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 10,000 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.

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

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.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Star Collecting: An Interview with Sheila Arora

Me at Sunday’s “What Matters” panel: “[…] I’m an awkward weirdo.”
Paul Klein, moderator/art critic: “You hide it well! You’re not awkward at all. You’re just weird.”

Thank you so much to those who attended, to Paul and Startup Art Fair for inviting me to be a part of it, and to all the amazing artists I met for being you!

Sheila Arora, Flower Healer, acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

On the subject of amazing artists, I interviewed painter Sheila Arora, whom I represent! Here are her own words, unfiltered and free-flowing like her art:

Jenny Lam: Introduce yourself!

Sheila Arora: Hi Jenny, thanks for talking with me! I’m an artist living in Chicago. I have always been drawing and painting. I used to do traditional work including figure, still life, and portrait. I started the abstract acrylic painting a few years ago, and I found it was a great fit with my style. I love using color and exploring marks. My current work is expressive, free, and a total explosion of joy on the canvas.

Sheila Arora, May I have a piece of cake please,
acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

JL: Could you describe your work (both your abstract paintings as well as your portraits) and the process that goes into it?

SA: My paintings are bold. I use a lot of color and marks to keep the pieces active. I have a busy mind, and that is reflected in my work. I’m also a risk-taker when I paint, so I’ll go for anything and everything. I’m always pushing my work in new directions.

Sheila Arora, I tried to say thank you in a million ways,
acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

My process is very intuitive. I lean into the intuition and trust that what I’m feeling is where the painting wants to go. I generally work on a series of pieces that will consist of 15-30 paintings. The overall series is an idea of what I want to capture. For example, I am currently working on a series of paintings called Expressions. These pieces are all about exploring freedom of the line, being looser with the paint, and letting go.

Sheila Arora, My room is messy but you're still invited,
acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

The portraits are a really fun combination of the abstract and realistic work. I used to do lots of figure drawing from the model, so I have a really good grasp of the face. I start with a reference photo to understand placement of features and lighting, and then I add the abstract component to make the piece totally crazy. I have two portrait series: Crazy Portraits and Princess Warriors. I started adding some writing to the Princess Warrior series to bring the characters to life.

Sheila Arora, Fallen Angel, acrylic on paper, 9x12 in.
[Update: SOLD!]

Sheila Arora, Story Weaver, acrylic on paper, 9x12 in.
[Update: SOLD!]

JL: As someone who’s also both an artist and a writer, I love that some of your paintings are accompanied by your writing. What a wonderful way to combine two art forms. Could you also explain your process for that? Do you come up with the painting or story/poem first? Also, how did you get into creative writing?

SA: I love to write. I have a crazy imagination, so creative writing has always been a natural fit for me. I recently started combining the two art forms. I started writing a set of stories based on my small abstract painting series. I would pick a painting and use that as a starting point for the story. I let the painting give me the ideas, and then I would write a short piece from my imagination. I wrote about everything from a rainbow tornado to a buffalo cave! I wrote 30 of these short stories, and each one was totally different and fun.

[Continue reading more after the jump.]

Thursday, September 22, 2016


I’ve been invited to speak at the next 20x2 Chicago! Thank you, Andrew Huff! Save the date for Saturday, October 22, 6-8pm, at Quenchers.

I’m back from a trip to Greece (photos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr), just in time for Expo Art Week. But that’s not all that’s happening.


Today is:

  • The autumnal equinox and Chicagohenge (pictured above)! Twice a year, the rising and setting sun lines up perfectly with the city’s east-west street grid. The first day of fall is one of those times.

Quite the day, September 22.

And a reminder: I’ve been invited to speak on a panel at the inaugural Startup Art Fair during Expo Chicago! So honored. The conversation’s this Sunday, 1pm, at MileNorth Hotel. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


I just got invited by the one and only Paul Klein to speak on an artist panel at the stARTup Art Fair! Thank you so much! Everyone, save the date for Sunday early afternoon, September 25, at Chicago’s MileNorth Hotel. [Update: The discussion will be at 1pm in Room 404.]

Speaking of art fairs, I’m back from a brief trip to New York (photos on Instagram) and have a new post on Time Out Chicago: 9 art gallery exhibitions to see in September, including Expo Chicago, which I always look forward to.


Thank you for all the birthday wishes a couple weeks ago!

And be sure to read the previous post featuring a lovely artist studio visit with represented painter Sheila Arora!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Love Letters: An Artist Studio Visit with Sheila Arora

Conducted a studio visit at represented artist / actual ray of sunshine Sheila Arora’s apartment in Chicago’s Loop (look at that view!) and sold a painting to architect (and fellow Columbia University alum) Chyanne Husar! Thank you for your support, Chyanne! And thanks to Sheila for letting us into your home and your mind!

Sheila Arora in her apartment showing us her favorite piece she painted.

More behind-the-scenes photos below. Step into Sheila’s world!

(As announced in this post, Sheila—who was a part of my latest interactive exhibition, LEXICON—has entrusted me with the honor of being her artist agent and representative, and I couldn’t be more pleased.)

Sheila keeps her place downtown “barebones” and “in neutrals,” an amusing contrast to her art, which is as bold, colorful, confident, and imaginative as she is.

The Princeton graduate is nothing if not prolific; most of her pieces in her current collection were created within the past year and a half! It’s incredible how she can sustain so much creative energy; she has a corporate job out in the suburbs, so she only has a few hours every night to paint. And she does.

We shared great conversations on how art can set the tone for your home. What colors do you want to wake up to? What emotions do you want to live with?

Sold! Sheila Arora's painting that Chyanne Husar purchased.

Chyanne ultimately chose a fun and vibrant work on paper that she knew would make her happy.

Sold! Sheila Arora, Untitled, acrylic on paper.

If any galleries would like to showcase Sheila’s work, let me know! You can view Sheila’s portfolio on her site.

Also, in case you didn’t see the edit I made to the previous post, I’ve been featured on Asians Doing Everything! Thank you! (That’s two features in two days, the other being Women of Wednesday, author Olivia Cole’s interview series with women of color!)

And my birthday’s tomorrow! (If you follow me on social media, you might’ve seen my nostalgic look back on a past celebration.) Want to give me a present? Give yourself one and buy art!

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