Thursday, November 28, 2019

George Zaremba's Vietnam War Memorial

The Chicago Sun-Times has run this story about a mural 
that George Zaremba painted on a side 
of the old E Z Polish Factory 
at North Sacramento Boulevard and West Carroll Avenue.

It's  only about a mile west of the growing West Town Gallery district,
so I'll be checking it out soon.

Substitute Modeling on November 26

Cathy Buck, portrait of Tim Leeming

Mary Qian, portrait of Tim Leeming

As occasionally happens -- last Tuesday's model for the painting workshop was a no-show - so one of the artists, Tim Leeming, climbed up on the platform  to take her place.

I've done that a few times myself over the past thirty years.  One time, my physique so surprised one of the artists who arrived late that she shouted out "Eeeek -- Chris is naked!".  Another time, after delivering what I thought were challenging and dramatic poses, one of the artists complained that I didn't hold still.  Needless to say -- my enthusiasm for volunteering has cooled off.

But Tim remains a more noble and generous soul -- so he soldiered on to pose for an entire five-and-a-half hour session.

While doing so,  a poem celebrating the occasion began to gather in his mind.

It also celebrates the upcoming holiday  - suggesting, perhaps, that Tim was beginning to feel a bit peckish - as well as identifying with the poor turkey.

(if you also did a portrait of Tim at this workshop, please send an image that I can add to this post)



The scheduled model for the day
Failed to report in the garret 
Of the last remaining three-story
Walk-up Grey-stone
Which served as 
At the Art Club

15 eager members
Assembled over midweek morning coffee
And to await  inspiration from the muse
Which also may
Or may not appear

With no professional model
From among the fellowship
A reluctant recruit is chosen

And the exterior form
Of this person
Is raised above their peers
Positioned on the dais
Instructed to remain seated and still 
conspicuous and absent 
throughout the morning

This 'sitter'
Supported by cushions
With masking tape markers
For memory
Will comply with the rigors of the vigil
And sit motionless
As the North-light arches 
To the left

Until the precious light drains
Under clouds 
Bringing drizzle and drops
And the hum of steady rain  
Later in  the afternoon

At the request of the sitter
The radio is tuned to classical station
At above medium volume

Everyone there takes a few full breaths
As the conductor raises his arms
And gets busy
As the baton drops 
And bobs up and down
Back and forth
In regular swipes
To encourage the musicians
And the artists

who respond with attention
and happy labor
 throughout the day

Grim faced
Not turning away from the struggle
Running again up the familiar hill

Straining to see
Stretching bounds of perception
As if from the top of main-mast
Searching the horizon for sight of land

Taking up tools
The instruments of their craft
On paper
On canvas
On wooden palette
On glass
In pursuit of truth
To understand
To document
To honor

As the fencer wields his sword
And the orchestra strains 
Each artist will scrape, slash, dab for next five hours
With a brush
Or pencil
Or a worn nub of chalk

The background music is a century old
Rows and rows 
Of precision instruments
The sensuous bloated wooden form
 of the double bass

to  loyally present again
A Strauss waltz

The orchestra throbs
 swirls and whirls
In crescendo
Punctuated by boom 
Of tympanic kettle drums

The sitter listens
As never before
To the layers of sound
Eyes staring straight ahead
As all blurs into periphery

There tradition has been replayed
And repeated by kindred souls
For hundreds of years
Across continents

In France

For such purpose
Apples were arranged by Cezanne
The  grim 'Thinker '  leaned on his chin  for Rodin
And prostitutes sufficed for VIncent

Around the sitter
There is movement
Murmurs and hushed self rebuke
As each of those assembled
Around the sitter
Aspire to conceal
Or by chance
Reach beyond their self acknowledged limitations

The sitter sees all
And nothing
The room reduced to a periphery of fog
Sensing only the cloud of predatory activity
A fist is raised fists
A right angle is consulted
 brushes are loaded
to make their point
Revealing the intent of the hand
A confident flourish
"Aha! I know this!"
a questioning  slow dab
"Does this work"

And the surrender of a double dab

The sitter sits
Listening to the music
And the grumbling crowd below
Transcending the hub-hub
FInding peace and focus
Above and beyond

Within the sitter
There is a solitary Struggle 
To deny the inner voice
The disembodied Monkey-brain
The disheveled small creature
Who continues the madness
Below the surface
Swinging from side to side in the cage
From hairy arms
Chattering nonsense
Baring teeth

The sitter has found his spot on the wall
On which to focus
The dormant light fixture
On the other side of the room
Appears to be a blurry
Triangle of the dangerous creature

A lion perhaps
Or a baboon 
Who holds an index finger to his lips
In warning
Do not move

The sitter understands what is demanded
And locks alert eyes
And concentration
On the lions face
20 yards distant
facing him from low in the grass
Almond eyes
Raised snout
moist nostrils

The predator must be kept at bay
To  look away 
Would invite a charge
And certain death

When concentration slips
The sitter almost laughs 
At his ridiculous predicament
Not really a dignified
Graven image of a man
But a dunce on a chair
Serving a sentence of a  self imposed
Day-long  'time-out'

The sitter perceives the working artists
As an aquatic cloud of  sea grass

A hungry aquatic swarm 
Of skin feeding fish
As on the bunions and unwanted callous material 
on the underside of  feet
of  indulgent women 
Soaking their toes 
In the salinated basin
At the spa

Movement all around
Waving in and out
Bobbing up and down
Peering at him 
with urgent squinting cat-faces
Looking for answers
For Line

Two days before Thanksgiving
The turkey too
Will sit trussed
And tied
Having been chosen
basted every 20 minutes
(The same interval of breaks  for the artists)
And presented
The center of a ring of side dishes

Without which
There is no joy 
In the Potatoes
or Gravy

It is necessary for the artwork to be properly done 
brought to completion

"A triumph my dear"

And the meal on Thanksgiving 
Golden brown
A salty, savory consumed  achievement
Temporary by design
As fleeting as the fading light
Or the extended chords at the completion of the symphony

It is over

The day was long

We know that our time is short

What was done
Is done

The artwork survives

The journey was the feast

TIm Leeming
Palette and Chisel Academy of Chicago
Happy Thanksgiving 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Mary Qian's portrait of Chief Justice Anne Burke

Here's Mary Qian with  Anne Burke.

The dour expression on the artist's face is much more serious
 than that of the smiling Illinois Chief Justice
who stands beside her.

But then Mary really does take her painting quite seriously

Here's Anne with her husband, alderman Ed Burke.

One might wonder why  the highest judge in Illinois
 is married to a Chicago alderman
 now under indictment for 14  counts of racketeering.

Couldn't she have rolled over one night
and whispered in his ear:

"Honey, you really don't need
to shake down local businessmen any more,
 all our kids have graduated college"

But hey ... that's Chicago.

By the way, the Burke's are serious art collectors. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Open house show

Steve Puttrich

Kathleen Newman

Evelyn Brody

Leon Osseny

Pamela Gibson

Barbara Kay Herring 

Susan Russel

Christine Body

Andrew Conklin

Andrew Conklin

Stuart Fullerton

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Good Ship Donut

Back in 2006,  artist, teacher, and official Club Historian, Stuart Fullerton, drove out to Fox Lake to find the location of the Palette and Chisel's lost summer camp.

A few years later, I provided a map and offered my best guess for  where it actually was.

Regretfully, there has been no subsequent attempt to purchase the property and return to that Arcadian life-style of fishing, boating, and painting nude models in the great outdoors.

But we have finally located a photograph of the Academy's boat -- the good ship Donut.  (So named, apparently, because it had a hole in the middle)

This picture comes from the newly published  Catalog Raisonne of Gustave Baumann , one of our more famous members (He's the natty gentleman leaning against the mast) It was he who designed the masthead for the Cow Bell (an academy newsletter that has regretfully been discontinued)

He also appeared in a recent show at Art Institute

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Christina Body - 2019


Is this Cuba ?

There's never an overcast day in Christina Body's world.
And it never rains (as it always does whenever Errol Jacobson sets up his easel)
That's OK with me --- I also prefer a bright, sunny day.
Though it does seem that sometimes the artist
is more concerned with recording whatever colors
  she sees in the world,
rather than with how that color looks in the painting. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Exhibit: Barbara K. Herring

Barbara Herring has always been  one of my favorite painters
 at the Palette and Chisel for cityscapes like this one.

So neat - so orderly -  so gently upbeat - so lonely.

This is her first one woman show.

She handles these figures nicely, as well.

They're pleasant fellows
but also quite distant and anonymous,
each living in  his own world.

What city cyclist would not want to have this on his  wall?

There's something cheerful
even about this miserable situation

Young strangers conversing in a public place.
They certainly have a firm grasp
on their purses

Even the alleys and dumpsters are fresh, neat and orderly
in Barbara's world

The prices were  quite low at this  exhibition
and the sales were quite brisk.

A lot of people went home with a very good bargain. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Weidner and Jacobson

Stephanie Weidner

Another great show from Stephanie and Errol 
 who seem to be pushing each other up  to greater heights 
even though their visions are so radically different.

Stephanie is unintentionally re-creating one of the more exciting chapters in Midwestern art -- the above piece bearing some resemblance to one of the Wisconsin Magical Realists:

John Wilde, "Still Life with Melons"

And Stephanie has that ability,
 especially rare among older artists, 
to dramatically improve 
from one painting to the next.

Here are two  examples of her treatment of a similar  subject

Guess which one came first.

It's just some pears on a piece of piece of printed cloth
but there certainly is some magic about it.

Stephanie has a story for this that has something to do with national politics.

It also works, however, just as a strange and wonderful vision.

Meanwhile Errol has been expanding his repertoire as well.

The above piece is almost as large
as its subject matter.

It was displayed on an easel 
making it more like a free standing object
than a window in the gallery wall.

A nice lonely feeling.

Errol's paintings feel as public as Stephanie's feel personal.

She's a Surrealist from seventy years ago;
he's an American-Scene-Regionalist
from the same era.

Which would condemn them as hopelessly outdated,
except that the current fashion for Dada
 dates back to the Cabaret Voltaire of 1916
while all conceptual appropriations
 date back to the Duchamp "Fountain" of 1917.

This is  Chicago -- at least as I know it.