30 Minutes in the River North Galleries – a trick to feel better

If you feel like you need a burst of energy in the middle of the day, take time to observe some art. On my long double shifts at the restaurant I will often use my break to check out a museum or a new book in a bookstore. I have read about a study recently that says looking at cute animals improves productivity. Studies even support Facebook use. I prefer art galleries and museums for that boost of energy and refocusing effect.

On a recent ‘double day’ I walked down along Superior Street to Franklin Street near the Chicago Brown Line stop and encountered a whole pile of galleries. I had seen these before in passing, but had always assumed they were full of trinkets and jewelry and furnishings. But I had read a review that told me there were paintings somewhere around 230 West Superior in a gallery that was maybe named Pyramid, I couldn’t remember…so I walked around peeking in windows and found a few really great gems.

Perimeter Gallery – 210 W. Superior St.

I walked in ready to be entranced and excited by art. Perimeter Gallery and the new work by Jeffrey Forsythe delivered. The first sight, to calm your soul, is Ode to the Common Man, a wall of framed blank records in all colors and textures. I was especially attracted to the faux fur backings and velvet records. “Individually, these records evoke carpeted basement studios, crisp pop hits, the absurdity of laserdiscs, and, despite his best intentions I’m sure, the White Album,” stated an available handout from Russ White, a local artist.

Trophy Case by Jeffrey Forsythe

Trophy Case by Jeffrey Forsythe

Now that you are comfortable and happy, the rest of the exhibit sends you through a “bizarro world of status symbols” like the large and shining gold-feathered headdress displayed in the front near the window for full sunlight effect. I especially enjoyed the central piece, Trophy Case, which has written in the ribbon across the top, “American Superiority in the Twenty First Century.” Yet it is the 20th century that still holds the central place in this otherwise empty trophy case. A sprig of cotton peeks out beneath the center, reminding you what the 20th century culture grew out of. A vulture replaces the usual eagle, but he does not look vicious. It is as if he is lying in wait for the 20th Century to be swallowed under the waves so it will be only the vulture left. Sweet victory is American exceptionalism!

Andrew Bae Gallery: Contemporary Asian Art | ZG Gallery | Catherine Edelman Gallery – 300 W. Superior

The tall paintings of humans in profile drew me into the Andrew Bae Gallery, but I most enjoyed the paper art. I had seen something similar made from wood at Perimeter, but the thickness and perfection of these by Jae Ko certainly impacted my brain’s pleasure centers and influenced my productivity that day.

Jae Ko, rolled paper, sumi ink, graphite powder, 2012

Jae Ko, rolled paper, sumi ink, graphite powder, 2012

The staff was incredibly friendly and engaging at the ZG Gallery where tall buildings are made from little houses and one artist, Martina Nehrling, has a single brushstroke in her artist’s vocabulary. Nehrling’s work consists of hundreds of brush strokes almost 2 inches long arranged any number of ways and colored in neons, blues, and grays. I advise a trip to this space for the genial atmosphere and bright, funky, modern works.

With time for one more gallery I strolled into Catherine Edelman’s and was stopped in my tracks by a shocking image.

Smoking Kids by Frieke Janssens

Smoking Kids by Frieke Janssens

Smoking Kids! What is this world coming to!? I think that is exactly the sentiment Frieke is looking for in what I see as a loss of innocence piece. There were almost fifteen of these disturbing portraits with all the children having a decidedly adult air. Strange to think we were all children once and how much we still act like them.

The twists and turns through the rest of the gallery gave lots of portraits, reminding me how small I am in this big world and how happy I am to be part of it.

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Creative Chicago Expo: Day 1

The 10th Annual Creative Chicago Expo is wrapping up its first day of two downtown at the Chicago Cultural Center. From 10 am to 4 pm Friday and Saturday there are keynote speakers, workshops, and three floors of vendors representing the arts and community involvement.

Workshop 1: Get Your Green On!

I decided to start my day with a little inspiration from nature. As I live longer in the city, my Montana itch to get out into the forest becomes stronger. This was a panel on how the arts can be more involved in environmental exploration throughout the city.
The panel, presented by the Global Alliance of Artists which concentrates on the intersections of arts, human rights, and the environment throughout the world, was bookended by presentations from the Field Museum and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (the oldest museum of its kind in the US).
The thing about museums is that they “enjoy” a fair amount of funding and established ways of doing things. They encourage artists to use every last wall space and empty corner for display and collaborate with them to supplement and support science through artistic documentation. The Field Museum, however, is going through some “restructuring” according to Lisa Kim and she could not inform us on any future endeavors with the art community. Not so encouraging.

The more inspiring panelists were Sean Shaffer of the North Park Village Nature Center (part of the Chicago Park District) and Jacqui Ulrich representing special events for the Cook County Forest Preserves. Both organizations are actively seeking artists to interpret and enhance their natural areas. The NP Village Center has recently created an artists area for play called Walking Stick Woods. “Please stay off the path, please move things around; we trust people to have fun with it,” Shaffer said, imparting the story of a tire swing hung by children after 3 tries and 18 knots. The Forest Preserves have just begun a new program called Art Outside as they gear up for their 100th anniversary in 2014. They are seeking artists “who feel their art work performed or exhibited, taught or observed would further [conservation and recreational] goals and/or augment the District’s outdoor environments,” according to the proposal Ulrich handed out. Both parties displayed photos of art made from the land – one “eye of the woods” at NP is an almond-shaped mass of twigs and vines hanging from trees along a trail; an ephemeral clay and wood sculpture in the FPD represented the cupped hands of the volunteers. Ulrich was largely calling artists into action throughout her presentation. She noted the Forest Preserves lack of performance arts at their annual Barrington “Art in Nature” event which concentrates on visual interpretation of the natural space through paintings and drawings.

Personally, I am excited to enjoy music in nature and create my own art in the forests.

Workshop 2: Present Yourself with Clarity and Confidence

Mare Swallow, Executive Director of the Chicago Writer’s Conference, is well versed in corporate training. Her PowerPoint was professional and rehearsed. And the large audience conveyed how interested the recession population is in personal branding advice. The talk was held in the same room as the “Green” workshop, so I stayed in my chair and watched the room empty of a few middle-aged people and refill to SRO with a largely under-30 crowd. “These kids under 30 are afraid to talk on the phone,” Swallow said in regards to proper communication, after pointing out that she would be targeting the younger attendees throughout her presentation.
Swallow gave great points that you will read about in any career advice column, and vented on all the mistakes she’s seen people make which elicited many an “mmmhmm!” from the audience.

Keynote Speaker PM – Chris Kaskie of Pitchfork

“I’m going to try not to swear because this is on TV,” Kaskie casually began his speech, creating a comfortable ending to the Expo day.
He told the story of the creation of his online music news organization and how he has kept it expanding. He noted the influence possible when working strongly within a niche for an online project yet expanding to the various mediums. Pitchfork is one of my favorite online publications, and I enjoyed hearing about Kaskie’s goals of putting coverage of Jay Z next to coverage of an obscure artist like Miniature Tigers (he used some other unknown band) and leveling the playing field. He completely gave away his devotion to Twitter, explaining the importance of having your chosen news all in one place.

If you’ve ever been interested in picking the brain of a successful Chicago creative, this is the place to do it. Tomorrow morning the keynote is all about food life (to which many Chicagoan foodies will flock like lost recession youth to a speech on business presentation).

Saturday promises another day of inspiring discussion. Come on down for free!

Dining Reviews: City Tavern and The Bedford

I had the opportunity this week to dine out in two different neighborhoods of Chicago, and compare the atmosphere and offerings of restaurants that run in a similar vein.

Tuesday I had the good fortune of my uncle being in town for a conference. I had not seen him since I was a small girl, maybe 6 or 8 years old. I had to decide on a place to go to dinner. And his hotel was in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. Most restaurants in the area are either grab-and-go or luxury dining. Mercat a la Plaxana has received great reviews, but I wanted to go further from his hotel than one block for a little adventure. Also, the idea of trying to share a bunch of small plates with a family member you hardly know while under the influence of wine and reunion love seems complicated and awkward. I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t too difficult to navigate. But I didn’t want to go so far that we would be stuck in a taxi in blizzard traffic.

Then I remembered reading about City Tavern that opened last summer. Their most recent reviews discuss the benefits of the constant assembly line of chefs that go through their kitchen. The buttermilk fried chicken has remained a staple on the menu and a favorite of the regulars. True to their designation as a tavern they have an extensive drink list and several menu pages of beer choices. Unfortunately for my restaurant review, I do not usually drink beer.

City Tavern, 1416 S. Michigan Ave. – South Loop

Uncle Ed and I stumbled the ten minute walk to our dining destination and arrived just as the freezing rain and slush was becoming bothersome. Once you open the door, you are immediately transported to place of peace and tranquility, out of the elements, with your first vision a set of low leather chairs around a simple fireplace. Their muted lighting from simple chandeliers is pleasant and the blue walls and dark woods make the place seem even more of a refuge. Definitely come here in winter.

The tavern was reasonably empty on our Tuesday evening, so we chose a small table near the front and across from the bar. The dining room extends toward the back of the building, and looks like a large and ominous cave of tables. On a busy Saturday, I can imagine it being very loud and very dark back there.

We started with the deviled eggs and the pickled vegetables. I loved both dishes. The eggs were a generous portion and unconventional, made with salmon and topped with caviar for a variance in texture. The vegetables offered that I remember as best were the beets, turnips, and carrots. We cleared both appetizer plates before our fried chicken arrived. In addition to our entree we each had a side – I chose the Brussels sprouts (always a weakness) and he had the cauliflower steak. Though this was far too much food for us to eat, I cannot say that I was disappointed with anything. Ok, the cauliflower steak was sort of bland, but I think that’s part of being cauliflower….

If you like indie rock, you’ll enjoy their playlist as well. And if you live in the South Loop area and are having trouble finding a pleasant place, not too expensive, for dinner, come here. I hope to see them utilizing the maze of rooms on their second floor – a great space for a networking event or a multiple artist show.

The Bedford, 1612 W. Division St. – Wicker Park

The Bedford, a year older, also hearkens back to a bygone era. It is housed in the older, underground part of MB Financial bank. The major draw to this place? You can have dinner inside the old bank vault.

Request to sit in the vault and you will be greeted with large comfy chairs and couches surrounding low tables. It was darker here than City Tavern, and their menu has much smaller font, but the reflection of all the copper safety deposit boxes like thousands of shiny pennies adds charm and an air of sophistication to the ambiance. Be sure to check out the large vault door – pretend you are in a Bond movie and have some fun.

My friend brought me to The Bedford because it is his favorite new space in the city to relax. “It’s comfortable. I can’t think of any other way to describe it,” he said on the ride over. It was also where he held his birthday party recently; the large seating arrangements and circular flow of the room lend itself to mingling. Add a jazz trio to the mix, as we enjoyed on Wednesday, and you have a room for conversation. The Bedford, however, extends far beyond the vault with a dining room, bar area, and private room (which has presentation abilities and it’s own bar).

I’ll say a word about the food. Chicken was ordered again at this dining experience – this time roast chicken with glazed turnips and carrots. It is as succulent as it sounds. Brussels sprouts here are done just as well as anywhere else….but I still order them. Appetizers here are lacking. The deviled eggs are simple, with hot sauce and bacon powder and not actual bacon. I didn’t try them, but I would go to City Tavern for my eggs. We opted for the meat and cheese platter. It is expensive for the serving size and contains far too many sauces that the staff was unable to name and not enough meats. There was some sort of mango jelly that I did spread generously on the toast accompaniment.

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Endnote: I have never written a restaurant review before this one. Understandably, it is probably missing a few key points and far too long and wordy. Let us all take a moment to remember that this blog is my practicing zone and I live in a city full of restaurants, restaurant reviewers, and “foodies.” I appreciate the internet and WordPress for humoring my foray into this wildly popular niche of journalism. I just hope it didn’t sound like an over-zealous Yelp review.

Just another WordPress blog

Cherknobel.com is a manifestation of me finally remembering my calling in life. I want to be a journalist investigating issues, connecting images, and telling stories in order to inspire change in the world.

The last few years of my life have been spent as a server and a Montessori preschool teacher. These industries are a far cry from investigative journalism. The last time I wrote an “article” was in my mid-college years. I worked for the student newspaper; I imagine my skills have become a bit rusty since then.

This blog, then, is my learning platform and my practice hall. It is a place where I will test out new vocabulary I am learning for the GRE. I will practice my journalistic skills by bringing you news and culture commentary and stories of Chicago, particularly my neighborhoods of Noble Square/Wicker Park/Bucktown. By “journalistic skills” I mean not only to work on a deadline and produce writing quickly, but also to tell great stories and ask the right questions.

Storytelling in the 21st century has changed so much. In order to tell a great story, you need technical knowledge, visual presentation, audio enhancement, interactive elements, and don’t forget about social networking outreach. In order to succeed in this new world, I need to grow with it – learn the technical aspects, practice my presentation, and be a voice among the millions. I will be trying out my audio and video recording skills on here…look forward to those posts!

This is Soviet Russia, and the blogger uses you.