THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF THE VISUAL ARTS
Six months ago, the rapid spread of the COIVD-19 global pandemic seemed like the definitive issue of 2020. There was no way to predict that a national and even international rise of civil disobedience and social disruption in response to systemic racism would overpower the fear and necessity of quarantine. But it justifiably and rightly has and will continue to do so. Less shocking but still disturbing is the further descent into authoritarian reactionism on the part of the administration and its enablers in the government and national media. In spite of this, I have to confess I was struck with a greater sense of fear and anxiety back at the end of March when cities began to rapidly shut down and people started losing their jobs. The fear had less to do with my health and financial well-being than for something broader. The media was abuzz with talk of looming death tolls and economic decline, and though these are relevant and practical concerns, it was what was not being discussed that worried me. I imagined all the things that would slip through the cracks; the poor and marginalized, a shared sense of safety and community, culture itself, and all the harmful actions of a regime that so many had been openly fighting without the hurdle of quarantine. For anyone who had ever mused upon the coming of a second dark age, it felt as though it had arrived.
This fear was only amplified by the narrow public discourse around the crisis of the pandemic. I know that in such an emergency, it is important to keep people informed first and foremost. But the questions of what culture could do and how it might change lingered in my mind. So, I decided to search for answers by reaching out to members of Chicago’s large and diverse arts community. We had long conversations with our seven interviewees (Quenna Barrett, Jessica Campbell, Stevie Hanley, Patric McCoy, Jessica Stockholder, Lori Waxman, and Carlos Flores that were commiserative, uplifting, cathartic, contemplative, and informative. It was not only restorative to simply just connect with people but refreshing to hear from folks who think critically about the world on a daily basis. Though things are changing and have changed a great deal since these conversations took place, it is my hope that they can continue to provide relief, comfort, insight, and inspiration as we move forward into uncertain times. I know I found these discussions helpful, and if you are reading this, I hope you do as well.
Jessica Campbell is a Canadian visual artist and cartoonist currently based in the midwest, working in comics, fibres, painting and drawing. She has had previous solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago); Western Exhibitions (Chicago); and Laroche/Joncas (Montreal, QC), in addition to other institutions. She has been included in group exhibitions at the Hamilton Art Gallery (Hamilton, ON, Canada); ICA Baltimore (Baltimore, MD); moniquemeloche (Chicago, IL);Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB, Canada) and others. She is the author of the graphic novelsHot or Not: 20th Century Male Artists(2016) andXTC69(2018),both published by Koyama Press. Campbell has a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Carlos Flores (b. 1992 Guadalajara, Mexico) is a multidisciplinary artist and organizer working primarily in sculpture, collaborative installations, and community building. His work is informed by his experience as a queer Latinx immigrant on the West Side of Chicago and brings viewers face-to-face with issues of displacement, class, gender, and race. In addition to this work, Carlos is the General Manager at Chicago Art Department (CAD), a nonprofit community art center in Pilsen offering residencies for twenty artists and over a hundred free programs to the community per year. He is committed to cultivating socially minded artists.
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