Smile Politely

Five things in arts this month: September 2021

The arrival of September evokes so many different feelings. Fresh starts and reminders of national tragedies old and new. But here, in this little corner of the world, I chose to focus on pride. This month’s arts picks are inspired by our upcoming local Pride fest and C-U Black and African Arts Festival. They offer opportunities to explore spaces and validate experiences that may feel like home to you, or, may challenge you to think and feel outside of your comfort zone. Either way, their capacity to represent is powerful and worthy of celebration.

A Question of Emphasis: Louise Fishman Drawing

Louise Fishman, Bel Canto, 2014. Oil on linen. 74 x 88 inches. © Louise Fishman. Image from the KAM website.

Louise Fishman, Bel Canto, 2014. Oil on linen. 74 x 88 inches. © Louise Fishman. Image from the KAM website. 

This extensive collection of Louise Fishman’s work has, in light of her recent passing, become a memorial to the artist, and what curator Amy L. Powell describes as the artist’s “physical and process-driven work remakes the abstract expressionist gesture and the minimalist grid into tools that communicate history and emotion centered in her identities as Jewish, feminist, and lesbian.” 

Inspired by John Cage’s famous response to the question “What is drawing?, A Question of Emphasis “is a curatorial experiment that instead follows Fishman’s lead, through drawing, to convene a community of living and historical figures that are integral to the construction of self.”  Encompassing a full range of mediums including “collage, oil and wax, thread, acrylic text, ink, charcoal, printmaking, oil stick, watercolor, and tempera in Japanese-bound Leporello (accordion) books,” this exhibition “foregrounds Fishman’s robust and dedicated practice of works on paper.”

A Question of Emphasis: Louise Fishman Drawing
Through February 26, 2022
Krannert Art Museum
500 E Peabody Dr, Champaign
T-Sa: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

Join curator Amy L. Powell for a guided tour entitled “Queer Uses of Abstraction” on Friday, September 24th, from 1 to 2 p.m.  Register here.

To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults

Photo of Dee Dee Gnozi by Jess T. Dugan. Photo from Jess T. Dugan’s website.

This groundbreaking collaboration by photographer Jess T. Dugan and social worker Vanessa Fabbre addresses the need for representations of older transgender people in our culture that reach beyond the one-dimensional. The exhibition, and the resulting book, “offer an important historical record of transgender experience and activism in the United States. The resulting photographs and interviews provide a nuanced view into the struggles and joys of growing older as a transgender person and offer a poignant reflection on what it means to live authentically despite seemingly insurmountable odds.” Kudos to the McKinley Foundation and Artist’ Alley for bringing this significant work to Champaign-Urbana.

To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults
Through October 31st
McKinley Foundation’s Artists’ Alley
809 S 5th St, Champaign
Daily viewing hours are 9 a.m. through 8 p.m. 

Prism Studios Open House/Paint Your Own Pace 

Photo of Pride buttons with Prism Studios rainbow logo. Photo from Prism Studios Instagram.

Photo from Prism Studios Instagram.

Just in time for Pride, C-U welcomes this new “fem-owned, queer-owned, arts initiative with a focus on inclusion, diversity, and creativity.” Prism Studios offers a “environment of diversity, inclusion, and creativity.” Owner Katye Newhouse believes that “there is an artist inside everyone and our goal is to provide a supportive team and friendly environment to help you fall in love with your own skills.” Determined to demystify the artistic process, Prism operates from the assumption that art is “not one-size fits all, and there’s no one single style that’s right or appropriate. The only thing that our clients need to have is interest in trying and love for art, we’ll bring the techniques, and somewhere in the middle, something beautiful gets to be born.” In the words of artist Marc-Anthony Macon, ““If you don’t like art, fun, community, and merriment, you’re gonna loathe Prism Studios.”

See Prism Studios for yourself at their upcoming open house/open painting session. And don’t forget to visit them at Pride Fest. 

Prism Studios Open House/Paint Your Own Pace
Sunday, September 19th, noon to 5 p.m.
Independent Media Center
202 S Broadway Ave, Urbana 
Special rate of $20 to participate in the painting session
Register here

Poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball at Pgymalion 

Photo of Tarriona

Photo of Tarriona “Tank” Ball from the author’s website.

You may know Tarriona “Tank” Ball from her band Tank and the Bangas. But at this year’s Pygmalion Lit Fest, you’ll get the chance to experience her slam poet side. Ball will be reading from her first book of poetry, Vulnerable AF.  And don’t forget to check out the rest of Pyg Lit’s offerings, including the Human Library, which “provides the opportunity for the community to share and understand the experiences of others in their community ,” as well as the two-day Poetry Marathon, featuring a wide range of local poets. 

Poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball at Pgymalion
Friday, September 24th, doors open at 5 p.m.
25 O’Clock Brewing Company
208 W Griggs St, Urbana
Get ticket information here.

Parable Path: Pathways to Acorn – Collaboratively Building Community

Segment of The Parable Path. Image from Stacey Robinson's Instagram.

Segment of The Parable Path. Image from Stacey Robinson’s Instagram.

When I met Stacey Robinson at the recent Stargazers exhibit, we talked about art’s capacity build community and the need for local art to bridge the gown-town divide. This month, Robinson, and his Afro-futurism-based collaborations with Shaya (Chocolate Star) Robinson, and Kamau (DJ KamauMau) Grantham unleash a series of designed to make this mission a reality. Future Spaces in Community Places, installed at the University YMCA’s Murphy Gallery “envisions making equitable futures through practical campus + community collaboration.” While this exhibition will remain up through December 17th, I encourage you to see it this month and then continue along the Parable Path, an online discussion featuring Toshi Reagon, adrienne maree brown, John Jennings, and Damian Duffy, and moderated by Robinson. Stay tuned for info on the upcoming community read of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon’s opera based on the book. 

Parable Path: Pathways to Acorn – Collaboratively Building Community
Monday, September 27th, 7 p.m.
Online discussion hosted by the Krannert Center for Performing Arts 
Get more information, including the event link, here.

Top image from Stacey Robinson’s Instagram.

Arts Editor

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