Monday, May 13, 2024

Leading Light

Rest in peace, Jason Pickleman. This is his Dreams of a City postcard he mailed to me in 2021, in response to the prompt I’ve been giving people since 2008, “Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die. Use this card as your canvas. When you’re finished, mail the card.”

Dreams of a City postcard #6425 front and back, NE. corner of Franklin & Chicago, Thursday morning, 2 September 2021, filled out by Chicago artist Jason Pickleman for Jenny Lam's long-running city-wide interactive public art and mapping project
#6425 front & back, NE. corner of Franklin & Chicago,
Thursday morning, 2 September 2021.

Jason and I only met twice. The first time was in 2019 when I went gallery-hopping one summer evening. At Ken Saunders Gallery, he approached me to ask about my tote bag. It wasn’t until the middle of our conversation when other people kept coming up to him that I discovered he was the artist of the exhibition! (The show was Light Reading.) After that discovery, I took this photo of him.

iPhone 5s photo by Jenny Lam of Jason Pickleman next to his neon piece in his 2019 art exhibition "Light Reading" at Ken Saunders Gallery in Chicago
Shot on my iPhone 5s. No filter.

The second time was in 2021, at the preview for the Neon and Light Museum pop-up, where he was one of the exhibiting artists. Again, he approached me and we chatted at the show, and then later, after I left, he saw me outside across the street putting up my Dreams of a City postcards and came up to me again to see what I was doing. After learning about my project, he then brought me to check out some guerilla art he had secretly and anonymously put up nearby.

I wish I took a photo of it because I can’t find any evidence of it online (makes sense since he did it secretly and anonymously), and I wanted to fact-check before making this post. Going off my memory, it looked like a pin drop / location marker and was on the window of a storefront, and had to do with racial justice, and he wanted to see how long it would take for someone to notice and take it down.

And then it wasn’t until later when I Googled him that I realized he was an esteemed figure in the Chicago art scene, and even that’s an understatement (look up JNL Design and you’ll recognize all the iconic work he’s done).

But what do you expect? For him to say “I’m kind of a big deal”? He was as humble as he was outgoing and affable.

It’s something to emulate, to live life in such a way that two brief encounters would leave such an impression on the other person.

As for his postcard? I’d like to interpret it as a life well lived.

May we all be able to cross out our to-do lists.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Dusting Off the Suitcase

Here’s a type of announcement I haven’t made in a long while: I’m traveling to Hong Kong today! (Thank you, as usual, to Art Basel and Art Central for the VIP program invitations.)

It’ll be my first time traveling since before the pandemic (my last trip was over four years ago, to Buenos Aires and the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile, which I wrote about in the early 2020 blog post “Alegría”), making this the longest I’ve gone my entire life without traveling (yes, including when I was little—my About page has always included “globe-trotting polyglot” among my many distinctions, after all).

And it’ll be my first time back in the Fragrant Harbour in five years, since March 2019:

A collage of some of Jenny Lam's iPhone 5s photos from the last time she visited Hong Kong in 2019
Some of my iPhone 5s* photos from that trip.
*(Except for that narrow selfie my cousin took on his phone.)

(In the above collage: the top left photo is from my blog post “‘Life’s too short for sad art’ // A preview of HKwalls 2019”; the top right is from my honed-from-years-of-experience guide “How to make the most of Hong Kong’s Art Gallery Night // or, Art Basel Hasn’t Even Started Yet and My Legs Are Already Tired”; the second row left is of self-taught artist Fung Ming Chip and his partner Yim Tom, both of whom I’d met the previous year and whose studio visit was a highlight; the entire third row is from Take Your Cousin to Work Day the morning my maternal cousin Philip Ng, a martial artist and actor, brought me to TVB; and the middle photo in the fourth row is of my late paternal grandma on the evening I finally got to visit her home in the Pak Tin public housing estate.)

Long-time followers of this blog will remember that I took solo trips to Hong Kong every year from 2012-2019 (and in 2017 my mom tagged along to record her Cantonese opera album!).

This will also be my first time back after my paternal grandmother’s passing from pancreatic cancer (I wrote about her and my maternal grandmother, who raised me and is ten years older than the former and still with us but has dementia, in my November 2020 blog post “A Tale of Two Grandmothers // On Memory”); it’s going to be strange being there and not being able to ramble around country parks with her like I used to, or try to figure out how to rearrange the contents of my hotel’s mini fridge in order to fit all the apples she always greeted me at the airport with, or sit next to her at the banquet-style family dinner we’d have with everyone and get food for her first before getting mine, internally reveling in being able to step into my role as the mature, eldest cousin on my dad’s side (a role I don’t often get to play since I’m one of the youngest cousins on my mom’s side). But also, I’m a different person than I was in 2012 when I was a whippersnapper and had no idea what I was doing (not that I think I know what I’m doing now), and it was like my Hong Kong uncles and grandma were making sure this kid traveling on her own was looked after.

A screenshot of Jenny Lam's 2012 Facebook status at the end of her first full day alone in Hong Kong, which reads: "I love how every single one of my Hong Kong-living uncles and my grandma each called me within the past half hour asking me 1. if I've eaten yet; 2. if I'd like to make plans to have dinner with them this week; and 3. if there's any food I want them to buy for me. Separate calls, same subject. Cantonese. Our lives revolve around food."
My Facebook status at the end of my first full day alone in Hong Kong, 2012.

It’s the kind of change that comes with growing up, isn’t it?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to it, especially since so many new things have popped up in Hong Kong over the years I’ve been away. And since I’ll also be visiting Shenzhen for the first time in a decade!

While I’m overseas, you can: follow along on my socials; view my artwork currently on display in the exhibition Click at The Art Center Highland Park; reserve a copy of LAMINATOR Vol. 1, my brand new zine featuring 68 artists, poets, and writers from around the world (also available in the gift shop of the aforementioned art center while supplies last) (I mailed all pre-orders last week and it’s been so exciting to see folks receive and post about their zines these past couple days!); and collect art from a few of the artists in said publication.

Lastly, some miscellany:

A screenshot of a March 2024 status on Threads by Jenny Lam that reads, "At Walmart with my mom and a sweet old lady approached us and thanked us both for wearing masks. 🥹 (She was masked too.)"
On Threads and Mastodon.

See you on April 2, Chicago!

Saturday, March 2, 2024

In Focus

Me last night with my piece, Petal, which I’d shot on my iPhone 5s in 2014, at the opening reception of the photography exhibition Click at The Art Center Highland Park:

Self-taught artist and photographer Jenny Lam in front of her framed photograph of the staircase inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, shot in 2014 on her iPhone 5s, at the opening reception for the photography exhibition Click at The Art Center Highland Park in 2024. She is wearing a black coat and a black facemask.

Love that they hung my photo in this alcove right by the wine:

"Petal" by Jenny Lam, a photograph of the staircase inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago shot on iPhone 5s in 2014, framed and hanging in the photography exhibition "Click" at The Art Center Highland Park in 2024

If you missed the event, the show runs through April 6. And if you’re lucky, you can also pick up a copy of my brand new zine in the Gift Shop! I dropped off five books and immediately it was down to four—thanks to artist Diane Ponder who bought one! Congratulations on being the first in-person customer of LAMINATOR Vol. 1!

A small stack of LAMINATOR Vol. 1 zines, created, edited, and designed by Artists on the Lam founder Jenny Lam and featuring 68 artists, poets, and writers from all over Chicago, the country, and the world

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

This Isn’t a Proper Unboxing Video Because Then You’d Have to Watch Me Take Off Gloves and Wash My Hands

Ahhhhh look what arrived today! My first ever zine! It’s a beauty. Artists on the Lam presents: LAMINATOR Vol. 1, featuring artwork, poetry, and prose by 68 artists, poets, and writers from all over Chicago, the country, and the world. 108 pages, 5.8 x 8.3 inches, full color pages on satin paper, gloss covers with gloss lamination, perfect bound. Thank you to Mixam for printing these! And thank you again, of course, to all the incredibly talented contributors!

Within the next week or so I’ll be mailing zines to everyone who pre-ordered it (and I’ll send email notifications when I do). If you haven’t ordered yet, head on over to this page!

I’ll also drop off five copies at The Art Center Highland Park’s gift shop this Friday during the opening reception of the exhibition I’m in; it’ll cost more there, but since there’s no shipping, the total comes out to about the same.

Can’t wait for you to see the inaugural issue of LAMINATOR!

Friday, February 16, 2024

Click into Place

My 2014 photo Petalshot on my iPhone 5s—has been selected to be exhibited in Click at The Art Center Highland Park! I remember taking an oil painting class at TAC the summer I was 19 and it was a lovely experience, and I’m overjoyed to show my art there. Thank you to guest jurors Paula Chamlee and Rose Blouin and curator Caren Helene Rudman for choosing my work.

The Art Center Highland Park. Photo via TAC's Facebook page, 2024
The Art Center Highland Park. Photo via TAC.

March 1 – April 6, 2024
Opening Reception: Friday, March 1, 5:30-8pm

The Art Center Highland Park
1957 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, IL 60035

"Petal," a photograph of the staircase inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, by Jenny Lam, shot on iPhone 5s in 2014
Petal, 2014.

A few days ago I was a guest speaker at University of Illinois Chicago again! Thank you again to Carrie McGath for having me in your English classes.

A painting called "Can't Shake It" by Chicago painter Laura Catherwood for Artists on the Lam's inaugural zine, LAMINATOR Vol. 1, created by Jenny Lam
A zine sneak peek: Can't Shake It by Chicago painter Laura Catherwood.

And zine progress updates:

For contributing artists, poets, and writers, and for everyone who placed a pre-order: Thank you so much for your patience with the production of Artists on the Lam’s new zine, LAMINATOR Vol. 1! The publication is currently in the process of being professionally printed, and it’s estimated that this first batch will be delivered to us in bulk by March 1. Soon after we receive the bulk shipment, we’ll mail your zine (or zines for those of you who pre-ordered multiple) to you, and will send you an email notification as soon as we do.

"Água Viva (English translation: Living Waters) 1" by Pedro Patti, a 25-year-old Brazilian photographer, for Artists on the Lam's inaugural zine, LAMINATOR Vol. 1, created by Jenny Lam
Another sneak peek of the artwork: Ãgua Viva (Translation: Living
Waters) 1 
by Pedro Patti, a 25-year-old Brazilian photographer.

For everyone else: No worries if you didn’t pre-order a copy/copies but would still like to, or later decide you’d like to in the future; I’ll have extra copies just in case!

An oil painting called "Succession Finale" by Evanston painter Kathy Halper for Artists on the Lam's inaugural zine, LAMINATOR Vol. 1, created by Jenny Lam
Zine art: An oil painting called Succession Finale by Evanston painter Kathy Halper.

Zine contributor Kathy Halper’s [relatable for many—maybe even most—artists, myself included] statement:

“A funny thing happened in 2020. I realized I was enjoying the shut-down. Like a lot. It was the life of which I had always dreamt. Suddenly the world was aligned with my anti-social instincts.

I became hyper-focused on my routines and relationships. With affection and tongue-in-cheek awareness of the tedium of life, I began oil paintings focused on the rut of 30 years of marriage, dogs in my personal space and staring at screens. My goal: to preserve and observe life while I live it.

Warped perspectives emerged as a way to create tension in benign stories, as well as insert my own ever-present anxiety where there would appear to be none.

I am inspired by artists such as Marisol and Faith Ringgold, who used folk art to simplify and subvert expectations, and Grayson Perry for his irreverent humor. I also love the painterly interiors of Bonnard and Munch. What has emerged is a personal and clear eyed, if skewed, diary of my life.”

Kathy also currently has a solo exhibition at Evanston Art Center called JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out, where you can see this piece (and others) in person. The show will be on view for a couple more days, until February 18. Congratulations, Kathy!

An oil painting called "Ecstasy, Passion, & Pain" by Patrick Earl Hammie for Artists on the Lam's inaugural zine, LAMINATOR Vol. 1, created by Jenny Lam
Happy Black History Month! One more zine sneak peek:
An oil painting called Ecstasy, Passion & Pain by Patrick Earl Hammie.

Lastly, some fun stuff to kick off 2024:

  • Here’s an outfit I wanted to show off. (Thanks Chicago Fashion Coalition for inviting me to Soundpost: Perception at Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Symphony Center!)
  • Do you ever get an idea for a doodle where you’re like, “This is so silly. …I have to do it”? My Eminem x Midwestern Ope mashup sketch is an example of that.

Happy and healthy Year of the Dragon!

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