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Eulogy for Jeriah Hildwine

I don’t remember the name of the coffee shop. I just remember that the floor was made of wood and I recognized Stephanie Burke from her picture – a shaved head except for bangs — and it all began there in 2009. The running joke was that people were always very surprised at two things about her: the fact that she was married to a man, and that she was NOT a vegetarian. But – maybe I’m only thinking this now, years later – but I also didn’t  peg her as someone who would marry young, Stephanie was in her early 20’s and had been married longer than I.

As we built the site, built the map, built the magazine, her husband Jeriah was one of the first writers to come aboard. He was upwards of 6.5 feet and looked like a highlander in his industrial skirts and strawberry blond hair. In their full regalia, they were the most reluctantly adorable couple around (in a bohemian zombie apocalypse way) They were devoted to the Chicago art scene; particularly to the the smallest of apartment gallery spaces. They must have gone to over a thousand gallery exhibits (not to mention the huge number of events they tracked and wrote about in <scr=”http://www.chicagonow.com/art-talk-chicago/”>Art Talk Chicago. When you saw them together, you knew you were in the right place and the art world felt slightly magical.

Jeriah Hildwine with 'Machete' and 'Keg'

Jeriah Hildwine with ‘Machete’ and ‘Keg’ Photo by Stephanie Burke.

Jeriah didn’t give a flying fuck that Chicago Art Magazine wasn’t the cool magazine to write for. His mind was on core issues about critique and practice. Could you be both an artist and critic? Could you be a painter and be conceptual? We wanted to try personal, conversational articles not just about artwork, but about being a working artist, curator, apartment gallery owner. He never stopped being curious about how the system worked, and they were all tremendously insightful pieces. He was strategic about the system without falling for its bullshit.  He was smart, funny, a pleasure to work with and had tons of great ideas for articles and pieces. We would have 3-hour editorial meetings and he kept the discussions energized with both an academic and grassroots view of all things.

Everything he wrote was good, and by the end, our editorial notes would read (I am not exaggerating) “X should cover this, Y can write about Z, and Jeriah should write whatever he wants.” He was that kind of talent to us. Since I’ve heard about the news of his passing, I went through all his articles again; there were so many, and they were so funny and smart (and his last piece in 2012 was the last one we posted to the site before closing – he was with us the whole way).

From 2010, here, before he did the Linda Warren show, he wrote

[Gallery representation] is like a great big warm hug from the entire world, gently stroking the back of your head and telling you that you’ve made it, that you’re good, and you’re worthy.  It warms the very cockles of one’s heart, and there is no better feeling in the world.

Actually, I wouldn’t know.  In the three and a half years since I earned my MFA from MICA, I’ve been living and working in Chicago, trying to work my way into the art scene in this city, with the goal of securing gallery representation for myself.  It remains, in corporate parlance, an “unrealized achievement,” at least for the time being.  I’m there, in the trenches, with you.  I’m fighting the same fight you are.

Jeriah Hildwine will be mourned and my love goes out to Stephanie and those who survive him.

— Kathryn Born

 

Jeriah Hildwine was amongst the first non-SAIC people I met as I exited graduate school. Always in attendance at as many gallery openings as was humanly possible, he and Stephanie showed me by example how welcoming and accessible this city’s art community can be. I certainly cannot count myself as one of Jeriah’s close friends, but the way he could compliment your most recent show and comment on your latest article, all while picking you up off your feet in a big bear hug made lots of people, like me, feel as though we really mattered.

From “The Komodo Dragon: Gallery Representation the Slow Way” Hildwine’s “Zombie Hunter Stephanie,” acrylic on canvas, 2012

Having worked with Jeriah as an artist and a writer, I was always astounded by the respect and commitment he had for this field –for our local arts microcosm, really. Jeriah knew art history inside and out, but readily shirked its traditions and elitisms, and bent its conventions to his will. Jeriah would masterfully expound upon the renaissance tableaus in his paintings of zombie babes. Jeriah was the kind of artist who would wear a kilt to wrestle a fellow artist in one of the biggest contemporary art museums on the country.

While he happily undermined many established MOs of the art world, there were specific things he held in high regard. He wanted that certain kind of validation one can only get from gallery representation; he wanted to be a part of art academia, with a sustainable, living wage position in higher education. Jeriah left our city two years ago when he was finally offered the latter.
I’m witnessing the news of Jeriah’s passing reverberating throughout our community, amongst groups and individuals I never even realized knew him. There is no question in my mind that Jeriah was uniquely important to the art world in Chicago. I truly hope he knew that, too.

— Robin Dluzen

Photos previously appeared in Gallery Representation:  Case Study, Michael Rea June, 2011 photo by Stephanie Burke