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40 over 40: Performance and Installation Artists

Part of our series celebrating artists over 40 years of age

As discussed in CAM’s previous article “Performance Art MFA,” performance is a complex and ethereal art form that has found a unique home in Chicago. Likewise, installation, from epic indoor museological pieces to the work of guerrilla street artists, lends a vitality to the Chicago art scene, balancing the more traditional forms of painting, drawing, and sculpture. Performance and installation have proven themselves as mediums both vetted by public institutions, such as the “New Blood” exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, and topics of controversy, as was seen with the Joseph Ravens Pop Up Gallery debacle. The artists presented here, working in performance, installation, or blurring the lines betwixt, are not exhaustively representative. This is simply a smattering of what Chicago has to offer.

Paté Conaway performing 2002

Paté Conaway performing 2002

Pate Conaway –
Chicago artist Pate Conaway treads the line between sculpture and performance, weaving structures of vague vestigial appendages or accessories implying that we are the Lilliputians. In discussing the ideas behind his work in his 2003 interview with Jeff Abell, Conway says, “I realized I could embrace the parts of me that are male, embrace the parts of me that are female, yet be neither of both. I mean, I have male genitalia, I don’t consider myself a straight man, and I don’t consider myself a woman. So I’m probably that ‘third gender’–that lovely balance of all that falls between the cracks and grows up.” Pate is a graduate of the Interdisciplinary Arts Graduate Program at Columbia College Chicago, as well as the Second City Training Center.



Deborah Adams Doering Code for the Grand River

Deborah Adams Doering Code for the Grand River

Deborah Adams Doering –
Deborah Adams Doering works in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, print making and installation. She’s been included herein, however, for her massive outdoor installation Code for the Grand River, Grand Rapids_09, temporally located on the lawn in front of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. Working at the intersection of the digital and the organic, Doering translated binary codes into curvilinear forms, mirroring the churning flow of the nearby river. The ephemeral installation, made directly on the grass with non-toxic paint, faded over time until completely disappearing, posing questions around the transitory nature of our existence. Doering received her MFA in 2000 from SAIC, and since completing Grand River, Grand Rapids_09, has received the 2010 Puffin Foundation Grant, and created an installation titled Night Sky Constellation, in Hamburg, South Africa.



Miller and Shellabarger Untitled (Grave, Basel, Switzerland)

Miller and Shellabarger Untitled (Grave, Basel, Switzerland)

Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger –
The imagery of partners and collaborators Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger has been near ubiquitous over the past few years in Chicago. Either you’ve seen them performing, knitting a link between them, or discovered their quaint Victorian profiles with beards intertwined, or stumbled across documentation of their far flung performances, digging joint graves and the like. Their work is constantly plumbing the depths of how to express intimacy through the collaborative creative act, tracking their interactions and emotions. Recent exhibitions include Western Exhibitions, Chicago, IL; Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, Maine; and an upcoming solo exhibition in 2011 at the Illinois State University Galleries in Normal, Illinois.







William Pope.L The Great White Way

William Pope.L The Great White Way

William Pope L –
William Pope.L’s (b.1955) oeuvre exists as a complex contemplation of contemporary issues around race, class, and gender, kaleidoscoped through intense durational performances, installations, and nomadic projects. From his early work on the eRacism series, through the Black Factory Twice Sold project, and to his text and sculptural pieces in Black Is, Black Ain’t,  Pope.L confronts these issues head on, unflinching, and demanding our attention. He received his MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 1981, was selected as one of the United States Artists fellows in 2006, and is currently faculty at the University of Chicago.

800 Styx Boat

800 Styx Boat

800 –
Famous for a piece known as The Styx Boat, street artist 800 makes our artists over 40 list. The Styx Boat, covered in images of hands symbolizing the souls guiding the boat over the Styx river, was placed in a cave-like tunnel location. As the story goes, 800 was fed up with finding a home for the large piece, and even after attempts to give the work away for free, decided to install it on the street. No longer concerned with the preservation of the work, 800’s only concern is giving the piece whatever kind of audience possible, as long as someone can enjoy it.