Street Art in the South Loop

I’m lucky to go to work every day in Chicago’s South Loop, a neighborhood that’s a fascinating blend of cultural institutions, colleges, and business. While I work on Michigan Avenue, one block west is Wabash, a cavernous street slightly off the tourists’ path, topped by the El tracks and full of hidden gems. One of my favorite parts of this area is the Wabash Arts Corridor, a so-called “living urban canvas” spearheaded by Columbia College Chicago to make visible the creative community of its campus.

cleon3When I attended Columbia in 2008, they were just beginning the murals and large-scale art installations that have now taken over this area. At that time I was lucky enough to create a window installation that was on display for a few months at 623 S. Wabash, a hint at things to come. Today the Wabash Arts Corridor encompasses Wabash Avenue from Roosevelt to Van Buren, Michigan to State Street, and features more than 20 large-scale outdoor art pieces, from murals to sculptures to installations. 150730_UniversityCenter_EINE_HARMONY_PDembinski-2514IMG_8217-14150908_TatyanaFazlalizadeh_Finished_PDembinski-4419

As part of this spring and summer’s Big Walls event–in which WAC will install 18 new pieces– Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs recently completed a mural at 11th and Michigan. Featuring an explosion of flowers, van der Slujis researched native Illinois plants and animals to include in the piece, rooting it in place figuratively as well as literally.

I’m lucky enough to pass this spot every day on my afternoon commute and got to watch the mural emerge against the huge brick wall over the course of a few days this month. All of the artwork on the Wabash Arts Corridor is inspiring, and I’m especially thrilled to have this beautiful piece now greet me every day.

Images via Colossal. 

Light Rail

We all know that they just don’t build them like they used to, and that’s especially apparent when looking at this amazing 1940’s photos from Chicago’s Union Station. These days the Great Hall is rented out for events, but during WWII when commuters traveled through it every day, officials decided to black out the building’s skylights in an attempt to hide it from potential enemy aircraft. The tall clerestory windows at each end were left as the only light source, which resulted in these moody, dramatically-lit scenes. Perfect for a film noir, wouldn’t you say?

Via Mashable.

David Bowies at Chicago Public Library

On Monday I had the opportunity to teach a puppet-making workshop at the Maker Lab at Harold Washington Library. That morning the news had broken that David Bowie passed away overnight, and it was clearly on everyone’s minds. I had intended on allowing participants to chose their own hero to commemorate as a puppet during the class, but someone suggested early on that the different Bowie eras people had been seeing on social media all morning would make the perfect subjects. So each person set out to select their favorite Bowie, from an eye-patched Ziggy Stardust, to the hairless The Man to Fell to Earth, Aladdin Sane’s iconic lightening bolt, and Labyrinth‘s flamboyant Jareth.

The class would have been fun regardless, but the special subjects turned it into a lovely tribute as well. Not to mention the amazing creations that came out of the event.

Thanks to Harold Washington Library and One Book, One Chicago for having me!

Meet the Maker Feature

Last week I was featured in the “Meet the Maker” series on Lucky Break Consulting’s very useful blog. Remember last month I said I needed a new headshot? Yeah, it was for this. Meet the Maker Abbey HambrightThe interview was a fun opportunity to reflect on my process and my work a bit more than usual, including why I’ve decided that the whole “quit your day job” idea that gets floated around a lot in crafter circles just isn’t for me. Oh, and I also reveal my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quote (how to choose!).You can read the full interview here, and I’d encourage you to check out the whole Meet the Maker series for some great advice. Also, a big thanks to my friend Jason of Burton and Levy— himself a Meet the Maker interviewee a few months back– for suggesting me for this series.

Vintage Chicago

My mom sent me this link last week to a feature on vintage Chicago airline posters. I am forever a sucker for vintage travel memorabilia, and probably equally weak to items from my adopted city. Chicagoans get pretty sick of seeing the same World’s Fair posters from on display anywhere and everywhere (even if it is the nice one), so these midcentury airline designs are a lovely change of pace. And, besides Aqua, the giant Trump Tower sign and a few other contemporary buildings, it’s nice to see that not much has changed in the past few decades. You can still get a great view of Marina City from a boat on the river, and at least once a year you can expect to wait on a road lifting perpendicularly while the bridge is raised.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Oh, and thanks, Mom ; )

Images via Curbed Chicago.


Beaver Band Music Video

Ready to rock out? Check out the finger puppet beaver band in a video I created for Busy Beaver Button Co.

The video was a send up to another one they made a few years back and was used as an ad on Burger Records BurgerTV a few weeks ago. (Sidenote: The band’s name, The Mubs, comes from the Busy Beaver term for buttons that get incorrectly pressed– Messed Up Buttons.)

Cartoonists and Homebodies

One of the great things about living in a city like Chicago is that you have access to all kinds of amazing cultural institutions and museums. The other thing about living in a city, though, is that when you live there, you tend to take those places for granted. If you’re a tourist it’s a no-brainer to go visit the world class attractions in the place you’re visiting. Me, though, I sometimes forget to visit the places that make Chicago so great. Case in point: my recent visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art after a good four years away.

We went down to check out Modern Cartoonist, the Daniel Clowes exhibit. I’d heard mixed reviews and though I went through a phase where I read quite a bit of his work, I’m no super fan, but seeing his paintings up close (and that’s what his panels are– paintings) was absolutely fascinating: the detail and sureness of his brushwork, the shocking lack of mistakes he went back to cover up, and just the nitty gritty technique of making pictures. If you’re around Chicago, I would highly recommend checking it out– the show’s up through October.

Also cool to see the new sculpture in the plaza. I like it better that the crazy steel rotating Mothers that was there last.I was also pleasantly surprises with the Homebodies exhibit that’s up right now– it closely rivaled the Daniel Clowes for my favorite part of the visit. The work featured is an examination of the meaning of home, and there was a great mix of takes– feminist exploration of women’s role in the home, a number of photographic attempts to capture home (people inside, views from above, views from outside, etc) and, probably my favorite, a recreation of an artist’s parent’s living room in Humboldt Park where his mother runs a nail salon. The image below is a shot of the wallpaper from the room, where they’re also holding actual nail art sessions during the run of the show.

Finding Vivian Maier Trailer

Remember the story of Vivian Maier? She was the Chicago nanny whose prolific work as a street photographer was discovered when a large collection of her negatives were auctioned off after her death. After a Kickstarter campaign and a couple year wait, it looks like the documentary about her fascinating story and background behind her discovery by the art world is finally coming together. The trailer was released last week and the film is listed as “coming soon” on the official site. I can’t wait!