerry James Marshall, Chuck Close, Kara Walker, and a host of others. However, my favorite artists are the RK Crew Chicago. 

How have those artists influenced the genres you work with and the pieces you create? 

I don’t really know. I’m most likely a hodgepodge of several artists from various mediums and craft. I’m a student in general. I love art in all its glory and disfunction.

But, while in the studio, most of my biggest influences have been from my sketch book doodles, animations, movies, and random media. I try hard to stay in my own little bubble while creating. I really enjoy the freedom of allowing my mind to wander and thinking on the fly. 

As someone who does a lot of collaborative and community-based artwork, how is your creative process different when you’re creating inside, on a more intimate scale, on canvas, etc.? 

When I’m in the studio, it’s just me, it’s the ultimate freedom. I make the rules and control the tone. The only challenge is to extract thoughts and physically create what I imagine. 

From the press release for AQD: “Due to the current state of events, many artists are reflecting on their work and how they can best respond to what is happening. Cujo Dah is revealing an introspective perspective which is both personal and universal.” Are there specific details in the work that stand as commentary on that introspection?

This set of characters are not focused on the viewer at all. Even the straight facing Abacus looks through you. Much like us they are all in their own world dealing with their own issues and tasks. With so much happening in the past few months, it would be an understatement to say people have a lot on their minds. This body of work reflects on thought space and thoughts in space. I wanted to try to capture those moments when your body stops moving and your mind drifts off. 

What would you like viewers to recognize in this body of work? 

I would like people to take a moment to seek out the unique stories of each piece and the relationships between all of them; the abstract paintings as well as the portraits. 

What’s the best advice you’ve received on art or creating art that continues to influence the way you create today?

When you paint like you care, it will show through the work.

Is there any advice or recommendations you would give to artists who are inspired by your work and looking to get into abstract and Afro-futuristic genres? 

No matter what style or genre, there is only one you. Always be you. 

‘The Abacus’ by Cujo Dah

-interview written by Taylor Imel

‘A Quarantine Daydream’ – July 24th – August 22nd, 2020 at Elephant Room Gallery, Chicago

“Momma Raised a Fool; An Interview With Sentrock”

To kick off the opening of his solo sketch show, “Momma Raised a Fool”, I asked Sentrock a few questions about his newest body of work, the boy behind the bird mask, and his connection to youth arts in Chicago. (Pictured above: “Run A Muck” by Sentrock.)

  1. Tell me about the title of the show, ‘Momma Raised a Fool.’ Where does it come from and how did it become the backbone of the show?

It was a play off the old phrase I’ve heard before “Momma didn’t raise no fool.” I felt like the way I was brought up– the environments and situations–defined my character. Like I went against the odds. If society made my community feel a certain way about our lifestyle, I just wanted to embrace that and show that our voices matter no matter if it seems foolish, that there is value there. 

2. What can people expect from this show that they haven’t seen from you before? Why sketches? Why now?

   People can expect an authentic display of an artist’s inspiration. Not the polished version or the large scale mural, but the source of where a lot of my ideas come from; the blueprint to my work. Sketches are the foundation to my work, they are what spark the next project or idea. I wanted to do this at this time because it gave me an opportunity to be vulnerable, be honest and step outside my “brand” for a moment. 

“Produce” by Sentrock

3. In an interview with Sixty Inches From Center, you said you’ve been a long admirer of street art and that’s what influenced you to start practicing graffiti around age 14. Wildly impressive, by the way. How did you maneuver the large controversy surrounding street art at such a young age? Did you realize it, then? Did it shape the way you created?

Like I mentioned before, how I grew up shaped the lens I saw the world. My pops was in and out of jail and prison, my mom used to bang for her neighborhood, both didn’t graduate high school or go to college, so for me art was my escape. It was my freedom from certain paths I saw in front of me. The first time I got in trouble for graffiti in school, my mom went and got me a board to practice on. She basically said If I’m gonna do it, I might as well be good at it. The controversy from street art/graffiti seemed like an innocent child’s play compared to the stuff me and family saw and went through growing up in West Phoenix. 

4. Let’s talk about the boy in the bird mask. He makes an appearance in almost every mural you’ve completed. From what I understand, he started as a nod to your home town of Phoenix— aka “Bird City”—and has grown to represent this idea that escape is possible. A monumental image for many young people in Chicago. What kind of responses have you gotten from the community? Have you started a movement? A brand? Maybe both?

It started off as me painting goofy street art-style birds. As a kid, I was just fascinated by birds– there were dogs and birds in the hood. I used to get chased by dogs and the birds were peaceful. I would look up and think how dope that was. Just to get away, whenever you wanted. I wanted to show the humanity behind the characters, so I made them into masks. I feel the masks are more like a superhero costume, but people have said they felt like someone was hiding behind the masks. I get an overwhelming response from the community because people can relate to the message, it’s almost like a symbol or an icon at this point. I started a visual narrative sharing this story and it has become a cultural brand. 

6. I understand you came to Chicago and attended Columbia College for a period before branching out on your own. For young people who may not have the opportunity to attend college or trade, your story can be as inspiring as the boy in the bird mask. The message that roads to success look different for everyone. What was your thought process for taking the steps that you did? Why was it the right choice for you?

It’s about direction and projection; understand where you want to be and take steps to get there. I saw art school as a necessary step, maybe not the ONLY step but a step in the direction I wanted to go. There is no right or wrong in this, it’s just about finding what you want, giving yourself the momentum to get there. 

“Another Day” by Sentrock

7. Street art and graffiti is sometimes construed as a ‘crime’ when it’s a hobby, but an art form as a profession. That can be confusing for young, aspiring artists who want to pursue it. Is there any advice you can give them?

I can’t give moral advice. I can only facilitate or expose the next generation to finding what they need to say and how to say it. For me, I say what I feel in the moment, maybe that’s a mural, maybe it’s a tshirt design, a random wall, or maybe a room full of my sketches. 

8. You’ve been involved with the National Museum of Mexican Art after school program and have taught art classes through CPS. Why is it important to you to work with Chicago youth? What has Chicago’s youth taught you? How has Chicago’s youth informed your work? 

It’s an obligation I have. Someone came to my school as a kid and introduced me to art and mural painting. If that person didn’t come to my school at that time in my life, I’m really not sure I would be where I am today. Chicago culture has shown the value of art, my art and the art of the students. It’s not just a hobby but a necessity. It’s about the quality of life, Chicago has a history that has built a trail for a lot of creatives to travel on. 

9. How has being ordered to stay off the streets impacted your art and your creative process?

I made all the sketches during this period. I guess it has allowed my introverted side to be embraced. I want to be outside but it’s giving me time to be introspective.

10. How have you been staying connected to the community during the COVID-19 crisis?

I try to give people opportunities to be a part of my art. Whether that means a mural about being “In This Together” or creating art for people to purchase during this time, it’s important. People are at home and need their home to feel like home. I am designing a few pieces of clothing wherein the profits will benefit local organizations, and also hosting a design contest for up and coming artists. 

“Bail Money” by Sentrock

11. Do you think this crisis will alter the future of street art and graffiti? If so, how? 

I really don’t know. I know a lot of murals and projects are on hold or have been canceled. I know on a street level, it’s going to create an angst to get out and communicate. 

12. What has kept you happy during this time? 

My studio. Being able to have a safe space to create. The community, supporting the artists, and supporting the gallery owners working with artists during this time. My wife, making me cappuccinos to keep me going. Seinfeld and The Office reruns.

“Momma Raised a Fool” will run May 16th-June 6th at the Elephant Room art gallery, 704 S. Wabash Ave. The health and safety of visitors to the gallery is important to us. The exhibition will only be open online, and in-person viewing appointments will become available once stay at home orders are lifted. Please go to our online shop to view the full exhibition and zines. 

Interview by Taylor Imel, Gallery Assistant

“Seen and Unseen”, Newtok and Jennifer Cronin

“Seen and Unseen” takes a ‘detour’ from Cronin’s usual style of magical-meets-realism. Although she’s always precise, intricate and direct, current events in the call to action surrounding climate change were motivation to create this new body of work.

In June of 2016, Cronin traveled to Newtok, Alaska after researching images in an internet rabbit hole.

“About five years ago..I remember coming across a striking image of a tiny plywood house teetering over the edge of a piece of land, about to fall into the water below,” said Cronin.

Seen and Unseen, Newtok no. 1 by Jennifer Cronin

Upon further investigation, Cronin found stories on remote Native Alaskan villages (such as Newtok) that are currently and drastically being impacted by climate change.

“What was interesting to me about Newtok is that the people have been trying to relocate for the past twenty years, but were held back by government funding,” said Cronin.

The reason: Newtok is not being affected by a natural disaster in the ‘traditional’ sense. The gradual effects of climate change are not enough to warrant government intervention or relief aid, as, say, a hurricane would—though the effects are also inhabitable.

This moved her to action. As part of her study, Cronin traveled to Newtok, where she was housed in the community’s school library. The people of Newtok talked with Cronin daily about changes they’ve been subject to in the village for years.

Tom John, a fisherman and activist in communication with Washington officials to relocate Newtok, stood out to Cronin. “I remember him, with a warm smile, saying that he couldn’t smile anymore, and that he just wanted to go away and spend time watching T.V. on the couch and relaxing.”

Cronin recalled the children’s spirit being especially moving, like necessary light in darkness.

“Every morning, when my friend and I left the school to walk around the village, we were met almost immediately by a child or two..then five or ten..walking with us and talking about everything under the sun.”

Newtok–photo from Jennifer Cronin

As the inheriting generation, these children made Cronin wonder about what would be left for their future.

“I think many of us feel we should be doing more, and I feel the same way,” Cronin said. “I don’t know how to fix this problem. But I’m starting by sharing a story. I don’t know if it will do any good, but to me it feels like a small step in the right direction.”

Seen and Unseen” opens with a reception on June 1st, from 6-9pm at Elephant Room Gallery. From 6-7pm that evening, there will be sounds courtesy of Dusty Patches; the electronic music project of Chicago musician Patrick Mitchell. There will be an open artist talk with Jen on June 15th at 2pm.

The exhibition runs through July 27th, 2019.

More about Jen.

More about Elephant Room or to schedule a viewing.

Seen and Unseen, Newtok no. 8 by Jennifer Cronin

A Trove Tour to the Darin Latimer Degree

Darin Latimer invited me to his studio (which doubles as his home) so I could get a sense of the environment he creates in. I found that almost every single item in his home has a story behind it, a person associated to it, or a meaning he is happy to explain. I would point and he would speak.

Let’s start with the Robert Deniro trash cans, because this was a crowd favorite.

I’m taking a photo of the city scape from the incredible view out their living room window when Darin starts dragging something heavy across the floor.  

He said, “I got these because they reminded me of Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci.”

Okay, Darin is a seasoned script writer. But don’t lie to yourself, these do kind of look like Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci. Is it the rust?

Where did he find these? How did he take them home?

The answer is short, but there is a nondisclosure agreement in the Cool Artists Contract so you’ll have to ask Darin yourself.

He does share, however, a general tip on spelunking: “it always helps to have a willing friend there with you.” More body support to help get contraband to the car. To which his wife, Lina, remarks, “I was not willing.”

As part of the tour was the bathroom (obviously), where Darin showed me the most outdated library pass I’d ever seen, hanging proudly above the toilet tank.

Don’t be mistaken, he never stole. There is a method to his madness. “I would check the last checkout date of a book. If the most recent date was prior to my birth .. I took the book,” Darin says. Strategy. He simply preceded his time with the free library trend.

On that note–I scored a shot of the stack of books sitting next to Darin’s desk. If you’re like me, you wonder what books you have in common with your favorite artists.

After the rowdy tour of the bathroom and hauling the bins around, Latimer had to pop a squat. In his favorite chair, of course.

Is that a sock?!

Lina laughs. Darin says, “Why, yes, it is.”

“He’s had that chair so long, he’s worn out the arm rest on it multiple times,” Lina explains. “I’ve replaced it before, but they (the manufacturers) stopped producing arm rests for that type of chair.”

“We change the sock,” she says.

Darin takes a lean back in his chair and all four of us talk about life. Me, Darin, Lina, and the Famous Sock. Darin even lets me in on his signature black on black, dapper outfit.

“When it’s warmer out, I have a lighter jacket I switch to. The hat is all the time,” Darin says. Famous for his signature pose, the artist is photographed only with his back to the camera, while wearing a black coat with a black hat. He goes by @thewabashian on Instagram, where more photos in his signature pose can be found.

Look below for more photos of the visit.

Spelunking in the Mind of a Mess: Darin Latimer on his Deathless-ness

Self-proclaimed ‘restaurant guy’, scrappy collector, writer and untrained artist, Darin Latimer is stepping into the public eye for his first, and might we say, long awaited, gallery show.

Deathless-ness: 10,000 Works (Eyes & Teeth Dept.) is a show informed by Latimer’s life-long obsessions on collecting from open spaces, writing, and one charismatic nod to a particular Emily Dickinson poem. Spending time around Darin, seeing his work and reading his words will happily shattered any concept school or pop culture has instilled in you as to what it means to be an artist. He is the representation we actually need in the art community. A human who creates.

In an interview with Latimer, he opened up about his background and relationship to the work.

In the Penal Colony (for James C. Harrison)
“On conventional checklists I am, or was, one of all the following sorts of collectors – Antique, Record, Book (decidedly), Movie, Movie Poster, Vinyl Sculpture (or Toy), Comic Book, Baseball and Basketball Card, Commercial Sign and Packaging, Art (particularly Sculpture because I can’t yet make my own) – these are the conventional categories and the detritus of most of them are still hanging around in my life somewhere.”
-Darin Latimer

“..on the brass tacks level, I have almost no technical training.,” said Latimer. “If someone walked up to me and said ‘the fate of the Free World depends on you making a lithograph – Right Now!’ – I’d give it my best but the kids at Dick Blick would have to tell me how to do everything.”

And that they would, happily. In hoity artistic circles, sometimes the driving force can become more a game of who has the thorough ‘technical’ training–forgotten is it that the best form of training to art is having lived.  

“… (in the past) … I simply could not figure how to make the picture in my head and would struggle quite ineptly towards it. I came to realize this might be a back door to a good thing,” Latimer reveals.

A creator since childhood, his mother would drop him off at workshops when he wasn’t drawing on the job at his father’s store. He would skip school to spend days digging through any and every open lot of land for treasure, spelunking, and photographing.  

“I did find ways to get there … but I also started letting go of the urge to reproduce that very image (which almost always started with drawing) and not just accept that I was making ‘something else’ but fight to get to the something else and make it memorable and different..”

Green Maureen (Quiet Man)
-Darin Latimer

If life turns out nothing like we plan, and art is a representation of that life, it would only make sense to have the plan in your mind be a stranger to the outcome on the page. But why is this gap so often seen as a failure, when there is power in owning that difference, and power in welcoming the stranger you end up with, getting to know that piece of art and therefore a little more about yourself? We are not our imagination, we are what we do.

“If I wanted to be fancy I could talk about the successful ‘rhythm’ of some drawings versus others, but that would diminish the contribution of those ‘failed’ drawings to the better ones…I now enjoy getting socked in the jaw to see what happens after,” he says.

Who’s going to tell the kids at Blick?

Like all artists, the personal trials of Latimer’s life have played a role in the creation of Deathlessness.

“.. while preparing for this show, I had a health crisis,” admitted Latimer. “It turned this show and my approach to making art into another ‘something else’..” ‘Something else’ being a transformation, and again vastly different than expected.

“In the months running up I went through dozens of tests and was expecting a very grim diagnosis.. (I got) kind of the best bad news possible. I began making 2, 3…half a dozen new works a day. It’s all in the show,” Latimer said.

And he does mean all. In helping load the show, I was able to personally experience the mass amounts of work in Latimer’s portfolio. Would you like to sit? Just hold that on your lap. You’re welcome.

City of God (Land of Z)
-Darin Latimer

In preparation for the show, there was discussion of art hanging from the ceilings, or utilizing ceiling space, both of which I had never heard discussed for an opening. There is a small bit of my ‘something else’.

Lastly, I asked Darin to explain what ‘deathless-ness’ means to him. Is that any different than life itself?

“The reason this show is called ‘Deathlessness’ is a movie and literary reference. The movie reference has an echo of regret because it was never made, and I should know. I wrote it,” Latimer said. “The title had a two-fold inspiration for the script.  I culled it from an Emily Dickinson Poem. This is the poem – (titled “I Am Afraid to Own a Body”)

I am afraid to own a Body—

I am afraid to own a Soul—

Profound – precarious Property—

Possession, not optional –

Double Estate – entailed at Pleasure

Upon an unsuspecting Heir –

Duke in a Moment of Deathlessness

And God, for a Frontier

Whether anyone else sees it, buys it, even cares – I can realize an image or a thing all by myself. I like that.”

The opening reception for “Deathless-ness: 10,000 Works”  will be held at the Elephant Room art gallery, 704 S. Wabash Ave., on April 6 from 6-9 p.m. Artist Darin Latimer will be present. Contact with inquiries.

Article by Taylor Imel