Boston 2017: Part 2

We began our second day of our trip adventuring in Rhode Island. After a good night’s sleep after the delightful dinner party, we awoke to the sounds of nature, bird calls and wind rustling through the trees. As a group, we decided to start the day with a visit to an annual local photography exhibition and then a hike through the woods. We’d have lunch at a nearby winery and then make our way back to Boston.

The local photography exhibition was held in the second floor of a public building in a local town. There were about 30 photographs; many focused on the theme of nature. Some of them were pretty good; one depicted stones and leaves, imprinted on a beach. One of the winning photos depicted a photograph to which one of our hosts noted that it was a little stereotypical given that we were in New England.

Our next stop was hiking in a nearby forest. The first part of the hike was perfect. The sun filtered through the explosion of green leaves; nearby ponds were bursting with life. Wooden planks shielded us from the wet path. We came to a large pond or lake with little nesting houses for local sea birds. It was nature at her best.


With the goodwill inspired by the first hike, we ventured off path into the grass to check out another part of the lake. Quickly the terrain became muddy and trickier to navigate. We did see some lovely birds and one or two snakes. But after about 10 minutes, we decided to turn back since the path became even thicker with mud. And then that’s when we noticed the ticks. Our friend had mentioned that it had been a boon year for them so we weren’t completely unaware of it. But it soon became a tickpocalypse. For the first time ever, I found two ticks on my pants, which we quickly dispensed of. Others in the part found a multitude more including a record of five off of my husband. Apparently, there are three independent factors for a healthy crop of ticks. First is a wet spring; the second, an explosion in population of mice (possibly dormice); and third, an increase in deer. Sadly, all three happened at once so it was tickapolooza.

We then decided to head off to the winery. We had been told by several people that the wine wasn’t the best but they had tasty food. But we soldiered on, keen to try it. I’d been to very few wineries so it seemed like a fun thing to do. When we got there, we were told that there was a wait for food. Half our party decided to go elsewhere. We decided to do a wine tasting while we waited. When we paid for our wine tasting, the cashier pointed out that my husband had a tick on his back. However, he was too busy killing a tick on the cuff of his shirt. He proceeded to find two more additional ticks during our time at the winery and a fifth when we got home and did a tick check.

The wine… it wasn’t the best, unfortunately. Each wine did have a neat associated graphic design that I appreciated. We did have a nice time chatting and enjoying the convivial atmosphere. We finally were seated and the food was rather tasty. I had some flatbread that included fig jam. Everything tastes better with fig jam.
We briefly stopped off at our host’s house to pack up and throw our hiking clothes in the dryer to get rid of any residual ticks. Then it was off back to Cambridge to return the car and then to Boston to meet our friends. We had dinner at an old fashioned Italian restaurant Marliave that was great. They had a wondrous selection of cocktails; I only wish we had time to linger there. We had an appointment for a ghost tour.

As any reader of this blog knows, we always try to go on a ghost tour no matter where we visit. This was no exception. We ran to the graveyard where the tour began and caught it just before it head off to its first stop. It was a delightful tour, focusing largely on the Boston Green. We heard tales of residual ghosts in a graveyard, a man whose burned remains were found in a toilet at an institution of learning, an accused witch hung from a tree. My favorite story was about a highwayman who decided to write the story of his life and give the book, bound in HIS OWN FLESH, to the man who caught him. It currently resides in the Boston Athenaeum. Next time we are in Boston we have to go this library (not just because of this but because the library is supposed to be lovely). We ended in the Omni Parker House that had a variety of stories of angry ghosts making life for visitors unpleasant. The best was a story of a mirror owned by Charles Dickens on the second floor. Naturally, when the tour dispersed, we made our way there to check it out. It was pretty neat.

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We ended the night at a gastropub with a healthy beer selection with our friends.

That’s all for now!

Conversation with Jim Bachor

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to Jim Bachor, a mosaic artist via phone. His work includes setting mosaics into potholes around Chicago and the rest of the world.

ES: How would you describe the work you do?

JB: I’m really thinking about how to leave your mark. It’s almost impossible. You might with kids or the pyramids. [When I] discovered mosaics on a trip in the 1990s in Europe, I was blown away. This is an artform that lasts so long. What a fascinating concept. You could lock concepts and thoughts all your own in this medium and it will look the same and exist 2000 years later. The durability is big. The pieces are heavy too, not [something] that could be thrown around or thrown in the trash. There is literally a weight to them. Big hunk of durability.  I noticed that art form tends to repeat itself; to me a lot of it looks the same. What I bring to the party is taking the ancient art form and doing contemporary subject matter.

ES: Do you consider yourself a street artist?

JB: I guess I am. Partly, not completely. A portion of what I do is street art but not all. It’s one of my hats. I consider myself an artist. [When you emailed me,] I thought that I’m not hip or young. I smiled to be considered a street artist.

ES: In terms of your subject matter, you juxtapose the timelessness of the mosaics with ephemera like snack bags. How did you decide on that theme?

JB: They are snapshots of today. Still lifes. Like fresh packaged meats. The meat is not going to look the same in a few days. It’s capturing a moment in time in this wrapped meat from the grocery store.  In addition, in 100 years, it’ll show folks how we used to package meat in this way.

ES: Could you talk about your series“Fanciest Pothole” and one of its pieces, “Burberry”?

JB: I spent 25 years in advertising as a designer. From that, [there’s a lot of] the branding experience. I like to juxtapose things: everyone hates potholes, so I had the ice cream series and a flowers series. In a similar vein, potholes are nasty, low class. I juxtaposed it with high end brands with identifiable patterns like Gucci, Burberry, Louis Vuitton. It’s the last place you expect overpriced brands to appear. [It’s] a window to my dry wit.

ES: Could you talk about your pothole series that contain words or numbers?

JB: The campaign started off with a branded identity. A classic Chicago Pothole was featured. [The word] “Pothole” in black and white with the Chicago flag graphic. It was proud Chicago in your face. The next series was Serial numbers because the city catalogues the potholes in the city; each pothole has its own serial number. Another series had the phone numbers of nearby car repair shops near the pothole.

“This is Not a Pothole” was a one off. It was an idea I had; it was funny. The location was choice [downtown right off Michigan avenue]. It’s one of the most popular installations by far.

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Photo: Elisa Shoenberger

ES: I noticed humor as a part of your work. Why?

JB: Every so often, I do try to impart a humorous view on what is going on. But I try to make it not beat you upside the head, something more subtle and unexpected. For the cereal box series, I did research on ridiculous brands that existed and incorporated them into ancient still lifes, food stuffs rendered into background of frescoes. It’s a little bit of my humor and fascination with ancient history. It’s capturing a little bit of my personality in mortar that might impart to someone down the road when you are gone. After the people who knew you die off, your legacy is pretty negligible. [These potholes are] a way of instilling a few more clues of what made me.

ES: Has the process changed since you started in 2013?

JB: It’s more efficient, but there is only so much you can speed it up. [You are at the] mercy of weather and concrete. I learned a lot early on: if it is colder out, it takes longer for the concrete to set. There’s a higher chance that a car will roll over it. Safety has gotten better; I have traffic cones and a vest.

The art shouldn’t fail. If it does, it’s because the asphalt around the art starts to break. If the asphalt is stable, it will last indefinitely.

The biggest hassle is finding the correct potholes. Ideal road potholes are those on a stable street, not in the center of traffic, places where people can see them. I try to expand the area that has pieces of artwork but it takes longer if it is further away from where I am. It takes more time to get there, look around [for an ideal spot]. I”m a one man show —time is always an issue.

ES: Could you talk about your commision “thrive” at the Thorndale Red Line station?

JB: It’s a balance between doing something consistent with what I do and giving the client, the CTA, something they be proud of. I gathered a lot of information about the area; the CTA gave me notes from community meetings about what people wanted to see in the art work. I did a little bit of research; that area used to be covered in swales of sand and wild rice used to grow in it. I used that impetus for these plant like veins growing from blue bands that represent Lake Michigan. Those vines grow into “iconic fruit” that represent what is going on in the neighborhood like restaurants, music, schools, pink hotels, architecture, etc.  You see something different each time when you look at it. You notice the little baseballs that are hidden like berries. There is stuff to be discovered.

ES: What do you want people to get from your potholes?

JB: An unexpected grin. [I want to] impart some of my personality. A little PR. I want them to track down and find out who is doing it. You see there are pieces all over the places.  If you like the potholes, you’ll like my other work.

ES: Is there anything you want to talk about that we didn’t talk about above?

JB:  I love doing potholes, it’s simple and goes quickly. It used to be a small percentage of what I do. The rest was fine art. Now it is swapped – 90% of my time.  The potholes are nice; it gets attention drawn to my fine art. I just don’t have a lot to sell right now. I haven’t had the time to do new stuff. To do more commissioned stuff, it takes time. I’m a stay at home day with two ten year old boys. I have a short work day – 6 hours to get what I need to get done before I need to worry about dinner.

He explained that there are some exciting prospects in the rest of 2017. So stay tuned!

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Photo: Jim Bachor

 

Interview with Megzany

I had the wonderful chance to talk last week with Megzany, a street artist based in LA. She was in Chicago last summer and made some incredible pieces in West Town and Pilsen. I even found some of her work on my recent trip to London! It was a pleasure talking with her via phone about her work.

ES: How did you decide to start doing street art?

M: I’ve always had an affinity to street art but I never thought I would take my art to the streets. It is an accomplishment to consider myself a street artist. I started in February 2016. I went to a gallery show, met a street artist and basically he said, “You want to be a street artist. You have an artistic hand. What are you waiting for? Just do it.” Two different artists told me that I was crazy for not pursuing my dreams– I thank them very much for the encouragement.

ES: How would you describe your work?

M: I consider my work as light-hearted and super inspirational. Most of my pieces have messages driven from places I’ve been and things I’ve felt. Something inside me makes me put these messages out there in the streets– I figure [that] people are going through the same things and need to see them.

The piece “Courage has no gender” came from when I worked in the corporate world. I felt that I had gone through a lot of dead ends or doors closing in my face. I was in the corporate space and not male. I wrote one day, “Courage has no gender” to myself. I am courageous. I shouldn’t feel that I couldn’t achieve something because of my gender.

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West Town, Chicago

ES: Do you have an artistic philosophy?

M: I stand for equality, it is so important. I want everyone to have the same jumping off point.

ES: Could you tell me the genesis of the mermaid in a vending machine?

M: The vending machine series started with a girl in the machine. The girl is me. I think that women should be able to express their sexuality without feeling like they are just there to be ogled at.  

The mermaid resonates with many women. Imagining the world is yours; you can do anything. I merged the two of those – the mermaid (basically as the everywoman) [with the vending machine]. The world is not her stage to be purchased; the world is hers to take.

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West Town, Chicago

ES: Could you talk about the drone and swinging girl?

M: A lot of my work is based around flight– I have a crazy obsession with it. When I saw that drone, it made so much sense. That’s our future; whether it [is] a day care of the future with the camera and watching your kid have fun. Maybe that’s excessive but why not take it to the extreme. Whatever technology brings us will be fun.

ES: Do you let the space drive the piece or the other way around?

M: It’s circumstantial. It’s a segmented question. When I have art that I’m going to do renegade, I search for walls in areas that I feel people would get the most enjoyment out of that piece. It’s the art first then the wall– that’s how I do renegade pieces.

Commission walls [are when] someone says, here’s a wall, and we want art on it. I let my imagination run wild, pairing images with words. Sometimes if I seek inspiration I pull from a book I wrote a few years ago while I was going through a hard time. It’s place I compiled everything I’ve learned, all my values in a 12,000-word book —my own personal handguide— for my reference. Basically, it’s the wall first then the art (unless someone wants a specific piece of mine then that’s obviously different).

ES:  I see a lot of photos on your feed of people reacting to your work. Could you talk about that feeling of people interpreting and responding to your work?

M: It’s really a blast. It’s something that takes me by surprise when I come across a photo of someone interacting with my work. It’s incredible. I put art up [in the hopes] of people finding and enjoying it but never expect that people will interact with it. When it does happen, it’s a pleasant surprise.

My favorite moment is when this little girl put up a dollar to the vending machine. It cracks me up, definitely symbolic of a girl tapping into her imagination. The art has come full circle.

ES: Could you talk about doing a piece on the streets versus a commission piece?

M: I’m an adrenaline junkie. There’s such an up and down, high and low, on street pieces because it’s such a gamble whether it will be there in an hour, two days, three days, etc. Some pieces have been riding for months or still do.

The streets are perfect for testing your art. I don’t normally test beforehand and I like to continue evolving any single piece.

Commission walls are a major difference. I enjoy them. They are a lot closer to my heart. I want them to live and breathe. There’s an expectation that it will last longer so I spend more time perfecting things. I go through an emotional state when I’m done. My friend put it in a very interesting way, “When I put that piece up, it’s no longer mine.” I’m learning to cope with that. I’m closer to those pieces that are commissioned. I’m giving a gift to some.

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West End, London

E: Anything you want people to know that I haven’t covered in other questions?

M: I’m here to stay in the streets. I love interacting with people– I hope people come and say “hi” if they ever see me out and about.

The Antelope Magazine!

Mid-week blog post!
Over the past year, Meghan McGrath and I have been working on launching  a new literary magazine called the Antelope Magazine: A Journal of Oral Histories and Mayhem. It’s based on  Suzanne Briet’s “What is Documentation?” (1951) where she expands the notion of what a document can be. She uses an antelope as an example: it can be photographed, drawn, recorded and taxidermied when it dies. The antelope is a document.
The Antelope Magazine is attempting to provide a diversity of mediums in honor of this idea. The magazine’s inaugural theme is Flight. We have oral histories with beekeepers, pilots, drone enthusiasts, interviews with ecologists, photographs of aerialists and hot air balloons, cartoons about evil birds, and much more.
This is a labor of love of Meghan and me. We are doing this to spread great new work out there. We are committed to paying our contributors for their incredible work. We have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for the printing costs and compensation. If you are interested and able, I am asking if you would be willing to support this new endeavor. Or if you can spread the word with your networks. Or both!
Thanks for everything! We can’t wait to share the Antelope Magazine with you all.

Presenting: Three Artists; Three Projects; One Chicago

 

It’s been a busy few weeks. I haven’t been posting quite as regularly due to some projects that I’ve been working on. I was accepted into Vocalo’s Six Week Storytelling Workshop in January and have spent the last 7 weeks producing an 8 minute piece.  The class was sponsored by Chicago Community Trust and the theme of the class was philanthropy but it was about giving back to the community.It’s based on interviews from the oral history project that I’ve talked about previously. I focused on three women, Nora Moore Lloyd, Carron Little, and Meida Teresa McNeal, who are all artists in Chicago who work with community in different ways. I conducted a second interview with them all to get the right tape (and right quality of tape).

I learned a great deal about getting good tape, voicing, editing a piece, and so much more. I’m very fortunate to have been part of this workshop.

So now, I am sharing with you all my piece: https://soundcloud.com/vocalo/three-artists-three-projects-one-chicago-by-elisa-shoenberger

I hope you all enjoy!