Artist Philip Hartigan talks about art, interviews other artists, and more
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On the ghost of Charlie Chaplin
I’ve always loved the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin, particulary the work he did between 1915 and 1920. When I was a child in England, one of the three TV channels showed all these early films on Saturday mornings, intercut with enthusiastic introductions and set-ups by a then-famous comedian called Bob Monkhouse. I remember watching these with my grandfather, who was in the first audiences for these short one and two-reelers when they were first released. When I grew up, I lost the child’s delight in the broader comedy—the ‘turn-around-when-carrying-a-plank-of-wood-and-slap-a-bystander-in-the-side-of-the-head’ style of humour. But I found, and still find, a depth to Charlie Chaplin’s films, a sharpness, a gleeful anarchy, and an incredible level of technical skill and inventiveness. Films like ‘One A.M.’, ‘The Pawnbroker’, Easy Street’, ‘The Immigrant’, ‘The Floorwalker’, and ‘The Kid’ should, in my opinion, be seen my everyone.
Along with my enduring love of his films, I came to learn about the studios he worked for. He was discovered by Mack Sennett and the Keystone studio, then worked for Essanay, and then in 1916 signed for the Mutual company in a deal which, if translated into 2010 dollars, would have been worth about $14 million. Imagine my delight and astonishment when, about a month after moving to the 1400 block of West Argyle Street, Chicago, in 2007, I discovered the Essanay studio buildings in the 1300 block of West Argyle Street. If I go into the sun room at the front of the apartment and look to the left, I can see the single storey brick buildings, occupying about half a city block, and the portico which still bears the ceramic heads of two Indians and the title ‘Essanay’ over the doorway. The studio took its name from the initial letters of its founders’ surnames, Spoor and Andersen. The Indian heads are there because for years the studio produced some of the earliest westerns, and produced one of the first western stars in Broncho Billy.
Chaplin with the Essanay owners in c. 1915
How strange life can be sometimes. There I am, in a mining village in the north-east of England in the 1960s, sitting in my grandfather’s living room as a six year old, watching fifty-year old silent comedies on a massive Rediffusion TV with bad reception. Thirty-eight years later, I’m living just steps away from where some of those films were made.
Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.
A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…
Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:
Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.
I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.
Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations: Most of this is…