Living in Chicagoland, the opportunities for antiques and vintage are always there and what we live for. A few Saturday’s ago, we decided to take advantage of one of Chicago’s best places to look at old and amazing things, Art Institute of Chicago.
We met our group and our guide Elise. She explained we had 2 hours, she was going to show us cool things we probably haven’t heard about, some secret back stories only insiders like us would find out. Sounded cool. Before we knew what has happening, Elise was skipping towards our first piece and we were jogging close behind. We looked at saucy French paintings and at the story of John the Baptist on panels.
Next we headed to the American Wing. I’m getting into it. Not just because I’m interested in American Art, but because I have a painting by a Chicago artist and I knew there was a painting by this artist in the American wing. So I listened, as I was sneaking around trying to find it. I slipped out of the gallery we were in. Across the hall, amongst, DeKooning and Pollack there she was Gertrude Abercrombie! I snapped a few pics and joined back up with the group.
We raced over to the Modern Wing. Which I admit is my favorite. Though on some pieces, I’ve asked myself the question, is this art??
A pile of brightly colors candies in a pile in the corner. “Take one, or a handful.” Said Elise. My mouth was dry, sounded good. As I unwrapped, she told the story.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, was a Cuban born American Artist. The piece (or pieces) is Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.). Ross was Felix’s partner and died of an Aids related illness. The pile of candy represented his personality, bright, sparkling and sweet. Every day, the museum makes sure there is 175 lbs of candy representing Ross’s body weight. As the day goes by and people stop to pick up a piece, the pile diminishes representing the weight loss before his death. By replenishing the supply the museum metaphorically keeps him alive.
This really is art and it opened my eyes. Sadly Felix Gonzalez died in 1996, also of AIDS related causes. I found a piece of the candy in my purse the next week. As I popped it in my mouth, I thought about Felix and Ross. I thought about the AIDS epidemic and our museum tour. That’s what art is supposed to do right?
At the end we gathered, in only 2 hours, I felt like we were old friends. We’d experienced something together and everyone was smiling. I took that moment to show Elise the painting I had snuck away to take a picture of. Gertrude Abercrombie, Self Portrait of my sister. Elise was excited, she knew of the painting and wanted to know more to add to her tour one day. I told her I had a very small painting by this artist at home. (see pics below) Gertrude had no sisters or siblings for that matter. She painted herself a lot and painted who she longed to be. A very interesting Chicago artist who’s specialty was Surrealism. She lived in Chicago and was a big part of the jazz scene. Dizzy Gillespie was at her wedding! I hope to find more pieces and have a small collection of hers someday. I hope Elise adds Gertrude to her tour!