2017 – An Interview with Artist Rine Boyer

I recently spoke with Chicago-based artist Rine Boyer about her work and her upcoming exhibition opening September 9th, 2017 entitled “People Watching”….

Let’s start by learning a bit more about how you got started as an artist. What were some of your early projects like?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist – apparently since before I could read. I remember as a kid one of my favorite toys was an easel and my mom was always mad at me for getting paint all over everything. But I have been painting in this general style since 2003. At the time I was looking at Seurat and wanted to play with how he used pointillism to pull apart the different hues that make up a color. I started experimenting with it on a large-scale canvas and almost as soon as I started putting dots of paint on the canvas I wanted to turn them into symbolic shapes. The idea turned into a series where I asked friends what their favorite object was and then put that on the surface of their portrait as a commentary on how we use objects to define ourselves. I saw potential in the technique and continued creating different series using the style and exploring a different idea with each series.
How would you compare what you are doing now to what you were doing as a brand new artist?
I would say I’m less afraid to experiment now. I have gotten more comfortable with making things and knowing what I want to say, which lets me be more flexible about the materials and subjects I tackle. When I was younger I was really tied to canvas and always used the same materials and process. Now that I’m more comfortable I try new processes pretty regularly to see how I can improve what I’m doing. I also think each medium can bring a new perspective to an idea, even if it is subtle, so I try to keep experimenting to add new dimensions to my work. And as I hone my ability to communicate visually I can open up to new topics and let my work evolve naturally from series to series.
What inspires you about people and more specifically, strangers? 
I believe that people are the most important thing to us and that any work of art is ultimately about people. For example, if it’s a landscape, than it’s about how people think of land. So people have remained my subject matter since 2003 because I think they are so central. In this series I decided to focus on strangers because I realized how much I enjoy living in the city and seeing people from different backgrounds as I go about my daily business. It is also a bit of a reaction to the current sentiment that our nation is becoming divided. I think if we really considered those around us we would realize things aren’t black and white enough to be divided in a way we are frequently presented – that division is between groups who don’t have to represent the majority of people.
Are you conscious about the diversity of your subjects and making sure that is reflected in your final pieces or is that something you do not really think about?
Capturing diversity is something I think a lot about, not only because of the current political climate, but as I spend more time in Chicago I meet people from a variety of backgrounds and want to capture that. I enjoy meeting people who have different backgrounds and perspectives then I do, and often think of someone I have met when painting each character. As I’m painting I try to be aware of my perspective and how that influences my understanding of people. Since I am capturing strangers from diverse backgrounds I chose the title “People Watching” to convey that everyone is painted from a specific perspective.
What are some of the things you have learned about people through both your research and your process?
That some people are more visible than others. When I initially started painting strangers I focused on those who drew my attention – usually people I thought were beautiful or dressed in a way I found interesting. As I kept looking I noticed that there are quite a few people that I was just glossing over. It made me think about how my values and sense of beauty not only influence who I think is interesting, but who I see at all. While my work has always been about how our thoughts influence how we see each other, I’ve come to realize it could also influence if we notice each other.
Your subjects always have a pattern and a color. How do you go about deciding these details?
The patterns always link back to the overall theme of the series, and with this series I am celebrating the variety of personalities in close proximity in an urban environment. To capture the different personalities I created a symbol for what I imagine each person is thinking and put a pattern of it on the surface of the piece. In creating the patterns I put my interpretation on the surface as an example of how we all see through a layer of our preconceptions. I chose to paint each person using different tones of the same color so that all the figures together would have a rainbow effect.

Dungeons and Dragons

What is it that you want viewers to take away after experiencing your work?
I hope my work makes viewers appreciate the people around them a bit more and think about how much our assumptions influence the way we see people.
Do you feel this project will evolve and if yes, do you have any ideas for the future?
Yes, my work is constantly evolving from series to series. I have been very focused on this current series for a large part of this year so haven’t spent much time thinking about what is next. However, my area of Bridgeport has been changing quite a bit over the past few months which has caused me to think a lot about gentrification. Perhaps that will be the concept for my next series, but I haven’t started to think about what that would look like yet.
Finally, who are some of your favorite artists that you are inspired by?
Alex Katz and Manet have been favorites since I was in college – I really like how they convey culture and feeling through the figure. Other artists I really enjoy looking at are Kaws and Hebru Brantley for their colors and how they manifest an idea with both paintings and sculptures. And for not taking the figure too seriously I love Barry McGee and Pieter Bruegel.
Check out Rine’s solo exhibition “People Watching” at Elephant Room Gallery September 9th – October 21st, 2017. Check the website for hours or to make an appointment.

2017 – An Interview with Beata Chrzanowska

After submitting work for Elephant Room Gallery’s BIG small Works Show, a 2016 group exhibition that featured 100 works of art under 30×30”, Kimberly Leja Atwood visited Beata Chrzanowska’s studio. Looking forward to working more with the artist, we followed up with an interview to get to know her and her work a little better…

When did you first start making art?

When I was 4, I used to make sculptures of farm animals out of clay with my grandma. I know, it’s cute.

What was your first encounter with art that wasn’t your own?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I moved to the United States, my parents had brought back pajamas that they bought in Poland. There are literally pictures of 5 year-old me wearing Bart Simpson pajamas and he’s green and his clothes are all these wacky colors. I had the coolest pajamas ever.

How has your work evolved into the abstract and figural work you do now? Or has it always been that?

My work really evolved in my last semester of college. I took a month off from making work and I just researched and absorbed images and read articles and books and that was the moment I realized what I was into. The work has tightened up a bit, become cleaner, and has become more realistic over time.


I dream of Euphoria

I Dream of Euphoria, 37.5 x 39 in, oil on canvas, 2013


Who and/or what has inspired you to get to where you are now in your work?

A piece from the past inspired me to do what I am currently doing. When I moved to Chicago from NY about a year ago, I went back to my childhood home and found all these old paintings and sculptures I did in college. I had a stiffened fabric piece that was just lying there and I decided to paint on top of it for the first time. I took that idea and made a 30-piece collection for a show in Milwaukee. Currently I’m working larger than I ever have with this concept and I want to start painting more elaborate imagery on these 3-dimensional pieces.


“30x30x30,” Var Gallery, Milwaukee, WI

What is your process when starting a new work?

For paintings, I start off with a drawing and then I project that drawing onto a canvas, trace it, and then I put layers of acrylic to get me started. Once I get enough color down, I switch over to oil, where the colors are more vibrant and romantic. I begin painting high-level definition imagery and I keep at it until a desired composition is formed.

With my fabric pieces, it’s really hard to plan everything out because it is a very intuitive process. I smother the fabric in glue and I arrange it on a stretcher bar. Let it cure, and then paint on top of it.


Sheets in Technicolor.png

Sheets in Technicolor, 21.5 x 18 x 3.5 in, oil on scrunched canvas, 2016


I know you primarily do three mediums – paintings, drawings, and collage – how do you see them relating to each other…do they inform each other? and why these three techniques?

What it all comes down to is that I am assembling images of body parts, and geometry on one surface. All three mediums obey this process very well. There is also a surprise aspect to each medium, where I am not aware of the turnout until the turnout happens.

I noticed you use a lot of circular/spherical shapes in your work, including spherical studies – can you talk a bit about that aspect?

When I was in NY I started painting in a very minimal way. I painted a lot of circles, usually in pairs to represent breasts. Suddenly I was in Chicago, and I just went off and painted a ton of these “breasts”. I soon wanted to permanently incorporate the circle more as opposed to sharp and organic shapes which I did beforehand. I was hounding the circle and I was going to make it known. So, a lot of my work ending 2015 and entering 2017 is in favor of circles. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Left: Enlightenment, 29.75 x 24 in, oil on canvas, 2015
Right: Focal (Refurbished Edition), 43.75 x 30, oil on canvas, 2016

In each work, I am always intrigued by your use of color, texture, and pattern – how do you choose these elements in your work?

It’s not a choice but a reflection to the colors, textures, and patterns that I fancy in my spirit.

How do you title your works?

I usually have a list of titles that I write down for future works, but the best moments are when you’re in the process of creating something and the title just jumps out at you.


Left: Foil (from the “Bisou” series), 26.75 x 27.75 in, oil/acrylic on canvas, 2014
Right: Bisou (from the “Bisou” series), 25 x 25 in, oil on canvas, 2014

 I also don’t know that I have seen an artist sign their works like you do. I was scrolling through your paintings and at least for me, it almost became a game of finding your name. Is that something you put thought into or is it kind of random?

It’s definitely very specific. I don’t want the signature over powering the work so it’s always hidden somewhere, but it’s also very digital! So, in real life, the signature does not exist, rather than a hand written signature, title, and year on the back of the painting.

What are you working on now? (I know you recently did a lot of molded canvas works, like the ones in the 30x30x30 Exhibition at Var Gallery – are you continuing to work on those or something different?)

After the 30x30x30 show I did another 2D piece just to give myself a break, but I am back to working with fabric. I am very excited about it, a little nervous, the work will be bigger, louder and more intricate. Wish me luck!

Finally, what do you like to do when you’re not making art?

I’m entertaining my friends, working out, wine and dining. I love the outdoors, and chocolate cake.

2017 – Panel Discussion on the Art and Life of James C. Harrison

On Saturday, February 11th, we gathered around Darin Latimer, Summer Radtke, and Kari Lynn Krauss to learn more about artist James C. Harrison – his life, his work, and his influence. It was a casual, but insightful conversation with Darin, as co-director of Harrison’s estate, and Summer, co-curator from Schmidt’s Antiques where Harrison’s work was rediscovered, talking passionately about a great American artist, giving him the attention he deserves. Kari, a fiber artist and co-founder and educator at Water Street Studios, provided an artistic evaluation of Harrison’s work after seeing it in person for the first time. The audience asked questions about Harrison and inquired about specific works within and without the exhibition. The works were taken down from their place on the wall or brought in from storage to examine them in their individuality as well as part of the larger collection.

Harrison’s inspiration comes from his obsession with symbolism, astrology, and cosmology – a constant battle between lightness and darkness that in some ways mirrored Harrison’s battle with addiction throughout his adult life. Of all of Harrison’s obsessions, the most encompassing was his obsession with Jung. He was trying to explore and figure out the idea of pre-existing forms which only come to conscious secondarily. The above and below, the dark the light, the self, the shadow, order/chaos. They intertwine, making them difficult to define, but they were all there and come in different forms seen throughout his work – diamonds, squares, tree, emerald, circles – all with some underlying meaning.

O’ Rise Again (1967/82)
Night Spirit Howling for Soul (1988)

He dug deep into the soul and had no time for uninformed criticism, which Darin suggests might be a factor of why his work remained relatively unknown. Many of his works contain inscriptions on the back with various dates as he thought through his process, revisiting works again and again and again. Summer read aloud her favorite inscription from My Emerald Doors (1978):

“Ascend with great intelligence from earth to heaven and again descend to earth and unite together the powers of higher things and lower things. Thus, you will receive the glory of the whole world and darkness will fly away from you.” (James C. Harrison)

Another quote that came up reflects Harrison’s process and came from artist friend Chris Martin and Harrison himself:

“It’s not that it takes 20 years to make the painting – it takes 7 minutes – but it can take twenty years to find those 7 minutes. (Martin) You don’t make the painting – the painting makes you. (Harrison)”

It was important to all the artists who knew him, after Harrison’s passing, that he would never lose his integrity. They all said this in past interviews with Darin.

Harrison’s lasting influence lives within the memories of these artists who met him and talked to him about multiple subjects surrounding his work and the books on his shelves. Harrison didn’t have much money-wise, but in exchange for studio space, he became an important hub for artists while living in Brooklyn…and for many cats. Artists would show up with a six pack and Harrison would set up one of his works on a milk crate. They would often talk for hours.

After approximately 25 years in storage and almost being dumped into an auction, Harrison’s work is finally, rightfully, stepping into the spotlight. It was a refreshing and relaxing take on a panel discussion, which in and of itself reflects Harrison’s character. After the talk, wine was passed around, Harrison’s scrapbook was taken out of its display case, and smaller group discussions and conversation took place.

The last story of the night, told by Darin, relived the time James was walking home with another artist friend, Peter Acheson, and they came upon a statue of Theodore Roosevelt. James, or Jim, as Darin likes to call him, stopped suddenly in front of the statue and talked to Peter about Theodore Roosevelt for at least twenty minutes. This perfectly sums up a typical night with the intelligent and philosophical artist, James C. Harrison.

Elephant Room Gallery’s exhibition Buried Alive: James C. Harrison opened on February 3rd, 2017 and will run until February 25th. For more information on the show, gallery hours, or to contact Kim, please visit elephantroomgallery.com

2016 – An Interview with Barry Dwyer aka ‘Mozus’

Our Fall intern Taylor had the chance to interview Barry Dwyer about his work, his style, and his life at the opening reception of his show ‘The Science of Walking Through Windows.’

Taylor: “Can you talk a little bit about Mozus and what that persona means to you.”

Barry: “Mozus started out as a joke, actually. And it’s not the same dude as Moses from the bible. It started with my buddy Abraham-actually-he’s been trying to get me to take on the name for a while, now. Mozus is a transformation. Some things have been changing in my personal life recently, and this is my way of documenting it. It’s a way of leaving Barry behind. ‘Mozus’ dude is protecting, guiding, because Barry had enough of that shit. To lose your egoic spirit is the best thing you can do.”

Barry walks over to his piece ‘And In That Moment I Swear We Were Infinite


B: “This piece is a kiss”

T: “A kiss? Just one?”

B: “Well. Probably a couple that blew my mind.”

(Everyone at the gallery began talking about the best kiss they’ve ever had, and it was beautiful. Most answers were ‘From someone I used to know.”)

T: “Why the cool colors? Do kisses come in cool colors?”

B: “Sure. The painting told me that’s how it had to be.”

T: “What do you mean?”

B: “I’ll do stuff, but it’s really the paintings themselves that dictate what they want. I’m just helping them along.”

Barry walks over to his piece ‘Souls Embrace


B: “This one is a hug. Can you see the people hugging?”

T: “Your paintings are so intricate. They must take you a long time.”

B: “I see paintings hanging places.. and I get bored when I walk up three feet and look closely and all the magic that was there from far away has vanished now that I’m looking closely. I want my viewers to discover something new in these pieces, every place they look in the painting. I wanted to paint pieces that were interesting throughout, even right up in front of them.”

Barry walks over to his piece ‘Skipping Stones

Barry Dwyer.jpg

B: “This piece was a grieving process, and three amazing days at the beach where I taught a friend to skip stones. I actually started it before the change in my life, before Mozus, and finished it after. The colors in this one are inspired by the sunset. Originally, it was turned the other way.”

*Kim, Elephant Room Gallery’s Owner, laughs*

B: “For real! But I wasn’t happy with how the lines were coming across, horizontally. I couldn’t get past the ‘sunset’ of it. I wanted it to be more than that. And then a buddy of mine turned it vertically, on it’s side. I was like ‘Oh. Yeah’. …This piece, though, is just a bunch of circles. That’s what people are made of, what it all comes down to, is a bunch of circles. Even in microbiology, everything levels down to a sphere.”



T: “This is my favorite piece of yours. It’s incredible.”

B: “I was always taught to not think outside the box, so I painted on them instead.”

T: “How did you get started painting?”

B: “Mom was a painter. I grew up around it. She was a hyperrealist artist. Then I went to the Art Institute in the 80’s…”

T: “I’m jealous. That would be rad.”

B: “Yeah, at some points it was. I was really too angsty for them. They kept trying to tell me there were all these rules. But the thing is, there are no rules. That’s what my mom would always remind me of. There are no rules. Not in art.”


Barry Dwyer’s show ‘The Science of Walking Through Windows’ opened at Elephant Room Gallery on December 10th, and will run through the end of December. For open hours, details on the show, or to contact Kim, visit Elephant Room’s website.

2016 – Within Art and Buddhism-A studio visit with Diane Christiansen

Diane Christiansen is a Chicago based artist whose work has been shown throughout the United States and in Europe. Her practices include painting, drawing, animation, and collaborative installations. Her new collaboration piece Birth Death Breath, an Inflatable Object is currently showing in the Elmhurst Art Museum.

diane-christiansen-in-her-studio Diane Christiansen In Her Studio. Image Credit: Yingting Cui

Cui: Give me some general background of yourself.

Christiansen:I grew up in the Midwest, in an academic family. My father was a professor. I lived in Grinnell, Iowa and in France as a kid. My travels as a child in France, Italy and Spain, completely influenced me to become an artist. I went to undergraduate at Grinnell College in Iowa. And I did a year in Kansas City Art Institute. After that, I worked awhile as an artist. Then I moved to Chicago. I went to graduate school. First, I became sort of disillusioned with the art world; I decided to do something that had more actual impact. So I decided to become a therapist. I started part time at Loyola going to social work school in order to work as a therapist for children. And then I applied for the Art Institute just on a whim, almost to see if I could get in. I did get in and I got a fellowship, so it was free for me to go there. So I did two graduate schools at once.


Still from First Chapter, 2013

Cui: How did you get into animation?

Christiansen:First I should say, the year I turned nine living in France. My sister and I, made a series of cartoon characters, we call DUMS. I think in a lot of ways all my art works harkens back to that year when I had a very profound clinical depression. And I was sort of medicating myself by making stuff. We made these cartoons of creatures that we call BOYS out of old sheets. My mother and father hadn’t brought us any toys. We lived for a year overseas playing mostly with toys we had made ourselves. So we made these toys and animated them. We would draw a face on a sheet and sew some stuff into it giving it arms and legs. I think I started exploring animation as a kid and exploring what it was to create a character, and a kind of an absurd narrative around it. Much later, I was a painter making two-dimensional images. I just started basically wanting them to move. I had some character based, cartoony painting I was doing in gouache. I literarily made body parts and started to make them move. It’s like I invented something so exciting to myself even though it’s so freaking basic. From there, I talked to a friend of mine who was making animations. And he said, we could totally do this in the most basic way. I think this was a really deep yearning to get back to this way that I navigated my life as a little kid. I had some really horrible stuff happen to me that brought on this depression when I was very young. I sort found my way out of it with this world of creatures I animated. Without knowing it that was what I was doing, in making my paintings move. And also creating characters in my paintings. I had a character named Cocoon girl that showed up over and over. The first animation I made featured Cocoon Girl.


dums-and-boysDUMS and BOYS Image Credit: Yingting Cui

Cui: I didn’t read your painting as character based works at all. Visually for me, they are abstract, yet I can see the movement within them. What’s the connection between two mediums?

Christiansen:Back to when I was first animating, which was 2005 or 2006, the reason Cocoon Girl is not on my website is because I didn’t compose the music. I got caught and they took it down. At the time, I was making a lot of painting that had characters and was much more narrative. There’s still a great amount of narrative, if not representational elements in my paintings. At the time, my paintings had much more representational elements in them. They were much more fully mixed abstraction and representation with some of the themes that are still there. In the Inflatable Opera piece, the absurdity meets tragedy. It’ s very literally in the paintings. It made a lot of sense for me to turn those paintings to animation. And then it’s almost as if animation became the place that I could do this narrative work; painting became more intuitive and abstract. I used to work a lot from my drawings. So I got a lot of thematic things from my drawings that would go into the paintings. Not that I was making a direct line but there’s this sort of falter for the paintings. I think when I started to animate. It almost split into three things, one being animation where I could full bloom have these characters and line drawings, paintings that are much more like mystical conjuring to me, experiences that I really don’t know what’s coming, and what am I inviting, projects which I collaborate with two artists dreaming up something that might have elements from my painting and animation. It’s almost like painting and animation are forks on the road. I’m going down both forks at the same time. Back to 2006, you would see, this is this painters animation. They look the same.


Inflatable Opera Jeanne Dunning and Diane Chritiansen  Image Credit: Yingting Cui

Cui: In your animation works, there are always creatures that are combined with different animals’ parts. What’s the idea behind them?

Christiansen:It’s funny, I am in many ways not a conceptual artist, I often make and then I realize why am I making. I was able to make animation then realize it was my first impulse as a kid. I think if I really examine the different animal parts there is a sort of ongoing curiosity with soul exchange, how we rub up on each other. One of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that there’s an oneness. Here, we are sitting here right after I euthanized our pet rat. My husband and I were lying there as she was dying talking about how she seems to sort of embody sweetness and empathy. She is so empathetic with her sister rat that she takes care of all the time. Even though she got to have a brain size of an apple seed or something. Still she is able to have a soul. I think there’s something about soul exchange without knowing it. I have been playing that for years. I have been obsessed with death, what happen and what exactly happen with nature of consciousness for years. And nature consciousness for animals obviously, I am drawn to not see myself of distinguish from anything else.


Still from Animation #4 (Finest Fly), 2012

Cui: What about Buddhism practice and your artist practice?

Christiansen: Someone who I love to refer to is Natalie Goldberg. She is a Buddhism writer who wrote a book called Writing Down the Bones about creativity. She is from a different Buddhism lineage than me. She is a Zen Buddhist. Her teacher told her that for her, her practice was really writing poetry. She could be most present and available to the world doing that. For me, it’s interesting you would be asking this question. I was just talking to someone about how my meditation practice is really gone down hill, since working on these two projects (Inflatable Opera and Dear Stuff) at the same time. I have been so taxed for time. The other thing I am really yearning for is my painting practice, which is very much a meditative practice. There are two things. There are Buddhist themes that appear in my work transparently. For instance: skull as a symbol of slaying ego and other iconographic pieces that you can find in Tibetan Thangka paintings. There’s the obvious stuff. Most importantly, the actual practice, not doing these collaborations but paintings and drawings are a really grounding meditating, connected spiritual practice to me. I haven’t been doing it for four months now, I almost feel like, I have lost the thread. It’s very similar. I used to start my day by meditating. And then I will draw. It’s the most present time I get in life. Here now, it’s either being with someone I love, drawing and painting and singing. Those are the three most present times. The rest of the time, I am rushing to the future, I am with past, I am making a list. You and I have met while I have been working on these projects. I have not been really centered. The actual act of painting to me is similar with what Natalie Goldberg said; the act of making art is the meditative act.


Dead of Winter, Look Up 2016 Oil on Plaster 13.75″x12″

Cui: What’s next?

Christiansen: It’s terrifying, but I was in the ally getting ready for cleaning up the studio. I found a fortune from a cookie right by my gate. It said, “ A fascinating project is in your future.” I said, “NO!” So what’s next is me returning to painting and animating, grounding myself in those practices. I would hope what’s next is not consuming myself in any kind of product and simply reengaging myself into the act. Get back to my seat, literally on the floor of my studio.


A corner of Christiansen’s studio Image Credit: Yingting Cui

Diane Christiansen Website: http://christiansenstudio.com/index.html

2016 – An Interview with Photographer Daniel Gamez

Daniel Gamez is a Chicago-based artist, photographer. His works are currently being shown in I,Be –  A Poets & Artists Magazine exhibition curated by Janice Bond at Elephant Room Gallery’s Bridgeport location. I, Be is a group show associated with identity. For his series Homeless, Please Help, Daniel Gamez interviewed homeless people in Chicago and LA, purchased their cardboard and asked them to take a photograph.

Cui: Let’s start from a bit of your background. What makes interested in art or photography?

Gamez: I am 26; born and raised in Chicago. My parents are immigrants from Mexico, so I am first generation American.

Cui:What makes you interested in Art or Photography?

Gamez: My interest starts when I was younger.  When I was a kid, there was always an adult asking, what do you want to do when you grow up? So, in my mind, I was interested in Spiderman. So I was like I want to be a photographer. Not because I like photos, but because Spiderman takes photos. And he was able to do whatever he wanted. Yeah, so somehow that transitioned to me doing photography in high school. And from there, my interest in photography continued.



Cui: In regards to your two projects, Homeless, Please help and Swap-O- Rama, is there a connection to them?

Gamez: So there is actually no correlation between them, except for the theme of identity and cultural relevance. For Swap-O-Rama, that was mainly a documentary project I have been working on and am still working on currently. The reason why I want to photograph that location is that I used to work there as a teenager. It’s interesting to see these people who woke up at 5 or 6 in the morning, get there at 7,then wait an hour or two before set up. A lot of these families just trying to make a living. So it’s interesting to see from the perspective of a vendor and a buyer. I went there as a child with my family just for something to do and to look for things to buy. I wanted to document from the perspective of the seller for this project and deal with that identity. The homeless project is also about identity. I’ve had this idea to work with the concept of homeless for a while. It originally started with me creating human-like figures out of garbage, and then putting those in places and then photographing them. Then it got way too complicated. I started to collect a lot of garbage in my home. And it kind just got too difficult to create in a small space.



Cui:  What kind of things do you want your audience to perceive through your projects?

Gamez:I really want the audience to engage with people again. For example, if you walking down the street, you see a homeless person. There is no engagement between you and that person. You just pass by as a passive viewer. With my work, I want you stop being a passive viewer and start to engage with this person and who they are.


James A. Korosa
2014, 17×24, cyanotype on cardboard

Cui: What’s the connection between the cardboard, the cyanotype process and your subjects?

Gamez: I never really thought about the connection between cyanotype as a process to the homeless people. I guess the reason why I used cyanotype is that it was that it was a new medium that I was trying out. In a sense, the process of cyanotype itself and homelessness are timeless concepts so it makes sense to connect them.


Brenda Jackson
2014, 15×14, cyanotype on cardboard

Cui: What is the process as you approach your subjects for the homelessness project?

Gamez: When I approach them, most of the time, they are sitting on the ground. I  say, “Excuse me, Can I sit down?” and most of the time, they would say yes. I sit down and start talking, introducing myself and why I am approaching them. From there, I explain my project to them. And they say, “oh that’s cool”. That’s when I offer to purchase their sign. A hundred percent of the time, they are willing. After I exchange for the sign, I ask them if I can take their photograph. I then hold a conversation with them, a sort of interview. I record their age, where they from, why are they in the city that they currently in. Majority of the times, people that are in Chicago are actually from elsewhere. Same thing with LA, most of them are not from LA at all. It’s really interesting just to engage their history, where they are, who they are, and how they ended up homeless.


Lee Giletta
2014, 15×19, cyanotype on cardboard


Cui: What’s next?

Gamez: I don’t think the project is finished yet. I currently have a Chicago and LA version. Obviously New York has the biggest population of homeless so I still wanna go there. I also want to check out rural areas as opposed to urban areas. To compare and contrast those situations would be interesting. Maybe continue the project overseas and then hopefully see correlation between homeless people in America and homeless people in Europe. Maybe after a few hundred pieces, I will see where else I can branch out.

Daniel Gamez Website: http://danielgamezphotography.com/











2016 – A Studio Visit with Zor Zor Zor


We met up with female, Chicago-based street artist Zor Zor Zor in studio 404 at Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport that she shares with graffiti writer Zore. Zor Zor Zor just wrapped up her first solo exhibition with Elephant Room Gallery that was at our South Loop location from May through July 2016 and has her own mural in the Wabash Arts Corridor.  We sat down with her to chat about how she got started as a street artist, her inspirations, her collaboration with artist Zore and her travels in Paris, Berlin, California and beyond.
How did you get started as an artist?
Straight out of High School I went to Harrington College of Design for Interior Design and I had basic art classes like a color class and drawing 101 but the course wasnt focused on art, it was focused on Interior Design. Once we started getting into Autocad and drawing floor plans, I realized that it wasnt the thing for me.   So, I finished the two-year program and I started traveling instead.  I went to Paris as my first trip on my own.  I was 20.  I had nothing to do there.  I was there for 5 weeks visiting my friend and I would wander around and take pictures, meet people, do whatever and I really got interested in the street art and the graffiti there because it was so cool to me and so fun. I loved seeing graffiti in different parts of the city and getting to recognize the different artists.  So I bought my first cans of spray paint and just started drawing on everything there and as soon as I came to Chicago I started doing it here.  It was very natural; I wasnt thinking too hard about it.  I was just drawing, drawing, drawing and whatever came out, came out and then the drawings slowlydeveloped into the face that I now always draw. layingdownyellow
I know that Paris is known for having specific areas where you are allowed to go and paint.  Were you painting in those areas?
No… I was just going wherever- it was the best time of my life.  I would just hop on the train, and I realized it was impossible to get lost because Paris is so small compared to Chicago.  Anywhere you walk youll find a train stop and once you find a train stop youll be able to get back to wherever you need to go.  So, I would literally just get off at different parts of the city and wander around but I didnt discover the specific spots to paint until my last days.
Did you have friends that you would go paint with or was it purely self-driven?
It was completely self-driven.  I was staying with a friend but she was in a study abroad program so she was in school and she also just wasnt very adventurous I guess.  I had a really great time though.  I remember a week in I got invited to this party by a random person that gave me a flyer on the street and I found the location somehow and got in and made some friends there and became really good friends with this one guy.  He became my friend for the rest of the trip.  So I would hang out a lot with him.   He actually took me to my first paint shop because I didnt know where one was and he was like Oh I know where you can get some.  So it was all really random and.awesome.
Before my trip I never really had an interest in street art.  I went to Kennedy High School and I remember in class I had a friend, Christian, who would draw my name all the time in graffiti letters but I never really thought about it too much as far as like Oh thats really cool, Id like to do that.   In Paris it was really the street art, the fun and the mystery behind it, that captivated me because you dont know whose doing it.  I just loved it a lot. sass
So then when you came back to Chicago you continued tagging.  How did you continue to develop as an artist from there?
I came home and was doing it because I had nothing to do really since I wasnt in school.  I was kind of working but I was basically just floating around and sleeping on friends couches and doing whatever in the city and drawing all the time.  I would put stickers up not thinking like, Oh I want to be this person or this artistbut simply doing it because it was fun.  But then I remember when my friends first started commenting on it like Oh, I saw your tag here” or “Oh, I saw your tag in this bathroom hereand I saw how much they enjoyed it and that pushed me to keep doing it I think.  It really just was so much fun, thats what it was for me.  Ill never forget when I realized that people I didnt know started posting pictures of my work on the Internet and snapping it or hash tagging it.  I would look myself up and realize that people were reacting and paying attention to my work.
I was also still very into traveling.  As soon as I would save up enough money, I wanted to go somewhere new.  After Paris I went to New York, then Costa Rica, then California, Minneapolisin some kind of order like that.  It was kind of the same experience as Paris.  I knew a friend but I wouldnt necessarily hang out with that person the whole time and I would just walk around discovering things like a child.  I wanted to leave my mark in these new places, not knowing if I would ever visit them again, so I would leave stickers and tags everywhere I walked. From stickers it moved onto stenciling and then wheat pastes. Before leaving home I would create a stencil, unique to each new place that I was going to, and spray it onto a piece of newspaper and wheat paste it places.  From there, people in New York started taking pictures of my stuff and hash tagging it.  Then people in California started to too and it became this whole collection, which kept pushing me to keep doing it.  But I think when I started doing the wheat pastes was when I realized that Im not just a tagger but that Im actually an artist.  As I kept creating, I had friends that started to want to hang things in their houses and then that eventually developed into commissions.  I began to realize I could make money off of my art and from there also started hanging work in shows.  It was just a slow, natural progression.  I never, never in my life had the intention of becoming an artist.  But it became something that I really, really enjoyed doing and I wanted to do it all the time.  I always have ideas and I always see things that I want to do or am inspired by.
Where did the Alias Zor Zor Zor come from?
Well, Z, O, and R are three of the letters in my last name and I have a difficult Polish last name that throughout my life no one could really pronounce, so when I was 17 or 18 my friends just started calling me Zor. Getting into street art and that worldpeople all have aliass so my name just kind of developed from that.  Im not sure why I decided to have‘Zorrepeat itself three times.  I guess I like pairs of three. longblack
What were some of your first commissions?
I remember my first sale but that wasnt a commission.  I did two stencils on newspaper; normally something that I would wheat paste but I hung them up at Canvas in Wicker Park when it first opened up.  It was their first opening or something like that and the owner asked me if I wanted to hang some work for the first party they were having, so I put two pieces up.  One I priced for $50 and one I priced for $75 and they were pretty big and both sold.  I was blown away by that but at the same time I realized that for $50 it almost wasnt even worth it.  Like what is $50?  You could spend that in one night on dinner with friends or on drinks.  That changed my mindset on pricing art and on what it should be or could be worth.
How did your collaboration with street artist, Zore start?
We met at the Chicago Cultural Center at the “Paint, Paste, Sticker” street art show and we were introduced to each other by the curator because we had the same name. it was like, Zore… meet Zor Zor Zor. When we met, I was blown away. I didnt know what to make of it. I didnt expect to meet him that night. I never heard of him before the show though I didnt know what he thought of this whole same name thing. He might want to beat me up (haha) because you’re not supposed to take another persons name in the graffiti world. So then we just wanted to hang out and get to know each other because of the name thing and how weird it was.  Especially since were both from Chicago and were 20 years apart so he has obviously had the name for a lot longer than me and then of course because in the graffiti scene you dont take someone’s name, you just don’t do that.  After hanging out and getting to know each other, he invited me to start working in his studio at Zhou B Art Center because I didnt really have a studio and still dont really have one.  I always work out of my bedroom.  The collaborative process with Mario is cool though.  He works a lot faster than me so hell have pieces just done, done, done and I am just slowly trying to keep up.  We work very well together though and our styles mesh well. Ive never worked with another artist before so I learn a lot from him, for sure.
Are you both still tagging around the city?
He doesnt really tag anymore.  I do from time to time but not like I use to.  Ive definitely become more studio based but it all depends.  I feel like I used to do it a lot more because I had a lot of free time where as now I have a lot more deadlines and actual projects and commissions.  The tagging also comes out a lot more when Im already out drinking because now Im usually too tired at night.  Im only 26 but Im tired (laughs).
How did you first meet Kim and get involved with Elephant Room Gallery?
I first remember being introduced to Elephant Room through my friend Lindsey Newman. She had a show at Elephant Room four years ago or something.  I was walking around downtown one day and remember walking by Elephant Room and it was closed but I remember seeing Lindseys work through the window.  I was so happy for her- never thinking that I would work with Elephant Room and instead just super excited for my friend that had a show downtown because it seemed like such a big deal and there is so much foot traffic there.  Then Kim just came here a year and a half ago, to Zhou B Art Center and asked me if I wanted to have a show. It was really random and of course I said yes and then had a show!
What do you find influences and inspires your work?

 Ive always been really inspired by love and relationships and how I feel.  My earlier work was always just letting out things that I could never say, for example, to the guy that I liked because Im really shy usually, so I would just weave what I wanted to say into my work.  I am also inspired by music and lyrics, like when I hear lyrics that are saying exactly what I couldnt figure out how to express.  I am also a huge inspiration to my own work.  I normally use myself as the model or figure.The whole pattern and design work is just kind of random.  Its naturally the way that I draw.  I think it may kind of come from my schooling when I was in Interior Design school because we would just draw shapes and shapes and shapes to try and plan things out so I do see that as a possible influence.  I remember I also always used to like drawing shadows and tracing the shadows on a persons face. Right now, Im really into bunny rabbits.  I grew up with bunny rabbits and my dad still has a bunch of rabbits.  So I guess I just pull from a bunch of different things that I like.
What are your preferred mediums to work in?
Everything.  I really, really want to work more with Plaster of Paris and thats what Ive used for my sculptures.  I also really want to experiment more in general with different materials to sculpt with which I dont even know what that would be yet.  I almost feel like I need to take a class or something so that I can really get to know what I could work with.  For the first time too, Im starting to think about what materials I could use that would last.  But I always use house paint.  Im not really into acrylics or anything.  I just like regular paint because its cheap and its always around.  My dad works construction so there are always paint buckets everywhere around my house.  When I first started taking art more seriously, I didnt have a lot of money so I would use whatever was around me.  Thats why I used to paint on newspaper a lot.  I would literally glue together 20 sheets of newspaper and make my own canvas, which was awesome.  I never thought I would stop doing that, but I havent really done that in a while.
A lot of the pieces for the Elephant Room show came from different things I found at thrift stores, like this little shadow box.  I originally bought it for the frame but then I realized that someone had written on the back the year that they had created it.  As soon as I realized that I was like Oh wow!  A person made this thing, I dont want to destroy it!.  So I just added to it by scratching on the glass.  It almost has two lives.  Oh and I titled it Caring for Anotherwhich I guess means respecting who originally created it and not wanting to destroy it but instead give it new life.  I hate waste.  I dont want to buy new things, so I would rather use things that I find. 
Whats your opinion on the Chicago art scene in comparison to some of the other cities you have been to as you have chosen to stay in Chicago despite having done some work in Berlin etc. 

I think I stay in Chicago because my familys here.  As far as the Chicago art scene, I dont know.  I feel like its the same everywhere.  There are things that I really like and then there are things that I am just not into at all and its like that anywhere that I go.  I think Chicago has a lot of really great artists but I prefer to stay focused on myself and on what Im doing rather than thinking about what other people are doing.


What is it like being a woman in the street art scene?
I honestly never really ever thought about it until people started asking me about that.  I always would just tag because I thought it was so fun and didnt really think about it that much.
And how did you get involved in the art scene in Berlin?
Through Zore.  Zore has a good friend in Berlin and we went to go visit him.  Hes a street artist as well.  He had this little store front space which was a studio and pop up gallery.  We were there two years ago and he asked us if we wanted to have a show and we said yes so we started creating a bunch of work there.  It was a four-person show; me, Zore, Prost and his friend from Indonesia whose art name was Love, Hate, Love.  It was really fun because we created a body of work in four days and then had a pop up show and got to meet people from Berlin and from all over the world really.  Then the next year, since that was pretty much a success we decided to do it again.  It was kind of the same thing where we met up, had a quick pop up show and went home.  Its really cool having a show in a different city because no one really knows who you are which is good and bad- you get a whole new response from strangers but then at the same time, a lot of people dont know who you are. Its really amazing to touch someone with your art though.  At the last Berlin show that we had, this girl bought a little piece from me and I was going to give it to her for free because she really, really loved it but she insisted on giving me something, so she gave me 20 euros.  How much she loved my work really stuck with me though because of the fact that she was a stranger from a different country and now she owns one of my little pieces and who knows where it will end up after that…  
-written by Charlotte Klein

2016 – Kenrick McFarlane Paints Raw Vibrancy and Race in Chicago


Jamaican-American artist Kenrick McFarlane is currently pursuing a BFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  After three solo shows in 2012, Mcfarlane was selected to participate in the EXPO Chicago exhibition “Eclectic Coherence.”  When interviewed, Mcfarlane repeatedly expresses gratitude and humility for the support of his work and welcomes contact from other young artists in the hopes of building a community of professional support and comradery within the field of studio art.

McFarlane stresses the aesthetics before the politics in his painting; he hopes to visually engage his audience before they tackle the content of racial or socioeconomic tensions in the work.  And visually engaging they are.  His unique color pallet keeps the eye traversing through layers to process how the colors compliment and converse with one other.  His deeply engaging portrait work relays a sense of candid identity–the viewer feels immediately and intimately acquainted with the human on the canvas.


Reminiscent of Francis Bacon and the Fauvists, McFarlane’s work is vibrant, fleshy, luminous, and raw.  The oil work “Jason Robinson the Saint” radiates light and energy from the canvas–I find myself desperate to know this man’s story.  Fashion study (pictured) is somehow both audaciously stark and still humanistically vulnerable, a complexity rendered in very few strokes of the brush.  “White Face” is simply my new favorite painting.  Mcfarlane succeeds in his endeavor to captivate my eye and activate my mindfulness with this striking image.

Kenrick McFarlane clearly possesses a distinct interest in and gift for painting as a craft.  Contemporary art critics have claimed he exhibits “the makings of greatness,” (H.A.S. magazine).  In this critic’s opinion, he is already exhibiting great things.

-written by Emily Alessandrini