So what’s with those heads in Millennium Park?
Living in Chicago, we are lucky to be surrounded by great public artworks. They are perfect for selfies, making memories, and even sneaking a touch. But have you ever wondered what those objects are titled? Have you looked up who the artist is or why the objects are there? I began to ask myself these questions so I did some research on two works specifically- those fountains and giants heads in Millennium Park.
It turns out that the four face sculptures and the two fountains in Millennium Park are all artworks done by the same artist. His name is Jaume Plensa and he hails from Spain. Installed ten years apart, both works are inspired by poetry, music, and dreams. Engagement with the pieces play a large role as the artist wants you to reflect emotionally while interacting with each sculptures’ structure.
The two large glass fountains are titled Crown Fountain and arrived in Millennium Park in July of 2004. The fountain is made of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet tall and use LEDs to display digital videos on their inward faces. Crown Fountain caused some controversy when it arrived. Some felt the sculpture’s height battled the overall aesthetic tradition of the park. This was smoothed over and the artworks were then installed. After construction, surveillance cameras were installed on the top of each glass structure. These were quickly removed after public outcry demanded they come down.
The videos of faces that appear on the fountains rotate over the hundreds of people from Chicago Plensa documented for the project. Faheem Majeed, a locate artist, found his face on the sculpture recently, almost 12 years after he sat for the documentation.
Near to the fountain sit four heads- three brown in color, the last is white. The larger white sculpture of an elongated face is titled Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda. Awilda is 39 feet tall and made of marble and resin. It arrived from Spain in 15 separate pieces which were then bolted together. “She is real,” Plensa has said. “She was a young girl when I made this, maybe 9. She is from the Dominican Republic. She came to Spain with her mother and now is officially Spanish. She is one of the women I have collected.” The eyes are closed “because we keep beauty inside ourselves, and one day we all need to look inside.”
While doing this research I also found a terse conversation had between the artist and a visitor. It read:
“Are you the artist?” she asked Plensa.
“I am,” he said, “and I did the Crown Fountain too.”
“You did!” she declared.
“I did,” he said.
“Such lovely work,” she said.
“Chicago,” Plensa whispered once the woman left. “Chicago, it has been very nice to me.”
I’m grilling, well, myself this week! I am a framer at the Morgan street location. New to the team, I have a background in fine art framing, photography, and design. Below are the answer to questions I sent to other framers in our group as well as an “artist’s statement” generated online and edited to be suitable for framing.
How long have you been a framer?
I worked at a frame shop in Philadelphia for four years. I joined The Frame Shop last month.
What is your favorite aspect of being a framer?
I love seeing the artwork or sentimental works that clients bring into the shop. They always have a story, tell me of an organization I’m not familiar with, or tell me about the special person they are gifting to. I learn a lot about people from what they hold dear.
How long have you lived in Chicago?
I have lived here for 3 ½ years.
Who is your favorite artist?
There are too many to choose from but some key favorites of mine are Nan Goldin, Louise Bourgeois, Walker Evans. I’m a photographer so the first and last are people I really look to for inspiration and perseverance. Bourgeois had the strongest will I’ve ever encountered in the arts. Here work makes me laugh, feel at home, and be proud to be a woman all at the same time.
What is your favorite thing to frame?
I love framing old family photographs. I love seeing fashion and hairstyles through the ages.
Where is your favorite place in the world to be?
At the kitchen table with my parents and friends. Sometimes we try our hardest to make each other laugh. Other times my parents tell stories of old New York and life at the time.
If you weren’t framing, what would you be doing?
Teaching. I’m also an adjunct Professor of Art.
Which do you prefer- Cats or Dogs?
Dogs. I’m very allergic to cats. These two below are two of my favorites.
Wine or Beer?
Depends on the time of year. When it gets cold, red wine is my go to. In the summer, I prefer beer.
Cubs or White Sox?
Neither Philadelphia Phillies all the way.
Colleen Keihm (°1985, Levittown) is an artist who works in framing. By investigating language Keihm works with clarity of content and an uncompromising attitude towards conceptual and minimal framing. The results are aloof and systematic and a cool and neutral framing is used.
Her framing styles is an investigation of concepts such as authenticity and objectivity by using an encyclopaedic approach and quasi-scientific precision and by referencing documentaries, ‘fact-fiction’ and popular scientific equivalents. She makes work that deals with the documentation of events and the question of how they can be presented. The framing tries to express this with the help of physics and technology, but not by telling a story or creating a metaphor.
Her practice provides a useful set of allegorical tools for maneuvering with a pseudo-minimalist approach in the world of framing: these meticulously planned works resound and resonate with images culled from the fantastical realm of imagination. With Plato’s allegory of the cave in mind, she considers framing a craft which is executed using clear formal rules and which should always refer to social reality.
Did you know? James Abbott McNeill Whistler was a framer
Famously known for the painting of his mother, James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American expatriate painting and living in London in the late 19 th century. He was working within an environment where Islamic and Moorish designs were becoming prevalent and the Industrial Revolution was making many long for a return to nature. As a result, Whistler began to make frames with a harmony of design and a balance of natural ornament.
He was attracted to the way color emerged from gold leaf when placed directly onto wood. Skipping the layer of gesso commonly applied first, this direct application allowed for greens and reds of the frame’s structure to pass through the luminescent gilded layer.
Typically, a frame serves a practical function as well as an artistic one. It highlights the image it surrounds but also separates it from the wall it hangs upon. It is commonly meant to visually fall away. For Whistler, however, this was not the case. Working with the artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti, he designed frames that became an integral part of the artwork.
He used clean, undecorated lines that referenced both the history of the Pre-Raphaelites and Moorish design. Reeded carving revealed the subtle grain texture inherent to the wood. The build up and layering of gold manipulated the frame’s coloring. Works framed with Whistler designs found harmony with the frames that surrounded them.
- James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, Oil on canvas, 1871. 144.3×162.5cm.. In the collection of the Musee d’Orsay, Paris.
- James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, 1862, oil on canvas, Harris Whittemore Collection.
- Corner detail of a reeded Whistler frame.
- James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Gray and Gold , Westminster Bridge , c. 1871-1874
- James McNeill Whistler, Painting by the sea
Cole Glassner, co-owner of the Frame Shop with father Donald Glassner, takes the spotlight this week. Believing that every great artist needs an equally great support system behind them, Cole can often be found at the Frame Shop on Morgan Street in Bridgeport or delivering artwork to clients. With an eye for design and business intuition, he has been aiding local artists in advancing their careers through presentation for years. We asked Cole a few questions for our blog to help visitors get to know him a little better.
How did you enter the art selling/frame selling business?
I have been in the business my entire life. Not entirely of my choice because of my parents but after working on Wall St for a couple years after school, I decided I really liked it and wanted to come back.
Who is your favorite visual artist?
Mark Rothko because of the complexity in such simple pieces.
Favorite sports player?
My least favorite is Tom Brady
An Irish Whiskey by the name of Green Spot.
Favorite TV show?
Currently a show called “you’re the worst”
I don’t think I have one. Maybe Vin Desiel, I love the Fast and the Furious movies
What other Chicago business(es) do you admire?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
The general manager of the Cubs.
What is your fondest Chicago memory?
There are far too many to recount but I have many great nights that started out at Wrigley field.
What is one thing you would tell 16 year old you?
Don’t be afraid to wear a button down shirt occasionally
What is your favorite story to tell about Don?
My favorite story to tell is when I learned that my father loved me. I was about 10 years old. It was a Saturday morning and the Chicago Bulls were playing the New York Knicks in the playoffs that afternoon. My father had a friend who worked for the team, so he called him up to see if we could get some tickets. We show up to the arena and pick up our tickets at will call. It turns out they are fifth row off the court. Scalpers were offering three to four thousand dollars per ticket. We ended up keeping the tickets and watched Michael Jordan scored 50 pts.
Cubs, Blackhawks, or Bulls?
I support all Chicago teams. 🙂