Michigan Avenue

I would like to make the case for what I think is probably the most impressive and beautiful architectural “wall”:   Michigan Avenue in Chicago across from Millenium Park down to about Roosevelt Avenue.

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there is a relative consistency of scale but an extremely wide variety of architectural styles from a kind of strange neo-Gothic through Sullivan’s Gage Building, International style and Beaux Arts.  The open space of the park – dedicated as open space and carved out of the old railyards, makes a sharp contrast to the building’s vertical edge.  All of these buildings then face across the park to the truly vast expanse of Lake Michigan, and by extension, the East.  Metaphorically traveling from the established financial and commercial capital cities of the east coast, Michigan Avenue was the face of Chicago, proudly standing in a hard line.  It may be the most significant and tallest cliff in the hundreds of miles of flat lake and prairie.

bridge, Chicago

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I was flipping through one of my sketchbooks from Chicago and repeatedly ran into drawings I did of this lifting bridge over the Chicago River.

Located behind the Merchandise Mart, it is a freight train bridge on a deadend spur that I believe ends under the Mart.  I have seen trains there but I never saw this bridge down in the 4 or so years of working within a few blocks of it.  Directly across the river is a condo project, I think by Harry Weese, that responds to the angle of the bridge.  It always looks like it took so much effort to keep this thing at this equilibrium, a bridge always ready to bounce, to clamber down and have trains rumble across.

the new year

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even with the dire news daily filling the airwaves and dampening our enthusiasm,

it is hard not to be optimistic at the turn of a new year.  Or maybe it’s just a sunny 60 degrees in Boulder today.

One of a series of Chicago bridge paintings done over 4 or 5 years.

I have lived in a few different cities and each place has seemed to call for a different medium of work.

In Lexington, KY it was mostly photography.  Boston was sketching, with dozens of sketchbooks filled with daily lunch drawings, etc.

In Chicago, painting held sway.  Now in Boulder, CO, photography has again dominated my interests. It is certainly the light of each city that is different, but also the job I was working at the time that allowed for different types of works.

Not by way of comparison, but it is no surprise that the Venetian painter’s work was characterized by shifting relationships of colors, not clearly defined forms, as the city’s mists and land/water ambiguity never leaves one’s perception of the place.  The hard, sharp light of New Mexico lead to Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings, California’s sun and ocean to Richard Diebenkorn’s abstractions.

It’s the start of a new year, maybe I’ll load some more film in the camera.

Nelson Algren fountain cover architecture design competition

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We have been announced as the winner of the Nelson Algren Fountain Cover competition in Chicago.
The project is to design and construct a temporary winter cover for the fountain and basin at the intersection of Ashland, Milwaukee and Division streets in Chicago.  This fountain, named in honor of Chicago writer Nelson Algren, has sat with a deteriorating and unceremonious plywood cover for many years. 
Our proposal here is to create a design that would be in the spirit of Algren’s gritty and realistic portraits of the immigrants, bartenders and hustlers of his northeast Chicago neighborhood – Wicker Park and Bucktown.  We are proposing to construct a series of steel frames that can be mounted around the fountain basin and faced with portraits of the people of the neighborhood.  Each year a day of photos will occur allowing anyone to participate and adding themselves to the fountain cover.  Over time, the design will reflect the current and changing nature of the neighborhood and will champion the everyday working people of the city.

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“For the masses that do the city’s work also keep the city’s heart.”
                                                Nelson Algren