Photography Art

Image x Image || "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"

A giant part of my life is comprised of answering questions, and many come concerning my artwork. Questions range from what one might consider as normal to really, crazy-out-there. The truth is that I really like answering these questions and having a dialogue about my work as well as most art-related topics, and it's pretty common knowledge that I can be a relentless questioner myself.

Keeping that in mind and paralleling my goal of writing more frequently and about differing topics, I've decided to blog about images or work that I am asked about often, so "Image x Image" seems appropriate, kinda like an old school Behind the Music/VH1 type thing except with some of my single images.  My work is absolutely connected to stories, storytelling, and so much learning - so many lessons. So many areas of art have been valuable to me: my English major coursework and the intensive study of literature and writing that went along with it and the continual practice of it. My English teaching part of life. My music obsession. Film. Photography and all visual art. Especially throughout the last three years though, talking about it and analyzing it has helped to open what I already thought was an open mind, has taught me about people, has helped ground me when not much else can, and has helped connect me to people and experiences, both wonderful and horrible, and I am grateful to have it all in my life. It has, at times, literally become a life-saver.

In light of all that, one image I field questions and comments about often is from The Yellow Glove Series and is a part what I see as the pared down narrative body: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." 

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" | The Yellow Glove Series| 2016 

This bad boy right here: I get all kinds of interesting feedback on it. But I will address that as I incorporate what I can tell you about the image itself.

First, a lot went into the thinking and creation of images from this body of work. It was a true collaborative effort between Sam, who is the female (but actually male, yes) model and myself. Sam is amazing as an artist AND actor, which I think is quite obvious. This was a chance for him to showcase his passion for both things, and I cannot say enough about how incredible his artistic ability is. Some of the ideas for the shoots were more spontaneous than others, but at times we did sit down and brainstorm what scenarios we wanted to depict. The shoot that resulted in this image and a few others is one that was planned down to the clothes and props, location, the "husband," and the vignettes combined with the narrative itself.

One thing I do before a shoot like this involving models is to scout out locations for safety, the likelihood of getting into trouble if permission isn't exactly secured (which I am obviously tremendously careful about, but nothing is 100%), etc. I usually have a place in mind and fall in love with the idea of it, but sometimes I do have enough common sense and good judgement to decide it won't work. Usually heartbreakingly for me though. Not so with this place. I found it about 3 months before the shoot, just by keeping my eyes open and looking, and went through it very carefully. Because it was a home that had been partially destroyed from a fire, I was worried about the safety of the structure. Really, besides the smoke damage and the entire missing SIDE of the house, it was pretty safe, as far as being structurally sound, at least on the floors. The place had the feeling I was needing for this shoot, which was imperative. It is never a happy thing to see how a family's home, and obviously here a large part of their life, was destroyed by fire. But the message from this part of the narrative was obviously a little dark and the setting needed to fit. 

This brings me to the first couple of comments I usually hear concerning this image.

First: "Lisa, for some reason I love this one but it makes me feel uncomfortable."

Well good. It's supposed to! And it's supposed to make you think. A lot, hopefully.

Also: "Well. This is intense." 

It is. And shouldn't it be?  Isn't a situation where a husband is blowing cigarette smoke in his wife's face supposed to be intense? Yes. And yeah, it should make your skin crawl a little. Sam and Riley, who played the husband, did a fantastic job getting into character.

But we also had FUN during this shoot. I remember it as one of the best that we had overall because of the planning we did, the people who helped (Aubrey, Maggie, and Nikki!) the donuts and coffee we brought along and ate afterward, Riley's Pall Malls - for the sake of authenticity, of course!, and the weather. It was a little warm for April. I also didn't forget to bring anything along, which was a plus. I do have so many outtakes from many of the Yellow Glove shoots, and some capture some great moments. They really document the entire process, and taking those random photos have made it fun to look back. Case in point, here are a couple:

And so I explored and created some images of things that seemed interesting, figured out the best way to park and unload; all of those things that no one usually thinks much about when seeing the final product. It's hard work, but it's fun work.

From the scouting:

As long as I showed these images of the scouting, another question I get a lot concerns locations. Stuff like, "Hey. That place is incredible looking. What is it? Where is it? Can you take me there?!" 

Sorry, can't tell ya, and no, I definitely can't take you. It might be fun, but it is actually very stressful to bring people to a place when you aren't sure about how they will react to it, or when safety is a concern. This place is gone now anyway. Long gone. It was in McHenry County, and it was half burned down. Actually upstairs, the entire front part was completely missing. So in other words, the light was amazing! Ha.

This shoot resulted in many options as far what I saw as useable pictures, but there are a few in particular that I have singled out and shown, and a two others are some I feel a strong connection and liking towards; maybe a couple of others strike a chord with me too. I shoot more than 1000 images on a shoot like this, and I am happy when I get a few that work for what I am looking for. It's hard to get through them and to choose, but usually if I get 3-4 I feel good a bout working with, I am happy. 

These are shots that I have used in shows, as a part of the narrative itself, or considered using and the vignettes scouted beforehand. I liked for the settings to be used as found for the Yellow Glove shoots, and although we brought props, I didn't alter the places themselves. Because the abandonment is an essential symbolic component of the series, I wanted the settings to be as they were found. 

Vignette for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

Vignette used for below images. The pink walls, the chair, and the 1947 had me from the start.

I understand the images from this part of the body may be a little dark. Once a person who I did a some work with, whom I have known for awhile - since high school age - asked me a question a little shyly but honestly. He was curious about where this stuff comes from, like, how are these images becoming things? From me? He just didn't see that within me as a kid when he knew me. And he didn't see me as a "dark person." 

To answer that, I don't think I am necessarily "dark" although I have been called a "pessimist" at times. That's not really it either. I like to say I am realistic. Things happen all the time. And I am  interested in reality. I'm also very interested in the ideas of universality and collective memory and collective consciousness - always, always have been. So the work that I enjoy making - I want it to be important work. Work can be specific, but I do love it when it has a universal aspect so that people, whether I know them or not, can relate in some way to the tone of the work, and especially in The Yellow Glove Series. There IS a serious, and I think, important message there. Some people might understand it as it relates to ME and why I made it better than others, but that doesn't even really matter, and that's what I want. I want it to be something that carries a universality within it so that people, in general, can relate to it, and that relation may be different than another person's way, but no matter what, the feelings associated with and emitted from the work can "get to you" and be recognizable, by many, if not all, who view it. I'm attracted to art like that. So I guess that's one of the main reasons why I try to create it. 

Other shots, largely unused from this shoot:

I also had lots of inspiration from the shoot to experiment with mixed media - mostly image transfer, painting, and stitching. This is something I enjoy doing - working with my hands. These are framed and in my studio as a set of four. 

"Break the Cycle" 

Not all "Image x Image" posts will be this length. But so much came from this image, and because it is the first post of the bunch, it seemed like it needed a little … more. Anyway, thanks for reading!

"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.

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

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?