What do we really know about the ground we walk on?
Illustration by Jordan Whitney Martin
When I was a kid, I was a full fledged, sash-wearing, cookie-selling Girl Scout. For two weeks of every summer and countless weekends, I spent time at Camp Welaka, a small site located on the outskirts of the larger Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, Florida. The camp consisted of army surplus tents mounted on raised platforms to protect us from the seasonal flooding on a sandy terrain speckled with pine trees and palmetto bushes made humid by the Loxahatchee River snaking through the grounds. Each summer spiders and mosquitoes feast on hapless campers only to be killed en masse as trucks spraying pesticides drive along the dirt roads of the camp. One summer my girl scout best friend and I noticed strange red lights emanating from across the park. We devised fantastical stories to explain the glow in the night sky, stories of Red Martians and the invasion of the rival Boy Scout’s Camp Tanah Keeta. As the years passed, the red glow became accepted, and like the trucks of pesticide, was not discussed.
C + -Au
Graphite, Distemper and Gold Pencil on Paper, 2013
Sarah Knudtson //photos courtesy of the artist
Flash forward a decade or so, to my stint as a K-12 drawing teacher. I was reassuring a young pupil that she would not get lead poisoning from the shiny grey smears on her hands, and had the realization that although I knew that pencils were graphite and not lead, I didn’t actually know their history. I looked into it. The process started benignly enough, with a history that involved shepherds marking their sheep and graphite’s amazing properties as a cannonball lubricant. From there I began to make drawings that toyed with these histories. Following the trail from artistic to industrial uses, I started playing with its conductivity. This resulted in drawings that, with the help of electric currents, lit up LEDs. Wanting to explore this material further, I stumbled across an article that mentioned graphite was used in nuclear reactors. I do not pretend to understand nuclear fission, or for that matter life in general, but I do know that the very first reactor ever built used 771,000 pounds of graphite, which equates to a shit ton of drawings by third graders. This discovery was congruent with my arrival in Chicago, the home of that very heavy first reactor, known the world over as Chicago Pile One, CP1 to it’s friends. It was built in a squash court under the football field at the University of Chicago in 1942, but by 1943 the reactor moved to it’s current location in Red Gate Woods.
Infrared Stereoscopic Digital Photograph, 2013
Sarah Knudtson //photos courtesy of the artist
Part of the Cook County Forest Preserve, Red Gate is located just outside of the city. Marked by two monuments reminiscent of gravestones are Plot M, the first nuclear waste pile, and Site A, commemorating the burial site of the reactor. I was intrigued that these sites, visible scars on the landscape, are located within a nature preserve. Researching Red Gate Woods led me to look into the history of other parks and preserves. What I discovered was that many parks also share histories complicated by government regulations that seesaw between masking and exposing the manufacturing refuse of the past.
While digging through Chicago’s industrial burial grounds, I recalled those lights that in my youth I had attributed to boy-scout-abducting aliens. Prior to being a Florida State Park, the Jonathan Dickinson grounds had been Camp Murphy, a World War II training ground for the then highly classified radar system. In its heyday the site was made up of one thousand buildings, including a bowling alley. Remnants of those buildings can still be seen on the landscape. It turns out that in the mid 80s the state of Florida sold a parcel of land back to the federal government to build the Jonathan Dickinson Missile Tracking Annex. Atop a large microwave tower protruding from the northern section of the park was the source of the lights that had appeared that summer.
Even though I cannot visit these sites in person, I have developed a way of exploring them visually. Delving into materials made available by the Freedom of Information Act to question the shift that occurs when a place goes from restricted to public access, I create physical remnants of the unseen. In hand-drawn, layered photographic maps I ask, “What do we really know about the ground we walk on?”
Illustration by Jordan Whitney Martin.
For having no brain, I admit, you are wise. But I can’t tell if you are yummy. No offense. It must be really frustrating to be hunted down, dried, then fried and finally — heaven forbid — eaten. This is why I kind of understand when you revengefully go all toxic and dangerous and so easily get your venom flowing into our human body with a simple touch. I wouldn’t like to lie deep fried in a plate accompanying a glass of wine, either! But please, tell your friends the sea wasps there’s no need to drive people to their poisoning, agonizing death in a few seconds just because they can. I know you guys need a gangster squad, too. But trust me, dear jelly, scaring people off is more than enough. We need the beach and we need the swimming and we need the surfing, too. Nothing good ever comes from war. You know you’re better than this.
Traveling the seven seas, feeling the waves carry you away, swimming along with hundreds or thousands of brothers and sisters in jellyfish blooms sounds like a dream life to me. Why not stick to that? I wonder if you ever take a moment to think of all the things you have.
Being so transparent makes you nearly invisible. I know many of us would love to be able to do that sometimes, too. Can’t you use your invisibility to find inner peace and quiet? Take a tiny moment to just stand still and observe the world without being seen yourself. In the super stressful, high-speed era we are living in, you could make a living by teaching that kind of thing, jelly-friend. You’d be an expert because you know how to live life at your own pace. Using your little umbrella-shaped bell pulsating for locomotion. In this day and age! Plus you are phenomenal to observe when you float. You can get people hypnotized. Goldfish got nothing compared to you.
You are your own sparkly disco ball lighting up and rotating as you please, performing any disco move ever imagined. Floating around for 500 years without bones, brain or even blood in your system, you dance your heart out in swirls, even though you don’t literally have one! Well, what’s wrong with having no heart? You’ve got the style, baby! And you’ve got your ways of twisting and turning on your own into the world’s oceans. Only you could be pink or purple or turquoise or bright orange or even crystal clear if you fancy.
Plus you have your own special way to reproduce which is not one really, but … two? Both sexually and asexually? Seriously, in what kind of evolutionary state are you, jelly? What is this, outer space? How do you even call this thing you do with your babies, first releasing the sperm into the water, then fertilizing your girl without a single touch — a good or a bad thing, who am I to judge — and then letting the little egg go out into the clear, blue waters to grow and feed all by itself? No wonder it’s gonna turn out super independent just like yourself!
We’ve all got so much to learn from you; if only we could be self illuminated. I’m sorry, friend, this is way too awesome. Some people think of you as a forbidden gourmet delicacy, but if that’s the way for humans to get some of your superpowers I might start considering it, too. You might as well think of it as revenge against your silent sting. And everyone knows that revenge is a dish best eaten cold.
Jellies of different shapes and colors live at Shedd Aquarium, Chicago and they are waiting for you to visit in their “95% water, 100% amazing” exhibit, extended through 2013.
Shortly after 1 PM Thursday, the School of the Art Institute issued an emergency alert to faculty, staff and students. The Chicago Building, one of SAIC dorms, has closed temporarily after glass feel from a building on Madison Street. According to Chicago Breaking News, debris was falling from a Sears store at that location, police said.
No word yet on any injuries related to the scene. Check back for updates.
By Caroline Liebman
Illustration by Luke Armistead
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago launched a new logo after displacing Katie Friedman’s long-standing black and red un-logo. The logo, which came by way of Leo Burnett, is showing up more frequently on windows, doors, stationary, and was at one point the focus of the school’s website. Now that students have had some time to get used to the new branding, F News asked students what they think. Head over to the fnewsmagazine.com forum to join the discussion.
“I like it. It’s not overdone like a lot of other colleges”
Favorite Logo: Gatorade
Storm Campo, First year student
“It’s better than the last one.”
Favorite Logo: N/A
“It’s straight up.
I’m o.k. with it.”
Favorite Logo: “McDonald’s, becaue of the history behind it.”
Marcel Alcala, Painting
“It’s simple and effective.”
Favorite Logo: “I don’t like logos.”
Brandon Seckler, Painting
“It’s postmodern, it fits the SAIC tradition.”
Favorite Logo: N/A
“It’s not detestable. I can see the criticism that it’s a corporate label.”
Favorite Logo: “Target has good branding.”
Niki Yowell, New Arts Journalism
“It’s boring—it’s a square.”
Favorite Logo: N/A
Mandy Johnston, Film, Video, New Media
“You would think at an institution with such an interesting population… why wouldn’t they have the logo reflect that?”
Favorite Logo: The K Records Logo
“I don’t think it actually represents the experience of going here, more the illusion of it.”
Favorite Logo: NSYNC
Crispin Rosenkranz, Film, Video, New Media Grad
“It’s institutional, combined with a clear business accreditation. I think the students should redesign it.”
Favorite Logo: A dot
William Amaya, Various Studies
“It’s representative of the weakness of the art institution.”
Favorite Logo: N/A
“I have a huge problem with the school setting up outside help [to create it]. Why go out of house? It’s offensive to the students who are paying money to go here.”
Favorite Logo: “I like Cranbrook’s logo.”
Elise Goldstein, Sculpture Grad
See more comics by Eric J. Garcia
Eric J. Garcia, a visual artist well known to the School of the Art Institute community (of which he is a recent alumnus) for his political comics recently took his work his work on the road to Chiapias, Mexico to learn and to be inspired.
Garcia, whose work ranges from paintings, to prints, to political cartoons and even sculptural objects and installation pieces has won numerous awards for his artwork. His success has allowed him the opportunity to work with a variety of artists and cultural institutions. One consistent theme running through his work is the Chicano experience. “When I say Chicano,” Garcia is careful to clarify, “I mean the mezcla [mix] of Spanish and indigenous cultures but with the added complication of being born in the U.S. My art deals with these historical, cultural, and political complexities in a very critical way.”
Garcia’s work has been showcased at Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art located in the city’s predominately Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood. Last summer Garcia worked with the museum on the popular Declaration of Immigration exhibition. The show dealt with the often heated topic of immigration in the United States. Due to the success of his work in the exhibition Garcia was then invited to interview for an artist exchange program in Chiapas, Mexico. The program, Millas y Kilometros, accepted Garcia as well as Chicago artists Georgina Valverde and Caleb Durate (a fellow MFA student from SAIC).
According to Garcia, the program allows Mexican and Mexican American artists to travel between the U.S. and Mexico in order to generate ideas and ultimately create work based on their experiences. Last October Garcia visited Chiapas for his two week artistic experience and in March artists from Chiapas came to Chicago for two weeks.
Regarding the experience Garcia said it was extremely positive and cleared any preconceptions he had about the area. “The city of Tuxtla is a modern city like any other, ” he said. “[There are] lots of artists working in the latest ideas of contemporary art. San Cristobol is a beautiful old Colonial town that has become a magnet for tourists, spiritualist, hippies, and different social movements. We got to visit the famous ruins of Palenque which were very impressive and other little towns along the way. The whole trip was great.”
Because of his work with the museum and the program, Garcia was granted artistic space to work on his projects in the Yollocalli Youth Arts Center in Pilsen. Currently, he is working on finishing his art piece for the Chiapas project. “The piece I am working on is an altar,” he explained. The piece, a three tier altar that is 6 feet wide and 9 feet tall, is being sculpted out of foam insulation and will then be painted. Garcia said that the final product will be a “a mezcla of the different aspects of Chicanos: indigenous hieroglyphs, Spanish baroque and U.S. pop art.”
Overall, Garcia says he is driven by sharing his work and his experiences: “I want to share my art with as many people as I can. I consider my art a tool to learn from and also a weapon that confronts injustice. I want my art not only to be appreciated for its craftsmanship and contemporary ideas of art, but also for the political messages that are embedded within it.”
At the heart of A Hirsute Affair are the myriad cultural meanings and representations of hair. A Hirsute Affair garners its name from hirsutism, a medical condition found in women who grow excessive amounts of hair, often occurring in places where hair does not normally grow. These are the literary pieces of this curated show at gallery X.
by Heather McShane
Musings of Rapunzel
by Kelsey Keaton
A Slideshow and artist’s book
by Tai Jin Kang
I am looking at a girl. I take pleasure in the summer breeze outside of Berry Chill yogurt ice cream shop on a summer day while examine a girl walking towards the shop.
En El Bocco De Lupo
by Francesca Rose Gagliano
I stood with dull scissors
The equivalent of a woman’s tweezers
But used, I think, to trim a man’s beard.
by Jennifer Swann
My father, a pseudo Beach Boy whose mane in every baby photo is the color of a lemon tart, is the true pioneer of all great hairstyles. His junior high class photos prove that he was wearing his hair straight and at shoulder-length long before Hanson was even conceived.
by E.C. Messer
Now that I cut
my own hair I
on the street
who do it.
A Hirsute Affair at Gallery X