31 December 2014

On 2014 Pt. 1

2014 flew by with such rapid succession, I'm finding it hard to believe that tomorrow is the new year. So much has happened, so many major life changes, so much of which I am grateful for and let's be real, proud of. At the end of December 2013, I took a good hard look at myself (my career path too), and determined something big: never do it for the money. I began working a job that paid me a considerable amount more than I was making at the Art Institute, but at the cost of losing sight of my passions, trading in a healthy work community for one that had some major respect issues, and found myself bored at my 40+ hours of work, confused at my own decision. How did I, this creative, energetic, passionate, art-lover end up in a cubicle with a great view, and an athletic trainer whipping me into shape? I lost myself for a few months there.

But then I woke up. I decided to apply to graduate school in Museum and Exhibition Studies. I used that hot new bod to run an 8K. I read a bunch of books. I taught myself to make soap. I made meaningful new friendships. I discovered lavender oil. I feel like I'm a new version of myself, one who is capable of keeping secrets, taking risks, using essential oils regularly, and admitting that I don't like my job, so I'm quitting. 2014 was a trying year, but it did me good.

Here's a reflection on the first six months:

+ I traveled to San Diego and Los Angeles, visited LACMA for the first time, took a drive on Mullholland Drive, and saw ASSSSCAT at UCB

+ I discovered the work of Michael Rakowitz at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, a show that has stuck with me this entire year. Little did I know that eight months later, his wife (Lori Waxman) would visit my writing class and continue to inspire me.

+ There was this awful and amazing thing called the Polar Vortex. I admit I was totally resentful that I had to go into work that day, but gearing up to walk through an empty downtown Chicago in very very sub-zero temps gave me major street cred. Or so I tell myself.

+ I applied to and was accepted by UIC's MUSE (Museum and Exhibitions Studies Program). I attended the open house in the middle of the month, and met three like-minded museum-loving ladies who would become my friends in August (Andie, Alice, and Lena!). Though I was accepted into the program in February, I decided to keep my job until the end of July (a girl has to eat and needs healthcare). Keeping this seven month secret was immensely difficult.
My first of many many visits to the Jane Addams Hull House Museum at UIC
+ I saw Neutral Milk Hotel in concert for the first time. This has been something I've wanted to do since I started listening to NMH a decade ago. Seeing them literally brought tears to my eyes. No photographic evidence of this exists because Jeff Mangum requested we live in the moment sans phones and camera. I really dug that mentality.

+ For our two-year anniversary, Andrew and I taught ourselves how to make Bon Appetit's Chicken Pot Pie. It was epic, delicious, easy, and easily one of my favorite recipes of the year. Also, two years with Andrew! What the what?!
Image via Bon Appetit
+ I began interning with Herb Nolan. Every Saturday for nearly a year, I've been archiving his photography collection. Those Saturdays catching up and talking about everything and anything over coffee and the Velvet Underground were the highlight of my year.

+ I kicked off the month of March waiting in line (in Chicago winter) for upwards of two hours for an advance screening of the Grand Budapest Hotel with Andrew. Wes Anderson was there, and I swear, at the end of the movie he was standing five feet away from us. I melted. Also, the Music Box will forever be my favorite film venue.
Image via Calvin.edu

+ I spontaneously decided to see Islands at SPACE, and it was a really amazing concert. Sometimes you just have to say, "I'm going to this concert!" And then go. I don't really think I've ever regretted attending performing arts events, so maybe more of that in 2015... I also really love that venue!!

+ My grandmother moved into an assisted living facility, and her beautiful condo full of mid-century modern furniture, books, and world treasures was packed up. This is a bittersweet memory from the year, but I'm glad I visited the apartment one last time before it was disbanded.

+ I participated in the Shamrock Shuffle. I completed it. I ran an 8K. Who am I even?

+ I read Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. Sometimes it's fun to read the book that EVERYONE is reading. Also, this book is about art, art theft, art history, and Dutch Baroque painting (something I discovered I loved my freshman year of college). It made me want to drop everything and maybe, just maybe, move to New York.

+ I turned 26 in style. That is, in a car road tripping to Nashville with Andrew to spend my birthday with Lexie & Kathryn! We had dinner at Rolf and Daughters and ran into one of my favorite authors, Emma Straub, who wished me a happy birthday. AMEN. Also, we sang karaoke at a place called Santa's Pub. It's in a trailer, you can smoke inside, and it's Christmas year-round. Need I say more? Also hot chicken. We went to Las Paletas which marked the defining moment when Lexie and I made the ever-so adult decision to eat two-popsicles in a row, because when in Rome Nashville.

+ Passover happened. I don't even remember what we ate, but we had new prayer books,  here's a photo:

+ Nick and I threw a joint birthday party with the glamorous theme of "FART SOUNDS." I can't explain it to you now, but it made perfect sense then, I swear. Also, I bought a deviled egg tray explicitly for the occasion and have not used it since the party. Looks like deviled eggs are in our future...

This was also the first time I had a really major baking-brain-fart. I made the world's lumpiest, ugliest, chocolate cake. It looked like a garbage heap. But then one of my wonderful guests showed up with a pineapple upside down cake and all was right with the world.

+ The band OWLS decided to reunite, release a new album, and somehow Andrew and I ended up at their first show in a decade. For free. In a little bar I grew to love this year called Punch House. They make punch. They have an aquarium behind the bar. There is lots of wood panelling. Little did I know I'd be seeing OWLS three times this year.

We created a new tradition too: every time we see OWLS, we eat dumplings. We've eaten dumplings at Joe's in Chinatown in NYC before seeing them at the Bowery, we've eaten dumplings in Bridgeport at Ed's, and at Mott Street in Chicago. OWLS and dumplings go together.

Andrew Outside of Ed's Potsticker House
+ I learned how to make chocolate donuts. NBD.

+ I participated in Make Month (copyright Emma Martin) in which I made myself do or make something everyday for an entire month. It was very productive.
That time I finally put my laundry away.
+ I taught myself how to make soap. Spoiler alert: it's really easy.

+ I saw the Dodos and Neko Case,  Cousins, and Angel Olsen. It was a busy month for live music.

+ My dad and brother shared a birthday. We went to Sox Park and had a really nice family dinner. I took photos and ate steak.

+ I went on my first (and last) party bus.

+ Doug Sohn of Hot Doug's announced he would be closing in October, so we went and we ate, and we cried.

+ The hospital where I was born was demolished. RIP Betrand Goldberg Women's Hospital.

+ I got a new tooth installed (is that the word for it?) and a new pair of glasses. Robot Sandy!

+ My mom came to visit and we had an epic catch-up sesh over fresh catches at Nico. I gave her homemade soap and some other goodies, wrapped up in a special gift bag.

+ I went camping for the first time and was a helpful human. I made breakfast in a skillet over a fire, and Andrew and I were rained in our tent for an entire night. It was both exhilarating and terrifying.

+ I finally found out who owns the Magic Milk painted van. He did not disappoint.

+ I mentally prepped for my pal Ben to move to Virginia. I miss him every single day. He has the best collection of tiny art history trinkets I have ever seen.

+ Popsicle season came on hard.

+ Gay Pride Parade was excellent. It was so sweaty hot out, but I befriended a dog and actually let him lick my face!

05 December 2014

Life As of Late

To answer a few questions about the cricket chirps that equate to my blog these days:

No, I'm not quite done with finals.
Yes, I'm planning on reflecting on my first semester of grad school, just give me a weekend and I should be ready to contemplate (post one more paper).

Here are some images that sum up my life, as of late. Upon reflection, sometimes it's easier to pick a photo here and there. I always love scrolling through my older posts to remember what exactly was going on in my life. Things I'm into right now include:

- Obsessively checking the CPL website to see if my copies of "Not That Kind of Girl" and "It Starts With Food" have become available.
- Serial, because... Serial.
- Sneaking in a page or two of "reading for pleasure" books. I'm reading "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" but please don't tell my homework...
- Butternut squash soup / sweet potato soup
- Making my own mint and eucalyptus shower and room spray
- The Carrie Diaries. I know, I know. I am crazy.

Mari and I in the kitchen. Confession: Thanksgiving was all of the meltdowns rolled into a day full of meltdowns. In retrospect, I'm grateful for a whole lot - I just had a really hard time showing it. Here's to continuing to try to be grateful and mindful, but also expressing myself in meaningful and productive ways. 
Still archiving Herb's collection. We are knee deep in negatives! And he's even started enlarging some of our unearthings!!
That time I had a "boys night" that ended with us grabbing drinks at the 95th. Best $8 cider I've had in a while.
#babylostandfound my "side project" of collecting lost items belonging to children is in full force.

Working at Gallery 400 continues to be illuminating and gratifying for me. I helped a great deal with our current show.

Studio visit last night was pretty fun, also PBR. Also, why am I not in the MFA program??

25 November 2014

But I'm So Close...

I am knee-deep in finals, but the above clip from Me and You and Everyone We Know pretty much sums up what I am exploring in two of my projects. I'm really fascinated by the Institutional Critique movement, artists who seek to unveil what it is about museum institutions that's problematic. Problematic is a loose term to describe ideologies that might have been better-suited in early museum history, but just don't have a place in contemporary society. Issues like sexism, racism, and exclusionary practices that bar so many different artists and audiences from entering the museum space. I'll be back with some of my revelations, but for now, a wonderful clip of my lady-love, Miranda July.

02 November 2014

Interview with Herb Nolan

Herb Nolan is a photographer residing and working in Chicago. For five decades he has photographed a wide range of subject matter in Chicago and internationally. Most known for his photographs of jazz and blues musicians, his work has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Daily News, and Downbeat Magazine. For the last eight months, I have been archiving his collection of 1,600 photographs and countless negatives. In a recent interview we discussed some of his protest photography from the 1960’s.
Tom Waits
Tom Waits at the Victoria Restaurant,  silver gelatin print by Herb Nolan, 1976

Sandy Guttman:
Tell me a little about yourself.

Herb Nolan: I was born in Evanston, IL, My family lived in Winnetka and Riverside. I went to high school in Riverside, and I studied at Bradley University where I graduated in… a long time ago (chuckles). While at school I studied journalism; there were 16 people in our little graduating class. I worked for a bunch of newspapers and magazines and now I work in a hardware store.

SG: Which magazines and newspapers did you work for?

HN: I started out at a little newspaper called the Wheaton Daily Journal. Those were 60-hour weeks, at $85 a week. I also worked as a copyboy at the Peoria Journal Star. Then I was drafted and went to Vietnam.

SG: When were you drafted?

HN: 1965.

SG: And how long were you there for?

HN: 1966 through 1967.

SG: What was that experience like for you?

HN: Guilt.

SG: Just guilt?

HN: Guilt, but interesting research on what war looks like.

SG: Did you have your camera with you when you were in Vietnam?

HN: Yes, everybody took pictures. I have a lot of color slides from then. We’re not going to archive those.

SG: When you got back from Vietnam what did you do next?

HN: I wandered around the neighborhood (chuckles), and I cleared my head. But then I went back to working as a newspaper reporter.

SG: What were you reporting on?

HN: Everything. Police, city council, school boards, boards of trustees - in the suburbs through this whole chain of community newspapers.

SG: And you took photographs when you were reporting?

HN: Yeah, often with small newspapers you took your own pictures, back then it was all film.

The Biograph Theater, Herb Nolan
SG: When did you start taking photographs?

HN: When I was in college there was a woman that was doing black and white photography as part of her art. I saw what she was doing and said, “Shit, I like that.” So I bought a cheap camera and started doing it. It clicked. Photography was part of the journalism thing. And the Tribune used to hire me to go along as a photographer with their freelance writers. I also used to write features for the Tribune.

SG: Did you have formal training in photography?

HN: I’m self-taught. There was a class in the journalism curriculum, and those days we used 4 by 5 speed graphic cameras.

SG: What were some of your favorite things to photograph?

HN: Things you would see, people, city stuff, it depends where I was. Just images I saw and wanted to capture. Not landscapes, I’m not Ansel Adams. And here’s the philosophy, you and I could be looking out of the same window or looking at the same thing on the street, and it’s boring to you, you don’t see anything. I do.

SG: After looking at your whole collection, the photographs of the 1960’s Daley Plaza protests stuck with me. How did you end up taking those photographs? I’d read that some of those protests turned violent; did you experience any of that?

HN: No, I never got beaten up. But when I came back from Vietnam, I was extremely opposed to the war. Before I was drafted, nobody else was paying attention. I wasn’t in that group of people who was going to run off to Canada or burn their draft card because in those days nobody was doing that. The war was fought by draftees. I ended up in Vietnam, which in a way was kind of interesting. I was well schooled in the history of Vietnam. And friends of mine who had said that the war was a good thing, by the time I came back, were in all of these antiwar movements and were saying they were wrong. I went to the demonstrations. And this was after the ’68 Convention, where there was a lot of violence. I was extremely angry, because the city lied, the newspapers lied.

Photo collage of protest photograph from 1968-1969, Herb Nolan
SG: Were you at the protests to report or because you were protesting?

HN: Both.

SG: How active were you?

HN: We went to a few, the big ones. There was one in Daley Plaza where I left just before the police came in and beat everybody up. That was probably late ’68 or ’69. And then there was a big march down State Street. Did you ever see the movie Battle for Algiers?

SG: Yeah.

HN: Well you know where they’d all whistle? Demonstrators in Chicago picked up on that whole thing. And then there was a gathering, when the Chicago Seven were being transferred to Cook County Jail. Phil Ochs and all the big time players were there. The march went from Daley Plaza, where the demonstration was, down to Cook County Jail to demonstrate down there.

SG: That’s kind of a far march!

HN: Well you took the train (chuckles).

SG: Oh, it’s not a literal march!

HN: No, no. But people were angry. Not everybody felt the way I did, I saw so much abuse of information and power – we still see that today. It’s all the same thing. I almost threw up when Bush decided to invade Iraq, because I knew exactly. Just channel Vietnam, my friends. Utilizing information that turned out not to be correct. I mean Vietnam and Gulf of Tonkin, you know that fake thing.

SG: If you look at what’s happening right now with police brutality in the United States, I didn’t live through your era, but it was pretty terrible.

HN: Well, it was. You know in the ‘60s you had the Freedom Riders risking their lives in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia. Studs Terkel had this great quote, where he said that in those days that’s when kids had issues other than themselves. But I don’t know how it is now. There were those sit-ins for Wall Street, and people were doing that in Berkeley and got doused with pepper spray. Police in the ‘60s clubbed people, threw them in jail. It was a little more violent. Fortunately I didn’t get caught up. I left before that happened. I was just capturing the images from that. How do I capture this, so when I’m gone, it won’t be gone?

SG: Which is powerful.

HN: Certainly a lot of people took those pictures in ’68.

Mid-cataloguing Herb Nolan's photography collection. His work is organized into three categories: Music, Travel, and Chicago/Family & Friends.
SG: We’ve spoken at length about your photographs of musicians, how you have photographed intimate moments with Muddy Waters, Tom Waits, and Elvin Jones. And then you stopped for a period of time. HN: Yeah I quit taking pictures of musicians, because it becomes the same thing. It’s like writing about music. I figured, what kind of a career is that? And there are so few jobs. You do an intense period writing about this stuff, you really work at it. Chasing musicians around, and I’d get on the bus with them, like Almost Famous – I did that. But, in the end, the adventure is kind of over. Taking photographs is an adventure, I’m pretty shy about it, so sometimes I didn’t take pictures and I wish I had. I think about some of those images.

SG: What’s something you wish you’d photographed?

HN: I was in New York. Columbia Records had put me up in the Plaza Hotel, those were the days, man. I had a limousine at my disposal, it was picking me up to take me back to LaGuardia. And I looked out – there was Keith Jarrett, the great jazz pianist sitting on a bunch of luggage all by himself. He’s a private person, I didn’t want to disturb him, so I said I’m not going to take his picture. But then I kept thinking, why not? And as a freelancer, I’d photograph parties. One party was with Martin Scorsese and Liza Minnelli – the paparazzi crashed through. And one event was the topping off of the Apparel Center with the Kennedys and the Daleys. I got this shot of them all in a big line marching through the building. So that was an adventure.

SG: What was it like being at events like that?

HN: You claw your way through the crowd to get the picture, you want to figure out what the picture’s going to be, and not get the same thing everyone else is getting.

SG: How were you able to get the photo?

HN: I don’t know…

SG: Is that the magic of it?

HN: It’s just what I see.
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa backstage in Milwaukee, WI,  Herb Nolan

31 October 2014

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

In the spirit of Halloween, and in part because I didn't have time to generate a new costume this year, I thought it best to share some of my past Halloween costumes. I'm feeling all sorts of guilt about dropping the ball on crafting something spooktacular, but to prove I'm not always a complete slacker, here are some of the gems from my career as a staple and scissors DIY seamstress.

Not pictured: The year I went as Hurricane Sandy (just no), the year I dressed as a French person while studying abroad in Italy, and the year I dressed as my favorite waitress from Ed Debevic's.
In high school I thought it was a great idea to dress as Janine, the porn star adorning the cover of Blink-182's Enema of the State album cover. I wore this in school the entire day. This photo was taken in the locker room after gym class. Shoutout to my pal Tim Stedman who's creative genius had me dressing like a sexy nurse all the way back in high school.
I made a really cute princess, Mari made a really handsome ladybug, my mom was very good at costume making (thanks mom!!). Also, I'm pretty sure we were standing on a changing table. Ew.
The year I went as Bjork in the Swan dress. I made the entire skirt out of repurposed plastic bags. And I drew Bjork's tattoo on my arm in Sharpee. Despite my best efforts, almost nobody at my very liberal arts college got it.
I think I was a bride, I'm not even sure. And Mari was Rapunzel. That yarn braid had a wire in it that made it stand at a weird angle, I don't even know.
So this wasn't Halloween, but it should have been. Ben Scott threw a French themed party in college and I thought it best to show up dressed as Napoleon. Duh.
I'm the weirdo on the bottom right, with the blonde bangs outside of the giant afro. I think I was a disco hippie? Like I wore a tie dyed shirt with an afro and bellbottoms. This was deep into my obsession with 1960's culture and disco. I was a very eccentric 9 year old, I swear.
Last year Andrew and I dressed as Gallagher and his very adorable very smashed watermelon. I spent a week making his sledgehammer out of paper mache (so many layers of wet paper). And my dress was a whole other conundrum, but we were definitely hilarious, spot on conceptual, and probably definitely the cutest couple at the party.
And last, but certainly not least, is the year I dressed up as a Tamagotchi and won an online Halloween costume contest. Yeah, that was a thing in 2007.