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?
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
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.
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.
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.
“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?
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.
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.
There are few as honest as Darr Gapshis. When you ask her a question be ready for the answer because it will be unabashedly truthful. This doesn’t mean her works are grotesque nor do her words offend. Instead, your surprise will come from her ability to spread her heart wide open to you- through her paintings, in her movements, and in the way she describes her life. It was an honor to sit down and discuss with this artist as we discussed the importance of beauty in her life and instilling it in ours.
Interview with Darr:
How long have you lived in Chicago?
All my life.
You moved to Bridgeport recently. What do you think of the art scene here?
I think it’s absolutely wonderful. It started a long time ago and I feel it’s been a little bit slow. I can’t wait for it to grow more. The venue is perfect.
You’ve been painting for a long time, has anything happened in your life that has changed the way you see your process?
I’ve felt that my best work is when I’m lying on the floor crying, feeling as if my heart is being torn out and my soul is dying. My whole life is filled with ups and downs and with love. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I paint because when I see all the negativity people store up and expel, it’s so shocking to me. It forces me to battle by making beautiful things. It forces me to live beautifully and be surrounded by beauty. My husband has said he’s never met anyone who lives for beauty more than I.
How do you feel about mysticism playing a role in your art making?
I’m on the other side however I come and go. I’m mostly there when I’m painting. For me to be on the other side full time is unrealistic.
Where does your love for lusciousness come from?
I was born with a love for lushness. My mother’s dresses were so beautiful and so were her draperies. I carry out her tradition! The lushness of a peony and a garden rose are unbelievable to me. I take their colors everywhere I go. The neutrals too. There’s nothing like a boucle Chanel beige suit or man in a beautiful black Armani tuxedo. It’s about the design but more importantly the fabrics.
Do you think you were fated to become an artist?
Why does florals play such an important role in your work?
My mom was in the garden all summer. My father owned a printing business which caused him to be very political. They were always out at city functions but during the day she was in the garden. She made big cakes too. Once when I was very young she made a cake with a giant rose on the top. There were tiny sprinkles that looked like little dew drops. I still think of it today.
Purple is said to combine the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red. What is your relationship to that color?
I feel it’s a royal color. Its passion and I’m very passionate so that has a lot to do with it. I have a tremendous amount of energy.
If you could show your work anywhere, where would you want to show it?
At the Louvre in Paris.
What is your favorite place in the world?
My livingroom. After our trips, after being in some of the most beautiful rooms in the world, we get home and think this isn’t bad. Then you wake up the next morning and think yes this is where I want to be. I don’t live as high anymore. I’m closer to the trees and can outside my bedroom and my kitchen. I’m closer to them and that’s where I want to be.
What is your favorite flower and why?
He garden rose- it’s fragrance, it’s lushness, it’s bar none one of the most beautiful smelling flower.
I also love the Easter lily, gardenia, freesia, I love the scent of stephanotis, and tuberose.
In April, Art & Company in Orland Park will unveil their second installation of the photography show “A Moment in Time.” The opening is this Saturday from 7-10pm. We are so excited for this show that we are highlighting photographers who will be a part of it! Today we feature the work of Michael Kirkland- a former paratrooper who studied photography here in Chicago! His landscapes are transcendental as they take us to places we only hope to experience in person.
What kind of camera do you use
I am a Nikon person, I shoot with the full frame D810 and crop sensor D300s
When did you start photographing?
I began photographing in 1973, when I was in the military. As a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, I enjoyed capturing images from the sky once my parachute opened, and documenting my military experience.
Are you self taught?
No, when I left the military and returned to Buffalo NY, I bought Minolta film camera and some studio lighting equipment. I Attended as many seminars that was available. Not satisfied with my growth and development, I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College. I graduated from Columbia majoring in photography. I continue to learn whatever I can from wherever I can.
What do you like photographing the most?
The first time I went to a National park, I fell in love with capturing the landscape. I decided then that I wanted to visit and photograph each US National park. To date, I have visited 21 of them, some more than once. I am primarily a nature photographer. I love to capture images of landscapes.
Photography is my passion, I am always thirsty to learn and try new things. With is so much information about photographing a variety of subjects, I usually shoot about 500 to 1000 frames a week. I try my hand at tabletop, macro, astrophotography, portraits, nature, buildings, street and creative.
Is there a favorite photographing memory you’d like to share?
It has to be the first time I saw and captured Aurora Borealis in Alaska. Actually it was then that I got down on one knee and proposed to my fiancee. I’ve seen the Aurora Borealis and it is amazing, but to capture them in your camera is awesome. I captured images of the Aurora Borealis in Alaska and in Iceland so far. I have another trip planned to photograph them in Norway next year.
It is never the same each evening or each hour that you see them. I have gotten better each time so far. The thing is, even when you plan to be in the right place at the right time, with the right equipment, there are still several weather related variables out of your control. So you do the best you can with what you are presented with.
Where/what is something you’ve always wanted to photograph?
I really like astrophotography, I captured the Aurora Borealis and am still working on capturing that great image of the milky way. I also have always wanted to capture images of dancers. I like watching theater groups perform. I just recently saw the Alvin Ailey American theater dance company and most of the time I was sitting there watching it, I was taking picture in my mind during the various scenes. I would love to capture the essence and grace of their art.
To learn more about Micahel and see additional work, visit his website at mjkirkland.com and meet the artist at the photography show opening at Art & Company April 2 2016!
Everyone is a photographer nowadays. When it comes to those important moments, however, sometimes it’s better to hire an expert; someone with the eye and charisma to calm your testy child or capture that warm embrace without it being a selfie. If you are looking for a photographer to capture those moments than look no further than Elia Alamillo Photography. Elia is a local wedding and portrait photographer. We are lucky to see her work in person as she comes into the Frame Shop to put the finishing touches on her client’s photographs. Her attention to light and perspective draws your eye to all the right places. She puts her sitters at ease to get those true genuine smiles. We are excited to feature her on our blog this week!
How long have you lived in Chicago?
I am a born and raised Chicagoan from the South Side. I grew up in many different areas including Pilsen, Brighton Park, Gage Park and Midway area.
Did you go to school for Photography?
I started my passion for photography at a very young age. I come from a background of artists. Both my parents are painters and hobby photographers. I always had a camera on me and my mother always encouraged me to photograph my friends and family. In High School I attended Marwan a free art class program for Chicago Youth.
I began college at Richard J. Daley starting with black and white photography then transferred into Columbia College Chicago. In 2010 I received my Bachelor in Fine Arts in Photography.
When did you decide to become a wedding/portrait photographer?
Portrait photography came very naturally to me. Early on when photographing Family and friends, I enjoyed documenting memories and capturing moments. My interest in wedding photography came a little later after College; I am still building up my wedding portfolio. It’s such a pleasure to document such an important day for my clients.
What kind of camera do you use?
I have used a wide range of cameras but really enjoy film photography and the process of developing and printing in the dark room, but it’s been a few years since I have used a film camera. Nowadays I use DSLR Cameras, a Nikon D700 & D800. The convenience of having a digital image is necessary in these fast pace social media days.
What has been your favorite moment/job that you’ve encountered so far?
My favorite part and most satisfying point for me in photography are delivering the final product of images to my clients. The joy and sometimes tears of clients viewing their images and prints brings me a lot of happiness because it is something they will cherish and pass on.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
I find it hard to see myself not doing photography but I would be a teacher. I love children and I think education is where it all begins.
Where is your favorite place to photograph?
It’s hard to pick one favorite place but I love finding hidden urban areas thru out Chicago. The skyline is a must but just walking around different neighborhoods and photographing them thru street photography is always fun.
Who is your favorite artist/photographer?
Bruce Davidson, Henri Cartier Bresson, Dawoud Bey, Paul D’Amato and so many more….
What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
Enjoying and exploring our city. I love my Chicago. It has so much to offer from diversity of different cultures to so much good food.
I want to thank the frame shop for your wonderful work on framing my clients and personal image work. Colleen & Micha have been nothing but nice and very knowledgeable in assisting me in my purchases.
See more of Elia’s work on her website:
Meet the Artist: Ruth Esserman
In Chicago, we are lucky to be surrounded by great works of art and those who create them. One such artist is Ruth Esserman. Esserman has been working here in Chicago for decades. As an artist and educator, she has been tackling the how we interact with architecture and how buildings manipulate the flow of our own lives. Next month she is having a retrospective at the Bridgeport Art Center and we couldn’t be more excited. Not often do we get to reflect with the artist amidst their long and prolific career. Thankfully, Esserman shares her images of construction, deconstruction, and how our bodies move within it. I was lucky enough to interview Ruth Esserman as she shared insight into her work and life.
How long have you been painting?
Perhaps from the womb on!!
You work in many different media- do you feel more comfortable with one media in particular or do you allow a project to dictate your tool?
Last number of years I have mostly been working with ink drawings–some mixed media.
How has teaching informed your practice?
As an artist, teaching and producing art are inter-related–one informs the other.
What are your feelings about Chicago? Have you always lived here?
Born and bred in Chicago and/or environs. Love it, but periodically also love to leave it!
Your work is quite detailed. Do you find the work/labor cathartic?
Can’t imagine living without working at something I love!
When looking at your recent work, I am reminded of Google maps street view. It is neither lifelike nor animated. What interests you in describing scenes of masses of people in this way?
Our world is quite extended…no real borders horizontally across space, or upward into the cosmic space! The surrounding deconstructed and reconstructed environment emphasizes the constant changes and energies surrounding us.
Your assemblage works feel mechanical. They are more than collages of joined materials but seem to move to music or method. Can you tell us more about these works?
It is said that architecture is frozen music. My work has a large architectural component. I often use drafting implements as drawing tools. My tool of choice now is a technical drawing pen, but humanistic elements are always present. My early work was primarily figurative. Its implications are still present in my drawings.
You have a show coming up at the Bridgeport Art Center. Did you get to pick the pieces in the show or was it curated?
I curate my own shows.
Among your list of many accomplishments, what job or event has had the most effect on your career?
Working as artist in residence with Sybil Shearer and her dance company was a unique and important period to me. All my work has been a great interactive and stimulating experience for me.
Having your show at the Bridgeport Art Center coming up, how do you feel seeing fence your older work and new works presented together?
The Bridgeport exhibit is a good opportunity to see how my concepts have evolved and how early statements might still be visible in some of the latest work. Life, time, and work are a gestalt. Each day and piece seems different, but somehow they all connect. We’re not always aware of the interconnections until we have a chance to step away and look back…as I can do in my current show.
For more information on her show at the Bridgeport Art Center, follow this link:
A visual collector, an observer, a documenter. Paul Branton is a Chicago artist who lets music and paint describe the world that surrounds us. Using bright and saturated colors, he revels to us what we should already know. He describes the faces of people we pass by each day. He observes musical trends and translates them to the canvas. This month at NYCH, you can see these documents for yourself. Branton’s first solo show at this gallery will open Friday. We were lucky enough to frame some works for this show and talk to the artist about where these observations come from.
How long have you been a painter?
My very first painting was at the age of 15. I am now 42.
Do you paint from images mostly or from live models?
Although I do paint live models often, for a lot of my art I will use my photography or close friend’s photographs as references. And when I say I use live models I literally use them as my canvas and paint onto their skin. After this, I then photograph them.
Does the city of Chicago encroach into your paintings?
My urban environment is a major subject matter in my paintings. I find the city to be this living, breathing organism that shapes the growth and death of many.
Your work seems reminiscent of Basquiat and Warhol. Of the two eras in art which do you feel closer to- Pop or Outsider art?
I am a child of sub-cultures. Although I reference and poke fun at some pop culture in my work, the visual language that I speak is that very much that of an outsider. Instead of admiring the beautiful architecture that Chicago has to offer, I was always attracted to rusted metal, dilapidated buildings and graffiti.
Music seems to be a heavy influence on your work. Is there an artist who you reference specifically?
Or an album you often listen to while painting?
My love for visual art is almost matched by my love for music. Every time I pick up a brush, music accompanies me on the journey. My favorite albums to paint to are Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, and tons of Hip Hop.
Your palette is rich with primary colors resulting in high contrast. Is there a reason you work in this way?
There are actually 2 reasons for my color palette. When I was being traditionally trained in painting, I was not allowed to use Black or White. This practice forced me to look at colors and light in a totally different way. The other reason I painting in bright colors and high contrast is due to the somber subject matters I cover. I paint the most depressing events in vibrant happy colors.
The paintings you brought into the shop have alternative materials on them. Why have objects been incorporated into your work?
I have always been attracted to found objects and alternative materials in art. In this particular body of work, I was exploring the art form of Rap Music. I used broken cassette tapes to verbalize a disconnect between where that art form is now and the Golden Era of the late 1980’s / early 1990’s.
Have you shown at NYCH Gallery before?
My art collective 4 of a Kind has shown at NYCH before, but this is my first time at this gallery doing a solo show.
Lyrics and their effect on your life drive the show happening at NYCH Gallery. Have you tried to write your own lyrics or songs?
I have never officially written lyrics before, but I have written books of poetry. Hip Hop music to me is just street poetry.
Have there been any other music genres that come close to influencing you beyond Hip Hop?
I am a lover of Jazz and Rock. The Bee Bop era of Miles, Dizzy, and Coltrane are a big influence on my work. The improvisation and creativity of that brand of music always takes me away. The same goes for Hendrix, Clapton, and a few others that made guitars transform beyond what we thought music could sound like.
Chicago’s Hip Hop scene is nationally recognized right now. Of the young artists out there right now, who are you most excited by? Its funny that Chance the Rapper went to school with my children. Years ago i remember listening to 10 Day and telling my daughter, this kids pretty talented. So from my city, the people I listen to the most are Lupe, Chance and Mick Jenkins. Its always substance in their lyrics.