Friday, May 13, 2016

The Secret Birds, Tony Fitzpatrick at the DePaul Art Museum

Audubon Bird Guide, Eastern Land Birds, (c)1946, Doubleday

When I was about 4, my parents brought home a variety of little toy plastic birds. I can’t remember if they came gradually or all at once, but I recall a fairly large number and variety. They were probably purchased at Valueville or Shopper’s World. Lifelike replicas of their natural counterparts, each bird came in its own colorfully-printed paper box that identified the species, its habitat, and its characteristics. The largest was no more than 3” in length. I think my brothers and sister accumulated most of the birds, but I had one, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I hadn’t thought about those birds for more than 50 years, but the memory of them came flooding back when viewing The Secret Birds, an exhibition of work by Chicago Artist Tony Fitzpatrick at the DePaul Art Museum.

The show includes Fitzpatrick’s fantastically-imagined tableaux, drawn collages of birds, that are constructed with words, imagery, and twentieth century ephemera, much of it from Chicago.  The birds are soothsayers and harbingers, saints and sinners, provocateurs and teachers. They pay homage and they reflect. They seem to occupy that same but different magical space imagined in the work of Joseph Cornell.

The Secret Birds brought so many memories to mind – of my late parents, my childhood, books, poetry, and the city. They do not however evoke any sanitized and nostalgic desire for things past. Instead, they create a longing, a mourning for the city I now know Chicago will never become.

The Secret Birds is open at the DePaul Art Museum, 935 W Fullerton, Chicago, IL 60614, though August 21, 2016.  The accompanying publication Is available through Curbside Splendor Publishing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"A kite needs to be tied down…."

Among my artist colleagues, there’s something I don’t often admit. In fact, when we were dating, it was many months before I told my now-husband that I had been in a sorority. This is not a discussion about the pros and cons of Greek life, there are both. This is about a recent event.

It was a different school but that same sorority. Kappa Alpha Theta just disbanded its University of Michigan chapter for hazing and underage drinking. It had been the oldest sorority (actually, women’s fraternity) on campus, and one of the earliest chapters established in the United States.

Sadly, I agree with the Grand Council’s decision to close the sorority. According to a published account, a group of pledges responded to a fraternity serenade by becoming inebriated, taking off clothes, putting on chocolate syrup, making out (at the least), capturing it on video, and then posting it on the internet. Because the entire chapter has been punished, my guess is that this is but the latest infraction and part of a larger history.

As one of those young women who was emotionally and socially ill-prepared for big university life, I delved much too deeply into the recreational and celebratory aspects of Greek life. Fortunately, I had parents who recognized this and supported me when I transferred to a much smaller liberal arts college where I thrived. Actions have consequences, a hard lesson I’ve had to learn again and again.

I admit, I am not a parent. I can only imagine the challenge of navigating popular culture, peer pressure, social media, and celebrity – all bombarding young people today. But there comes a point when someone has to recognize that the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus are not role models; that Victoria Secret’s Pink and American Apparel sell with hypersexualized objectification of women; that ten thousand likes on one of ten thousand selfies are meaningless, and that often, sex with an inebriated minor is rape.

Perhaps it’s time to reset our moral compass and change the conversation. I don’t mean in some right-wing, so-called Christian fundamentalist way. While we’re arguing about the gender of bathrooms, young people are treating themselves and others with the same respect that third-world terrorists treat their captives. We define millennials by their buying-power, not their character, and our tendency toward charity, kindness, and empathy is certainly in scarce supply.

I keep hearing people who are worried about the economic future of their children’s children. I would suggest worrying about our own character, and how it informs the behavior of young people. In doing so we safeguard not only our young people’s future, but that of generations to come.

Oh, by the way, I was a debutante too.

Friday, March 4, 2016


For 22 years, Woman Made Gallery has supported the work of woman-identified artists through exhibitions and professional development opportunities. Exhibitions at the gallery address not only feminist issues, but also those critical questions we all encounter every day –­ gender, race, the environment and economic inequality. The gallery also serves the public, celebrating women, community and Chicago in a meaningful and thoughtful way. The most recent exhibition, ABANDONED MARGINS: POLICING THE BLACK FEMALE BODY, received national attention.

Woman Made has been profoundly and negatively impacted by the Illinois Budget crisis. Grants that have historically provided organizational support have evaporated. An organization that has, for more than two decades, employed, supported and educated members of our community, is struggling financially.

You can help Woman Made Gallery survive. Your membership and/or charitable contribution will insure the gallery’s future – no monetary contribution is too small. Let’s not lose this important pillar of Chicago’s cultural edifice. And don’t forget! After making your contribution, plan a visit to the gallery to enjoy and learn from the important work that will be shared in upcoming exhibitions and literary events.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Day for Detroit

McSorley’s Bar, 1912
John Sloan
Oil on canvas
26 x 32 in.
Founders Society Purchase, General Membership Fund

I haven't posted in some time, but this is important. Tyler Green, the creator/journalist of Modern Art Notes has declared today A Day for Detroit in support of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). There is the possibility that much of DIA's important art collection may be sold as part of the city's bankruptcy proceedings. In support of the DIA, I have selected McSorley's Bar by John Sloan as one of my favorite works.

Please go to Mr. Green's blog and read more in support of this treasured institution. There are may ways you can support. Perhaps, like me, you can become a member of the DIA (I'll post my membership confirmation tomorrow). The city of Detroit needs it, the people of Detroit need it, the DIA needs it.

Go Tigers!

Friday, November 2, 2012

storm drain

Installation view, Gasser Grunert, "Where I Have Lived and What I Live For"

Rebecca Morgan
Installation View: "Where I Have Lived and What I Live For"
Gasser Grunert, 2010
all works believed lost

I believe that some of the art I make is good. I also believe that my best work is produced when I am making a lot of it. In addition, if the project is well conceived before I ever put a pencil or paint to surface, the result is better. It is sometimes as though the work makes itself.

Right now I have a set of two unfinished paintings tacked to my studio wall. They're stuck. I keep trying to complete them but I remain indecisive. I have been working on them for more than a year. Sometimes the size and complexity of work requires a substantial period of time for completion. These paintings are neither complex nor large. They were incomplete from the get-go.

Years ago, my inability to complete these paintings would have rendered me unable to complete any other paintings. It wasn't perfectionism, it was ego and fear and procrastination. I would have fixated on how profound their narrative was, how complete they needed to be. I am fortunate that my practice has broadened enough that have I now have more ideas than time, and I no longer believe my work to be so weighty that a particular project's failure can hinder the production of other work.

I have been thinking about this a lot in the wake of Sandy, and her devastating impact on artists in the New York City area. I have several friends who have lost not just whole bodies of work, but also the spaces in which they create them.  News photos of Manhattan's Chelsea galleries and Brooklyn's Red Hook studios break my heart.While this devastation is certainly less tragic than the loss of lives and homes, I feel so sad for the artists and the hours of dedication and skill they had invested in their work.

But I am hopeful. The artists I know will continue to make good and perhaps even better work. All of their knowledge and skill will be enhanced by the personal experience of this loss. The community of artists will be strengthened by it. I believe this.

I'm looking at these two paintings again and I'm going to put them away or get rid of them outright. If by some calamity, in 10 years, my work was all destroyed, I would much rather go forward with the sense of accomplishment of having  made a substantive amount of work, good and bad. I would value the experience and craft gained in the process of making that work. The real tragedy would be in attempting, achieving and then losing nothing.

To all of my tribe who have lost studios and work due to Sandy, my heart breaks for you. But really... I can't wait to see the work that comes next.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

from the outside

[People Looking at Political Posters on Street, Paris]
Rudy Burckhardt  (American (born Switzerland), Basel 1914–1999 Searsmont, Maine)
Date: 1934
Medium: Gelatin silver print
Dimensions: Image: 16 x 23.7 cm (6 5/16 x 9 5/16 in.) 18.9 x 24.9 cm (7 7/16 x 9 13/16 in.) Classification: Photographs
Credit Line: Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2009
Accession Number: 2009.278 Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

17 highly personal reasons that I’m conflicted about the teacher’s strike...
  1. teachers must be highly compensated when they do good work
  2. everyone who has a job must be evaluated at some point
  3. individuals who cannot fulfill the requirements should be retrained or replaced
  4. the battling egos of karen lewis and rahm emmanuel... rahm you’re short, karen you’re fat...get over it and think about the kids
  5. there weren’t student teaching opportunities at my graduate school, because the school’s faculty union prohibited them (as we were told by our department chair)
  6. teachers should not be considered daycare providers, social workers or medical practitioners
  7. I have applied to more than 600 jobs in the past two years and have only recently become a part-time employee earning not quite twice minimum wage
  8. if you exhibit at mccormick place you are not allowed to plug into an electrical socket or move a table even six inches, the union has to do it - and they’ll charge you for it
  9. parents need to be responsible for what their children do - not teachers
  10. 12.5 million people are unemployed in the united states
  11. “absolute power corrupts absolutely”
  12. in general, negotiation means compromise on both sides - this isn’t about “breaking” either side - i highly doubt that either the chicago school board or teacher’s union will be voting for the republican party - and if you’re voting for the green party - well i have no words
  13. books absolutely need to be provided the first day of class - shame on the Board of Ed
  14. the NATO summit - what a colossal cluster and waste of time and resources
  15. if standardized tests don’t accurately assess current curriculum, either the test, or the curriculum need to change
  16. there should be air conditioning in all public schools, but you’re going to have to reform the entire system of municipal building codes, permit acquisition and construction in the city to do this...good luck with that...(yes, talk to any architect who has worked on the city’s education facilities)
  17. I had a plumber walk out of my apartment because we had installed our own dishwasher 15 years before...because it was not union installed. never mind that the job for which we needed him had nothing to do with said dishwasher

i will support the union because i am a liberal and unions are the only institution where many individuals can be treated and compensated fairly - i just wish we lived in a country where individuals were respected in such a way that unions were no longer necessary.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Today is Memorial Day. Originally conceived to honor fallen Union soldiers after the Civil War, the holiday now honors all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

In 2005 we went to France. Paris was the main goal as we had wanted to experience it together for a long time, but we decided to begin our trip in Normandy. I’m so glad we did.

Seeing the tiny ribbon that is Omaha Beach and the lovingly cared-for graves of 9,387 soldiers that are buried there was a deeply moving experience. We were both moved to tears, and talk about that trip every Memorial Day. I’ve experienced the same complex emotions while visiting our National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia. There, almost all of the graves are identical. A military cook may be found buried next to a Colonel.

I am neither celebrating nor criticizing war. It is a terrible thing, I’m certain the 400,000 individuals buried at Arlington would attest to that. Every American should be required to visit Arlington. Perhaps it might give us some perspective when we plan the activities of our holiday celebrations, and what we might pause to consider during them.

And to those that have served, thank you.