Not Just another pretty face: Masood Zaman and Brad Blankenship

Created by the Hyde Park Art Center, Not Just Another Pretty Face allows the Art Center to play matchmaker for artists and potential art buyers, facilitating a fun, accessible commissioning process that builds lasting relationships between artists and patrons, creates a new base of support for artists, and invests in the vitality of Chicago’s cultural community.

Brad and Masood came to my studio after looking at my portfolio. Each of them connected to my work on a different level. Masood, a doctor, originally from the Asian subcontinent- could related to my work as it essentially evoked sentiments of nostalgia. Brad, an educator- connected with the text and the literacy being the most vital transforming force that elevates a life from abject poverty.

My work is a comment upon resilience in the face of urban deprivation. The irony of the bookseller who cannot read resonated with both of them and I knew that that is what I wanted the work to be about. I wanted illegible text to be an important part of the work and wrote a poem for the painting. As both of them would probably be the ones sitting in that car, while the bookseller comes up to them, I played with different vantage points and perspectives and finally settled on the reflection of the bookseller in the car.

Being from India and working as a volunteer in the education space- I could relate to both of them very easily. We discussed broad ideas and themes and the final execution was completely at my discretion.

Yesterday was the unveiling of the show- with each work covered with a white sheet till all the artists and patrons arrived at 7pm. After 45 minutes and a short introduction by Kate Lorenz, the work was uncovered and each patron got a chance to look at and discuss the work with the artist. Each artist and patron received a beautiful catalogue and everyone enjoyed an amazing evening at the art center. The show received some wonderful press from Chicago Gallery News and The Atlantic and I personally could not have been happier that I was chosen to be part of this incredible endeavor.


In and Out, 2013 | 36x24in | Acrylic on Canvas

In and Out, 2013 | 36x24in | Acrylic on Canvas

Not just another pretty face: Jane Chapman


Created by the Hyde Park Art Center, Not Just Another Pretty Face allows the Art Center to play matchmaker for artists and potential art buyers, facilitating a fun, accessible commissioning process that builds lasting relationships between artists and patrons, creates a new base of support for artists, and invests in the vitality of Chicago’s cultural community.

I met Jane first in the home of another potential patron and later in her wonderful home in Evanston. From our first meeting, it was evident that getting to know Jane was like peeling layers off an onion. She slowly spoke about the many roles she played as a wife, a store owner, mother, a community member, a world traveller and even occasionally an artist. Her appreciation for and love of art came through in everything she spoke of- her art collection at home, her son’s photography, her daughters passion for ceramics.

She mentioned the transformative process she underwent when she started a ceramics workshop at the Evanston arts center. My work focuses around the issues of labor and literacy and the beauty of working with your hands. I wanted to capture this moment in an abstracted way highlighting the roles that she plays. Her daughter, Emily is currently a full-time ceramist and I started by photographing her while she worked in the studio. I then translated the images into drawings and the final piece is a painting that shows Emily working on the pottery wheel.

The piece is about labor, about the complex roles that women play in society and about handing down passion from one generation to the next. My goal was to focus on the uniqueness of the individual and highlight that each of us with our zest for life and unique passions can be much more than just another brick in the wall.

More than just |16x 12in + 5.5x6in | Mixed media on gessoboard and faux brick panel

More than just |16x 12in + 5.5x6in | Mixed media on gessoboard and faux brick panel

Street Still Life

I went for the Steve McCurry exhibit at the Taidehalle when I was in Helsinki. Besides fantastic compositions and capturing the soul of his subject- there was a short film on his using the last roll of Kodachrome film to capture images that meant something to him. To fulfill this quest, he decided to go to India, his chosen destination for vibrance of color, subject matter and diversity. Of course, the images both enthralled me and made me a bit nostalgic and homesick.

We’re so entrenched in the digital camera age, that its easy to take multiple shots and delete/ edit/ instragram/ share.  As I walked from the Taidehalle to the Museo Design in Helsinki, I challenged myself to take predetermined shots, with as much control as possible.  I’m always searching for compositions- in my head, in my surroundings. A simple setting, vibrant, with shapes, color and an intriguing subject matter was what I was looking for. An object in a setting that I could weave a story around.

So, if you had 36 shots left, what would you click?


No Entry

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Art on Armitage: Work-Life Balance

Installing the ‘Haath Gaadi’

Art on Armitage is a window gallery in a predominantly working class and Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. It brings art out of the confines of the traditional art gallery and into the realm of the public. It is reputed for demystifying and making art accessible and showcasing artists who have strong social messages to convey.

When I secured a space to show here, I decided to display a combination of installation and paintings. The paintings were from the ‘Burden of Dreams’ series. I used to photograph manual workers at construction sites- some of these images included them carrying heavy material on their back/ head/ shoulders and this became the starting point for ‘Burden of Dreams’.  Bricks, used in construction, unite to form walls used to divide spaces. They are the perfect metaphor to compliment the work. They also add weight to the paintings.

The installation was a haath-gadi that fluidly converts itself into a home/ sleeping bunker. The interior of the haath-gaadi- created by found strips of wood, plastic tarp and jute strings- is decorated with a good luck charm of the nimboo-mirchi, images of lord ganesha and hero-worship film posters. The tarp itself has graffiti-like scribbles of text from school books, poems and math equations. Labor in all developing nations has been the job of the poor- where you use your body rather than your mind to earn. I called it Work-Life Balance because of the irony- it is such a white-collar term and the life of these workers actually has no balance. Their time is spent struggling for survival and dreaming of a better future. At the time of installing this work, I was reading ‘Beyond the Beautiful Forevers’ a book by Katherine Boo, which was also a source of inspiration.

I am an avid reader, and stories form an essential part of my life. They can be escapist, yet thought provoking; a poem can alter my mood and reading an article can elevate me. Literacy is a privilege- though those who have it take it for granted and those who don’t can’t even begin to imagine how it could change their lives. The reason for using illegible text was to momentarily evoke the feeling of helplessness in the viewer that an illiterate person feels every day.

All these elements were things I’d already used before. It seemed logical that, in time, they would come together.


A trip to the city of Detroit

The Hart Plaza

I visit every city that my husband works in and this trip was to Detroit. I went there from Chicago on the Amtrak, my first long-distance train journey in the United States. A very comfortable one, with picturesque moments as we passed the great lakes and some incredible ones as the city approached- abandoned, dilapidated houses (called ‘blight’ by some locals), shattered panes of glass and huge lots filled with tyres and scrap metal cars. Walking through a deserted downtown, the city just has this feeling of a ‘has-been’. There were several silent moments for self-reflection- while I was the only person in a café for breakfast, or the only passenger in the compartment of the ‘people-mover’ or the only human at the plaza on the riverfront. There was so much ‘ruin porn’ to photograph and still I couldn’t make myself do it.  I would feel too much like one of those tourists who visit Mumbai and just take pictures of slums. It didn’t seem fair to be a visitor and do that to the city.

I am, however, posting an image from artist/ photographer Eric Holubow because I think this image manages to capture the essence whilst still being hopeful and wistful.

Room with a View, Eric Holubow

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the DIA- the Detroit Institute of Art which I happened to visit on the 80th anniversary of Rivera’s completion of the gorgeous Detroit Industry Murals. In a beautiful sunlit hall, there are 27 panels dedicated to the Detroit labor industry, the finest Mexican mural art in the United states. These murals depict industry and technology as the indigenious culture of Detroit. A detailed ipad tour outlines the thought process, ideas, and every conceivable insight into the work. It gave a feel of what the city might have been like in its prime and really helped to compile the history much better than any Wikipedia page ever could have.

Diego Rivera Court, DIA


Art trading

One of the best parts of being an artist is that I don’t have a paucity of art in my own living space. I have recently found out, it does not always have to be my own work on my walls. As my art and my network of artists friends develops, I am able to find artists willing to exchange work with me.It’s pretty simple really, find artists and art you love, who in turn love your work; match approximate price points and approach.

1-Barlow Nelson is a silkscreen printmaker whose prints depict objects or images encountered in his ordinary activities. He uses the complex screenprinting process to express the interaction of shapes, space and bold colors. Barlow uses his unique attention to detail, technical precision and planning to generate his vibrant prints.  His facebook page can be found here.


Barlow Nelson, Lisse de feuillet, Silkscreen on paper


Tulika Ladsariya City Arising, Mixed media on canvas

2- Emily Rutledge is inspired by the haphazard visual fabric of life. Mangled handbills and posters form accidental collages. Tattered logos, text, and color collide. Marker tags and graffiti give a voice to those lacking one. Fragments of faces on torn scraps hint at the impermanence of life.

Emily Rutledge, Disorderly Conduct, Mixed media on cradled panel

Tulika Ladsariya, Bricks, Paint, Ink on brick

Featured artist: Suzanne Hilal

Suzanne Hilal, The Hot Sun, Silkcreen on paper

I met Suzanne at an exhibit we put together and then later at the Hyde Park art center where she created in the printmaking studio space at every possible opportunity. A committed young artist who works seamlessly with a lino print on one side, a woodcut on the other and silkscreen multiple times till she gets the perfection she is seeking. The best way to define Suzanne is ‘dedicated’ and of course ‘creative’. Like any self-taught artist, she faced the challenges of going out in the real world with her work, but did it tirelessly in Chicago, London and Sudan till she got the response she wanted.

I love her Art page on facebook, her work and her personality. Keep creating!

Eric Perriard: Urban Souls

Image courtesy artist: Eric Perriard, Urban Souls #1


I have always enjoyed photography and use my own camera often to take pictures of things that inspire. Pictures can provide a concrete, yet individualistic structure of visual data to build upon. A picture may be enigmatic, or it may allow a viewer access to something remarkable that could not be perceived or understood in another way. 

It is also intriguing to see how other people look through different lenses and sometimes see the same thing. The eye may be different, the city and continent may be separate but there is a link for sure. I enjoyed viewing ‘Urban Souls’ through the eyes of Photographer Eric Perriard and I am sure you will too.

Eric has managed to beautifully capture that moment of stillness in a busy ‘megapolis’ life. How difficult it is to take a moment, pause and introspect what our life is about? And if we do it, how often do we feel that need to desperately change something, without knowing what that ‘something’ is…

Book Review: “Starving” to Successful

In this book titled “Starving” to Successful | The Fine Artist’s Guide to Getting Into Galleries and Selling More Art by J. Jason Horejs, the author gives some simple tips to art marketing from the point of view of a gallerist. It is a simple read in conversational style and drives home some  basic key points on making your art a successful business. There are two key aspects to being a successful artist- making good art and marketing it. The author focuses on the reality of the latter- which is an area which most artists tend to neglect.

Artists are either afraid of criticism or generally believe that they must keep producing and wait till their work is ‘discovered’! That does not happen in the real world. “I discovered,” says Horejs, “there was very little information out there for the aspiring professional artist regarding the business side of art, especially in terms of the crucial relationship between the artists and the fine art gallery. Even artists who have graduated with master s degrees leave school having never heard a word about how to approach galleries.”

As an artist, I think when it is time to create- do just that. Don’t think about what sells or anything to do with art marketing. Find yourself and make art that is true to you. But when the time comes to take your work out there and lay yourself bare- take some tips from this book. As a gallery owner- Jason seems to know what he is talking about. Some good advice, some basic stuff- a lot to ingest and difficult to implement- but definitely worth a read and worth a shot.

Article of Interest

A fun article on 10 Ways to Overcome Mental Blocks & Boost Creativity by Artist Lori McNee.