Friday, March 21, 2014

Box Count: Six

UntitledLast week, Herb, Mary, and I worked our way through archiving upwards of 250 photographs - bringing our grand total to 300 silver gelatin prints stored neatly in six archival boxes. They were 250 mid-size black and white photographs of musicians playing their instruments in various locations. Festivals, jazz clubs, long-established music venues, beneath highway underpasses, indoor, outdoor, you name it, they played there, and Herb photographed it.


What's been one of the real treats of this experience has been the act of listening. While various types of music emanate through the light-filled living room, we play a game of memory, flashing an image before Herb's eyes only to be regaled with tales of Black Panther buttons, attending festivals in an era where toplessness was the norm, jazz and blues greats crooning so hard and fiercely that the pulsating temples are felt throbbing through the photographs into the room. These stories though sometimes sad, are often served up with a side of humor. The are what make this project rich. Walking through a history, story after story, picture by picture - it's something remarkable. We've discussed potentially setting up a tape recorder, or a video camera (how meta!) to capture what we are doing, the real meat and potatoes of the experience. Might be worthwhile... But we shall see!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Box Count: Eight

What do photographs of unnamed groupies, the Velvet Underground, and pastries from Floriole have in common? Oh, just that they were my favorite things from last weekend, hands down. We plowed through another 150 photographs on Saturday, and the stack of music performing photographs grew smaller as we worked our way down the table. We even refiled some images and put my filing system to work... spoiler alert, everything was organized, easy to find, and now I know what Muhal Richard Abrams looks like. And all of this while munching on delicious treats from my favorite Chicago bakery and listening to the Velvet Underground discography - not too shabby! That said I'm really proud of the work we've done so far, and looking forward to Saturday! And every photograph has a story attached to it, some of which haven't been told for years, I am so darn lucky to take the richness of it all in.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Archiving a Collection


From my time working in a gallery and my years spent wandering the Art Institute, the act of collecting is something that has come to be of great interest to me. Upon reflection, I don't consider myself to be a collector of anything. I didn't collect Beanie Babies, I don't really possess an art collection, and my eclectic mix of records wouldn't be considered worthy of the title "collection" to many music aficionados. And yet, I am drawn to collections. Collections that might not be my own have made their way into my life by way of lists. For you see, I am truly a list-maker.

One of my first projects at the Art Institute was to create a list of all living descendants of donors to the precious Thorne Miniature Rooms - a strange and fun challenge, given that the Thorne Rooms were so important to me as a little girl. I worked on this project diligently tracking down little histories of former donors finding interesting stories (one descendant bred miniature horses!), but also finding dead ends where questions would always be left unanswered.

What I took away from that project was that cataloging things comes naturally for me, regardless of what it is I am working to catalog. Which has led me to an exciting new project I'm pursuing in my free time. I'm currently working to organize, archive, and catalog a collection of photography for a dear family friend and great talent, Herb Nolan. My first visit to his home and studio was this past Saturday, and the work I encountered spanned decades, themes, subject matter, and location broadly and with grace. We whittled down the collection into genres that "made sense," piling photograph after photograph into the proper location based on theme and size. As we moved through the collection, Herb reminisced on memories and moments from an era long since past, and yet, the photographs rich in contrast and intimate in manner perfectly evoked the feeling of the time and place he so beautifully captured.

We only scratched the surface with our preliminary work on Saturday, but ideally an exhibition is in the works. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

GPOY - Waiting outside of the Music Box in the snow edition
On Saturday, we anxiously waited in line outside of the Music Box Theater in 20 degree snowy weather, not because we were lunatics, but because we wanted to attend the VIP sneak preview of The Grand Budapest Hotel and see Wes Anderson in person! It was cold, I mean really cold. I was one of the lucky few to nab an RSVP to this impossible-to-get-into event, and while I hated the way my toes felt after an hour and a half of jumping from foot to foot in the cold, I'd say some icy toes were an even trade to be in the same room as Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Tony Revolori, the boy wonder of this film. We killed time sipping chai from Julius Meinl, making up games, trying to read each others' minds, and befriending everyone else in line with us. It was an awesome experience to share with a crowd of Wes Anderson devotees, and I will not soon forget it.

The movie was wonderful, and as rich and colorful as one might expect from Anderson. What differentiated this film from the rest of his oeuvre was the darkness of the story and some of the gruesome moments that caught me off guard. No spoilers, I promise. I will just say that seeing a gory decapitated head and little nubby cut-off fingers was shocking and surprising, adding an element of thrill and horror to the film that was lightened by humor, wit, and beautiful editing. 

What I loved about this film was that Anderson decided, much like he did with the Darjeeling Limited, that he would base his film around a location and moment in time, imbuing the story with the very nature of its surroundings. In prepping for the film, he visited Germany and Budapest, and shot a majority of the movie on site (aside from the adorable animated / sculpted moments). The whole movie was true to the Wes Anderson Universe, but steeped in a different era of nostalgia than so many of his other films take place. 

Was it my favorite Anderson film? Not entirely, but it still invited me to visit his magical mind, basking in the richness of texture and color, allowing me to hunt for details and common threads in all of his films, as if to unlock so mystery of the characters and stories he so lovingly weaves for my viewing pleasure.

Wes, you did it again! Bravo, darling, bravo!