Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Red Letter

As of yesterday I’m fully vaccinated! First thing I did? Went to my P.O. box for the first time since March 2020! (And afterwards I went to buy socks with more support. Really wildin’ out here.) And what a pleasant surprise to see so many Dreams of a City postcards! Which means: even though I left these postcards throughout Chicago before the pandemic (I stopped once it was time to lock down), all of these dreams were mailed during the pandemic.

Fitting that my first activity was gathering hope. After I scan these, I’ll be sharing them daily to @dreamsofacity. Follow along!

(For those of you who aren’t familiar with my labor of love: From 2008-2009 in Manhattan, and then from 2012-early 2020 in Chicago, I made thousands of pre-stamped self-addressed postcards, each with the prompt, “Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die. Use this card as your canvas,” and each—this is the most important part—with a different code on the bottom. I left these postcards in public places all over the city, using the codes to record where I left each one. So, when a card returned to me, I was able to match its code with its location and was able to tell where each one was found, and have been gradually creating a map of the city from all your dreams. It’s a 13-year-old love letter and a message of hope.

View all 100 mapped Manhattan dreams 2008-2009 on Flickr, all 600+ mapped Chicago dreams 2012-2020 on Instagram, and more information on this page.)

Another momentous occasion: On this day 10 years ago, I thought of the concept for the first art show I independently curated, Exquisite Corpse!

I assigned artists who didn’t know each other beforehand into pairs/groups and had them collaborate on creating new artwork for the exhibition. The late great Paul Klein came to preview it, and he gave me my first real review. It was glorious.

Next up / 10 years later / virtually opening this June: DECAHEDRON!

P.S. In case you missed the previous post, PetaPixel interviewed me about my new online gallery for my iPhone 5s photography. Check it out!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Pixel Perfect

I got interviewed by PetaPixel about my iPhone 5s photography!

Thank you to writer Anete Lusina and editor-in-chief Jaron Schneider for this great feature!

Monday, May 17, 2021


I got my 2nd dose of the Moderna vaccine!

I was prepared for the side effects, which is why I made not one but two art announcements beforehand. Take a look if you missed ‘em.

Speaking of of vaccines: As of one week ago, my parents are now fully vaccinated. On Friday, for the first time since April 2020, my mom went inside the grocery store instead of getting curbside pickup! (Like I’ve said, we’ve been strict—me most of all.)

And: Thank you for including me and SLAYSIAN (still on view since March 2020!) in this wonderful collection of recommendations for Chicago’s AAPI businesses and makers, One Design Company!

Via One Design:
“Local AAPI businesses, makers, cultural centers, and more deserve celebration and support, always—but right now, that’s especially true. In collaboration with our Asian American colleagues, you’ll find a studio-curated collection of 67 Chicago-area businesses, organizations, and makers across 8 different categories. Join us in supporting them now and well into the future.”

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, everyone.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lens Craft

It’s not the tool; it’s the artist. From 2014–2021, I captured photos around the world using only my iPhone 5s. (And before I finally joined you all in the 21st Century and got the aforementioned phone, I had been using a point-and-shoot.) You don’t need fancy equipment—not even a tripod—to take beautiful photos.

Look up. Chicago 2015.

I’m also nothing if not stubborn, planned obsolescence be damned. It took until last week—right after Apple rolled out iOS 14.5 for newer phones and my 5s crashed whenever I tried to open my Instagram—for me to finally retire my beloved 5s. RIP, Jenny’s first smartphone, March 17, 2014 – April 28, 2021.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Now, for the first time, these photos can be viewed in one place. (I’d been sharing them on channels such as Instagram, but not everyone is on social media, and on those platforms I also share old non-phone photos as throwbacks, as well as non-photographic artwork, so viewers would have to scroll through years of images.) I’ve launched a new online gallery exclusively for my iPhone 5s photos, from El Fin del Mundo at the southernmost tip of South America to the towering sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert along the ancient Silk Road in Western China, from crackling glaciers and floating markets to quiet moments of everyday beauty in my hometown.

View the new photo gallery here.

(And, if one individual’s phone photos aren’t your cup of tea, head over to the previous post for the announcement about DECAHEDRON, which features over 70(!) local and international artists working across all mediums.)

Monday, May 3, 2021

Full Deck

As you know, this June is the 10th anniversary of Artists on the Lam, and as part of the celebration, I’m curating an international exhibition called DECAHEDRON. Today, I’m thrilled to announce the show’s participating artists! Hailing from all over Chicago, the country, and the world, they include:

Adrienne L. Glover, Adrienne Powers, Agnieszka Ligendza, Alba Margarita, Alex Kostiw, Alix Anne Shaw, Allen Vandever, Angie Redmond, Brianna Lynn Hernández Baurichter, Bruce Riley, Caroline Walser, Carrie McGath, Céline Browning, Chad Kouri, Charlene Moy, CHema Skandal!, Chris Silva, Christine Nicklos, Claire Ashley, Clarisse Perrette, Corinne Halbert, Cristy Corso, Czr Prz, Dan Castranova, Danielle Pontarelli, Diane Ponder, Emily Calvo, English Prevo, Glenn Wexler, Hazel R. Magnolia, Heidi Jensen, InsomniaBird, James Gu, James Jankowiak, James Mosher, Juliann Wang, Julius Dizon-Cruz Bautista, Justin Suico, Karen I. Hirsch, Kathy Halper, KC Winter, Keelan McMorrow, Kristin Cass, Kurt Kreissl, Laura Catherwood, Lee Eun Young, Lisa Goesling, Mac Blackout, Mairin Hartt, Mark Pol, Mary Porterfield, Mazon, Megan M. Rivera, Melissa Wang, MelonJames, My Linh Mac, Nancy Bechtol, Nathan Stanton, Nik Burkhart, Olivia Shih, Patricia Biesen, Patrick Earl Hammie, Peyton Rack, Priscilla Huang, Ramiro Silva-Cortés, Rialin José, Richard Gessert, Robert Apolinar, Robin Monique Rios, Sam Riesmeyer, Stafford Hiroshi Smith, Tiffany Gholar, Toby zur Loye, Yuqing Zhu, and you.

What an amazing group, right? And, yes, massive; knowing from the start that this would be virtual, I wanted to involve more artists than I would for any physical show, as a way to truly take advantage of having an online platform (when getting interviewed about SLAYSIAN last year, one point that kept coming up was the silver lining of being able to exhibit bonus pieces as digital exclusives), and to truly fit a milestone anniversary.

Go big at home.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The First King: A Children’s Book by My Linh Mac

This is a guest blog post written by My Linh Mac. To pitch Artists on the Lam, contact us here.

People from all over the world, especially Asian communities, are still suffering as Covid blows its first-year candle. As an artist and a member of the Chicago art community, I believe there is no better time than now to share inspiring Asian artist stories. I want to be a part of the celebration for cultural inclusion and share a slice of life of Chicago’s Southeast Asian artists, much like Raya and the Last Dragon, the most recent Disney Princess film.

My Linh Mac (Millie), a Vietnamese artist based in Chicago, recently released her children’s illustration book about the origins of her country called The First King. My Linh is a SLAYSIAN artist with an exceptional multidisciplinary experience as a painter, graphic designer, art educator, and emerging artistic entrepreneur. She’s a true colorist when it comes to her dynamic and vibrant abstract paintings, and she’s made a name for herself through her remarkable ability to create art in one medium that seems to have been produced in another. Mac’s paintings range from mystical to abstract to figurative to industrial, but her multimedia and graphic design work is strictly commercial with high-end visual effects. With her “full package” skillset and innovative mind, My Linh’s presence extends beyond Chicago cultures, as she has exhibited her work in over 8 countries and served on the jury of several global/international artistic awards. The Creative Communication Award (C2A) in Los Angeles, the Brightness Illustration Award in Iran, the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Award, and the Leonardo Da Vinci Award in Italy are just a few examples.

The First King is based on the story of “Con Rong Chau Tien,” one of Vietnam’s most well-known fairy tales and folktales about the country’s magical origins. My Linh wants to express and pass on her heritage pride to other multi-racial children as an educator and artist who embraces cultural diversity. The book’s unlimited e-copies and hard copies are currently available on Amazon Kindle and currently a part of the Urban Legends: From Playground Lore To Cultural Norms exhibition at Columbia College of Chicago’s Library.

What inspired you to start this project?

Many causes, the most important of which is that I haven't been home in Vietnam in 6 years to pursue education and art making in the States, and the pandemic has exacerbated my homesickness. We never know what will happen next, and because art brings out the best in me, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to reconnect with my roots while also pushing myself into new territories in children's book publishing.

The other reason is because of the current racial discrimination toward the Asian communities. Asian artists deserve to be in the spotlight, not as victims but as inspirations for the community. Even though I haven’t lived in Asia since 2009, I still embrace my root cultural value of “it’s not about what you do because of circumstances of hardship, but more about what you do despite the circumstances of hardship.” We, as Asians in general and Vietnamese in particular, are proud of our hard work and compassion for one another, and these great qualities, rather than outdated stereotypes, should be the common perception of Asians. I’ve always felt fortunate to be born with a gift of creativity because there are so many things (like those values above) that can be expressed simply by the use of words.

Instead of specializing in one field, you basically specialize in everything. Do you consider one medium to be your true calling?

I still return to basics with drawing and painting, which is where it all began for me. Only when I’m messing around with the colorful paste with palette knives and totally at ease with making mistakes and fully feel like myself. Recently, painting has been more of a self-discovery/communicative tool for me than an expressive medium for interacting with others. It’s the opposite with other creative mediums that I work with. For example, when it comes to design, it’s not so much about what I want as it is about what the client wants, so knowing his or her style preferences allows me to learn more about their personalities and backgrounds.

How do you find balance among all your roles?

It hasn’t been easy by any means. From the “tip of the iceberg,” it seems that I am a multi-tasking specialist or a crazy planner, but from the “under the water portion of the iceberg,” it isn’t that complicated. Goal alignment is the key, and I’m a sucker for the phrase “hit two birds with one stone.” When I’m working on a company’s branding, for example, I take the time to learn about the company’s history, as well as behind-the-scenes information such as obstacles to conquer, goals/mission, and core value, among other things. This allows me to gain not only business experience but also a better understanding of my design assignment in order to bring out the best of it. I have learned the hard way not to try to do all at once and exhaust myself. “Less is more” isn’t just a style concept; it also applies in real life.

How has your Vietnamese background influenced your art?

I’m not biologically bi-racial or tri-racial, but since I moved to Singapore at the age of 13, then to South-Australia in my late teens, and finally to the United States in my early twenties, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cultural factors that have influenced my works throughout the years. One thing is certain: The First King isn’t the first initiative dedicated to honoring my Vietnamese heritage.

In addition to The First King, is there anything else we can look forward to from you?

Children book number 2 is coming soon. I’m also considering starting a company/business that focuses on cultural bridging, education, art, and entertainment. I can’t say anything more than that, but I’m hoping that all of the hard work I’ve put in so far will be rewarded in the near future.

Read more about My Linh here, and view more about The First King here.

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