Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Can you tell me how to get

Artists, take charge of your own historical narrative! Submit your ephemera to the Chicago Artist Files at the Harold Washington Library; refer to the last paragraph on this page for details. I started a file of my own at Sixty Inches From Center’s Chicago Archives + Artists Festival this past Sunday, which was, well, amazing. (Here’s another [completely unrelated] reason why Sunday ruled.)


As I’d mentioned in this caption, although I was born in Chicago, I’m actually ESL; Cantonese is technically my first language and I picked up Toishanese listening to my maternal grandpa. I taught myself English as a baby by watching Sesame Street on WTTW, the local PBS station. PBS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, one of about a dozen agencies (along with the NEA and NEH) that will be eliminated under the proposed Trump Budget. These programs literally change lives. In my case, they start them. #Resist.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New Frontiers

An original story of mine (including artwork by me) will be published in New Frontiers, an original graphic novel anthology inspired by George Takei by the team behind the Asian American superhero anthology Secret Identities! Thank you so much to the editors, Jeff Yang and Keith Chow (founder of The Nerds of Color!)

Image courtesy of SIUniverse.

(Fun fact: When I was 16, I founded a free English tutoring program for immigrant youth in Chicago’s Chinatown called New Horizons. So I’d like to think this is fate.)

The back of Saturday’s daily Dreams of a City postcard has always been, on a purely visual level, one of my favorites. Thanks to Mary Iwanicki who helped leave this one. To read the what was written on the front, visit @DreamsOfACity, where I’ve been sharing one mapped dream a day, every day. [Keep] follow[ing] along!

Postcard 1009 back: January 2013, Komoda (2559 W. Chicago).

And a reminder: If you haven’t done so already, I’d love it if you could take a couple minutes to nominate LEXICON for “Best Gallery Exhibit” in the Chicago Reader’s annual #BestOfChi poll! (More details and tips about the process in the previous post.) Thank you!

Thursday, April 27, 2017


The Chicago Reader’s annual Best of Chicago poll is open for nominations, and it would mean the world to me if you nominate LEXICON (the interactive art show I created and curated featuring 47 artists in the 7,000 sq. ft. exhibition space of the Zhou B Art Center) for the “Best Gallery Exhibit”! Thank you! (This is the first round of voting; [hopefully] I’ll be bugging yall again in May for the final round.)

Xavier Johnson, me, and Michael Zhou the moment after
I sold Arturo Mazon's Oct on My Head to fellow artist Xavier
[in an amazing Pusheen hat]. LEXICON was Art's 1st show
ever! Photo by Gerard Rodriguez.

If you need to refresh your memory, check out the LEXICON tag for related blog posts!

(Also, a few people have told me they had trouble viewing the ballot depending on their desktop browser. Mobile worked for me, as did Microsoft Edge [aww yeah Windows 10 default] for desktop. Let me know if you need help!)

More words of gratitude: Thank you to everyone who visited The Subject Is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities at the Chicago Cultural Center, where my interactive installation was on display! The exhibition (thank you again to the museum and to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events!) may be over, but I’m still sharing one postcard a day, every day, at @DreamsOfACity. Keep following along!

(Speaking of my project, Dreams of a City was mentioned as one of the highlights in this article about the exhibition. Thank you, Loyola Phoenix and Marc Rosales II! There are some great visitor quotes in the piece too.)

In other Chicago art news: 150 Media Stream, a new media art installation of 89 LED panels inside 150 N. Riverside, is now open to the public! The first rotating artist is Jason Salavon.

In case you’re wondering about my recent Hong Kong trip, I’ll be writing a post about it soon / “soon”! In the meantime, check out my photos at @artistsonthelam on Instagram.

Me at Art Basel Hong Kong. Iván Navarro,
Impenetrable Room, Paul Kasmin Gallery.
Photo by my mom.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Southern Song

I’m traveling to Hong Kong today! (Thank you to Art Basel, Art Central, and Asia Contemporary Art Show for inviting me to your VIP programs again!) You know what to do; follow along on Instagram and Twitter for live updates and photos.

Some of my phone photos from last year's Hong Kong trip.

As you also know, I’m usually on my own for my annual HK trip. This year, however, my mom’s tagging along so she can finally record an album there! She’s an amazing Cantonese opera singer, and I’m so happy she’ll finally be able to share one of her myriad gifts with the world. I’m also happy because this means double the food portions I usually order. Watch out, HK; we Lam ladies are gonna’ come eat all your dim sum.

My mom at the storefront her family owned
and lived behind and above
in Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

To tide you over ‘til I’m back: Part of my ongoing large-scale interactive mapping project is currently on view at the Chicago Cultural Center, selected by the City of Chicago as part of the “Year of Public Art” initiative for 2017. People back home, check out the exhibition if you haven’t yet and get the chance. And everyone everywhere, follow my Dreams of a City account, where I’m sharing one Chicago postcard a day, every day. (The last time I counted, there were 356. After my art-making event during the Open House a couple weeks ago, though? Expect even more!)

Monday, February 27, 2017

City of [Ours]

Me at The Subject Is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center Open House (check out whose name is next to [/ repping Ward] 32):

Thank you to everyone who came on Saturday (your support means everything to me), to everyone who participated in my art-making event (I ran out of postcards within the hour! so amazing), and, of course, to the museum and to the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for selecting me and giving me this opportunity! And to the fellow exhibiting artists who came by my table, it was so wonderful meeting you! What a kind, creative, and overall incredible group to be a part of.

If you missed it, the show runs ‘til April 9, and you can (and should, to be honest) follow my ongoing interactive public art / mapping project at @DreamsOfACity, where I’m sharing one mapped Chicago postcard a day, every day. (As of this writing, there are 356.)

And, via my Twitter, here are some Oscars thoughts.

Monday, February 13, 2017

People, Places

I went and checked out the exhibition I was selected for, and only a fraction of my postcards are on display and you’re unable to see both sides (I envisioned them suspended from the ceiling, with visitors able to touch and handle each one), heh. (Not ungrateful, by the way; I’m still so honored to be exhibiting at the Chicago Cultural Center, and I’m proud to be the artist chosen to represent Chicago’s 32nd ward in this show! Thank you, again, to those who gave me this opportunity.)

I want you guys to be able to see all 355 cards. So I’m sharing 1 every day at my new Instagram account, @dreamsofacity. Follow along!

Scanned, protected, and matched the dates and locations of 355 postcards
I got back over the past 4 1/2 years.
You're looking at the hopes and dreams of a city.

(More about Dreams of a City, my ongoing large-scale interactive public art / mapping project, including scans of all cards in the 2008 New York City edition, at this old page.)

In other Chicago news: The Field Museum is free for IL residents all February! (I applaud them for releasing a statement against the Muslim ban.)

(I also applaud the National Park Service for going rogue. Especially [mostly?] because I’ve been wearing their gear I won from their Centennial Project, like, every other day for the past year.)

Also, apparently On The Real Film made a print of what I said in my episode of their political documentary Transition to Power! All profits from sales of the poster will go to the good cause of your choice.

Hope everyone had a lovely Chinese New Year! (Here are a couple glimpses into mine.) May your Year of the Rooster be filled with love, prosperity, and #resistance.

Friday, January 13, 2017


I’ve been selected to exhibit my art at the Chicago Cultural Center! The exhibition is called The Subject Is Chicago: People, Places, and Possibilities and runs February 11 to April 9. Thank you, City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events!

Hope” for 2017 indeed.

(P.S. As an addendum to the previous post, after the Anti-Inauguration Screening of Transition to Power is an Action Session. I’ll be there. Come!)

Monday, January 9, 2017


Happy New Year! I was interviewed for the political documentary Transition to Power, and my episode’s up! In collaboration with Sixty Inches From Center, On The Real Film’s web series “dives into the aftermath of the election through the eyes of artists.” Thank you, again, for asking me to participate, Erin Babbin and Michael Sullivan! (Special cameo by my “Rebel Scum” sweater.)

(How do y’all like my new Facebook cover photo?)

(And, uh, related to something I said in the video, this happened.)

As mentioned in the previous post, there will be an Anti-Inauguration Screening of the film (including new episodes and unreleased footage) on January 20, 7-9pm, on the 5th floor of Mana Contemporary Chicago in Pilsen. Snacks and beverages will be available, and the event is free and open to the public. (Then go protest!)

[Update: Apparently OTRF made a print of the transcript!

All profits from sales of this poster will go to the good cause
and organization of your choice.

From an amazing night with amazing people at the Action Session.]

Another freebie for locals: The Art Institute of Chicago’s Free Winter Weekdays for Illinois residents begin today. Also, free year-round museum admission has been extended to Chicago teens ages 14-17.

Lastly, the response to “Hope,” my year in review and words for the future, has been overwhelming. Thank you, everyone. Keep reading, keep sharing, and keep commenting!

Saturday, December 31, 2016


Ah, 2016. A year of extreme lows (the election and, like, everything else happening across the country and around the world) and extreme highs (my accomplishments—I won’t lie; this was actually one of my best years ever, all thanks to you). More about those highs first:

Photo by my mom.

The highlights of my year, in no particular order:

  • I created and independently curated my biggest and best art show yet, LEXICON, in the Zhou B Art Center’s newly renovated 7,000 sq. ft. space. Featuring 47 artists, the interactive exhibition eschewed formal artist statements in favor of your interpretations and thoughts, written on Post-its and displayed on the walls next to the artwork itself.

  • I performed at 20x2 Chicago, choosing to share, for the first time, some of the responses from the Chicago edition of Dreams of a City, which I started in 2008 in New York. By leaving thousands of blank, pre-stamped, self-addressed, and coded postcards in public spaces, all with the prompt, “Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die,” and recording where I leave each one, I’ve gradually been mapping the city with your dreams and hopes.

  • I connected and re-connected with the Sixty Inches From Center family at Wrote One, dedicated to post-election action.

  • I ramped up my artist representation services, showing off unsung local and international talent.

  • I had fun fulfilling your drawing requests, which went to good causes in the fight against the upcoming regime.

  • I traveled (to my second homes New York City and Hong Kong and, with my parents, visited Cambodia, Thailand, and Greece).

My top liked Instagram photos of the year.

The common thread? People. I’m proud that, from the get-go, my focus has always been on people, ever since I started this site in 2011 with posts dedicated to discussions and the first show I curated independently, Exquisite Corpse, which was founded on collaboration. Then came I CAN DO THAT, where I placed the artists’ original supplies in front of each piece and challenged viewers to see if they could, indeed, “do that.” (It was great fun and made the best kind of mess.) The only ongoing art project of my own, Dreams of a City, is made by your voice. And I will continue making art, my life, about people, about you. Different artists and curators use art for different purposes, all of them with merit. For me, however, art is nothing if it doesn’t bring people together.

Tell me something good that happened to you in 2016! What’s something you’re proud of and would like to shout from the rooftops (or my blog’s comment section)?

Your top 10 most read posts of 2016:

10. “Home Stretch” – A short but sweet post from the evening before LEXICON’s opening.

9. “Value” – A sneak peek of an interactive sculpture at LEXICON (and a fangirl moment).

8. “The Little Things” – An announcement about a Hong Kong photographer (and a role reversal of a fangirl moment).

7. “Garden” – The first artwork sale at LEXICON (and a follow-up to the show’s artist talks, demos, and workshops).

6. “Pond” – More artwork sold at LEXICON (and me in front of a piece).

5. “Performance Paint plus Polymath post” – One of two posts on this list not from 2016.

4. “Holiday Drawing Commissions” – Words of thanks and ways to help.

3. “Moon” – A sneak peek of an animated neon poem in LEXICON (and a scan from my childhood).

2. “Discussion: Why Do You Collect Art” – The other post not from 2016 and a classic.

1. “Love Letters: An Artist Studio Visit with Sheila Arora” – One of the most popular posts of all time, a spotlight on a Chicago painter and a tour of her home.

And now for the lows:

Many have been declaring 2016 to be “the worst.” You know what, though? With the impending Trumpocalypse, 2017—hell, the next four years—will be worse, and we’ll look back at 2016 as The Last Normal Year, as the calm before the storm, if we don’t put in the work, if we allow this chapter of our history to be written for us.

More and more beloved celebrities (and legendary artists) are going to leave us, or at least it will seem that way, simply because the people we know and the people we think we know and we ourselves are growing old.

Spend time with those you hold dear. Cross off whatever’s on your bucket list. If all these deaths—whether they’re celebrities or civilians in Syria or victims of mass shootings and violence at home—and the election tell us anything, it’s that life and the world are as unpredictable as they are unfair. We don’t get to choose when we’re born; we don’t get to choose what times we live in, what we survive to see. But these are our times. But, luckily for us, we can alter them. Angela Davis said, “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”

As long as you’re alive, you have the power to write—and right—your story.

The world won’t magically improve when the clock strikes twelve. Build the world you want to live in. Work towards midterm elections. Invest in your community. Support local artists, marginalized groups, and young people; we are your future, if there’s one left for us. Help, protect, and stand up for one another. Be kind. (Not polite or well-behaved. Kind.) Give. Create hope. Create. Love. Know that your anger and sorrow are valid. Let them motivate you. Rest. Reflect. Recharge. Ready yourself for battle.

If your hero left you this year, become your own hero. You won’t be alone; all around you is a new generation of heroes. They’re halfway around the globe. They’re your neighbors. They’re reading this post.

If you find yourself in the wrong reality, make it right. If you’re stuck in the darkest timeline, start your own.

Tell me something you look forward to in 2017! What do you hope for? What do you want to do? (Go do it!)

I’m looking forward to:

And a couple artist opportunities:

  • You can apply for the Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. (I received this grant in 2013 for Dreams of a City.) The deadline is January 13.
  • Here’s a call for poster and banner art from the Amplifier Foundation in partnership with the Women’s March on Washington. The deadline is January 8.

Thank you, all. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On the Lam on the Real

Just got interviewed for Transition to Power, a documentary about the election’s aftermath. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your series, Erin Babbin and Michael Sullivan! Everyone, stay tuned for the video [of me being too concise for my own good / giving you ridiculous but free ideas for political art].

On The Real Film at Mana Contemporary Chicago. 

Here’s some much needed good news, courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. Love is love.

All my non-local drawing commissions have been mailed! (I’ll still, however, be accepting requests indefinitely!)

Again, happy holidays to you all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Sixty Inches From Center's "Wrote One." Photo by Tempestt Hazel.

Above photo by the great Tempestt Hazel (thank you again for organizing this!). Idea for us shorties to pose like that by Jennifer Patiño Cervantes (“we have to do this now”). (I’m also cackling at Kwame Shorter in the back there.) If you missed the first of this series of gatherings and coalition building, don’t worry; there will be more to come, and they’ll be at different locations throughout Chicago!

Made possible thanks to you.

To those who’ve commissioned me for holiday drawings, thank you for supporting the ACLU, Amnesty International, and NRDC! (30% of my art’s proceeds this season have been and will continue to be donated to those organizations.)

Warmth and wellness!

Monday, December 12, 2016


I’ll be at “Wrote One: A Convening of Chicago Writers + Media Makers” tonight! 6:30-8:30pm at Rootwork Gallery in Pilsen, hosted by Sixty Inches From Center.

Photo by Claire Demos, courtesy of Sixty Inches From Center.

I love the event’s header photo (pictured above) and everyone in it. Called “Writing in the Margins: Who Do You Write For?” and held in 2014, the discussion was about building platforms for artists who are traditionally marginalized and was the first panel I ever spoke on. So, so good. Also I feel like this picture captured such a wonderfully typical Sophia Nahli Allison (who took these photos at the opening night of my interactive art show I CAN DO THAT) moment and I (wearing my Metropolis t-shirt) look like I’m her proud mom or something?

(And another throwback featuring another first here.)

And a reminder: 30% of my art’s proceeds will be donated to the ACLU, Amnesty International, and NRDC. Fight for our future with me.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Holiday Drawing Commissions

I’m also grateful for all of you. Thank you.

Now, an announcement:

15-min. sketch of Shu Qi in The Assassin.

For the second holiday season in a row, I’m open for drawing commissions! New this time: I also have existing art—both from my represented artists and from myself (rare, I know!)—available for purchase!

You can:

1) Request custom drawings of anything you want! (For example, Robin Rios asked me to create a cartoon of her sculptures interacting, and this was the result.) $18 cartoon, $36 combination cartoon & realistic, and $63 realistic.

2) (New this year!) Buy any of my available* sketches from my Scribble Sunday series. *(The ones I exhibited at LEXICON have been sold, and the childhood art I’ve shared isn’t for sale.) The Good Dog and Summertime Sadness are $45, Of Dragons and Hero are $54, Ghostbuster is $81, Mood is $99, and each sketch in the Gossamer series is $198.

3) (New this year!) Buy art from the artists I represent! Check out the tags for Chicago painter Sheila Arora and Hong Kong photographer Valentina Loffredo, and look through their portfolios here and here, respectively.

For one and two, 30% of proceeds will be donated to the ACLU, Amnesty International, and NRDC. Fight beside me, and own some neat art while you’re at it!

Another quick sketch of Shu Qi in The Assassin.

(The rates are an explanation, of sorts, for this silly status.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

What Comes Next: An Interview with Edra Soto

All right. I think I’m finally done mourning (which was Step 1 in my call to action in the previous post), helped in part by seeing The Cool Kids live with friends and being introduced by one of said friends with “She’s like Michael Jordan, but more efficient because she’s compact,” and now it’s time to work: I had the honor of interviewing Edra Soto for Sixty Inches From Center (thank you, Sixty, for referring to me and Edra as two of your favorite people) and CONNECT Hyde Park! Cross-posted from SIFC:

Edra Soto. Photo by Daniel Hojnacki.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Edra Soto is a Chicago-based artist, educator, curator, and gallery director of an outdoor project space called The Franklin. I’d looked up to her for a while and from afar, and a couple months ago we both happened to be invited to speak on an artist panel (where I finally met her in person and gushed over her like the fangirl I am). The panel was called “What Matters,” and when the main topic was brought up, she discussed her dedication to local artist communities and helping them outside of a more conventional gallery system.

But who is Edra, as an artist, herself? In anticipation of CONNECT, where she’ll be showing some of her own artwork, I had the honor of interviewing her; read our conversation below to find out.

Jenny Lam: How did you first become interested in art?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

When all other lights go out

It’s hard, but I’m trying my best to remind myself of my favorite quote (which I was asked for in this interview I did over the summer, part of a series that is now more important than ever):

It’s preceded by Frodo putting to words how I’ve been feeling: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf responds, “So do I, and all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.”

Mourn. Then: Organize. Mobilize. Fight. For me (a POC, a child of immigrants, a Millennial, and a woman), for all marginalized groups (I see you, I love you, and you matter), and for the future of our country and the world. This is only the beginning.


(Here’s what you can do. Also, I loved the protests here in Chicago and in other major cities throughout the nation Wednesday night. This and this are on Saturday. [Update: There’s also a mass march against Trump and racism on Saturday the 19th and a protest in Millennium Park the following day.Feel free to leave a comment with anything else you’ve come across, or if you just need to talk. I’m here.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fly the // Art Flag

Had a meeting with one of the nicest and most visionary artists I know (also my birthday twin), and he told me that I “inspire” him and am the “voice of kindness,” one that “deserves to be loud.” Being kind is underrated, so my soul is blushing. (Get excited for an ambitious project by Nathan “Bam” Stanton—who participated in my interactive exhibition I CAN DO THAT—in 2017!)

Vote! (What I did after the above.)

(And before said meeting, my new favorite author, Ken Liueveryone go read The Paper Menagerie short story collection [and cry in public] pleasereplied to me on Twitter. Yesterday was a good day.)

Hope you had a happy Halloween! (Mine included your weekly dose of sillinessAnd here’s something that came out over Halloweekend that all artists / art history buffs / art lovers should check out: The music video for Jane Zhang’s “Dust My Shoulders Off.” Those visuals!) Now that another month has begun, I have a new post on Time Out Chicago: 9 art gallery exhibitions to see in November.

And if you haven’t watched it yet, a video that includes my two-minute presentation at 20x2Chi is in the previous post.

I love you, Chicago.*

*[Edit: And an update…]

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What Do You Want

I had so much fun at 20x2 Chicago! (My set starts at 3:50 in the video below, or watch it at this direct link.) Cheers to all the other speakers (you were wonderful); thank you so much to Andrew Huff for inviting me to be a part of the show and for organizing it; and thank you to everyone who came!

For more information regarding what I talked about in my two minutes, check out the Dreams of a City page.

Here’s some non-art-related silliness for fellow crazy dog ladies dog lovers.

And: In the previous post I announced that I’ll be representing photographer Valentina Loffredo; stay tuned for an interview! In the meantime, read the one with represented painter Sheila Arora!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Little Things

I’m proud to announce that I’ll be representing Valentina Loffredo—a photographer born in Italy and based in Hong Kong—as an artist agent! Her graphic, minimalist photos are pure eye candy. Exciting features to come; for now, check out Val’s Instagram! Galleries that are interested in partnering with us, contact me. And don’t forget; I represent Chicago painter Sheila Arora too!

A sample of Valentina Loffredo's photography, courtesy of her Instagram.

It’s a great time of year to be in this city: Chicago Museum Week begins today (tip: the Adler Planetarium has one of the best views of the skyline), Open House Chicago is this weekend (here’s one of the sites I visited last year), and Chicago Ideas Week begins on Monday. And as announced in this post, I’ve been invited to speak at the next 20x2 Chicago! That’s next Saturday, October 22, 6pm, at Quenchers Saloon.

And if you’re not following me on Twitter, these past couple weeks you’ve missed out on random tweets going viral and another installment of my main pastime, making screenshots of whenever celebrities engage with me.

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