For some, it’s a city of transition, a literal settlement: the place where we land, finally, after trying on a few others—Detroit or Cleveland; Greenville, North Carolina. It’s close enough to home, but far enough away. It’s the fresh start where we can become anonymous, start anew with a blank canvas. For others, it’s in our blood. We’ve always been here; we’ll never leave. It’s where we were born and it’s where we’ll die. It’s where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. It’s our ancestry, it’s our legacy. It’s Chicago.
For the “Chicago Six,” the city is all of these things and then some. But most of all, it’s a common geography for creativity. It inspires; it defies. It rewards; it challenges. It’s a city that’s at once brutally unforgiving and selflessly humble.
Sometimes, Chicago is quite literal. For metal artist Mark Phillips, it’s the gritty El station whose scuffed up, graffiti-clad walls resonate with the ear-piercing squeal of train breaks one minute, and the gentle, echoing harmonies of a street-musician’s a cappella group the next. For photographer Eric Holubow, it’s the abandoned church on an overgrown lot whose ornate, byzantine structure has been deteriorating for eons until all that’s left are crumbling frescoes, water-stained plaster and a pile of dilapidated furniture, yet its stained-glass windows shine as bright and clean and true as the day they were finished.
For sculptor Sheila Ganch, Chicago resonates in its people, a pair of them bent over a table in thought, sorting through their relationship with one another: their synergy, their diversity, their geography, their city.
Sometimes, Chicago is abstract. For painter Lynn Basa, it’s the city whose unexpected outburst of color becomes evident only when its yellows and oranges begin to melt and morph into its blues, leaving traces of gray areas that we can’t quite explain. For mixed-media artist Kristin Komar, it’s a field of chartreuse and aqua dripping in acrylic and gouache, turned sideways as if to defy gravity, then overlaid with sinister basic black and stark white—two hues that refuse to exist in the natural landscape. And for painter Michelle Gordon, it’s more diverse still: smears and smudges of blood and steel and mustard and flesh somehow coexisting, at once separated and connected by drawn-in lines of gray, emphasizing how different every color looks upon separation from its neighbors.
This Chicago, the one that belongs in the imaginations of the artists who make up the “Chicago Six,” is varied in every possible way, from materials to execution and finished aesthetic. And yet this is the truest cross-section of the city, one that’s made up of natives and long-term visitors, here for a day or a decade or a lifetime.