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Eden Unluata Foley's Staffs of Memories and Knowledge

Between 2011 and 2018 I was the Chicago correspondent for Hyperallergic, the New York-based art blog read throughout the global art world. This post is part of a series on my blog devoted to writing about artists in Chicago.


Eden Unluata-Foley is a multi-discplinary artist based in Chicago. He is currently (summer 2020) taking part in a city-wide exhibition of public art called Art in Place, for which artists exhibit work outside their homes as a way to continue connecting their practice with the community during the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic-induced social lockdown. 
Unluata-Foley's work is a sculpture titled Staffs of Memories and Knowledge. All kinds of common and unusual objects (household items such as buckets, old cameras, a model car, a Moorish-style lamp, gourds, cans) are glued together in seemingly random chains around lengths of wood. The ensemble is then painted a uniform yellow that serves to harmonise the mix of items and render some of them difficult t…
Recent posts

New painting, new video

I've been working on painting lately that is in the same vein as the others I've posted (crows, hands, memories from childhood) but this stays more closely to the colour scheme of the original oil sketch, part of which is visible in the right hand side of the above photo. It also ends up being more representational and less abstract.
Here too is a quick video compilation of the most recent session spent working on it:

In the Studio

I've returned to my studio a couple of times in the last few weeks (masked and wearing latex gloves whenever I am in the corridor of the studio building, or moving between building and car.) I took advantage of the new equipment I bought to setup my online classes to record a timelapse of me painting.
The piece is a 5 feet x 4 feet canvas, brushing a texture layer of Prussian Blue over a ground of Naples Yellow. The video is a 60 second condensing of several hours of work.
What interests me when I watch it is that I notice things that I'm only semi-conscious of during the painting process, such as how I vary the direction of the brush all the time, and the pressure, and the kinds of marks (linear vs. brushing), to create a lively surface.

Teaching from Home

I've started teaching some of my Printmaking and Book Arts classes online, an arrangement that I can see lasting at least into autumn, possibly beyond. The photo shows my setup: materials arranged on the cutting mat, laptop to my left on which I host the Zoom session for ten people, a ring light on a tripod for illumination, and my phone (mounted in the centre of the ring light) relaying a live feed of the table into the Zoom session, so the participants can see my hands as I demonstrate the different bookbinding techniques.
In terms of equipment, the laptop and smartphone were things I already had, of course. I experimented with all kinds of software for connecting smartphone-live-feed to laptop, but in the end the simplest thing was just to get my phone to join the Zoom meeting as an extra participant, and then to highlight that 'box' on the Zoom screen. The ring light is the main new investment. I decided to fork over the extra money ($130) to buy the sixteen inch diamet…

Lockdown Sketchbook

On the subject of working from home, I made a timelapse video of me drawing in my sketchbook with graphite. 


While we're all locked down in our apartments and sheltering in place during the pandemic, my wife and I are fortunate to be living in a high rise apartment with wide windows that provide views of Chicago's lakefront and Lake Michigan. I've been making a lot of drawings in my sketchbook of these views. The method, as you can see speeded up in the video, is one that has a long history stretching back at least half a millenium:
Lay in a few guide marks.

Use the side of the graphite stick to put down broad areas of tone, with a few heavier strokes to indicate darker areas of tone.

Take a paper stump and rub the drawing all over, to blend the tones into smooth, continuous areas.

Introduce the white highlights by rubbing areas out with an eraser.

Repeat those steps multiple times until you get a satisfying balance of light and dark tones, equivalent to the scene you are drawin…

Working From Home

Teaching is something I enjoy, but not if it means dying from a vicious respiratory infection. So I've joined the ranks of the online teaching community. My first class starts this evening. It's called Easy Bookbinding at Home, offered via Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago. The photo above shows the materials kits assembled at Lillstreet last week (by one person, alone and masked in a room). The kits were picked up by participants via kerbside pickup, exactly as if they were carrying out food from a local restaurant. 
And the class list had to be extended beyond the proposed limit, indicating that there is a pent-up need in people stuck indoors to do something creative. Luckily I've worked a lot with technology in the past (I used to work full time in the IT industry), but of course there will always be glitches. But I'm looking forward to the class, and to writing up my experience later.

Blogging in a Pandemic

Given that I've been working from home for the last seven weeks, and only paid a brief visit to my studio dressed in mask and latex gloves to pick up more drawing materials, you would think I would have plenty time on my hands to write blog posts. Not just one blog post, but many more than my recent average, which has been more or less one post per week. But for some reason, I have found it rather difficult to summon up the will to write much. I've tried to make small paintings each day, or to draw for an hour, but not much more than that. I can't be the only person who has felt this strange inertia during a lockdown. Why is that, I wonder?
There are no doubt many reasons, many causes, for this. One that springs to mind is that I'm resisting making the adjustment to this new working pattern for writing or making art, even though I've made the adjustment for the freelance work that (thankfully) I am able to complete from home. I could blame the lack of space in the …