Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I've been to the Lincoln Park Zoo researching for my Animal Behavior class a couple of times over the last few weeks, and even though I dread the packed 151 bus trips*, I really enjoy my time at the Zoo. Taking walks there has been so calming and wonderful- a nice change from being in the Loop. It's really quiet, there are babies around every corner, and true to Midwestern form, the leaves on the trees are all bright yellow and orange. Today I actually stopped and said out loud, "those are some yellow leaves." I talk to myself a lot at the zoo. I talk to the animals, too. Sometimes I'll ask them how or what they're doing, but mostly I say things like, "look at that sweet baby" or, "poor baby." Most of the animals' pens are really spacious and nice-looking, but I feel like some of them don't have quite enough room. I've seen a lot of animals pacing or swimming in the same patterns over and over again, which makes me feel really awful. The title of this post is a joke, but I really do feel guilty when going to zoos. I feel like, in general, the people that work in zoos have good intentions that are rooted in conservation and education, but there's something kind of messed up about watching animals in fake environments, with tags on their arms being yelled at by middle schoolers and other assholes. Today, I saw this teenage girl banging on the glass between her and a sleeping lion. I was watching her, shaking my head without realizing it. Then she and the boy she was with looked over at me. I walked away, hoping they weren't the kind of people to shank a bitch for giving dirty looks.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I'm gonna be a shidass and submit a colored version of this next year. I haven't seen the ones they chose this time 'round.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
This past weekend I visited the International Museum of Surgical Science. The Museum was hosting two medical illustration shows: Vesna Jovanovic’s Pareidolia, drawings and collages that struck an interesting chord between reality and make believe, and Redefining the Medical Artist: Biomedical Visualizations at UIC, straight-forward, (mostly) computer-generated, and medical diagrams. Although the work in both shows was okay, the overall presentation of the work was horrible. As a matter of fact, the quality of presentation in the entire museum was exceptionally bad. The building itself is stunning and the collection is incredible, but the place as a whole is really, pretty darn jank-jank. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always been a snob, a facet of my character that, I think, comes with being observant and ridden with jealousy. I’m always looking for slip-ups, especially in artwork and presentation of artwork, so I approached the shows and the museum as a whole with a judgmental eye, but that being said, I think casual viewers would be just as bothered by the state of the galleries an institution as I was. Small things like curled, yellowed labels, pamphlets and gum wrappers that had been dropped into display cases and not promptly removed, fallen description boards and exhibits being used as storage space (yes) are things that could easily be fixed but remain in disrepair and it’s disappointing to see that no one is doing anything about it. The galleries looked the worst out of any of the rooms in the museum. There were chair rails dividing the walls, the top portion covered with light blue polyester fabric, which was freckled with nail holes and sagged and billowed around the work. Redefining the Medical Artist looked like a middle school art presentation, its pieces mounted in black mat board frames and pinned haphazardly to the baggy fabric. A time-based collection was being shown on a TV in front of a window in the room. The window was covered in a big piece of black cloth and on the cabinet where the TV sat, the guide to the collection (we’re talking a Times-New-Roman-on-copy-paper sorta deal) was taped. It was so shidassed.* Rawrrrrg. I felt terrible for the artists in the show. The whole time I was in the gallery, my face was all screwed up in disgust. I was so distracted by the shitty presentation that I could barely focus on the work itself. Good thing I got a BEAUTIFUL black and white Xeroxed pamphlet to pour over later at home!!!
I suppose I shouldn’t place all of my blame on the Museum. After all, I’m sure the artists came up with their own sexy mat board frames and hung their own work. I think the idea of the artists misusing the opportunity to show in a museum pisses me off more than the idea of a museum being too poor or too lazy to pay for a simple renovation (like, painting a wall white). The show was comprised of work by students, faculty and staff. Shouldn’t the seasoned faculty and staff have known how to install a show and present artwork in a professional-looking manner? A bit of advice I got from my Research Studio II professor, Adam Scott, keeps coming to mind as I think about these shows, “the presentation of the work is just as important as the work itself.” So true.
Even though the gallery that hosted Pareidolia was just as crappy-looking (she’d custom-framed her pieces, though, which looked better than the mat board frames) as the one that held the UIC show, Jovanovic’s work was a lot more interesting. Her marriage of fact with the absurd was much more engaging than the other (sometimes technically-mediocre) show. I appreciated her use of materials and emphasis on scale.
Honestly, I felt so much more connected with the museum than with the art shows, the building especially. According to a wall tag, “The Museum occupies a four-story mansion designed in 1910 by famous Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw for the Eleanor Countiss Robinson family. The house’s classical symmetry was derived from Le Petit Trianon on the Grounds of Versailles.” The many little rooms and strange little nooks and passages made it feel like a home. Wandering past display cases full of gall stones and artificial limbs, I couldn’t help but wonder what the people were like that used to live there. I wondered where the servants stayed and what sort of events had been held there. I wondered if children used to play where the Iron Lung is now displayed. I wondered if anyone is still alive who had visited the building when it was still a home. The whole museum is shrouded in mystery- lots of locked doors and screens blocking hallways. I went on a rainy Saturday, but it was colder inside. I felt very tense wandering through the exhibits. Seeing pictures of kids with Rickets and Polio is always a strange experience, but seeing them in such an old, dimly-lit quiet place made them even more disturbing.
-I am a nit picky snob.
-The International Museum of Science and Industry needs to be a bit more attentive to their curatorial and presentational decisions.
-Artists should take as much responsibility as possible for and care about the presentation of their work.
-I am happy to live in this medical era.
-I’m so, so glad there are people in this world that are medical practitioners, who are gifted enough to find cures, develop more efficient equipment and help their patients get better.
- You should visit this weirdo museum.
*From the Jane Phrasebook: shitass or shitassed (alternate spelling: shidass)
From the Gorman family. Created by Granny Wanda and popularized by Sammy and Anna. The noun shitass refers to a person who is lazy,
irresponsible, unprofessional, or half-assed. A derogatory but not
necessarily cruel term. A shitass can be a rude or mean person, but this is not an integral part of the meaning. A shitass often is quite benign, and moreover they are always more or less intelligent, they just don’t put forth much effort. The adjective form “shitassed” can also be used to describe a lack of motivation, or something that is poorly done. The Dude from The Big Lebowski is an example of a benign shitass; Sammy’s alter ego Dougie is a more mean-spirited shitass.
“I was feeling sort of shitassed today, so I didn’t brush my hair and just went to work in sweatpants.”
“You re-gifted that stupid Doonesbury oven mitt? Man, that is so shitassed.”
“Leo is such a shitass – he’s thirty-five and he still lives with his parents.”
I’ve taken two classes at SAIC with Rick Paul (production designer) and Pat Hart (costume designer). They met thirty years ago while in the theater program here* and they’ve been working and teaching together ever since. In their mask-making class last fall, Rick commissioned me to make a set of about sixty silk Moon Flowers for a movie he and Pat were working on called Hannah Free. Knowing Rick had added my name to the credits and that the flowers were guaranteed a little screen time, I wanted to make sure I got to see the film while it was playing in a theater. As fate would have it, while figuring out what to do last weekend, I saw that the film was playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center.* * Even though I was a little put off by the trailer (it looked really sad and really intense- not usually my thang), I walked to the theatre and bought my ticket for Monday night.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the movie. Yes, it was sad, but it was also really sweet and funny. The story wasn’t the most interesting thing in the world (think Fried Green Tomatoes meets The Notebook), but I imagine a lot had to be left out when it was converted from a play to a screenplay. I would’ve liked to have seen the play just in case it delved into some of the off-shooting story lines that were alluded to in the film. That’s the thing about movies based on other sources. Not everything can be fit into a feature-length film, especially when they’re so darn expensive to produce.
The cinematography was really beautiful and the actors were great, lots of whom are hot shots in the Chicago theater scene. Sharon Gless was absolutely sensational as Hannah. I hope to see her in a play sometime.
One of the coolest things about seeing the movie was hearing the discussion afterwards. It was so cool to see the people who’d come together to make something. They kept talking about how the film was a “labor of love” and how it was “a real Chicago-based film made by real Chicagoans.” Most of the people (about fifty percent) that worked on it were women, which was also really neat.
The people-watching opportunities were good too. There was a guy sitting in the front row that had one of the strangest bald heads I’ve ever seen. It looked as though he was wearing a very shiny loaf of bread as a hat. There was also a lady who had a similar head shape and haircut as Sloth from The Goonies. Another guy had a laugh that echoed through the theatre every time he got weak, which, in turn, got me weak. * * *
Seeing my Moon Flowers on the screen was pretty freaking cool. And even though they started bringing up the lights while the credits were still rolling, I got to see my name. Woo hoo.
* SAIC used to have a partnership with the Goodman Theatre. Check it out.
* *All you SAIC-ers should go to the GSFC. Admission is only $4.00 for students and faculty!
* * * An expression we use in the Nasty to describe someone who is laughing so hard they’ve become physically weak. An “h” can be added for emphasis.