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
A mat is a paper based border that is sometimes part of the visual presentation of a framed work of art. In addition to functioning as part of the presentation of your art, it also creates a barrier between the art and glazing (glass or plexiglass). The characteristics of a mat include its thickness, acidity, core, and surface. The thickness of a mat is referred to as ply; it comes in 4 ply, 6 ply, and 8 ply. The thicker the mat, more of the bevel cut is visible; it is sturdier, and more expensive. The acidity of a mat impacts its years of longevity. A standard mat board consists of wood pulp, which contains natural materials such as lignin. These materials create acidity in paper, which causes paper to disintegrate. For example, newspapers have a high amount of acidity, which accounts for its short life span. For those still familiar with the newspaper, you probably have noticed how it quickly it becomes brown, brittle and disintegrates.
Acidity is a factor in the surface and core of the mat board. The surface of the mat refers to its outer color and paper. Mats come in a versatile number of colors. Its outer paper can be smooth, highly textured, patterned, fabric such as suede, or linen. The core is the center of the mat board that is revealed when a window (opening) is created in the mat with a bevel cut. It looks like a thin line or border inside the window of the mat. Most mats typically have a cream, white or black core. There are however some mats with bright color cores. White, black, and bright color cores are acid free; cream cores are not.
The two main problems with acidity are discoloration (fading of the mat surface) and the acid’s possible damage to the art. The mat board manufacturing industry addressed the issue of potential acidity in mats by placing mat boards through a neutralizing process. Neutralization can make acid harmless for many decades.
Different types of mat board include the regular mat board (sometimes referred to as paper board), rag mat board, and museum rag. Regular mat board is suggested for reproducible art, such as posters and digital photography that is expected to be exhibited for only a few decades. Rag mat board is recommended for items that have the potential to increase in value (rarity and demand) over time. This may include limited edition prints, signed and numbered prints, and some original art. Museum grade rag is the most expensive mat board, and is recommended for rare and valuable art that requires protection for generations.
The next time you step into a framing business, you will have basic knowledge of the mat. You and the framing designer can have fun selecting the mat or combination of mats that best present your art.
Playbills as KeepSakes
A playbill is a show program or booklet typically given to the audience at a live theatrical performance. The printed playbill provides details about the production that include cast biographies and background information about the show. The official Playbill program is recognizable by its iconic black on yellow masthead.
After attending a show in Chicago, New York or other cities, hold onto your playbill as a souvenir. The minimalist design of playbills for plays such as Hamilton, Les Miserables, and the Lion King are memorable eye catching works of art.
I combined my playbill, ticket stub, and autographed poster from the Lion King as an attractively framed keepsake!
In addition to playbills from personally attended performances, consider collecting other playbills. Your collection can be eclectic or narrowed to focus on for example, specific directors, performers, time periods, or vintage show programs. If you have not done so, start your visual album of playbill keepsakes.
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.
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!
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:
The Holiday List
It’s less than a week before Christmas, there’s people you still need gifts for but you want something DIFFERENT this year. What do you get the person who has enough candles, scarves, and pajama pants.
Don’t worry! The Frame Shop has you covered! Take a look at some of the items available at the store RIGHT NOW! Images are framed, jerseys are signed, and they are here waiting for you!
Laser Cut Vinyl Records: $145
Limited Edition Framed Posters: $145
Framed Posters: $100
5 Holiday Gift Ideas at the Frame Shop
It’s crunch time and your last minute gift ideas from the Frame Shop are here! Here’s our top five ideas:
5. A Chicago Skyline Photograph Framed by our expert framers!
Chicago has one of the best skylines by far! At Art and Company, we carry 25 unique photographs of this beloved view. Printed and framed in three different sizes, this is the perfect gift for your Chicago native or friend new to this great city!
4. A framed sports jersey!
A jersey with the name of your favorite sports player is a piece of memorabilia that never gets old. It’s a classic gift for any sports fan. At the Frame Shop, we give your jerseys the love and attention they need to hang proudly on your wall! Mounted in a shadowbox frame with a mat whose color suits your team, you show your pride.
3. Laser Cut Records in the shape of your favorite characters!
For the family member who seems to have everything- why not have them unwrap this unique and one of a kind gift idea? LP Records are cut into the shape of Michael Jackson, Kermit the Frog, and even the Chicago skyline! Framed and ready for proud display, you can see the records offered in store at our Bridgeport location!
2. A banner of your favorite sports team
Have a College Football team your family member or best friend reps all year round? Why not gift them a classic piece of sport memorabilia?! We carry a full line of banners for College Football, NHL, MLB, NBA, and NFL teams. For $90 we will frame it and have it ready for display on your wall!
1. A framed poster of your favorite comic book!
A classic gift for anyone on your list. We all have our favorite movie, musician, and even comic character. Why not gift your bestie a framed copy of that iconic comic book cover? Or the movie poster of your first date with your significant other? A perfect addition to any wall reminding your friend of their favorite memories!