Collin van der Sluijs “No Concessions”

Vertical Gallery in Wicker Park will be holding an exciting solo exhibition on June 2nd through the 23rd. The featured artist is renowned painter and illustrator, Collin van der Sluijs of The Netherlands. Van der Sluijs’ work is a unique combination of realistic surrealism full of beautifully subtle symbolism that makes one feel as though they are in a pleasantly uncomfortable dream. His mysterious symbolic content can give way to objective interpretation through anyone’s eyes. According to Vertical Gallery, Collin “translates his personal pleasures and struggles in daily life into his own visual language. He is widely recognized for his extraordinary dream-like depictions of everyday stories that question our personal lives, as well as society at large.”

In a world full of bold and graphic imagery it is so refreshing to experience work such as Van der Sluijs’ that is both visually light and airy yet still maturely balanced with heavy content that isn’t so obvious. His mixed-medium approach in his work is truly a treasure to investigate. Each piece has rigid lines next to drips and sprays that becomes a collage of many fluid elements. The subject matter can range from frightening distorted demonic faces to pleasant birds in flight (though typically in a state of distress).

Collin’s work has been published and shown worldwide. In 2016 Vertical Gallery held Van der Sluijs’ first USA solo exhibition and as you might imagine it sold-out. This second solo-show at Vertical Gallery is certainly one that should not be missed. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, June 2nd, 6:00 – 10:00 pm. Vertical Gallery is located at 1016 N Western Ave., Chicago, Illinois.

If you happen to buy a print from Vertical Gallery bring it to The Frame Shop (2214 W North Ave) and receive an exclusive 30% off custom framing. Hope to see you there!

Wanderlust and Dreamland, Tripping Through La Habana

Few artists are as charismatic, friendly and cutting edge as Preston Thomas. He’s certainly a man of many talents. So many in fact, that his October is completely booked. This weekend features his photographic series Through My Lens, A Black Girl’s Magic at the Beverly Art Walk, next week he will be giving a lecture at the DuSable Museum entitled Dance Encounters Architecture for the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the week after that, The Frame Shop in Bridgeport is proud to host Wanderlust and Dreamland, Tripping Through La Habana, a series of photographs shot by Preston during his past travels to Cuba. Even though he’s running on only a few hours of sleep, we were able to catch up with him for a few minutes to talk about photography, his career and his thoughts on what he calls a “complicated” relationship with Cuba.

Where did you grow up? When did you first pick up a camera and start shooting?

Preston: Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood. My older sister briefly dated a guy who was a photographer of sorts, and for some reason he gave her one of his cameras – a Minolta XG. She had no interest in photography and ultimately, no interest in him. She kept the camera and finally gave it to me. I think I was in my early 20s.

I remember going to the library and taking out a couple of books, one on general photography and the other about Ansel Adams. I began playing around with long exposures almost immediately. One day I was out making photographs of the “L” train. A woman ran past me and knocked the camera tripod to the ground. The damage was pretty extensive and getting repaired just wasn’t worth it. I think I was traumatized… I didn’t buy another camera for about 3 or 4 years.

Why photography and not another form of art? What draws you to this medium?

Preston: I’m also a musician and something of a burgeoning writer. I’m driven to create. I simply have to do it, sometimes there’s nothing else. Today we’re talking about what I do with my cameras, but I could easily discuss my music and my instruments of choice.

How much of your personal life and self is represented in your work?

Preston: Well, I believe that your personal life colors your perspective, it doesn’t matter how objective you think you are. And perspective is everything. I’m all up in my work… I make the decision about what to capture and when and how. All of my lenses are manual, most from the 70s and 80s, so I’m controlling everything about the shot, as I believe any camera only plays second fiddle to the lens.

At present, I shoot Pentax with K Series glass (film and digital), and a Leica M9 with Zeiss glass. I share this because the camera I grab when I leave the house has everything to do with the mood I’m in. My Pentax is like sketching with charcoal, and the Leica is paintbrushes… that’s the best way I can describe it.

Why Cuba? How did you end up there?

Preston: I lost my Mother in 2014, it was painful… still is. A friend of mine who’d lost his wife the previous year suggested we get out of town. Way out of town, like to Cuba. It had been a favorite escape of his since he lived in Poland. I agreed and a month later I was standing in the Atlantic under a night sky crammed with stars just off the shore in Varadero, Cuba. It was already unreal. After a few days there, we hired a driver and rode into Havana in the back of a ’56 Belair convertible. The unreal became surreal.

What are your thoughts on the current situation and resurfacing of old tension between the US and Cuba? How does your personal contact with the region change or inform your perspective?

Preston: Ok, so this is a real essay question. I sum it up on my website with “it’s complicated”. The role the US played back in the 50s by introducing Institutional Racism and Classism is still fresh in the minds of older Cubanos. They remember when Castro was a hero of the revolution and then watched their beloved country morph into a military dictatorship. Unlike China, Cuba is a poor Communist society. China benefited from the export of cheap Human labor, Cuba never had that. The Trade Embargo – being unable to do business with the US – would deal a decisive blow to any country’s economy. For Cuba, it was devastating.

Between the two trips, I’ve spent about a month there. I’ve made friends and had meaty conversations with many others. Almost every person I met thought I was Cubano, when they discovered I was Americano, they wanted to talk about everything under the sun. I’ve was welcomed into their homes to break bread, share a bottle of Rum or experience killer Mojitos.

I spent a few hours with a gentleman whose body shop restores many of the classic vehicles in Havana. He pointed out that if he were in the states, he could order parts and get them in about a week. In Cuba, however, it could take over a month and he would easily pay for the part three or four times. So he’s figured out how to make those parts himself. He’s hired artists, sculptors specifically, to use their skills to hammer out some of the parts from sheet metal. Something from nothing.

What or who inspires you most?

Preston: Photographically? Gordon Parks, Avedon, Basquiat (his approach to his art), old school hardcore photojournalists and the film Through a Lens, Darkly which forced me to shoot less and with greater intent. Anyone or anyplace can become my muse. Something speaks to me and I suddenly see whatever is before me in a grid. I see the photograph.

Where else would you like to shoot? Or who else would you like to shoot?

Preston: Everywhere. Everyone.
For more on Preston Thomas and to see his work, please visit: https://prestonthomas.net/

Wanderlust and Dreamland, Tripping Through La Habana will be shown at The Frame Shop Gallery .
20.October.2017 | 7pm | 3520 S Morgan, Unit LD, Chicago, IL 60609

You Are an Art Collector

You Are a Collector

The content of this post is a compilation of comments, opinions, and suggestions gathered why having fun reading about the collecting of art. You are an art collector when you move beyond purchasing art as a random action at any given moment to a more focused long term devoted act. You are forming a meaningful accumulation of works of art – – a collection!

There are certain professional collectors who are recognized as respected authorities whose selections sometimes set standards and determine tastes and trends. As a personal collector, remain true to your taste (not necessarily what you think you are suppose to like) regardless of the current trend. Collecting can nudge you to think about why you like a certain work. Are you buying it because of its subject matter; the colors; the techniques; what it communicates to you; and/or how it makes you feel?

Why Collect

There are various reasons for engaging in this treasure hunt. In collecting art, you are a patron supporting artistic production; creating a unique accumulation of works that reflect your tastes; telling a story about yourself; as well as engaging in a conversation regarding art history. Another reason for collecting art is that it provides an opportunity to establish social bonds. These various reasons are reflected in the video title Patric McCoy: I am a Collector ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvmohrytkpu ).

Value Your Collection

It is important to document your art for purposes of authentication and ownership. Excellent record keeping also provides information about the personal value and monetary value of your collection. This additionally contributes to the success of passing down your collection to future generations. Make your family aware of your art, educate them about its value and importance.

  • Save receipts, certificates of authenticity, and other relevant written or printed materials
  • Obtain descriptive written statements from artists, galleries or sellers
  • Photograph artists from whom you have collected; have artists sign catalogues, receipts, gallery invitations
  • Provide list of options and instructions for those who may inherit
  • Provide insurance or replacement appraisals

Conclusion

Your treasures may not be on the scale of those collected by John Paul Getty or Peggy Guggenheim, but remember your collection can potentially contribute to the conversation and be part of art history. You are a patron of the arts! I leave you with an observation I particularly like. The comment basically is that as a collector, you love creative expression, and have a desire to live with and care for important and beautiful objects.

South by Midwest 3rd Friday Exhibition Event

Allie Klawitter and Alexandria Dravillas are two De Paul University digital photography students with serious vision when it comes to capturing the natural world. Striking, ambitious and highly intelligent in their separate executions, both of these young artists are unafraid to bring “the wild” into their work. Their opening show, South by Midwest, opens on April 21st at 7:00pm at The Frame Shop in Bridgeport. We asked each artist a few questions about what they love to photograph and how nature fits into their visual storytelling.

Allie Klawitter is a young photographer currently studying at DePaul University, where she is pursuing a Major in Art, Media, & Design with a specialization in Digital Photography along with a Minor in Graphic Design. As a high school student in Oklahoma, she was an active participant in the photography program at Booker T. Washington, where she earned a prestigious Silver Medal in the 2014 Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition for her photograph “Life”. Allie’s photography is varied in subject matter, but her passion for animals is a dominant theme that is exposed through her portraits. Having worked as a Veterinary Technician, as well as owning many pets, she is able to share her passion for animals through photography.

Allie, what can you tell us about where you are from and how does this place inform or inspire your work? Were you a naturally born photographer?

Allie: I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Which happens to be one of Oklahoma’s “big cities” but I also have a family farm in a small town 45 minutes away from the city, called Avant. I think it was my country experience that made me gravitate to animals and gave me an innate ability to connect with them in an uncommon way. I also had the opportunity to have access to a 3-year photography class at my high school, the only of its kind in the state, which got me leaning more towards the arts. It gave me the opportunity to pursue many advanced facets of photography, both analog and digital, as well as the use of digital tools, like Photoshop. Rather than coming from the art world into photography, my path began with photography and has led me into the world of art.

I have always been fascinated by the arts, especially the camera. From a young age I would borrow my sister’s point and shoot or grab control of the disposable cameras on road trips. I did not always intend to become an artist. In the beginning, I wanted to go to veterinary school. I went so far as to work at a veterinary hospital though all of high school as a technician/assistant. The combination of the farm and the love for animals has truly made an impact on my work.

What occurs in photographing animals and nature that doesn’t with other subjects? How is this process unique or the similar? Is it easier or more difficult than photographing stationary or inanimate objects?

Allie: Animals are certainly more unpredictable, but, at the same time, they are probably less prone to mood swings, which can be helpful in getting quality shots. If I have enough time with an animal to make a real one-on-one connection with them, I am able to get almost human-like poses from them, which is always fun to capture, but I can also follow the animal around, get down at their level, and capture more random shots, which can be the best ones. Probably my most memorable animal photo is one I titled “Life” and I took of my dog, Oliver, from ground view as licked a puddle of water in a crack of my driveway. In this photo, I focused up close so all that was visible was his nose and his tongue making contact with the water. The way the photo came out, one could not be certain that it was a dog, much less what kind of dog it was. I know some have commented that they thought it was a bear. Within photographing nature and animals, I attempt to capture the spirit and the subtle details that people do not normally notice.

There are other types of subjects in nature I would love to have the opportunity to photograph, but they can require special equipment that I don’t yet have; things like zoom lenses or even digital binocular/camera hybrids. Up until this point, I have to be able to get fairly close up, so that does limit me. But, at the same time, there are many beautiful things in nature that I can easily get close up on that make excellent subjects. It’s kind of the same thing with athletic photos. I don’t have problems with capturing the action, but getting close enough to the action can be problematic.

What is it that resonates most with you? Animalistic nature? The serenity and/or solitude of nature?

Allie: I probably lean more towards the serenity of nature resonating with me. I guess I do enjoy some solitude, but my preference is to have a companion, whether that is a person or my dog Oliver. I have fond memories of sitting alone in a field with just my dog. I always feel that he has the same sense of enjoyment in that setting as I do.

How has your approach changed since moving to Chicago? How has your education helped or hindered your development?

Allie: I probably retain the same approaches and tendencies as a photographer, since coming to Chicago, but there is no question that both town and education have expanded my view and my arsenal of techniques. Just the other night, I set out to do some night-time HDR and long-exposure photos. The Chicago Skyline is a great subject, but in and of itself, can be a bit overused. Which every newcomer to the city and or photographer needs to get out of there system. The trick is to find interesting perspectives and angles that somehow accentuate it’s beauty in an unfamiliar way. One HDR I took used an icy swim ladder as the real focal point, looking at the Skyline from the Lake Michigan shore, with the Skyline, itself, taking on the icy appearance of the swim ladder. On the other hand, a view down Lakeshore Drive at night was the perfect subject for a time-delayed shot that I titled, “Headlight, Taillight”, because the effect was a continuous stream of neon light in each lane of traffic. It would be very difficult to get a similar shot batch in Oklahoma. This is but a couple of examples, but the location definitely provides almost an endless array of subject matter and as much as the education has helped already, I’m just beginning to get into the meat of my curriculum that I find to be very exciting.

What do you hope to photograph in the future? What or who inspires you most currently?

Allie: I hope to travel and expand my subject matter of the natural world, including social/environmental critiques that are presented before me along the way. The current photographer who I look up to and grab inspiration from is Hunter Lawrence and Keith Ladzinski.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Alexandria Dravillas is a portrait, landscape, and concert photographer. She currently studies at DePaul University, where she is pursuing a double major in Psychology and in Media Art with a concentration in Photography. Alexandria is a contributing photographer for numerous online publications including Shredded, Melted, Dissolving Film, and The Chicago Vibe magazines. She has photographed upcoming bands including Cherry Glazerr, The Growlers, and The Orwells. Concert photography combines Alexandria’s passion for music with her love for photography. Alexandria manipulates the ordinary with the incorporation of texture and reflection into her landscape photos. Seeking to create work that is chromatic, vibrant, and eye opening, she turns the mundane aspects of her environment into extraordinary landscapes by capturing them with a completely new perspective.

Where did you grow up and when did you first become interested in photography? Is it something you always wanted to do? How has your knowledge of the subject changed or developed by attending DePaul?

Alexandria: I grew up in the Southwest in Scottsdale, Arizona. I was always creative as a child. I’ve expressed myself through many different mediums while growing up. I danced competitively for fourteen years, I took piano, singing, drawing, and oil painting lessons. I first became interested in photography in high school, somewhere around my sophomore year. I loved Tumblr; I spent hours on Tumblr in middle school and high school looking at photos and building my blog of reposts, but it wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school that I realized that I liked it so much because I loved photography and that I wanted to create my own photos. I began taking photos as a hobby. Collecting people’s work suddenly felt meaningless to me because it was not my own, which I knew I was capable of creating. Tumblr showed me my love for photography but it was not until my junior year that I began to pursue it.

I did not consider myself a photographer until I started attending DePaul. DePaul has an amazing, tight knit art program that I’m so proud to be a part of. I took an analog class in high school but I had little experience with digital photography. DePaul has given me amazing and inspiring professors that know me on a first name basis. I was about to go to Arizona State University, which is the largest university in the country. At ASU, professors only know students as their seven digit ID number. Students never get to have one-on-one relationships with their professors. I’m so fortunate to be able to attend DePaul because the relationships that I have created with professors are so important to me. These professors are helping me grow as an artist more and more each day. They are why the department is so successful.

How does concert photography differ from your ordinary conceptual process? Or are they more similar than one would think? Are there spatial/logistical challenges in trying to take pictures of a band with tons of screaming fans around?

Alexandria: My Concert photography is not very conceptual but I think that it can be, it just depends on what you’re trying to get out of the experience. There are definitely a lot of challenges in shooting shows. Venues usually have a photo pit that only the press has access to so screaming fans aren’t usually an issue. I think the most challenging part of shooting shows is capturing moments before they are over. I mostly shoot crazy rock and punk rock shows, but sometimes it feels like I’m actually photographing a sports event because everything is so fast paced. You really can’t put your camera down during the set or you might miss something.

Who would you love to photograph? Band, Individual, Place?

Alexandria: I would love to be a tour photographer for Twin Peaks. I’ve been wanting to photograph Salvation Mountain and Antelope Canyon for a while now. I’m hoping to make my way over there this summer.

How do you view the ordinary and how would you like to change it through photography? What is your process for changing an regular landscape into something vibrant, exciting and challenging?

Alexandria: I’m very influenced by Gursky and Magritte. Gursky manipulates the subjects of his photos into patterns. He likes photographing huge quantities of his subjects from a distance in order to show a new patterned structure that is created with a bunch of tiny little parts. Magritte was a painter who wanted to make people question things. I often use reflections and focus on natural textures to create something that hasn’t been seen before. I manipulate reality to make viewers question what they are looking at.

Where do you see your skill and vision taking you in the next five years?

Alexandria: I would love to travel the world and photograph everything I come across. I’m not sure if I will be so lucky, but I will always try my best. In the next five years, I hope to pursue concert photography and maybe work for a larger publication. I’m not sure where I’ll be or where I’m going, but wherever I go, I’ll be photographing my experiences.

South by Midwest opens on April 21rst at The Frame Shop in Bridgeport, 3520 S Morgan #LD. Drinks and light fare will be served from 7-10pm.

Too Many Ideas

The choice of topic for this week’s post presented an unusual challenge — too many

ideas were generated from the shortest month of the year, February. I initially thought about

addressing Black History Month, which had its beginning as “Negro HIstory Week” conceived

by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Feburary also gave us the Academy Awards; the first awards

ceremony was held in 1929. The Academy Awards triggered my memory about the collaboration

between the director Alfred Hitchcock, and the Surrealist artist

Salvador Dali on the 1945 mystery thriller film, Spellbound ( I bet you did not know about this

collaboration), and the idea of entertaining you with this piece of film history.

February 2017 also of course brought us Mardi Gras, which ended yesterday (2/28). Although

New Orleans is the USA city most closely associated with Mardi Gras, Mobile, AL celebrated the

first Mardi Gras in the early 1700s.

The topic of Mardi Gras won out when I thought about the beads, masks, doubloons, and elaborate

costumes! My enthusiam was however somewhat dampen when I came across an article about the

production of beads, and their negative impact on the environment — oh my. Nevertheless, my search

about Mardi Gras brought me to an article about a New Orleans artist who donated his Mardi

Gras themed art to support the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The

artist Kevin Thayer created an art piece of his rescue pets, Bootsy and Koko attired in Mardi Gras garb.

For all you pet lovers and Mardi Gras enthusiats, the poster is below.

Artist Profile: Jessie Whitehead

The Frame Shop is honored and ecstatic to welcome Jessie Whitehead to the team! Jessie joined our sales staff in December and now she’s ready to show her off work at our next 3rd Friday event on February 17th. We caught up with Jessie long enough to rattle off a few questions about the show, her relief prints and who inspires her most.

Are you originally from Chicago?

No, I am not from Chicago. I relocated here in September 2013 from Connecticut.

And where did you pick up relief printmaking?

I have worked with relief printmaking for over 25 years. I was introduced to printmaking during my undergraduate study. I continued to work with the various printmaking techniques while obtaining my MFA in printmaking.

Connected

Who are some artists that inspire you?

The two artists that immediately come to mind are Charles Wilbert White and Howardena Pindell. Charles White was a very early inspiration. I was (and still am) moved by his subject matter, style and media. Howardena Pindell’s process, and the political and social content of her art inspires my work. I am also inspired by local artist David Anthony Geary, and my cousin, Joseph Pearson.

Where did you develop skills as a framer? How does knowledge of framing enter into your vision of presentation?

I initially learned framing decades ago from a friend in Mississippi who owned her own framing business. My knowledge and experience has enhanced since moving to Chicago. Framing has taught me to be mindful of the possibilities when preparing my work for display.

How does your family enter into or support your work as an artist?

My family never questioned my decision to pursue art degrees. Their encouragement has been and continues to be significant to me as an artist. I proudly share with them any new work created. In addition to their emotional support, they support me with their presence when my work is exhibited in their region.

What tools do you absolutely need in order to work?

The main thing I like to have is music. If I do not have music, I want quietness. I do not require stimulants such as coffee or soda.

If you could have lunch with anybody living or dead, who would it be and where would you go?

The choice of person requires some pondering. There are a few people I would like to have lunch with…I, however, narrowed it down to the former first lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama. We would dine at either my family’s home, a restaurant on the Mississipi Gulf Coast or a restaurant in New Orleans.

Join us for our 3rd Friday Reception at The Frame Shop, 3520 S Morgan Street on February, 17th from 7pm-9pm.

Campaign Posters as Collectible Art

Campaign Posters as Collectible Art

The 2016 United States presidential race!

Rest easy – slowly inhale, slowly exhale. This post is not about the election; it looks at the campaign poster in USA presidential elections. Even with the strong use of technology and social media, the printed poster still plays a vital role in campaign advertising. As early as the 19 th century, candidates used the poster as a major campaign marketing tool. Posters created in this time period incorporated more detailed imagery compared to today’s campaign art. An example of 19 th century political art is the woodcut relief printed 1860 campaign poster for Abraham Lincoln.

During the 20 th century, design schemes changed to use of a black and white photograph with capitalized large text. An example of this design is a 1960 campaign poster for John F. Kennedy. The Atlantic Magazine gives some interesting thoughts about the evolution of the campaign poster. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/08/the-evolution-of-the-campaign-poster/243381/

A 21 st century shift in design for political art was Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster for the Barak Obama 2008 political campaign. A red, white, and blue color scheme with clearly defined overlapped shapes of color created an image of the then candidate that captured the viewer’s attention. The impact of this design can be seen in official and unofficial posters created during the 2016 campaign.

The visual language of these contemporary campaign posters, as well as those from previous centuries make them unique historical pieces of art. Become a campaign art enthusiast, bring your collection to the Frame Shop and allow us to enhance and protect your pieces of history.

Art for Our Sake

Seeing, imagining, inventing, and thinking! These are at least four valuable learning tools taught in visual arts classrooms according to Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland. Several years ago, Winner and Hetland wrote an article, Art for Our Sake: School Art Classes Matter More Than Ever—But Not for Reasons You Think. http://archive.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2007/09/02/art_for_our_sake/?page=3

The authors suggest that we need arts in schools to introduce students to aesthetic appreciation, and to teach ways of seeing, imagining, inventing, and thinking. These learned lessons of art help students to see new patterns, learn from mistakes, and how to envision solutions. Winner and Hetland spent an academic year studying five visual arts classrooms in two Boston area schools. Based on their study of these art classes, they discovered that arts programs teach a specific set of thinking skills not often addressed elsewhere in the curriculum. In addition to learning art techniques, students were taught mental habits, which the authors identified as eight studio habits of mind. These habits include observing, envisioning, innovation, persistence, expression, and reflection. Think back to your art classroom experience – how did you make use of observing, envisioning, innovation, persistence, expression, and reflective self-evaluation? If, as suggested that these habits of mind are also valuable learning tools outside of the classroom, how are you using them in your personal and professional lives? Consider the following ideas related to three of the habits:

Observing: See what is around you that is collectable. What do you like?

Envisioning: Imagine newly collected framed piece(s) on your wall. How will your home gallery look if you added a new work? Took a piece away? How can you rearrange pieces?

Innovation: Experiment and explore possibilities.

Overall in your daily lives, consider how you can use the learned lessons of art to see new patterns, learn from mistakes, and envision solutions.

Alex Puryear: The Esoteric Child

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” -Pablo Picasso

Meeting Alex Puryear is like a brilliant breath of fresh air. Tall, stylish and humble, he paints as if he travelled through time and witnessed the birth of the universe. His work is a collision of everything; light and dark, good and evil, life and death. With themes ranging from redemption to universal connection, each piece is unquestionably personal to Puryear. So personal in fact, he incorporates elements of his own experiences and personality into all of his work. Be it a subtle symbol such as the allegory-laden lotus flower, to a more conspicuous self-portrait of a fedora adorned individual, Puryear’s literal influence hungers for outside interpretation.

Which is perfect for an artist that loves interaction as much as Alex. We took a few minutes to talk with Alex Puryear about his life, his work and his upcomming show at The Frame Shop Chicago on August 19th.

Q: Are you originally from Chicago?

Alex: Yes.

Q: And what made you want to start painting?

Alex: It has always been a gift within me, I remember in grade school being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and my answer was an artist, and it has always been, the arts seem to flow in my family. But actual painting (brush to canvas) started around 1999.

Q: Do current events work their way into your images?

Alex: Not as much, I like to stay neutral in that matter, Once in a while I will test the waters, circa 2011-2012. I did a loose series around the concept of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I tried to show a surreal/expressionistic version of both sides.

Q: Your works seem to layer color with their meaning, who inspires you to work in this way?

Alex: Well, I believe that in time and practice an artist will find his/her own style, but in developing that unique style artists will sometimes borrow, or emulate others. I’m a student of that line of thought, artist like Matisse, Basquait, and Dali were and are some of my inspirational muses.

Q: Do you ever work large scale? Which do you prefer?

Alex: I have, and often times, do work in larger scale, but I still appreciate smaller scale pieces as well. I feel with larger scale pieces I’m able to expand and explore the direction of the piece, strokes are broader, but with smaller scale pieces the details really come into play.

Q: Any relation to Martin Puryear?

Alex: Yes, he’s a distant cousin, I admire his work.

Q: Besides painting do you practice any other artistic media?

Alex: I enjoy sketching, and drawing, they seem to always lead to a painting, outside of that I like to write.

Q: If you could show your work anywhere, where would that be?

Alex: That’s the million dollar question. I would definitely would like to break ground in Chicago first , The Art Institute, Museum Of Contemporary Art, work way my way across the states New York , California, Florida, and eventually Europe and Asia.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve been given to succeed in the art world?

Alex: KEEP AT IT. Not to give up on it, not every show is a success, that shouldn’t discourage you; it should make you (makes me) push forward and push harder. Also to know that every artist has his or her own audience, so keep displaying.

Q: How has social media changed your ability to promote yourself?

Alex: It’s definitely opened up my spectrum. Just by adding certain key words, a simple post can reach almost anyone. It can have a great deal of power and influence over those that sees it. I’m extremely active on social media. Follow me on Instagram – Puryear81, and Facebook –Alex Surrealist Art Puryear.

Q: Who is your artistic role model?

Alex: I’m fortunate to be supported and surrounded by creative people. I learn from friends and family and that’s what makes me a better person; that’s what will expand my journey as an artist.

Join us for Alex’s opening reception at The Frame Shop Chicago, 3520 S Morgan St on August 19th. Drinks and appetizers will be served from 7-9pm. The Esoteric Child runs through September.

Kenneth J. Johnson Jr.- “I Am Englewood”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the sweetness of life. These reminders take the form of holding a door for a neighbor, complimenting an outfit seen, or shared appreciation for good weather. For a neighborhood like Englewood, where negativity makes headlines more than every day positive actions, the work of Kenneth J. Johnson Jr. becomes necessary. Kenneth uses his lens to describe his neighborhood. His images push aside negativity and refocus our view onto the real people who live there. The excitement and virtue of his neighbors seeps into our reality forcing us to see again. Is that not an important job of Photography? Changing the world would be nice but isn’t looking again the beginning of triumph? Kenneth reminds us that while there are plenty of negative news, or people, or things going on in the city many still choose harmony. Many still choose sweetness. At The Frame Shop, we are excited to present Kenneth’s recent series of photograph titled “I Am Englewood.”

Are you originally from Chicago?

I am originally from Chicago. Born and Raised.

How long have you been a photographer?

I have been a photographer for over 5 years now.

Do you shoot film or digital?

I shoot Digital currently. I haven’t shot in film since the 90’s. My aunt showed me how at that time.

Where in Chicago is your favorite place to photograph?

My favorite place to shoot in Chicago would be the lake; I find the water very peaceful.

Who are some local artists who inspire you?

Local Artists, I would say from photography it would be my mentor Michael Kirkland. He has opened my eyes and taught me so many things. He made me comfortable and encouraged me to think outside the box with what photography and art is. Other than that, I would say musicians have influenced me. Locally, Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, Common, Smashing Pumpkins, Chevelle, Malik Yusef.

You use color to direct the eye in an interesting way. How did you arrive at this technique?

I walk down the street and I stop, look, and listen to everything. I break it down into specific categories.

What was that noise I heard? What was that smell? What is that color? Why does that color stand out? As I am asking and getting answers to these questions I try to pull out the uniqueness of that specific item. I love colors. Having items/pictures presented in black and white and then highlighting a specific color draws attention that most people do not normally see. It forces them to analyze a shot a little harder. Draws their eye a little closer, and makes them feel ways that they weren’t imagining. It forces them to question the photo, their interpretations of the photo/scene, and it forces them to step outside the box. It is something I very rarely see and have never seen on this level.

How do you get your sitters to be comfortable in front of the camera?

I shoot a lot of street photography. When shooting street photography, it is necessary to talk to people and get to know them. This allows for a more open person. It allows for their comfortability to show on the photo. So being comfortable starts with a greeting and a quick or lengthy chat.

How has Englewood changed since you started your project?

Englewood as a community is changing for the better. While shooting over the past year, I have noticed steady streams of improvement throughout the neighborhood. More business development is the key. It is beautifying certain areas that were once barren. In addition, I am noticing more people taking action in the community. Showing up to more community meetings, rallies, and events has brought an increase of positivity that may have been lacking.

Do you feel your images give back to the community?

I do feel my images give back to the community. My images showcase nothing but positive actions. They are designed not to promote the negative energy we read and watch about Englewood. My images are to show the positive, good natured folk of a community that is proud. They are proud of their area and proud of their people. They just need more opportunities to show to the outside world that they are still there. Still in Englewood and still matter to Chicago.

As artists, what can we do with our work to make Chicago better?

As artists, we can give back more to the communities in Chicago. It does not have to be big, but we can find ways to give back something. We have been given a tremendous gift. We have the ability to change the world. With that power comes responsibility. In order to get the blessings, we have to be willing to give it back. So I strive to do something everyday that is of a giving nature. This gift can be a compliment, some encouraging words to uplift someone, or showing a child how to use an $800 camera properly. I want to show people that they are more, can be more. They just need to dream. That’s what artists do. We force people to dream. So to highlight the amazing gifts we have, I challenge every artist to reach out to someone/ anyone, and help them. Help them dream again and pass that knowledge on. Do that and continue the blessings that were once given to you.