Black History Education at the Cultural Center

Last week I commuted downtown and decided to stroll over to the Chicago Cultural Center.

First, Angel and I passed the Monument with Standing Beast by Jean Dubuffet.

I walked in on a prototype of the story chair from the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library, which apparently doubles as a table and turns into a throne as stories are told.

Then I decided to start my exhibit exploration upstairs, where Eugene Eda’s Doors for Malcolm X College are on display.

This exhibition features all 32 doors painted by Eugene Eda for the stairwells of the original, now demolished Malcolm X College. Painted in 1971 they are considered a landmark of the Black Arts movement in Chicago.

The doors are thematically distinguished in 4 categories, based on their original stairwell locations.

  • A: Egyptian Hieroglyphs
  • B: West African and Sankofa
  • C: Black Aesthetics, Black Family
  • D: Black Power and Survival

Eugene Eda started with ancient Egypt as the foundation of his works, and then narrates the history of African culture and heritage with the other door themes. I was fascinated by all the symbolism represented in stairwell B, and want to learn more about Adinkra symbols used in West African culture.

Fortitude, unity and community are themes for stairwell C, showing scenes representing the various areas of study at Malcolm X College (currently arts, general studies, science and applied science), along with depictions of family. In Stairwell D, according to Michelle R. Perkins, the doors are to remind those passing through to “rise above anything that imprisons the body and the mind.”

Part of the interior design of the walls in this room had the inscription “lūx et vēritās”, meaning light and truth, which was very appropriate for this particular exhibit. As a European, I have a cursory acquaintance with American History, and even my world history education was quite Euro-centric, so learning more about Black History, African(-American) culture, Indigenous culture and what is essentially ‘non-white world history’ requires awareness and alertness.

I am grateful there is much activism to have these stories told and celebrated. Attending art talks and exhibits about marginalization is uncomfortable, but makes me a better human being who can hopefully respond better to the impact oppression has had on any group than be clouded by my own perceptions.

The next exhibit was 50×50 Invitational / The Subject is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities, with artists from various Chicago Wards represented to make statements on the current state of the world, ranging from a postcard exhibit in which people wrote an artist about their wishes to statements about the current political climate.

Then I wandered on to The Wall of Respect: Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power, where Eugene Eda was mentioned again. The history of this particular wall spoke of the difference in opinion even among a group that society at large tends to homogenize, and was educational in so many ways.

The activism on making voices heard about cultures and groups that have been oppressed, suppressed and ignored is important, and while it takes effort to gain understanding, it is vital to deal with the discomfort of historic inaccuracy and work to rectify it.

I wandered through a corridor that landed me in the ramp, where Passage by SO-IL from New York City, U.S., featuring photography by Iwan Baan from Amsterdam, The Netherlands is an ongoing exhibit.

From that window I also got a good view of the Piranesi Circus (Atelier Bow-Wow in Tokyo, Japan) in the Atrium, which intrigued me on all levels of the cultural center. Both these architectural masterpieces were part of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, a global exhibition of contemporary architecture, showcasing the visionary ideas of 100 architects and designers from 30 countries.

It is certainly a playground for the imagination.

Of course the internal architecture of the Cultural Center is a feast for the eyes as well.

With its original intent as Chicago’s first central public library in 1879, the building was designed to impress with rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics.

This building is home of the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome.

Healy & Millet designed the other glass dome.

The workmanship is mesmerizing. You can learn more about the Chicago Cultural Center exhibits on this link.

I also came upon lovely quilts like this one by Laverne Brackens.

These quilts are held in library collections and loaned out for display after their cleaning before being placed in their conservatorship’s collections again.

With so much history and creativity to ponder, I left the Cultural Center to make my way home.

Chicago is such a diverse and vibrant city, and I strive to be more alert to the expression of voices that may not reflect my experience or point of view, but require me to get through some cognitive dissonance to grow as a human being and be a more compassionate citizen of the world.

Popping up at Blue Buddha Boutique

So earlier this year I set a goal of being a vendor in Blue Buddha Boutique. I went to introduce myself and my pieces, but then failed to follow up as life took on a schedule of its own.


Enter the Edgewater Artists In Motion, which put out a call for artists in late summer. As I inquired, the dream boutique was named as a pop-up location. So of course I had to say yes!


Located in Chicago, the Blue Buddha retail store is the largest dedicated chainmaille supply store in the world. They carry jump rings in nine metals, tools for making chainmaille jewelry and a large selection of ready-to-weave kits and project instruction.  In addition, the store houses a variety of giftwares by local artisans.


I scoped out the space on a busy Saturday.


A few days later I set up my pieces, and learned I was neighbors to Jelene Britten Designs, with whom I had shared a cold weekend at the 2014 Ravenswood ArtWalk.


I’m also sharing space with Weenerware.


Additional jewelry is provided by Flight Feather Studio, Sheronna Williamson, and Handcrafted by Hedda.


There is pottery by a mystery artist.


The walls are adorned with art work by Rob Hogan, Jessica Lucas, Laura Luisa Cowell and others.


Karen Heuter creates lovely dolls with twists on old and recent folk tales.


Henia Flynn offers prints and greeting cards.


The regular retail hours of Blue Buddha Boutique are Thursday through Friday from 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm.


You will find us taking turns booth sitting, and you will catch me there this coming Saturday, October 17 from 11 to 3.


This is what you’ll find from me this month, but I plan on swapping items out in November, so if something strikes your fancy, claim it now.


Edgewater Artists in Motion (EAIM) started in 2009 with the goal of placing original art work in vacant properties and other vacant locations, fueled by the mission to enhance Edgewater’s appeal as a vibrant, pedestrian friendly, commercial district while assisting existing businesses and attracting new business.


In giving artists the opportunity to show their creations and contribute to the development of the community, EAIM hopes to establish Edgewater as one of the premier artistic destinations in Chicago.


Blue Buddha Boutique is located at 1127 W Granville Ave in Chicago. We learned the story of its inception during our grand opening, but that is a blog post for another day…


Stay tuned for additional events in conjunction with this three-month pop-up!


Lady Lepidopterists

“Amongst the earliest known entomologists
were women of rank, wealth and fashion
who reared butterflies,
painted them and embroidered their images on cloth.”
~ Michael A. Salmon, The Aurelian Legacy

This month my Lady Lepidopterists encaustic collage is featured on Light Space & Time’s online gallery. This collage was in the works for some time, as I delved more into biographies of women who studied butterflies throughout 2012 after being so smitten with Maria Sybilla Merian.


I read Fiona Mountain’s Lady of the Butterflies about 17th Century Eleanor Glanville and was fascinated by the story of determination Eleanor had in spite of being considered eccentric and later being accused of insanity for her butterfly hunts.  The title page of that book is incorporated into the collage.

“Butterflies were Margaret’s key to freedom.
Studying them gave her a socially acceptable way to
exempt herself form a traditional domestic role on England. “
~ Natasha Scott-Stokes, Wild and Fearless

Thanks to the Evanston Public Library I also discovered botanist Ynes Mexia, author Hilda Simon, Margaret Fountaine, and a range of women naturalists mentioned in compilations or in passing. I am astounded by the bravery of these trailblazing women, who didn’t care that they were made out for lunatics but kept pursuing their passion in spite of societal and wardrobe constraints on women at the time. I also admire contemporary butterfly artists and researchers, and love discovering more.


The collage includes my drawing of a rice paper butterfly, also called the Large Tree Nymph. My friend and drawing teacher Lauren Coyne gave me this specimen when I took her drawing workshop a few summers ago.


“A lepidopterist or aurelian is
a person who specializes in the study of Lepidoptera,
members of an order encompassing moths and
the three superfamilies of butterflies,
skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies.”
~ Wikipedia 

In May 2012 my neighborhood was a butterfly haven and I saw my first Painted Ladies and Question Marks. I had never seen either of those butterfly species before, but both were feasting on the local foliage and were wonderful posers.


The Question Mark gets its name from the silver marking on its underwing, which resembles a question mark. It is similar to the Comma butterfly, which doesn’t have the ‘dot’ on its underwing, just a comma, and also doesn’t have the purplish edges on its wings that the Question Mark does.


Upon commemorating the brave woman lepidopterists of current and past centuries on my substrate (Eleanor Glanville, Margaret Cavendish, Maria Sybilla Merian, Lauren Levato Coyne, Hilda Simon, Rachel Ruysch, Emily Mary Bowdler Sharpe, Margaret Fountaine, Jeannine Oppewall), I layered encaustic medium and green hues of encaustic paint onto the surface.


“I was careering wildly after everything I saw,
though catching tropical butterflies was no easy matter,
the intense heat seemed to have a most invigorating effect on them.”
~ Margaret Fountaine, Love Among The Butterflies, 1907 in Mombasa

After a few layers I added the collage materials, with the large photo of the Question Mark going on last.


The 3rd Annual “All Women” Art Exhibition will be featured through April, and then move to the Light Space & Time Archives. The art in the Special Merit Category could have also been placed in the top tier of the entries selected, but due to size constraints was given its own category.


The gallery received 709 entries from 22 different countries from around the world, including Armenia, Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Sweden,  Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the Ukraine, and entries from 36 different states in the U.S.


You can peruse my butterfly art work on Etsy, including collages of various sizes and pendants.

“Reading about the lives of the collectors
we sense that they are people who,
however inept at dealing with matters of state,
have accidentally found the secret of happiness—
concentrating with astonishing tenacity
to the details of another parallel world—
rising above the ills to which human flesh is heir,
on the wings of the angelic butterfly.’

~Miriam Rothchild, June 1999, The Aurelian Legacy

Recommended butterfly/naturalist reading:

  • Ynes Mexia: Botanist and Adventurer, Durlynn Anema
  • Swallowtail Butterflies, Jane Dallinger
  • Butterflies and Moths, Ken Preston Mafham
  • Luna Moths: Masters of Change, Sandra Merkle
  • Butterflies and Moths -Eyewitness Handbook, David Carter
  • Wonders of the Butterfly World, Hilda Simon
  • An Obsession With Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair With A Singular Insect, Sharman Apt Russell
  • Lady of the Butterflies, Fiona Mountain
  • A Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton Porter
  • Wild and Fearless: The Life of Margaret Fountaine, Natascha Scott-Stokes
  • Love Among the Butterflies: The Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady, Margaret Fountaine
  • The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and their Collectors, Michæl A. Salmon, Peter Marren, Basil Harley
  • The Family Butterfly Book, Rick Mikula
  • Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Die Blumenkönigin. Ein Maria Sibylla Merian- Roman, Inez van Dulleman
  • Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis, Kim Todd


Spend this weekend in Evanston for Artful Giving

I’m not quite ready for the Holidays yet, but come December 1 I will be. I like to let Thanksgiving simmer a little bit before decking the halls and selecting my wreath. My inventory is ready for the holidays though, and I just brought my pieces over to PerficalSense Studio and Salon, where they will have a sleepover through Sunday.


The Third Annual Artful Giving Party at PerficalSense Studio & Art Salon includes all pieces from the Salon show, along with cards and paper arts, fiber arts, jewelry, paintings and pottery. My Maraviglia collection will also be on display, as well as my Desktop Minis, and larger wall decor.


The party begins on Friday, November 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. with wine and cheese. Additional gift shopping hours are Saturday, December 1, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, December 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Look for the red house with the blue door at 1209 Hinman Avenue in Evanston.

If you enjoy handling merchandise before you purchase it, this is the perfect way to introduce yourself to a variety of media and truly get a feel for what it looks like in person. You can also combine your visit with a play, as Piccolo Theatre will show Bah Humbug! Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. There are lovely eateries on Main Street and Dempster as well, so make a day trip out to Evanston.

Participating artists include: Sandra Bacon, JoAnn Baumann, Bleeding Hearts, Ellin Blumenthal, Douglas Boehm, Elizabeth Bolich, Julie Cowan, Judy Disman, Gail Drozd, Nancy Engelhard, Evanston Print and Paper, Alicia Forestall-Boehm, Larry Geni, Michele Gorski, Susi Goldstein, Bridgette Guerzon-Mills, Diane Hallinan, Chris Heisinger, Cindy Jevon Hogan, Judith Joseph, Harriet Kohn, Magdalena Liss, Lisa Loomis, Eileen Madden, Danny Mansmith, Chandrika Marla, Ruti Modlin, Talya Modlin, Crystal Neubauer, Yuki Nyhan, Ann O’Brien, Alexis Ortiz, Layna Portugal, Babette Powell, Emily Rutledge, Vicki Schwartz-Mided, Vanessa Shaf, CeCe Short, Mary Krebs Smyth, Jill Sutton, Michele Thrane.


I look forward to perusing all the pretty art myself, and am drafting the shopping list of lucky recipients.