Artist Philip Hartigan talks about art, interviews other artists, and more
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My Studios VI: Wicker Park, Chicago
The Wicker Park Studio (staircase at right)
My current studio is in an arrondissement of Chicago called Wicker Park. It’s the East Village of the City of Big Shouders. It’s the Notting Hill of the Windy City. If you want trendy bars, bijou clothes shops, artists’ studios, artists’ collectives, small independent galleries, dozens of hipster hangouts, places to make and listen to music, then Wicker Park is the place for you. ‘So,’ I hear you ask, ‘what are you doing there — you who prefers to listen to Mahler and Richard Strauss while wearing your brown knitted cardigan and slippers?’
In 2007, when I was looking for a studio in Chicago, I was in several exhibitions that all took place within a few hundred yards of each other in Wicker Park. Rather than the youth-orientation angle, I was attracted to the vibrant local art scene, and the proximity to larger commercial galleries just a few miles nearer the Loop. I found a 300 square foot studio for a decent price near Damen and Division, a location depicted many times in the novels of Saul Bellow, particularly my favourite one, ‘Humboldt’s Gift’. All these factors made me write a check as soon as I went to see the place.
Panorama of the studio: click to display larger version.
The studio is actually the basement of a house owned by an artist called Diane Christiansen, whose work is worth having a look at. She and her partner are also in a folk-roots band called Dolly Varden, so I often hear them practicing above my head, or in the large brick garage behind the house that they’ve converted into an artist’s/practice studio. When I sit at the work table in my studio, I can look out through windows at ground level. This confuses the hell out of the three cats from the next house down, who will be strolling by, going about their cat business, only to be brought up short by the sight of me peering up at them and making kissy noises at their startled whiskery faces.
The alcove with the printing press.
It turns out that there are a few disadvantages to the studio that I didn’t anticipate when I first moved in, to wit: I am 6 feet 2 inches high, and several areas of the ceiling are only six feet high; and shortly after I started renting this studio, Patty and I moved apartments, so I now have to drive six miles across town to the studio instead of getting the bus (I can still get the bus, but it’s a nightmarishly slow journey). But it fulfils all the requirements that a visual artist needs: it’s inexpensive, warm, and dry; it’s well lit and has a slop-sink nearby; and it provides that monk-like space, separate from where one lives, eats, and sleeps, to close the door on the distractions of the world and focus on the process of creating something.
So this is where I am currently making most of the work shown on this blog.
It's my 300th blog post. And I seem to remember that in my 200th blog post I said that I would start quoting from John Ruskin's "Praeterita", after which this blog was named. Well, better late then never, so quotation number 2 is below.
First, though, some thoughts on this blog and blogging in general. I started Praeterita at the end of last year after reading a book by an art-marketing guru called Alyson Stansfield that recommended it as a means for artists to publicise their work better. But from the start I thought it would be more interesting to talk in a discursive way about my wider interest in art, and artists, and the history of art. After a desultory beginning where I only posted once a week, my blogging habit has now grown to the point where I am posting sometimes twice a day, and more than 45 times per month (helped enormously by the Blogger feature that lets you save blog posts with a post-dated timestamp, so that you can put posts in the bank to …
Most open studios are notable for nothing really happening. You sit there waiting for people to come into your studio, eat all your nibbles and guzzle the free drink, and then leave after a cursory glance at your work. Usually, the worst thing that happens is that you get stuck in a boring conversation with a dull person,
But there was one time a few years ago when I got into one of these conversations, and quite quickly the person I was talking to started to make homophobic remarks about another artist in the building. After a few minutes, I decided I'd had enough and asked him to leave. He seemed genuinely surprised that I had any objection to what he was saying, which in retrospect makes me even angrier if he thought he had a sympathetic ear.
He asked me why, and I told him I didn't like people talking that way, and I said: "This conversation ended 30 seconds ago." So he left.
So, nothing dramatic like Jackson Pollock getting drunk in a fancy New York apartment a…
From a letter dated July 31, 1888: “Why do you say Degas can’t get it up properly? Degas lives like some petty lawyer and doesn’t like women, knowing very well that if he did like them and bedded them frequently, he’d go to seed and be in no position to paint any longer. The very reason why Degas’s painting is virile and impersonal is that he has resigned himself to being nothing more than a petty lawyer with a horror of kicking over the traces. He observes human animals who are stronger than him screwing and f—ing away and he paints them so well for the very reason that he isn’t all that keen on it himself.” Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader