Holographic Histories

November 25, 2014
/   Technology

An upcoming event hopes to find a new home for holograms that once belonged to Chicago's Museum of Holography.

Brazil on a Plate

/   Food

Many cultures mingle in farofa, a Brazilian side dish with a long and fascinating history.

A Feast of Words

November 19, 2014
/   School

SAIC writers get experimental with The Dining Room, a student group that gives participants a chance to share their works-in-progress with an audience.

Strong For Hong Kong

November 18, 2014
/   News

A photo report and interviews with SAIC students protesting the voting rights ordinance.

Patti Smith Conjures the Dead

November 16, 2014
/   Music

The legendary musician, writer and artist swung by Chicago on All Soul's Day. One fan writes about the experience.

Resurgence or Emergence?

/   Film Review

An Imagist-inspired interview with director Leslie Buchbinder and cinematographer Brian Ashby on their recent documentary, Hairy Who & The Chicago Imagists

Colleen Plumb’s Elephant on the Wall

November 13, 2014
/   Chicago

The Chicago-based video artist is undertaking a three-month experiment in translating her video piece "Thirty Times A Minute" into guerrilla screenings in Chicago streets.

Exploring “Europe’s Most Expensive Chapel”

August 24, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

Lisbon’s Igreja de São Roque (Church of Saint Roch) sports a deceptively plain white facade, but the interior of the 17th-century building is home to some of the most prized (and allegedly expensive) Catholic art and architecture in all of Europe.

Pzzzt – The Buzz from Albania

July 29, 2014
/   Art Review

The narrow mouth of a communist-era air-raid shelter beneath an apartment building is the home to Tirana’s independent artist-run gallery space.

Compasses Not Maps

September 11, 2014
/   Technology

Speculative Design shies away from design for mass consumption, which relies on generalizing about groups of people to create one profitable solution. Charlesworth explained her past jobs in design consulting and service design as something she found “ethically difficult.”

Alternative Art Spaces in Chicago

August 5, 2013
/   Feature Stories

Where They Began and Where They Are Now

With identities as diverse as the neighborhoods they occupy, alternative art spaces operate on the same basic premise: to share contemporary art not exhibited in Chicago’s established art institutions.

The Un-Pop Star

July 18, 2014
/   Music

Sia Furler is the lyrical mastermind behind an endless stream of pop hits including Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and David Guetta’s “Titanium.” Unlike her A-list collaborators, Sia prefers to avoid the spotlight entirely and focus solely on her work as a writer.

Global Gallery

June 13, 2014
/   School

This year's Nippon Steel + SAIC Exhibition brings student work to an international audience.

To elevate the sensory experience of viewing work in the Art Institute of Chicago, we’re building a soundtrack for your visit, one piece at a time.

The most satisfying way to engage with art is by devouring it on multiple levels. Of the ways to do so (some more legal than others), the tried and true combination is through the eyes and through the ears, simultaneously. Whether it’s the lasting influence of cover art on our relationship to an album, or the fact that soundtracks have become an indispensable aspect of film, music enables us to digest visual art more deeply.

When encountering visual art, then, finding its inherent music becomes our task. This is done through full immersion into what is first seen, followed by careful excavation of what could be seen. Once meaning is extracted, you can get it talking — and when you get it to sing, it’s usually humming a tune you already know.

Ed Paschke, Mid American, 1969. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Ed Paschke, Mid American (1969). Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Ed Paschke’s Mid American is a vibrant painting of a man in athletic attire provoking the viewer, flaunting the social markings (tattoo, silk robe, snazzy shoes) middle-class Americans often enlist to concurrently cover up and exaggerate a middle-class identity. The use of bold, electric colors and the character’s imposing position in the foreground of the composition set a tone that is both psychedelic and aggressive. This painting calls for a song with similarly pulsating grittiness and voltage, and The Cramps’ “Garbageman” (Songs the Lord Taught Us, 1980) is its perfect aural companion.

The song kicks off with the low rumblings of a garbage truck, and Paschke’s man is absolutely the one hopping off this truck. The grinding riff that kicks in rattles this guy’s rockabilly wing-tip shoe wings until they start to groove and tap so furiously he all but flies off the canvas.

Paschke’s man, our “garbageman,” asserts himself, chest tattoo exposed, shouting at the viewer along with Cramps singer Lux Interior, “You ain’t no punk, you punk.” There is no speaking style more characteristically “middle-American” than a sentence with an improper contraction, an immediate contradiction and a good old-fashioned scolding. The repetition of “Do you understand?” throughout the song is the credo of the man in the painting — someone over-confrontational, with little authority, struggling to find a peon or a punk to exert what little power he has through a repetitious rant or lecture. His scowl bears the self–assured invincibility of a union member.

Members of the middle and working classes often find it hard to separate their social identity from their line of work. Since they handle everyone’s trash, they must be trash, according to those who socially rank higher. Similarly, the Cramps, who embodied trashy B-horror style, were written off early on as kitschy, campy, and cartoony — but they were deadly serious. Paschke and the Chicago Imagists, too, embraced low­-brow humor and were called low-brow by those who didn’t get the joke. Cramps guitarist Poison Ivy Rorschach would have really appreciated the vulgar little mustache and silk robe Paschke painted on his character.

The concept behind Mid American applies to the pre-Cramps lives of Interior and Rorschach — or Erick Purkhiser and Kristy Wallace, two Sacramento college students who moved back to Purkhiser’s hometown of Akron, Ohio, and worked in a circuit-board factory until they couldn’t take it anymore. The juxtaposition in Mid American of baseball gloves with blossoming psychedelia represents what Purkhiser and Wallace’s lives might have been had they never escaped Ohio and had only dreamed of life as artists in New York. The desire to flee factory life pushed the duo to New York, where they promptly traded in proverbial baseball gloves for wing-tips, and could truly declare themselves the Cramps! Inventors of psychobilly! Embracers of trash!

The painting captures the peculiar reality that sometimes the necessity to leave a place behind can keep you more strongly tethered to it — as if you owe it something. The Cramps prove that the ways we try to disguise ourselves can sometimes reveal even more truth, just as we see more of Paschke’s man through his mask and tattoo. The phrase “Our Cover” is proudly displayed along the hem of his shorts just as Interior and Rorschach expressed themselves through their own over-the-top personas.

Interior sharpens Paschke’s character with the line, “One half hillbilly and one half punk … the hottest thing from the North to come out of the South,” landing viewers and listeners right on a mid-American.

Jessica Barrett Sattell

Design & Tech Writer. Web Editor of F Newsmagazine + Arts Journalism Grad Student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Troy Pieper

A writer and editor based in Chicago, Illinois. I provide fresh, compelling arts and culture content to a variety of publications and write powerful, targeted copy for a range of institutions.

Alexia Casanova

Marseille - London - Mexico - Chicago. Arts Editor of F Newsmagazine. Arts Management Grad Student at SAIC.

Alyssa Moxley

Alyssa Moxley graduated SAIC with an MFA in Sound. Using multiple voices, microphone techniques, field recording, music, sound design, and speaker placement, she plays with memory as both a personal and shared medium.

Kimia Maleki

Kimia Maleki is a master’s candidate in the Department of Arts Administration and Policy at SAIC.