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.

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