40 over 40: Women in Mixed Media

This article is part of Chicago Art Magazine’s “40 over 40” series, and this list has been compiled by nominations from our readers.

Laura Schell


Hashimoto’s “Bed of Junk Mail”

Barbara Hashimoto forms organic shapes made of shredded junk mail in reaction to how consumer culture affects issues of privacy and the environment. The installation of these ephemeral, sculptural pieces is also sometimes an opportunity for performance, when the artist and another individual as well as the public can interact with the material. Junk Mail Experiment became widely known during its 10-month-long exhibition in the Chicago Arts District (2008) for which she collected over 3,000 cubic feet of junk mail. Hashimoto is an artist-in- residence at BauerLatoza Studio, a multi-disciplinary architectural firm in the Loop.

Noyes’ “Envelop Me No. 5”

Connie Noyes collects recycled materials ranging from asphalt and discarded videotape to bubble gum and condom wrappers. She layers the refuse material with materials like paint, varnish, resin, and wax. The interactions between materials make a surprisingly beautiful end product. Noyes says that she does not start with a preconceived idea of what the work will become.  It starts with an initial gesture and the emotional content follows. The materials fight with each other, intertwining opposing energies into complex compositions that are strangely precise. Her work is currently showing at Chicago Art Source Gallery, 1871 N. Clybourn Ave.

Schwartz’s “Pushing Up the Daisies”

Mindy Rose Schwartz pushes the boundaries of homemade crafts by using common, natural materials in her haunting sculptural pieces. Macramé often ties together her found objects, which are mostly remnants from her childhood home in Skokie. Even her ceramic and plastic creations are acquainted with 1960’s/70’s suburban, middle-class décor. Existing somewhere between interior design and time capsules, her art has been appropriately exhibited in more domestic spaces rather than galleries. There is an intentional ugliness that Schwartz says needs to be represented as an element of the human experience. Just as beauty is a strong presence in the world, so is its counterpart.

Ott’s “of more which more which more” “not green not blue”

Sabina Ott re-contextualizes familiar images and objects in paint, sculpture, digital media and installation to explore the overflow of information in a digital age. Technological advances, such as the Internet, provide multiple ways of seeing and understanding which Ott calls “the everything, everywhere eye.” This has changed the focus from the self to the reformed relationships between images, texts, and people, and the sensations associated with the new ways of exchanging ideas.

Jóesldóttir’s “The House Dragon”

Anna Jóesldóttir spent her childhood years in Iceland with only a radio and books to entertain her.  In 1992 she moved to Chicago to develop her inspiration into art-making at the School of the Art Institute. Jóesldóttir’s use of pen and colored pencil gives her work a whimsical, illustrative quality, but with the movement and vibrancy of sound.  Manipulation of the paper transforms her drawings into sculpture, books, and larger than life installations. In the third dimension she is able to play with the interconnected tensions between negative and positive spaces, light and shadow, and the fragility and durability of her material.

Barbara Koenen

Barbara Koenen creates illusions of the familiar with unusual materials.  Her war rugs are not woven but carefully constructed with fragrant and colorful spices laid on the floor.  Her work is a reaction against the portrayal of violence in rugs from Afghanistan. In the 1970’s, when the Soviet Union invaded the country, traditional rug patterns were replaced by images of war. Koenen heightens the contradiction by using a technique based on Buddhist meditations. The rugs are subject to unpredictable elements such as wind, or the tread of a passerby.  Although Koenen makes prints of her rugs before they are influenced by its surroundings, this volatile quality of her art makes an impression more pungent than her medium.

Hormuth’s “Tower (ten)”

Jo Hormuth’s work is elegant in its simplicity, yet humorous and playful in its use of colors and materials ranging from video and photography to sculpture and installation. She re-contextualizes mundane subjects such as baseballs or picture frames to poetic ends, revealing new meanings that, until her influence, remained latent within the object.

Feder-Nadoff’s “bethlehem”

Michele Feder-Nadoff’s interests lie in the transformation of matter into meaning. The ethnographic materials and techniques of Mexico inspire her installations and collaborative performances. Her animated surface markings are activated by the light of her work’s environment and emphasize the relationship between space and void. Embracing both community and studio practices, Feder-Nadoff has spent numerous visits with traditional coppersmiths of Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, Mexico for research and community organizing initiatives on behalf of the nonprofit Cuentos Foundation, which she founded in 1998.