Spring Break 2018: Restarting the Insane Abandoned Place Checklist.

When you can't go to the beach, you go to Savanna, IL.  It is on the banks of the Mississippi River. Or you go to Harvey. There was standing water in a basement of an old power plant.  Or is that just me?

I'm pretty sure it isn't just me. I might just be the only person you know who does it though.

After a great week with the kids, I had a little bit of time to go exploring. A long time ago, I wrote about eventually making my way to Thrillist's Most 28 Insane Abandoned Places in the Midwest. Here's the link if you need a refresher. 

https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/chicago/the-28-most-insane-abandoned-places-in-the-midwest

I've been slowly checking these puppies off of my list. I have more to visit, but I am happy with my  recent efforts. Ha.

These places can be checked off: 1. City Methodist Church in Gary, IN; 2. Damen Silos in Chicago, IL; 7. Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, IL; 17. Searsboro Consolidated School in Searsboro, IA; 27. Alexian Brothers Novitiate in Gresham, WI; and 28. Solvay Coke & Gas Company in Milwaukee, WI (now demolished). 

And after this last week, you can also add two other great spots: 5. Wyman-Gordon Power Plant in Dixmoor, IL and 13. Savanna Army Depot outside of Savanna, IL.

Exciting, I KNOW! 

Both spots were definitely worth the research, planning, and in the Depot's case, a somewhat extreme effort, but both also came with a little risk-taking, so I guess what I am saying is that if you decide to go to either of these locations, make sure you research and think ahead. 

So actually, I want to show a little of what I found at the Savanna Army Depot location, which I found to be surreal. Let me say that I have actually been a little … scared … to go to this site, mostly because of what it was used for and because of what I read about it from beginning my research of it over two years ago. I decided to go actually go for it and to try to experience it for a couple of reasons.

First:

It was Easter. I don't have the kids every year. I hate sitting around all day, so instead moping, I have decided these are perfect days to go to places I usually don't have time to hit up.  I go early and take a long-ish trip to a place where I hope (and was correct this time) that I will be the only person around. This method of operation has it's advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage is that on holidays, most people are eating big meals with their families and friends, so it's a good time to explore a place that might usually be monitored carefully. The overriding negative is that if anything goes wrong and you're alone, you could be toast, especially without wireless service, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE FOR HOURS, and I have had service just about everywhere the last year or so. My provider is AT&T. Maybe it's different for other carriers. But this is doubtful. I was literally in the middle of nowhere. The good news is that I lived. So count that as a win for me.

Second:

I have a reason to go to some of these places now. I recently signed with a publishing company known for its photograph/history heavy titles. They are publishing a new series of books, "Abandoned America." I picked up Illinois and one other state. So, I have to get my a$$ going. The first draft is due July 31st for Illinois, and I know nobody thinks I have enough to do, so I added this little project onto my "to do" list. It's actually been a goal of mine to write a book - like my entire life - so this unsolicited opportunity came out of nowhere and actually fits with my love for exploring, history, writing, and photography. It also motivates me to get out and do something I love, and it's something I haven't made enough time for recently. It's also a valid reason to be exploring when explaining WHY I am at a location if questioned. It's exciting for me. And I want to thank my friends Dave, Chehalis, and Michael for helping me make some decisions regarding it. I'm so grateful. No idea how it will turn out, but I knew I needed to get to at least four more significant sites in Illinois in order for me to feel good about content, and this is one of them. 

A Tiny Bit of History and Context:

This place is so interesting to me. I often don't understand how there are some places out there that still exist, especially massive places with hundreds of buildings that are left to disintegrate. This is one of them.  I guess I do understand that cleaning this site up isn't necessarily a priority for the DNR, seeing as I read there is currently ONE full time employee overseeing the entire area. It makes sense because it is obvious that this is a place where not much money is flowing in effortlessly, and The Savanna Business Park is a little different than any other business park I have ever seen - no offense to anyone there. It's just the way it is. That's kind of unfortunate because the actual land sits overlooking the Mississippi River, and the land contains the largest natural dune system in the state of Illinois. It is 7.5 miles long and sits 70 feet above the river. The land is also known as the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. So far only around 3000 acres has been transferred, as the remaining acreage needs to be freed from environmental contamination and will be turned over when deemed safe. This could take forever though, because it is a long-term clean up plan, and the plan will supposedly be updated every 5-10 years through information gained by monitoring habitat, wildlife, and recreational use (www.fws.gov).

The Lost Mound is pretty intriguing too. It is this geographic oddity and is part of local folklore concerning a post-glacial hill set as the backdrop for the sand prairie found around it. Funny enough, "the mound did not appear on early maps of the region, however the lost 'mound' has since been found as is {now} featured on recent topographical maps" (www.fws.gov). This mound is super easy to find. It sticks up high above the rest of the land, although the area in general is hilly, and it is kind of oddly shaped and placed, but the land is aptly named, for sure.

Really quickly, the Savanna Army Depot had about 3 different titles from the time it opened in 1918 until the time it completely closed in 2000. It also had many different uses. This depot is often called the "Area 51" of the Army because of it's secret operations and missions, and because of it not being well known. It was also easy to confuse with other bases having "Savanna" or "Savannah" in their names. Savanna, OK; Savannah, SC; Savannah, GA … Savanna, IL? You get the picture. In basic terms, this place was used mainly as an ordnance, or a branch of the Armed Forces that deals with the supply and storage of weapons, ammunition, and other items related to that. This specific place was used to test and store different types of highly explosive and powerful ammunition such as 75 and 155mm howitzers, or short cannons that shoot on high trajectories in order to reach targets behind cover or within trenches. It was also used to produce, test, and ship out explosives during and after WWII. Later, it was also used as a U.S. Army Defense Ammunition Center and School that provided technical, logistical, consulting, engineering, training, and other types of specialized services to the U.S. Department of Defense. HAD NO IDEA, right? There are lots of interesting little facts about this little known of place, but one that sticks out to me is that this Depot contained a plant that loaded bombs and explosives during WWII, including the that were used in General James Doolittle's raid on Tokyo in 1942. Also, this area contains over 400 steel-enforced, earth-covered igloos with up to 2000 square feet of storage underneath  that were used to store such things as highly explosive ammunition, "mustard" gas, Ammonium Nitrate (actually over 260,000 tons of it for war reserves), and actually later and still today, data and computers. Crazy right? These are highly visible, all over the place, and are covered in grass so that they were undetectable by air. 

Needless to say, this land is highly contaminated. Scary too, is that there are said to be unexploded devices in some areas. That's what scared me most. I wore a respirator because I knew of the contamination, yes. I have heard many of the unexploded devices are taken care of, but you know, after being there, I'm not so sure. There are still signs explaining what to do when you happen to come upon one. Backwater areas are also still closed to the public due to "unexploded ordnance" being present, so I stayed far away from that space. I know 1948 was a long time ago, but there was actually and explosion that left a 150 foot wide by 50 foot deep hole you can still find. The 4 ton door from that steel-enforced igloo was never found. That says a lot.

It really is a beautiful location on the edge of the River, and it only took me 2 hours and 10 minutes to get there. Easy drive.

My start at the overlook at the end of the "public permitted" part of the Lost Mound Unit path. Cold but beautiful.

I've seen many shots of this Depot from the outside, and maybe a few shots from the inside of a barrack or a mess hall, but I have never seen what I got into Sunday. I'm not saying to do it yourself. I was actually relieved to get home, as I felt like I was constantly pumping adrenaline. It started as a pretty boring expedition actually, since I couldn't figure out where to go to find what I was looking for, and then it got frustrating because I wasn't seeing what I wanted to photograph. But, after I kept searching just "one more time" or for "one more thing," I finally figured some things out, and without getting into the details of how I accessed these things, I can only say wow. I am glad I went, but I am just as happy to have finished exploring it. I wanted to do more, and I could have done more because I basically had access to all that I wanted in the end, but I felt like I needed to get out of there. One thing I have learned through all of this abandoned hunting is to not push my luck. A lot of it is based on instinct, and my instincts were telling me to get out and to go home. So although there is a lot more to see, and I have a feeling it is a lot more of the same of what I will show, there is still a little curiosity there. It is such a huge area; it's hard not to be curious about what else there is out there. But I am done. I saw enough, and it was worth it.

If you look at the link to this map below, I was all over the place, but many of the most interesting shots came from within the CL and CF Loop Roads. The entire area  is over 14 miles long and over 2.5 miles wide, so I'm sure you can imagine how overwhelming the size is. The question for me was where to start.

https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=da2d1d2d-8124-46c5-9155-351f6031ba0c&cp=42.19038~-90.280748&lvl=16&style=h&v=2&sV=2&form=S00027

There is so much more history I have learned about this place, and it is really fascinating, but I'll save that for another time. 

Here's the easier-to-get-to stuff:

 Barracks. At one time, in 1942, over 7000 employees worked here. Many stayed here as well. Eventually the numbers of people employed and/or stationed here plummeted, and rather quickly.

Barracks. At one time, in 1942, over 7000 employees worked here. Many stayed here as well. Eventually the numbers of people employed and/or stationed here plummeted, and rather quickly.

Storage facility by tracks.

storage.jpg
 One of many dilapidated guardhouse easily found.

One of many dilapidated guardhouse easily found.

 The Headquarter Building, which is near the barracks.

The Headquarter Building, which is near the barracks.

 A guard station near the entry into the Depot.

A guard station near the entry into the Depot.

 A larger "recreational building." These are scattered all over the place.

A larger "recreational building." These are scattered all over the place.

 Another easily seen building from the publicly -accessible roadway.

Another easily seen building from the publicly -accessible roadway.

 This building is located within a barbed-wire fence, but it is easy to see.

This building is located within a barbed-wire fence, but it is easy to see.

 There are SO MANY of the long, rusted out buildings. They are unheated and not air-conditioned.

There are SO MANY of the long, rusted out buildings. They are unheated and not air-conditioned.

A little more challenging and interesting ...

So far, it was ok. Interesting, but if I didn't know why it was interesting, a pretty far drive for some crumbling buildings. Until I searched the grounds for about an hour. 

And then it got much better - on the outside and inside of the buildings.

This was an amazing place, but like I said, everything in me was telling me to leave. So I left the way I came. It was enough for me. I actually hope that someday this place is cleaned up properly. It is a beautiful area of Illinois, largely undisturbed, full of wildlife, and on a gorgeous riverbank. Maybe in the not-so-far future clean up will become more of a priority for the remaining 5000+ acres of land that can be transferred over once safe for public use.

More from Studio 204D | Starline Factory | Open Friday, January 26th

Here are some more selections for work from our studio, 204D, which will be open this Friday night from 6-10pm.

Lisa Davids, Peggy Gannon, and myself have been working on new projects, new ideas, and new pieces and are excited to have them on display.  Peggy works with mixed media art,  I work with fine art photography, mixed media art, and also have been involved with a number of other types of photography in recent months, and Lisa Davids works with mixed media art and encaustic art. Below is more of what you will find available in our studio Friday night:


Peggy Gannon: Mixed Media Art


"Convalesce" | 18"x24" | Mixed Media

"Intren" | Mixed Media

"Obstacle" | Mixed Media

"Time Machine" | Mixed Media

"Pathway" | "24 x 18" | Mixed Media

Lisa Beard: Fine Art Photography + Mixed Media Art


"Lovesong" | Tryptych: Three 3" x 6" ceramic tiles | Fluid Acrylic Pour

"Windowsill" | The Animal House | 11"x 14" | Photography

"Grown Ups" | 14" x 11" | Photography

Selection of 2"x 2" magnets | Various Yellow Glove Series Images

"Rebirth" | 14"x 11" | Photography

Lisa Davids: Mixed Media Art + Encaustic


"Seven" | Mixed Media Collage

"Made of Tiny Stories" | Mixed Media Collage

"The Space Between" | Encaustic

"Radiant Glow" | Encaustic

"Dark Thoughts" | Mixed Media Encaustic

We will post one more time before tomorrow night, so be sure to check back.  Hope to see many of you at 4th Fridays!

Studio 204D | Starline Factory | This Friday Night - 1/26

Studio 204 D will be open during this Friday night from 6-10pm for the  new season of 4th Fridays at the Starline Factory!  

Lisa Davids, Peggy Gannon, and myself have been working on new projects, new pieces, and we are excited to have them on display.  Lisa Davids works with mixed media collage and encaustic art, Peggy works with mixed media, and I work with fine art photography, mixed media, and also have been involved with a number of other types of photography in recent months. Below is a sampling of what you will find available in our studio Friday night:

Lisa Davids: Mixed Media Collage and Encaustic Art



Peggy Gannon: Mixed Media Art



Lisa Beard: Fine Art Photography + Mixed Media


There will be more of our work posted before Friday night, so be sure to check back.  Hopefully many of you can stop by the studio and we will see you then!

"Hey, so do you still have that one print of the snowy clock up on the square…?"

Yep!

Here's the link to my "Available Artwork" page, which is also on this website: https://lisa-beard.squarespace.com/available-artwork

"Woodstock Winter" | 2016

While out this weekend, I had more than a few people ask me this question - probably because it SNOWED! YES! Yeah, I love it the first few times or until it turns yellow. I also had a few people ask me about the Yellow Glove image of Gigi shoveling: "All She Had Were Heels." I do have that available too, yes. 

 "All She Had Were Heels" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2016

"All She Had Were Heels" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2016

I also have some other wintery prints available, so I will put them on the "Available Artwork" link on my page.  Some are older but have not been seen often, and some are brand new - mostly some Yellow Glove Series prints from a wintery shoot last year focusing on Gigi's Christmas decorations and a shoveling session in a blizzard. Some YG prints are editioned, which is a newer endeavor of mine, and some are not.  All images can be printed and matted for different sizes of frames, and if you have any questions, please do ask me.  

Since I was asked about them, I figured I would throw this out there, since I definitely don't think it's too early to start feeling a lot like Christmas this year, for whatever reason. Here are the images:

"Country Blizzard" | 2015

"White Out" | 2015

"White As Snow" | 2015

"Tree Tunnel" | 2015

"Blown Bare" | 2015

"Snowscape" | 2015

"Four Degrees" | 2016

"Drifter in the Snow" | 2016

"Treelined" | 2015

"Winter Gazebo" | 2016

"The Opera House" | 2016

"The Outer Wall" | 2015

"A Solvay Christmas" | 2015

The Sam Study

Yeah, I know it's understood that The Yellow Glove Series is the artistic project I devote most of my time to, and that Sam is my muse. But what's not understood is how much time it takes for this guy to transform in to Gigi Goode for these shoots; I'm not even sure I completely understood it. So I decided to do a Sam Study, to go to his house early in the morning on the day of our most recent shoot before he took off for school again and to photograph the progression of the transformation, which is pretty amazing, given that so many people still don't realize that Gigi is actually a man in drag until told because he looks so damn good. 

The Sam Study day ended up being a great shoot day. The image below is one a few that we ended up with by the end of the morning. 

 "This Must Be the Place" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2017

"This Must Be the Place" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2017

This photograph is on display at Perspective Gallery in Evanston and also at D & A Salon + Apothecary in Woodstock and is one of my first editioned prints.  People have seemed to like this image a lot, but have had lots of questions about it because Gigi doesn't seem sad or suicidal like usual.  I've even been asked if we are going in a new direction. The answer to that, those of you who wish she would be happy, is NO! Gigi isn't happy. She can't be. She looks ridiculous happy and it doesn't fit the series. It's called "This Must Be the Place" yes, because I thought of the Talking Heads tune, but also because this place is either heaven or a dream for her.  Sorry to disappoint some of you. Ha. 

So, here is the study: from Sam who woke up in the morning to Sam who is Gigi Goode.

1. It takes Sam about 3 hours to get himself ready. That doesn't count the time it takes for him to style and set whatever wig in whatever style Gigi will be wearing for the shoot.  He has to get started early.

2. Sam is ridiculously skilled at applying makeup. Most people who know him already know this, but for those of you who don't, I completely see why girls are jealous that Sam is so good at this.  

3. There aren't any shortcuts for him: fake lashes, curling the fake lashes, perfect eyeliner and mascara, lipstick … everything.

The transformation was already pretty amazing, but hisdressing process is also more complicated than it seems. 

1. This guy has to wear four pairs of pantyhose. FOUR. I can't even handle wearing one, ever! This is like, extreme sacrifice for the sake of art, in my opinion. He won't shave his legs, and I don't blame him. He does this so that his leg hair doesn't show. That, and I don't have to get rid  of it while editing, so it is much appreciated. 

2. He sometimes wears a corset. Not this day - just a bra and the dress. But the dress was fantastic. It was vintage, blue with horses and stamps on it with a cinched waist. I'm thinking very Pony Express. He started out with his own heels, but ended up with a pair of Louboutins. Not even kidding. And my intern, Emmy, ended up with a sweet George Constanza poster that is going to make her the coolest senior at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

3. He has to make sure his wig and accessories are perfect. This time, we were heading to a long-closed salon, and we were excited because we had been looking for older hair setters and salon stuff for awhile. Also, we had permission to be in there when earlier that week we thought our only choice was in an abandoned and frightening mental institution that was so large we couldn't even FIND the beauty salon in the place. I honestly wasn't really looking forward to going back and scouting around for it alone that weekend, so this was a lifesaver, thanks to a good friend of mine (funny enough, who helped me because she didn't really want me going back there either!) So, we had to have some pink foam curlers and a head wrap. Later though, they needed to removed when moving to another location where they weren't necessary. 

This image is memorable to me because of Sam's mom reaching in to give him a little help. I love that.

And after a few hours, Sam was Gigi. I guess the way I can describe how I felt was impressed and really grateful that Sam and I decided to combine our creative thoughts and to keep going with them although some of our ideas are waaaay out there. I'm also grateful for the support of his mom and dad. Pretty awesome story of a continuing great adventure. Plus, Sam makes a beautiful man or woman - honestly doesn't matter which. But as many of you know, he is a very convincing Gigi.

From the shoot: at TWH and a longtime, unused hair salon.  Sorry. Semi-secret locations ...

This last month ...

It's been busy! That's a good problem, right? I'm going to try to update this more often; my original goal was weekly. That was lofty at the time, but that's now the new goal. It might still be lofty...

But anyway, good things have been happening. Plus, it's been fun. Can't ask for more than that? So, what's been going on? I'll have to pick and choose, but here are the more exciting things:

Numero Uno:

Fashion,fashion, fashion 

photography

Gallery 19, Chicago, May 2017

Besides working on random projects, this has been what I have been working on most. It's kind of funny when I think about it because I haven't had much experience in the high fashion and designer department, but I have had lots in the very casual and occasional "I tried" departments.  But, I love it. I have learned A TON. Fashion photography has been suggested to me before because of the currently popular narrative/editorial aspect of it, and that is exactly what I do with 99% of my photography work; I just never considered it seriously until I was approached by a designer who was serious about having me try it out, and she was right: it's an entirely different world than the one I am used to. You know how you should practice what your preach but you usually don't? Yeah, that's what's happening.  I usually tell my high school students that they have to get out of their comfort zones or they are boring. I tell them to take risks. I've asked kids what the worst thing is that would happen if they actually raised their hands and GUESSED when giving an answer, like would they be struck by lightning? I've also made kids repeat themselves louder when they have been right and given an awesome answer, much to their embarrassment. So they will be glad to know that finally, I've definitely LEAPED out of my comfort zone (school, Woodstock, my friends, etc.) since about February, and this has been good, albeit hard for me, but it is becoming easier each time I travel to meet a stranger to talk about a shoot, am interviewed by individuals or teams of people, talk with all kinds of people who will be helping me, and doing things I never, ever imagined myself doing. I'm lucky to have a great mentor who is a designer and former professor at the SAIC, and so far, so good. And besides learning all of these new things, I have met great, great people, and that's what it's all about.

So, I've been to lots of fashion events, gone through tons of fashion magazines for inspiration, made mood boards, test shot, have done my first "real" shoot for a designer where I am the main shooter, have planned and canceled shoots, and have made tons of connections. Honestly though, I have to thank my friends. I am so lucky to have the friends I do - they have helped me with securing locations, modeling, makeup, hair, hauling crap places, laughing with me when I'm a total dork or shooting in the most awkward positions imaginable, plus lots of encouragement and other things as well.  Thank you to all of my old and new friends who have helped me out so much!  Here are some glimpses of a few happenings:

These were test shoots. Thank you Evie, Kurt, Cam, and Clara! 

Oh yeah! And I have an intern! Yep. I do. She's helped ME a ton so far, but now she's going to help me AND have her own assignments. Lucky girl. Meet Emmy, a fine arts major with a focus on printmaking and painting, from MIAD (The Milwaukee Institute of Art an Design).

  What up, Emmy?! :) She's lugging stuff down from the tower at a shoot.

What up, Emmy?! :) She's lugging stuff down from the tower at a shoot.

The first shoot. This was up at Black Point Estate in Lake Geneva. Thank you Dave, for allowing us to shoot here. So grateful for Andrea and Alberto and D&A Salon and Apothecary in Woodstock, and obviously to Andrea, Patricia, and Emmy. In all, I think it went well.  Can't wait to see what I will be editing from this, but these are a few randoms from the shoot. I'm excited for the next shoot, which was supposed to be today, but I canceled it due to the probable chance of rain downtown. My idea is complicated enough … no rain allowed, so that'll be next week instead.

Numero Dos: 

Still exploring ...

and doing other stuff.

Besides all of that, and my regular life, I've still been exploring and shooting, planning for the next two Yellow Glove Shoots (cannot wait), and experimenting with different types of photography methods and art. Today I took down work at Ethereal, but will be having it displayed in three places in the upcoming week: Conscious Cup in Crystal Lake, D&A Salon and Apothecary in Woodstock, and also in the Creek Gallery Show - opening night is next Friday night, the 7th from 6-8 pm, and it's free. It is going to be a great show. I have one piece in the show itself, and was honored to be asked to display additional work in the venue room. 

Other things I've been working on and trying are lots of creative senior picture sessions, exploring new places (duh), storm chasing, continuing a b&w series focused on bodies and natural light, creating image transfers combined with encaustic art, and this process of using slide transfers to Polaroid film using a Daylab Jr., which is much harder than I imagined it would be of course, and then using the positive and negative emulsions as the centerpieces for artwork. Who knew Polaroid film is that expensive AND that they discontinued producing the 669 film a long time ago...

Also, it's been a good week for sales. A lot of people ask me what's for sale and how do they go about seeing about a piece. Well, just ask me or email me at lisabeardart@gmail.com. I will be updating this site's product page as much as possible so it's easy to see what I do have if you are  interested. Here is what sold in this past week: 

"Dangling Prayers", 11x14; "The Wedding March", w/SE Hologram, 18x24; "Muffled", 11x14; "Dirty Dishes", 11x14 "White As Snow", 11x14; "Corner Chair", 16x20, "Landline", 11x14; and "Searsboro Stool", 12x12 mixed media image transfer with acrylic

Last but not Least:

What I learned this week

by Lisa M. Beard

How to shoot fashion: look like a total dork. Because if you are worried about looking like one, you will be one, but if you look like one before you can be called one, it doesn't hurt a thing. :) Photo courtesy of Emile Reynders. Thanks for that.

 Also, be very serious and if you can, wear multiple hats. Literally and figuratively.

Also, be very serious and if you can, wear multiple hats. Literally and figuratively.

Places I have been lately. Location 1: happy we aren't dog meat. Literally.

This must be the place. Hmmm. Here's a song for that - I always have a song for that, but this one is especially fitting and one of my top five favorites: 

 I guess that this must be the place?

I guess that this must be the place?

Most people know I love scouting out places - whether for focus and calming myself after or before a stressful week, for possible shoots, even unfortunately for an adrenaline rush when I'm feeling a little um … bored … so I figured I'd share some of the most interesting places I have been lately since a lot of you wonder about them, and yeah, I have been pretty quietly active these last few months exploring. Haven't really been active on the blog though. It's hard while teaching and grading. One thing you have to know is that I rarely go alone. Maybe once in awhile, because I have learned a lot in the last two years, and one thing I have learned is to go with someone you are 100 percent comfortable with and whom you trust in any situation. I also go early, early in the morning. The light is beautiful if you catch it just right, and I like morning light better than evening light. Plus I wake up early and I'm shot by about 3pm. I'm like 85 years old. Maybe 90. So this is the most recent place I explored, and it was early in the morning, this past Sunday, at a McHenry County location which was obviously heavily wooded. 

First, walking up to the property was awesome. There was just so much STUFF outside of the house, and I wanted to go inside, but decided to look outside first because the light was ridiculous AND there were so many little "areas" I'll call them, to explore. I don't think the pictures I ended up with even do this place justice.

 Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

 Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Two years ago, maybe even one year ago, I would have run straight into that sucker because of how cool it looked; however, I'd like to argue that I have become smarter after doing this many times and running into different issues or thinking about what could happen. I'm glad we stayed outside. But anyway, there was so much to look at. Whoever lived here made different little areas on this huge property. 

Coming onto the land was even interesting. I don't know how old the raised American Flag was, but it was torn, weather-beaten, and faded. The light was perfect though.

 A partial flag …?

A partial flag …?

Then it was into the gate. Everything was overgrown, and there was so much scattered around. It's hard to say when this place went abandoned, but it had to be awhile ago.  Lawn chairs, Christmas lights, a gazebo, sheds, a bomb shelter, garden tools, an exercise bike - you name it, we saw it.

 Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

 Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

 I mean, you never know ...

I mean, you never know ...

 Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

 And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

Unfortunately, after this point, I was ready to go around to the other side of the house to check out even more cool stuff and then possibly go in, but not alone. Many of you know I talk to myself, especially when I am nervous or trying to figure something out, and I actually, at this gazebo, said out loud, "Ugh. Why am I scared to go in there?" But I kept walking, and as I did, I heard the absolute worst dog snarling, growling noise I have ever heard. There was a dog tied up inside of the house, on the end, with a not so strong rope and it was pulling to get to me and foaming at the mouth. Needless to say, my stomach dropped and I was worried about where Nance was. So I backed up as slow as possible and then TOOK OFF, panicked and found her. Then we got the hell out of there. Turns out my gut was right. I know that when you go onto the property, it is a wreck and the house has a caved in roof, and it looks totally abandoned. Evidently either someone is squatting there and has a guard dog - because it actually is the perfect place for that, being so far removed from everywhere - or someone puts a dog in there overnight to guard the place. I'm leaning toward it being a person's "home." And yes, we were here and it wasn't our property, but I'm still glad we didn't get mauled because that would be a painful way to go. 

The reason why I am also saying this is because I got this address from kids who graduated. DO NOT GO THERE. AND ESPECIALLY DO NOT GO THERE AT NIGHT LIKE YOU DID! BECAUSE THERE IS A MEAN AND STRONG DOG THERE! I know you guys went at night and didn't go in, and thank God for that. I'm glad I found it and not you. But thanks for the sweet address because I liked the outside probably more than I would have liked the inside. But go with your gut. Turns out mine is right sometimes, and that I have learned to listen to it. It has taken me awhile though, because I get overly excited about things. That was a first for me, and I never want to hear a sound like that again or to worry about a person I care about possibly being in danger. We both felt lucky and blessed. Just be alert!

With that being said, I will for sure show you the next exploration! 

Learning: when your life gets to be like constantly studying for a final exam. In math.

What's that like for person with a brain that is heavily unbalanced towards the right side? Here. Upon coming across the one math course I took undergrad, "Math as a Human Endeavor" I thought, "Hell yes! This is going to be the easiest math class ever!" and I signed up. No. Two grades of equal weight: a midterm and a final. 200 students in a lecture hall. One not-so-easy-to-understand professor who insisted it was easy. One math term I will never forget: olive-knot?! I have no idea how to spell it. I have asked my math teacher friends about it; I have googled it. It's like I have made it up, like it never existed! So I took the midterm. I tried. I cried a little. I wrote, "I DON'T GET IT!" across the front and turned it in. I was devastated. I had never earned below a B in any class. Ever. So I studied like heck for the final and earned an A. I have no idea how. And then that nice, nice, professor allowed me to write a paper about a mathematician. I ended up with a B. Moral of the story: writing is important! Ha! YES for writing! 

But I know learning is good. And it's a damn good thing that I have always loved to learn about a huge variety of things. 

I know I would not have an abnormally high knowledge of state capitals, weird facts about how different countries bury their dead, Native American Mythology (wolves are important), MLA Citation rules, on which page and in what paragraph Mrs. Dubose tells Scout she is a "dirty little girl" in To Kill a Mockingbird, where the Shameless house is located (thanks, kids!), how to do an image transfer 10 different ways for 10 different effects, and strangely enough with music: a song, the artist, the grade I was in, year it was, how old I was, and parts of the music video when a majority of the songs in my lifetime came out.  I have to try two favorites.

Example 1:  "You Might Think" by the Cars:  5, 1984, preschool. I remember a huge fly in the likeness of Ric Ocasek buzzing around a very 1980's colorful and cheesy setting while bothering a woman I assume he liked. I think maybe there was driving a car involved too. Or that could be the album cover they had with "My Best Friend's Girl" on it. Or maybe because they are the Cars? I guess I'll find out. But for sure, the fly.

Example 2: "Under the Bridge" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 11, 1991?, 6th grade. I loved, loved this song! Still do. Anyway, I remember Anthony Keidas never wearing a shirt, but that was ok because he was buff and had a nice tattoo.  I also remember him sprinting towards the camera and thinking, "Man, he's fast!" I remember Flea under a graffiti bridge that looks a lot alike one I have a picture of myself. I also remember a winter hat I wanted! 

Hopefully I'm right about these. I don't know for sure. I didn't cheat and I haven't seen these videos in years. Is there anyone else out there that can do this like I can? Had to do it to test myself. I'll look later. Sorry. So. To the things I've been studying and learning: 

Learning Goal #1: Uncertainty

Recent learning has all been about advancing in what has now definitely become my second career and something I'm in love with, photography. I've been doing a lot of research lately, different types of shooting, making contacts where I can, and trying to plan what needs to be done. I've always been a planner, and for some reason I can't plan this, so it's been driving me nuts. This means NO SET PLAN. I have always been a risk-taker, but I have always liked to have some kind of plan, too. This is different, and when you're at an age where you think you should probably have more figured out and you don't, it can't be unsettling. That's where this idea of uncertainty comes in. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. I recently read a part of a book that claimed uncertainty is actually a good thing. I think I'm with that. I think uncertainty actually drives a person who wants success as long as that person doesn't get so scared they end up stopping and getting too comfortable. No idea if that makes sense. Instead of fighting it, I'm doing my best to accept it and maybe actually welcome it someday. When I'm like 80 probably. One simple idea that I remember from that book is true: "The only thing we know is that we know nothing."  Nothing is guaranteed. 

Learning Goal #2: Setting up a studio and preparing for an intern

Studio 204D: Soon to be finished! Come on April 28th!

I'm finally into a studio at Starline Gallery, sharing one with my wonderful friend, Peggy Gannon. She's an amazing artist. We will be open for the first time during this month's 4th Fridays, April 28th. We want to pack our new place. So come! We are excited. But setting up a studio is not easy. No, it's not even closeti done.  But it will be soon. Plus I have also agreed to take an intern who is majoring in fine art this summer at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She seems creative and great. But it will be a learning experience. I think we'll both learn a lot.

Learning Goal #3: Fashion, which is funny considering I am all about comfort

I love this coat. This one is a flip coat. It can be worn one way so that it is shorter in length, but flip it upside down and it can be worn so that it is longer in length. Crazy!

Also, I'm studying up on fashion from Pinterest to find and look at the work of the best fashion photographers I can around Chicago and the rest of the world, tearing out pages of both American and European fashion magazines, looking through books of designer art, finding models, and collaborating with many different people.  I have learned so much about fashion as an art. It's fascinating what concepts designers come up with and their creative processes associated with them. I'm blown away by the ideas one creative designer I've been lucky enough to get to know. I often ask, "How did you come up with this?" Her answer is amazingly similar to how and when I come up with stuff: when I'm really not thinking about it - running, in the shower, sleeping, etc.  Plus it is intriguing and almost comforting to hear about what someone has to do vs. what she really wants to do.  I've only thought about fashion photography a couple of times: when other photographers have mentioned I should try it. I think I might actually love it.

Lesson 4: Dealing with Discomfort

Speaking of new people, I have had to meet and speak with many new people about new and important stuff: opportunities, critiques, budgeting, second shooters, lighting, taxes, travel expenses, running a small business, having access to things I need at the time, "how to" questions … you get it. That's always been hard for me. Can I do it? Yes. Do I like to? Umm, yes and no. I have terrible anxiety at first, for weeks if I know something is coming up. The good news is that it fades once in action.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not an extrovert. I think I am an introvert who can demonstrate extroverted qualities at times. But I always need time to recharge or I'm in for a whole lot of trouble. "But you're a teacher!" Yeah, I know. Teaching students is different than meeting with potential clients or pitching ideas to a roomful of people when you've never had that experience before!

Lesson 5: Being grateful and learning from others (if you listen. Note to self: fricking listen!)

I have always felt great appreciation to people in my life, and I have tried to express it. But I have learned a ton about people in general, and I need to say thank you to the few people I contacted through email, messaging, or personally because all of you are very busy and very successful people who have been generous with your time and answers/suggestions when you could have easily told me you were too busy to help. It helps me so much to have some information before I make major decisions. I'd love to thank specific people for making even just a little time for me, but I'll feel like a jerk when I forget someone, but everything has helped in some way. Reaching out and asking is the hard part. I have never liked to ask for help, but I also never give up just because it's not easy. What is there to lose? You never know until you ask. I started realizing this the last few years when I finally found enough courage to ask, and I wish I would have understood earlier.

Wish me luck. I'm heading downtown and it's an important day. Step 2 in probably what will be a long process. I'm going to have to pull some of this learning together and apply it the best I can. I am a little bit nervous, but I feel confident, and that's what learning does for me: it makes me feel like I can talk without sounding like a complete idiot. Mostly. Because I will spill or trip or break a glass at some point that day. I like to call THAT charm. 

 Charming, yes?

Charming, yes?

Abandoned Factory Tour: Acme Coke Plant, Chicago. 2.26.17

Another place I have wanted to explore for a long time crossed off the list.

Panoramic view of the ovens and coal tower with Matthew, Nate, Aubrey, and Peggy. This gives an idea of the massive size of those ovens.

At the end of last month some of my daring photographer friends and I finally made it to the South Deering neighborhood of Chicago to explore what used to be the enormous Acme Coke and Steel Plant.  Thanks Matthew, Peggy, Nate, and Aubrey for a great day.

Coking, in case you are wondering, is the baking of coal in huge ovens and turning it into a cleaner and more efficient fuel used in old huge blast furnaces. Many of these furnaces were lined up along Lake Michigan but are now demolished; according to information I found, only one is still in operation at U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana. This area of the city was known for its steel production for most of the 20th century, and this particular plant opened in 1905. According to substreet.org, by 1909, the Acme Coke Plant spanned over 100 acres and had over 100,000 square feet of factory space.  In 2001 the factory closed for good, although it was saved for a short while in 2004 by the Calumet Heritage Partnership and provided them with enough time for them to collect historical artifacts, documents, and etc. for a museum. It was later mostly demolished, and what remains is what we got to see.

I'm sure the grounds are filled with lead, asbestos, mold,  coal (all over the place), and all other kinds of bad stuff, but seeing the grounds, going into some buildings, climbing part of the coal tower (it was way too windy to climb to the top for Nate, Matt, and me - a rare decision based on what we thought would be safe - see I'm not that crazy), seeing the ovens, finding old documents from as far back as the 1950's, and walking the grounds was interesting and worth the time and effort it took to get there. 

Proof that I was the chicken thanks to Aubrey. Yep, that's me cowering in the corner on the far right, not even standing.

First, we had to walk through some of the old buildings. It's crazy what is left behind. So many boots, hard hats, pairs of goggles, gloves and other items workers had used.

As we walked towards the coal tower and the coke ovens, which were what I really wanted to see, we saw what a wasteland the property had become.  We saw trash, of course, but also clothes, boots, a burned up truck, and half-standing buildings.

From previously seen pictures, I pictured the ovens and tower as taking up some space but not really tall and huge, like they were. The first set of ovens reminded me of tall ancient Roman ruins, except instead of white they were burned into colorful brick. The second set of ovens looked were shorter, but just as colorful. And even though it was a bright, sunny day, it was very cold and windy, so windy that it took me a good ten minutes to stand up on a platform  to look out over the grounds after climbing partially up the coal tower. Getting up there was hard enough - stepping on beams and sliding up through narrow slats until making it to the platform, but the wind was almost too much. I was afraid  to put my camera bag down. We found the yellow outer stairway leading to the very top of the tower, but Matthew, Nate, and I unfortunately and rarely decided it was too dangerous to climb to the top. See. I'm not as crazy as you think. Getting to the platform was good enough. 

Interesting, worth it, another good place to explore and photograph, and another part of history that could soon be forgotten. Thanks for a good day you guys, and thanks for the logistics, Matthew! 

 

Aubrey, Peggy, Nate, and Matthew around some of the grounds.

For more information on this factory, there are a bunch of places to check out, but here are a couple of good ones.

http://substreet.org/acme-coke/
http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/pshs02

"Just for one day …" / Works in progress page added / Print Sale going on

Excited to start this project after thinking it over for a long time. We started Saturday and went into yesterday. I think you'll get the idea, but if not, that's ok. 

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Things I like about it:

  • David Bowie. Those of you who know me know I've been intrigued and in love with him since I have been, wellllll … 4?
  • It's a black and white project.
  • I have been sitting on this for over a year. Like my friend Nancy says in her Creative Process blog and class: one step is incubation, and boy do I know how to let things incubate, fortunately and unfortunately.
  • My models are awesome and funny.
  • It's different than what I have done before.
  • Editing it is fun.
  • The original outtakes are some of my favorite images. They speak volumes about a true artist.
  • Collaborating with some of my former and current students, who have tried their hardest to remain serious despite my children and my kitten. It's hard as you'll see.

Here's is a preview of what's to come and some shots that make me laugh!

These are 6 of the 16 images. I love throwing my whole self into a project. This one is nice because it's straight photography, and that is what makes me happiest. 

Also, my kids are ridiculous. I will NOT tell you what they were saying to these poor models, or what they were laughing at. All I will say is that it was so bad. I give these models credit for being able to follow through and keep straight faces most of the time. I wouldn't have been able to. Plus I'm sure my parental reactions were interesting for them to watch, since they have only really seen me in action as their teacher. 

These all make me laugh, and who doesn't need a laugh these days?

 

Oh yes, there will be more. But this is not what I will be doing with them. That's the fun part.

Also, I recently added a "works in progress" page to my site which scarily shows you some ideas I have and where my mind is going, along with my art. I figured it could be interesting or maybe explain some things! Ha.

Life Distortions ...

Last, I do have a pretty good print sale going on. Many are from the YGS. Some aren't. I just have an excessive amount of prints, mostly small but some larger,  from different shows I've been in this past year. They are heavily discounted. If you are interested, check out these links: 

 https://lisa-beard.squarespace.com/config/pages/586410fb29687fc89ebcc71f

 https://lisa-beard.squarespace.com/config/pages/586410fb29687fc89ebcc71f

 

As good as a time machine.

After these last few insane-for-alot-of-reason-weeks what I really needed to do was go out, find a good place (hopefully!), do a little golden hour abandoned shooting, and try to refocus myself. I didn't really think about it until yesterday, but I squeezed in an hour, and I found a great place, got a little scared - which is good in a messed up way because it makes me feel alive again - found some cool old, stuff, got back into my car and drove right back into reality. 

It was just what I needed. I wish there was something that was more self-soothing than this for me, but there really just isn't anything much better than going out and exploring and shooting for an hour. Or having an idea and actually following through and shooting it, which is what I did today, and that's not edited yet. But that also did something great; it allowed me to breathe again, and not in a panicked and crazy way. In a good way. 

I felt like I actually stepped into some type of time warp. This was one of those houses where you wonder what the heck actually happened. Why is all of this stuff still there? And it also makes you yell before you go into any room or up any stairs because you KNOW there is a family of possums living there and just waiting to jump out and tear your head off.

Here's some of what I got. I do miss these solo adventures sometimes, especially when things get busy or when I know frostbite is a potential problem.

I didn't even get to every spot I wanted because there was so much to see before the sun set. So, I'll definitely be going back. 

And yeah, if you saw a crazy person turn around, go park on the side of the road, jump out, run into a field and take some shots, that was me. The light was crazy, and the reflections were too good for me to just drive away from. I know anybody else would do the same thing? Right? Because this is what it really looked like out there on my way home. I'm not one for taking many nature shots, but last night, it was too good out there.

Holy crap, right?

I'm sure you'll see some of today's shoot soon. One word - heroes.

The Oregon Trail, Jordan Catalano, and New Stuff

Why would I even be thinking of an 80's computer game and a cute teenage boy who was on TV in the 1990's?  You'd be surprised. It's very relevant, actually. It's something I've been thinking about and that has been brought up to me in the last week or so frequently. Maybe it's because of The Obamas exiting the White House today and Donald Trump entering it … Sorry … Or maybe it's because of a project I have been working on and trying to name, or maybe it's because of someone I met recently who understands every reference to the things I mention that are totally random to some other people. Doesn't matter. It all links up to one thing:  

I've always been interested in generations and their traits, so just a little bit about my generation: I am not a member of Generation X or a Millennial. I am a member of the microgeneration between them, a "cusper" if you will. It has a few names, the most popular being The Xennials, The Oregon Trail Generation, and The Catalano Generation. Unless you are a part of my generation, you might not even know what The Oregon Trail is or who Jordan Catalano is. What a shame.  

But the names all make sense: Xennial is a combo name, duh. The Oregon Trail was an computer game from the 80's, and my friends and I used to FIGHT over playing that game in our elementary school classroom after finishing assignments. It always sucked when your character got Typhoid Fever or Dysentry while crossing the country in a covered wagon. Another game we used to play was Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego. I was the kid who always rushed to finish my work just to play that game. This was me: "Yeah, of course I did it all carefully. YES I double-checked. Why would you ever wonder that?" Yeah right. Lying 3rd grader. I never double-checked my work.

 Ohh the Commodore and the good old days. Third grade in the basement at Greenwood Elementary. There was also this great Winter Olympic game with ski jumping that we battled over playing. Good memories.

Ohh the Commodore and the good old days. Third grade in the basement at Greenwood Elementary. There was also this great Winter Olympic game with ski jumping that we battled over playing. Good memories.


Why also The Catalano Generation? Only because of arguably my favorite TV series on during the 1990's, My So Called Life, where the main male character, Jordan Catalano, was loved by girls and thought to be cool by boys because he was a stereotypically hot, lazy, but sensitive high school boy acting opposite of Claire Danes, or Angela on the show. This series was so popular with the people of my "microgeneration" that we are sometimes known as young, hot, Jared Leto's character from the show's generation. Here he is then, as Jordan Catalano, and now … which I'm definitely not complaining about either.

I have to say it's not really a bad idea for a generational name. I like The Oregon Trail idea too though. They both really do capture some important things of my youth. 


I guess this all came up because of a few things. First, I'm working on a bunch of different ideas, but one that I started awhile ago, and has been brewing for about two years has to do with the music I loved when a child, music that is on records. I have a huge collection of records, and that's because of my mom and dad who used to listen to music almost every night after dinner. I'd stare at the album art and be amazed by it. I'd also memorize the songs. This music was mostly from their generation, but some was not. Some would have been considered "current" during the early 1980's, and therefore a became big part of me. I have always hung my favorite albums up on walls as album art, but then I had this idea to remake some of my favorite covers but with some differences. The catch is these have to be albums that MEAN something to me, whether it be the artist, songs, memories associated with them, or just the damn weird album covers - one that comes to mind is the Rolling Stones album "Some Girls" where you could move their heads around to fit onto lady bodies. Most were bodies in bras that were on sale? Yeah that's what I remember.  So far, I have tried this with two albums, and it is HARD. It involves photography, of course, and it is often photography involving many models and poses the aren't easy to replicate.  I also don't want these pieces to look exactly the same as the original covers. That would be lame.  It is also involves a lot of editing and digital painting, something I am not so familiar with but now enjoy. The next step is image transfer onto a blank album cover (Thanks for that idea Riley Child, and for actually having them, Amazon) because I tried this on wood panels and it just didn't work like I wanted it to. Then I have to use oil or acrylic, charcoal, or oil pastels to finish the piece. After over 20 tries, I finally have two pieces to show for it. I think a lot of people would have quit by now, but I can't and won't.  There are a lot of ideas that I have for this, and  a lot of models lined up, so the project WILL continue.


All of this got me thinking about what generation I'm really from: Generation X, which I don't completely fit into, or the Millennials, which I feel even less connected to, because people born during about a six year age span don't really fit into either. That's where I found the information on the Xennials, or my generation, and it all makes sense. It's for real. And then I started hearing about it more, I believe because of current politics and the amount of job turnover among my friends and others; stuff like that. But then it was even brought up by a close mentor friend of mine and a few friends - this generational thing. I think I would rather be an Xennial instead of the other two generations sandwiching us because it is a pretty flexible and versatile generation. We grew up without the technology we have today, so we didn't have cell phones until our 20's, which meant we actually had to call and talk to people, including our friends' parents, to make plans. Either that or we went and knocked on a door to play. But, we were the first ones to grow up with affordable household computers, so we were exposed to technology and the awesome sound of a dial up modem for the slowest Internet speed imaginable - when we were about 16. Millennials can't even remember a time without them, and older Gen X'ers often don't understand the latest technology because of a lack of use and/or exposure. We are in the middle. Give me something and I can fumble around and always figure it out. Or don't give me anything having to do with technology and I am perfectly happy. I still WRITE OUT anything before I type it. Old school. It's kind of nice to have been able to adapt easily to technological advances but to not be addicted full on - well not me anyway.

As a teacher, I find it so funny to talk to my students about the kind of stuff. They do not remember pay phones. They do not remember calling collect. Or calling collect, leaving your name on the recording, having someone pick up and listen to it so they know to come get you, and hanging up. They never had the pleasure of knowing how to use both card catalogues and article databases. They have never used CDs OR tapes. I did until the end of college when I got my first mp3 player for running and that was like, unbelievable. So was Napster, where I got to use Eastern Illinois University's Ethernet to seriously increase my music collection. I love what it's evolved into, namely Spotify. It's great. Another thing that's nice is not having to wait at least an hour and paying a lot of money to wait for my film to be developed. My kids have no clue about that either. Or what knowing about the Gulf War was or feeling the effects of 9/11 as a 21 year old student teacher while trying to deal with the fears of my Advanced Senior English students who were 3 years younger than me when I was worried about my cousin who worked in Manhattan very close to the Twin Towers. Weird times. These kids get to use wireless everything, and soon our district will have 1:1 technology for each student; my 8 year old has his own Chromebook. I was just happy in Keyboarding I and II class with Mrs. Carroll when we used electronic typewriters and sometimes got to go to the ONE lab we had to use the awesome Apple IIe computers. They didn't even have Internet access.  Internet happened senior year in the OTHER lab, the ITC lab. I used it maybe once. And I didn't care because I didn't understand it.

 This.was.hi.tech.

This.was.hi.tech.


So the album art series is not yet titled, but it will have something to do with how I feel about music and what it has to do with my membership in The Oregon Trail/Catalano/Xennial crowd. Here are a couple of my first albums - at least the photography used with them. If you know what they are, cool. If not, that's ok too. I'm just kind of messing around for now. David Bowie comes next, but that is a whole different endeavor. For this one we have the front and the back. Thank you, Kai, for including a spastic Lily on the cover.  These are just the images for transfer, so the color is obviously going to be evened out and changed. For the next, that is my son at the same age as  the boy who modeled for the real cover. Now he is the same age as when he modeled for the next, and we will be doing that soon. 


Most of the album ideas will come from the 80's or before, so I guess that's where all this generation stuff started popping into my head.  Anyway, I have also been working on some other projects. The Yellow Gloves are a given, but they aren't a focus of this post today. I have been working on a lot of other types activities with that series, but as far as working on art goes, I have really been into the albums and mixed media projects. These are two: both image transfers onto wood panels, one of a classroom at an abandoned schoolhouse in Iowa, and the other a transfer of the snow and rain on the side of a cab ride during a blizzard down Michigan Avenue in the dark on December 16th. I used some Crackle on that one. Fun.


I've also been experimenting with another idea. I won't get into the nuts and bolts of it, but it clearly involves distortion. I know that sometimes I can be a bit … let's see … realistic, not exactly dark … like some people like to say. So some of what I have been working on might reflect some of that, but it's been fun to use new programs and techniques, like Studio Artist and others, to try new things out.


Anyway, that is what my brain, my heart, and my hands have been up to. And I know that you totally appreciated this post if you knew what I was talking about, used Slap bracelets, stick on earrings, wore Hypercolor t-shirts, loved making mix-tapes, used AOL, read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or any Shel Silverstein collections, would break peoples' arms and cry over Cabbage Patch Kids, "smoked" candy cigarettes, loved Atari first but even more, the originall Nintendo system with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt - you had to blow on the games to make them work sometimes -, watched Heathers, the Goonies, and Clueless over and over again, and wouldn't miss episodes of Dawson's Creek, the real Full House90210Saved by the Bell, or The Wonder Years. Oh yeah, and you also had to be able to attempt dancing hip hop in a circle at a school dance to "Jump Around!", "Poison", or "The Humpty Dance".  If you can rap all the words to "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air", I know you're the real deal. 

On a side note, my Etsy page is not up and running anymore. I do have some artwork for sale listed on this site, but if you want to talk about purchasing a piece of The Yellow Glove Series, please contact me using either the "Contact Me" form on this site, or email me at lisabeardart@gmail.com.

Have a good weekend everybody! Maybe go watch some Wonder Years on Netflix.

Yellow Glove Shoot #23 : Safari Bar and Kitchen

Yeah, holy crap. 23 Yellow Glove shoots. I didn't even realize it has been that many until I literally counted them a minute ago. Only 3 haven't been seen.  1 probably never will be. It didn't turn out like we thought it would. Let's just say a happy Gigi just doesn't work.

And so what if it's really 0 degrees with a -17 degree windchill and this shoot is approximately an hour north? Doesn't even matter when you really love a place and want to get one in. 

This home, which we chose mostly due to the amazing looking space and fully stocked safari-themed bar, is huge and abandoned, from what I can guess since sometime in the 1980's, is in Wisconsin, and it looks like the occupants got up and left as fast as they could … mob?? That would be the perfect story in my head. We all agree that someone need to buy this home and flip it. It could be unbelievable. Someone call Tarek and Christine. I know they're getting divorced, but supposedly they are going to keep flipping or flopping. Everything you see in the images was already in place, and there was so much more we couldn't include. 

Flip or Flop? Not their marriage silly  the house!

It was freezing, and we considered not going, but it was the only day that worked. One thing that I love about this shoot is that both models are extremely expressive, Gigi facially and her husband with body language. I think it's obvious that this guy didn't work out for her either.  She has no luck at all with men. She's like that Social Distortion Song : "Bad Luck." She's got bad, bad luck.

This is husband #6. We've had Caleb, who expects too much; Brian, who she ran from while at the altar; Riley, who was a tad bit abusive; Kai, who wanted her to cook and clean while he sat around; Alex, who was a little too perfect but made her sad; and now Ethan, who seems nice but drinks a little too much. I keep telling her she has to stop basing her choices on looks. 

Here's some of what we got during the last shoot:

I know. That bar, right?! I love the spiderweb stretching off of the bottle. And those cabinets in the kitchen! We might just have to reuse this location if it's still around in the future. Plus, looking at the models, who would even know it was colder than in the North Pole that day?  

Urban Exploring Adventure. Location: Southside of Chicago. 1.3.17

I obviously go exploring a lot, but not too often to huge factories on a planned trip with other people. Those adventures are pretty rare, but I had one on Tuesday, and it was a good one. Originally we were supposed to go on that really cold Sunday a few weeks ago, but none of us wanted to be outside for 5 hours in -14 degree real temperatures, so it was rescheduled for the 3rd. I finally got to meet Matthew (aka Steadlens) from Instagram; we have been messaging about places for a long time, and Jessi and Carolyn, two other photographers who love shooting and exploring also came with. Small groups are the best groups. Anyway, we pulled it off without a hitch (that's what good research does - thanks Matthew!) and it ended up being a great place. It  was a huge factory that used to manufacture mining locomotives but was then used to make parade floats and store them. Unfortunately, there was a recent fire, and a lot of the floats burned. Not all though. Pretty crazy. Actually, part of the intrigue for me besides the history is what gets left behind. I really don't understand it or what happens to it, and there is so much out there. This little hobby that turned into an all out obsession, and basically a second career of mine, has really opened my eyes to a lot of things I never thought about before. Another interesting part of going on "field trips" like this with other photographers is how everyone comes up with different shots of either the same thing or of things others missed. It always starts and ends the same way: we go find a way in together, walk around and ooh and ahh a bit, make sure it's an okay place to stay, and then become distracted with the things we find interesting individually. Then we usually end up on our own, and we don't even talk. It's funny. It's just about dead silent because everyone is so focused at first. For example, I was alone for about two hours by myself in there yesterday, but then we ended up finding each other in the same spot, which always happens and surprises me because usually we get there in different ways, and the buildings are huge.  So, here's some of what I came up with from yesterday's trip:

These first few are how we had to get to the property we were looking for. Much easier than expected. Just had to get to the back of the building somehow.

The next few images are what we saw as we walked closer: the place, up close to our destination, the now defunct railroad tracks that go through the entire ground floor of the building, and the only way to get in and out.

After we got in, this was where we stuck together and did the holy cow this is awesome thing! These were all taken on the first floor, before we got stuck on our individual journeys. By the way, the gears taken in these pictures were the so BIG. They were taller than me, and by a lot. 

And now for some of the rest of what I have: a combination of what I found when alone and what I took when we found each other. The only scary thing that happened to me all day was that a disgusting, small dog-sized sewer rat jumped out in front of me in the dark area you'll see. There was water in there, and that's the only time I really screamed. All I can think about is how it looked at me and about its long, gross tail. Eww. 

So that'll be it for me for awhile, as far as taking a major field trip like this. I'm wiped out, and that's because I am old and don't think or feel like I am, so I always overdo it! The next shoot will be before school starts back up, and that will be one more for the Yellow Glove Series, and I have  to say I'm really excited about it and where it will take place!

Abandoned House & Factory Tours

For some of us, finding an abandoned house or factory is crazy exciting and only happens every once in a long while. This weekend was a rare one for me - I had two new addresses to go to from an Instagram swap, but while on those trips, I found an accidental house that was great and with three other friends, accidentally found a huge factory. So I have to post some pictures. One house was basically in shambles but still good, one house was very old and cool with historical items laying around, and one house was just plain weird. I would almost consider it a mansion. SO MANY things were left behind, and not from today; I'm thinking 80's based on the cassette tapes I found (lots of hair bands, Maria Lyons). And the factory: it was huge, filled with graffiti, and had a lot of cool and safe :) places to climb.  So for me, yeah, basically what started as a boring weekend turned out to be a really good one.

Here are are some images I captured; I'll go in the order visited. This first place was the one I discovered by accident; it was very old and had many great things just laying around. Many windows also contained some kind of beautiful stained glass.

The second house I went to was less than a mile away and was also very, very old. It was half destroyed and not easy to maneuver through, but what was left inside was great: just old rooms and hideous wallpaper and LOTS of old-fashioned lights. It also had about six outbuildings and many contained rusty bikes?!

The final house I visited that day was about 20 minutes farther north, and I was really surprised because it was a HUGE house, and it seemed like people just got up and left. This house was cool but creepy; my favorite room was a safari themed bar and game room, completely stocked and wallpapered with jungle animals like zebras and tigers and elephants. I have never seen anything like it. There was also a large painting of a girl propped up against a wall, and the creepy thing was that the lights on either side of it turned on as you will see in the picture. It made absolutely no sense, so that's about when I left.

After a three hour break, I met up with three more photographer friends for what I thought was going to be a relaxing shoot of whatever we found to shoot outside; however, we ran into a completely unexpected, enormous, graffiti-filled factory. It was so large that there was no way to get through it all in two hours. There was plenty of machinery left, and there were many climbing opportunities for some different perspectives. So overall, it was a great weekend for shooting, and this week should bring some other fun opportunities as well! 

One last thing. If you are around the Woodstock Square anytime this month, go and check out Ethereal Confection's art display because it's outstanding. Kurt Kreissl, my good friend, is an extremely talented artist. He works mainly with oil and acrylics, but also with graphite. He creates many abstracts and portraits. Traditionally, Kurt's work is very large in size, and there are a few large pieces on display, but many are smaller than usual, and they turned out to be beautiful. There are 17 total pieces hanging, and I will go ahead and post some pictures of his work hanging there, but you should go see it in person because pictures of his work does not do it justice; there are many layers that you can see up close and his attention to detail is amazing. Plus, as most of you know, Ethereal is an amazing place to visit anyway! 

The New and Improved Website?, Abandoned Craziness, and New Projects

So, this is my new webpage. I think I like it; however, I'm curious to hear some feedback from you guys though; what do you think? Is it easy to navigate? Is it visually appealing? What can be added or improved? Seriously. Let me know. You can leave comments on this blog page, which is different from what site I used before.

Hope everybody had a great Christmas, holiday, or just a good break. I love having some extra time, and I don't go back to teaching until January 9th, so I've been working hard on a few specific things, one being my photography and art, of course. 

The first abandoned excursion that I decided take was yesterday. It's been awhile, but I had two awesome new addresses, and as many of you know, I am always scouting for new locations for shoots. As I found my first location, which looked AWESOME, by the way I noticed I'd have to drive a little ways and turn around in order to park.  I was in the middle of nowhere. As I did that, I accidentally came upon ANOTHER great abandoned house with about 6 outbuildings. I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS. So, I stopped there first and was really pleased with what I found: lots of old coupons and pictures, so many pretty stained glass windows, and many open windows where the wind was blowing in along with gorgeous light. 

 Huge barn. I have to go back. Didn't even go near it.

Huge barn. I have to go back. Didn't even go near it.

 The late afternoon golden light was perfect, especially against these torn and gauzy curtains.

The late afternoon golden light was perfect, especially against these torn and gauzy curtains.

 The upstairs was actually so much larger than I thought it would be.

The upstairs was actually so much larger than I thought it would be.

 A view through the door of a large outhouse near the main house. This outhouse actually had a tub in it. Never seen that before. I think it is really old.

A view through the door of a large outhouse near the main house. This outhouse actually had a tub in it. Never seen that before. I think it is really old.

 Now  THIS  was exciting. Do you know how long Sam and I have been looking for a real claw foot bathtub in an abandoned place that we could use for a shoot? FOREVER. This has been on our list of ideas for a long time, AND it is not really too dirty at all! 

Now THIS was exciting. Do you know how long Sam and I have been looking for a real claw foot bathtub in an abandoned place that we could use for a shoot? FOREVER. This has been on our list of ideas for a long time, AND it is not really too dirty at all! 

After a short time, I left because I wanted to go to the other two locations I had. This is where the worst part of the adventure starts. When I drove back to the next location, which was supposed to be my FIRST location, I had to figure out where to park, so I pulled off onto the side of the road. It looked fine. Yeah right. Half of my car was in grass and the other half was in about 2 feet of snow. Thanks to my huge scraper, I moved enough snow around to move my tires again, and three men who happened to be Good Samaritans in the middle of nowhere stopped and pushed me out. (THANKS!) It took over an hour, and I lost daylight. So, yes, I am going back to the other two locations this weekend, asap. The upside is that I now know where NOT to park.

Otherwise, I have been doing a lot of organizing around the house and experimenting with my art. Most people who know me understand that I love photography, but that I also like to use it to form multimedia pieces. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, so it's nice to have some time. I have about four new series ideas, and I have been continually experimenting with image transfers on many different substrates and with both oil and acrylic paint, oil pastels, graphite - you name it, I probably have tried something with it. I've only completed one major set of pieces, but that's because I started working on them in July … So here is some of the stuff I've been doing besides shooting daily. It's all unfinished, and I won't be explaining the ideas behind the work; however, here's some of the work. Some is not what I want exactly, but I'm stubborn enough to keep trying. 

This is the only set of pieces finished, and they are images from The Yellow Glove Series, all based off of one image commonly shown, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." These are all image transfers onto canvas paper and are embellished with some acrylic paint and thread sewn around certain parts of the image. Just an idea I had.

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Here's what else I've been working on:

 

 

 

 This was a photograph of the rain and snow out of the side window in a taxi I took in Chicago which has now transformed into an oil abstract from an image transfer onto wood panel.

This was a photograph of the rain and snow out of the side window in a taxi I took in Chicago which has now transformed into an oil abstract from an image transfer onto wood panel.

 Mixed media piece: an image transfer from an abandoned school painted with oil and with wooden pieces added for texture onto wood panel.

Mixed media piece: an image transfer from an abandoned school painted with oil and with wooden pieces added for texture onto wood panel.

 This started as a photograph of an abandoned living room from the outside looking in. It went from image transfer to oil paint and oil pastel on canvas.

This started as a photograph of an abandoned living room from the outside looking in. It went from image transfer to oil paint and oil pastel on canvas.

 Hugely unfinished transfer onto wood panel for an upcoming series - if it works.

Hugely unfinished transfer onto wood panel for an upcoming series - if it works.

 Another transfer and oil onto wood panel, unsanded - it will be today - and hopefully will work out as a part of the series I have stuck in my brain.

Another transfer and oil onto wood panel, unsanded - it will be today - and hopefully will work out as a part of the series I have stuck in my brain.

That's all I got; yeah it's long, but I had to try this new blog out. I'm thinking I like it.