Female Artists Explore Earthly Issues in Chicago Exhibitions

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Artists are putting their stamp on Chicago exhibitions to spread messages of human communication, global conservation, racial discrimination, and gender inequality through a variety of mediums with maximum style.

In her sculpture exhibition “Future Fossils: SUM” (Sept. 7 – Nov. 13), Chicago artist Lan Tuazon shows how the 109 tons of waste produced during a person’s lifetime could be repurposed into a functional home. Built to scale and exhibited inside the two-story gallery at the Hyde Park Art Center, Tuazon presents a one-bedroom house that is constructed solely with recovered materials.

To extend the lifespan of used objects, the artist dissects, layers, and presses them into a stratification-like form that mimics fossils. Visitors are invited to contribute by dropping off plastic items to be shredded on site, which will then be turned into raw materials for sheet press companies. “I had no idea how impactful her work would be on piloting new materials from recovered plastics. This immersive installation will truly put into perspective the geologic weight of our consumer habits, while literally building inhabitable structures from waste,” says Art Center Director of Exhibition & Residency Programs Allison Peters Quinn who curated the show.

In partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Art on theMART will project works by conceptual artist Barbara Kruger (Sep. 17 – Nov. 25). The installation coincides with the Art Institute of Chicago’s presentation of “Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.” (Sep. 19 – Jan 24), a comprehensive exhibition of Kruger’s output. “We are honored to feature the work of such a legendary contemporary artist on our platform,” says Cynthia Noble, Executive Director of Art on theMART. “With this installation, our site extends Kruger’s major retrospective beyond the museum walls and into the urban architectural environment, where the art is free and accessible to all. We are so pleased to collaborate with Kruger and the Art Institute on this significant alignment.”


“For more than four decades, the artist has been a consistent, critical observer of the ways in which images and words circulate through culture and more recently, the accelerated modes in which they inhabit our daily lives. At a time when dispersion has replaced distribution and memes rules the realm of visual information, her momentous installation will invite us to pay attention and carefully consider how we relate to one another,” adds Robyn Farrell, Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary, Art Institute of Chicago.

Art Institute visitors can also view “Bisa Butler: Portraits” (through Sep. 6). This marks the first solo museum exhibition of the artist’s work which uses the traditionally marginalized medium of textiles and quilts to convey personal and historical narratives of the Black experience. “In my work I am telling the story — this African American side — of the American life,” says Butler. “History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.”

On Aug. 27, Hilton | Asmus Contemporary opens its doors for an opening event at 5 p.m. to kick off “Origins” — an exhibition of images by acclaimed National Geographic photographers/filmmakers Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen, both of whom are co-founders of Sea Legacy.

“The whole premise of Sea Legacy is that we’re experts at visual communication, and we’re going to be partnering with like-minded organizations that have the same mission that we do, to save the oceans,” explains Mittermeier. “The ocean is the largest ecosystem on our planet, and three billion people depend on coastal and marine resources.” As a ‘National Geographic Woman of Impact’, Mittermeier has worked in more than 100 countries on every continent to connect with an estimated 2.5 billion people about global climate change.

“We have decided to make 2021 our year of conservation. By this, I mean every single sale we make in our gallery this year will benefit a variety of conservation organizations, including organizations that support animals, oceans and other natural resources, in addition to our ongoing support of women’s and children’s causes,” says Arica Hilton, global advocate and Hilton | Asmus Contemporary founder. “Through the arts, Hilton | Asmus Contemporary is dedicated to making every single step and every breath we take, have a purpose. A global purpose. A higher purpose. We will be working with artists who search for solutions addressing the plight of our environment and the human condition.”

Paintings and mixed media works by Swedish artist Anna U Davis are showcased in “Reality Check” (through Nov. 28) at Chicago’s Swedish American Museum in Andersonville. The solo exhibition explores gender inequality, racial discrimination and climate change.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents “Bani Abidi: The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared” (Sep. 4 – June 5) showcasing nearly two decades of work by multidisciplinary Pakistani artist Bani Abidi. The artist uses her upbringing in Karachi and experiences while studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to inform her work which satirically critiques those in power. Organized by Sharjah Art Foundation, the exhibition includes video, photography, sound, and installations that explore transcultural connections with humor.

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First image: Bisa Butler. The Safety Patrol, 2018. Cavigga Family Trust Fund. © Bisa Butler.

Second Image: Untitled (Truth), 2013, Digital image courtesy of Barbara Kruger. ©

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Ms. Arvia is an online columnist and critic; entertainment ghostwriter reaching nine million visitors per month; award-winning artist; grant-winning filmmaker; and Janet-of-all-trades. Press releases on Chicago cultural events and links to screeners can be sent to reeljanet@live.com.