Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hope


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

Gifts



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

Wrote


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.


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