Nancy Bechtol – In the Koehnline Museum of Art Juried Exhibition “Women and Anger: Resistance, Power, and Inspiration” opens 9/28/17

Women and Anger: Resistance, Power, and Inspiration

A Juried Exhibition of Art by Women

September 28 – October 20, 2017

A tradition at the Koehnline Museum of Art is its annual collaboration with the Women’s and Gender Studies program to explore a unique perspective on women’s creativity and art. This year’s exhibition explores the relationship between women and anger that has always been a complex one. Women have traditionally been discouraged from expressing anger for fear of being perceived as unladylike or worse, as dangerous or destabilizing. But in truth, well-placed anger can often serve as an impetus for healing, transformation, and action. Recent push-backs in hard fought political and legal gains, assaults on the health and safety of women and other marginalized groups, as well as on the environment, would suggest that the time is right for righteous indignation.

Public Reception: Thursday, September 28, 5 – 8 p.m.  A catalogue of the show, poster, and postcards are available

for more info/PR contact Women Gender Studies at OCC

Tribune Article on Koehnline Museum of Art Exhibition

You see men blow up all the time, and it’s not a big deal. But if a woman does it, either she’s crazy or she’s shrill. It’s like, you know what? She may just be angry‘. – Gillian Flynn (American author, screenwriter, comic book writer and former television critic for Entertainment Weekly)


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Fort Sill Apache Woman Director: THIS IS INDIAN LAND. FILM preview! (trailer released)

“THIS IS INDIAN LAND” first peek at the Trailer!

This is an Indie film produced by Shadow Bechtol Studio. Chicago. Sharon Okee-Chee Skolnick, Fort Sill Apache is the Director with a deep vision of telling the story through the eyes of Native People from the American Indian Center.  David Bechtol, Director of Photography/Tech Supervisor and Nancy Bechtol, Cinematographer/Editor/SFX

Clik here:: Trailer for This is Indian Land

thanks for viewing and all the interest in this truly unique film ! your feedback welcome.  More as it comes.. Currently in Postproduction. Do send good vibes our way. Indie is awesome but DIY truly is an eyeopener…yes,  we will prevail for true history.  Release for 2017.


“Oppositions”& Resistances: ART and Life= t h e n and N O W:: a photo essay

NOW, PAST and ongoing..

selection of images from decades of resistance and opposition.

Currently in the group show at the Jackson Junge Gallery, Chicago  “Oppositions”

Oppositions Exhibition at Jackson Junge Gallerybehindthesigns_Bechtol_Nancy_FINXSendJY300dpix.jpg

and.. more…decades of social justice: photojournalism and art hybrid.

SWAN for Nancy Bechtol at Lost Artists Colony April 2017

Social Documentary



ChicagoMarch_downtown_Nancy Bechtol-APAp hotojournalist-1-18

Linked in Nancy Bechtol photo Essay

INVITE to connect from beyond? CDrew Artist/Activist (RIP 1950-2012)

INVITE to connect from beyond? CDrew,Artist/ Activist (RIP 1950-2012)

Coincidence?? Truth always stranger than “made up stuff”

 LinkedIn sends me an invite to connect with

Chris Drew…

only issue– he passed on 2 years ago.

Do you believe in the power of  the spirit beyond physical death?  

and I shout back to Chris, “your story will be told and have a longtime impact on many!”

..And all this happens On the same day of screening confirmation from Joseph Ravens at DEFIBRILLATOR(a.k.a dfbrL8r or dfb) is a non-profit organization

Screening is Aug 15th, Sat. 2015. (mark your calendar! )

Chris, artist and defender of the First Amendment, gave his life and dedicated his energies to overturn the Peddler’s Licence. But  this challenge unbelievably ended up facing a Class One Felony Eavesdropping charges with 4-15 years in prison.-(in 2008 for audio recording his own arrest!) if convicted but he won with 2 probono attorneys Weinberg and Kutnick!  THIS is a true story.  Rooted in Chicago – my indie film, “Free Speech & the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew, Street Artist” (99 min) with the soundtrack of “Paper Airplane” by Alton & Mansfield courtesy of Hey Now Records. has very deep/grassroots connections which transcends boundaries!


Here is his LinkedIN profile:

Chris Drew

Executive Director at Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center

Greater Chicago Area Arts and Crafts

  1. NAES College
  1. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

68connectionsConnectSend Christopher InMailMore optionsRelationshipContact Info

  • Invited 1 year ago



My goal is to establish Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center as an institution with a paid staff and then go on to establish my own career and web site online. Along side of this I wish to work at long term part-time jobs in the creative and/or non-profit industries to further these aims. My creative, office and management skills make me a valuable and cost effective employee to any small or large business.

Specialties:proposal writing, office management, HTML coding, computer troubleshooting, repair and management, Photoshop, GIMP, Web site development, web site management, photography, screen-printing, layout, design, public relations, press release writing, radio spot writing, office software, letter writing.


Executive Director

Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center

– Present (28 years 7 months)

Founder and continuous manager of this community arts organization accomplishing over 20 years of steady arts programming with an all volunteer force. Imagine what we could do with a paid staff!

Faculty – Computer Basics

NAES College

– (4 years 8 months)

Taught computer literacy and basic office applications to beginning and intermediate students.

Computer Lab maintenance.


University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

art, journalism, arabic, chemistry

Additional Info


Chicago Artists’ Coalition, ACLUbechtol film_small posterWEB


DIGITAL-MINDSET-centeredWEB_NBDigital Mindset: Art imitates Life


Reflecting on how the minds of people today in society and life may greatly differ from previous generations.  This generation I speak of is Generation D(igital). It spans ages and defines itself on the use and abuse of technology.

On this, my the first release of the “Digital Mindset” –a series of digital “photo/paintings” I have worked on from 2011 to 2015.

Showing now at the 4ART Inc Gallery of Robin Monique Rios on the 4th Fl located in the fab Zhou Bros. opening April 17 Fri 7-10 with new art added in May and June. (never had a 3 month rotating show before)  come and see and visit!  more conversation on this there, in person.  F2F (face to face)4artlogo

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OTL #433: Who is.. Listening?: WGN 720 AM -New Illinois Eavesdropping Law and more..

0utFinImageStephen_INOutside the Loop Radio Interview #433: Listening?:WGN 720 AM

Mike Stephen meets up with Chic-a-Go-Go host Miss Mia Park in honor of the taping the 1000th episode of her wildly successful CAN-TV dance show, talks with local filmmaker Nancy Bechtol about the new Illinois eavesdropping law and her documentary Free Speech &the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew, Street Artist, and checks in with Aldertrack co-creator Mike Fourcher about how the Chicago aldermanic races are shaping up. This week’s local music is provided by Minor Characters.

OTL #433: Chic-a-Go-Go’s 1,000th episode, Illinois’ new eavesdropping law, Aldertrack’s latest local election preview

by Outside the Loop

Mike Stephen meets up with Chic-a-Go-Go host Miss Mia Park in honor of the taping the 1000th episode of her wildly successful CAN-TV dance show, talks with local filmmaker Nancy Bechtol about the new Illinois eavesdropping law and her documentary Free Speech &the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew, Street Artist, and checks in with Aldertrack co-creator Mike Fourcher about how the Chicago aldermanic races are shaping […]

Outside the Loop | February 1, 2015 at 7:22 AM | Tags: Aldertrack, CAN TV, Chic-a-Go-Go, Chris Drew, eavesdropping law, La Pasadita, Mia Park, Mike Fourcher, Minor Characters, Miss Mia, Nancy Bechtol, OTL, Ratso, WGN Radio | Categories: Mike Stephen, Outside the Loop Radio | URL: film_small posterWEBCops_and_Citizens_Record_2012_NancyBechtol-Photo

Chris Drew on location Silkscreening at May Day Rally ©nancy bechtol

Chris Drew on location Silkscreening at May Day Rally ©nancy bechtol


Logan TV-Dan O’Donnell posts exclusive “ART is SPEECH” – on 11.14.14. see the film on DREW

Chicago Premiere at the Logan Theatre ,” Free Speech and the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew, Street Artist” by Nancy Bechtol. Featuring indie Music by Behind the Sun-Andy Alton & David Mansfield “Paper Airplane” courtesy of Hey Now Records one night only – 11.14.14 Friday 7:30 PM

See/Hear the Nancy Bechtol interview by Dan O’Donnell – Logan Square TV

An important documentary about street artist Chris Drew, and his felony trial for recording police, will premiere at The Logan Theatre on November 14. The film, Free Speech and the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew, Street Artist is directed by Logan Square resident, Nancy Bechtol. Literally thousands of people across Chicago know Chris Drew, because of his vibrant presence in Chicago’s art community and on Chicago’s streets… In the 2 1/2 years before he passed away in 2012, Drew became known to thousands more across the country and around the world, as he faced up to 15 years in prison for recording police on duty. The video recordings that Nancy Bechtol made on the day of his arrest as well as the years leading up to his arrest became the basis of this documentary. Footage from as early as 2002 shows Drew’s activism and his involvement with the art communities and Critical Mass community in Chicago. Interviews with his attorneys as well as people who knew him through the Uptown Multicultural Art Center are also featured

In December, 2009, he was arrested for selling art for $1 in front of Macy’s on State Street. He wanted to get arrested in order to challenge the city ordinance that would require him to wear a permit in order to sell art. Drew was trying to illustrate that artists are different from merchandise peddlers. Legal precedent has held that art is a form of speech that can’t be curtailed.. Before his arrest, Drew spent months with Bechtol recording his interactions with police on various occasions at various locations across Chicago. He would give away his art, and eventually began to sell it. He asked film maker Nancy Bechtol to record his activities with a video camera. He also carried a small audio recorder…Drew’s plan to challenge the (Chicago Peddler’s Ordinance) took a sharp turn when he was arrested. Officers found the audio recorder in his pocket, and subsequently dropped the peddling charges in favor of charges of eavesdropping

Eavesdropping charges – a Class 1 felony and carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez maintained that the conversation with the police was private, even though they were acting as public servants and were on a public way. Drew was exonerated in court in 2012, and Alvarez’s office immediately appealed the ruling. Drew died months later, however, so his case alone would not change the law in Illinois. Findings from his case, however, did affect similar cases that were being tried in Illinois at around the same time. In March of this year, the Illinois Supreme Court finally ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to record police actions in public.

Chris Drew’s Legacy lives on! Now in the Film. see it.


Chris Drew’s Legacy lives on! Now in the Film. see it. The film is scheduled to show for one night only, on Friday, November 14. Tickets are on sale now at The Logan Theatre box office or online at

You can check out the trailer below. Much more information about Chris Drew and this film can be found on Nancy Bechtol’s website


Patron Saint of Street Artists frees all from Illinois Eavesdropping Law! You may have known him..

Patron Saint of Street Artists frees all from Illinois Eavesdropping Law!

🙂 just google -patron saint of street artists- and you will see!

Chris Drew (1950-2012) nicknamed “Patron Saint of Street Artists” for his devotion to grassroots artists through the non-profit organization he headed, Uptown Multicultural Arts Center (UMCAC)–for 25 years housed at the American Indian Center in Uptown, Chicago. Chris Drew, a non-paid Exec. Director, taught hundreds how to use computers bridging the digital divide for underserved, and how to silkscreen and with a goal of how to market their wares-make a living with art.

Film Premiere Recalls Street Artist Who Fought Illinois…

Chicago Premiere of Indie feature documentary film at Logan Theatre on 11.14.14 was made in the Windy City – “Free Speech & the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew, Street Artist” (99 min)Chris Drew UMCACreads tribune news Ill Law decared unconstitutioart Chriscropped-actfreechris_occupy-chicagonotxt_aic.jpgbechtol film_small posterWEB

Embrace summer: DB HZ panoramas and NB VRTCL panoramas. NOW 2018

Leaving Seward via Resurrection BayHubbard GlacierLost Artists Features

DAVID BECHTOL.  wall installation panoramas Alaska (above)

EMBRACE summer
NANCY BECHTOL. wall installation vertical pano series: Body Wraps (above)
2630 W. Fletcher
The Lost Artists Colony
Chicago (North Side)*, IL 60647
June 9th – June 9th

Opening: June 9th 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM
one day only. all welcome. free event

SWAN featured Nancy Bechtol – Women March to the Polls! 2018 Photography

Chicago SWAN Event Features Nancy Bechtol’s Photos of Chicago Women’s March 2018
Women's March Photo by Nancy Bechtol
Over 300,000 flooded the streets for Chicago’s Women’s March to the Polls in January 2018. The turnout exceeded the wildest expectations of the March organizers.

APA photojournalist Nancy Bechtol documented over 6 hours of the powerful event. She will exhibit a selection of her photographs of this historic march on April 14 from 5 – 9 p.m. at Lost Artists Colony, 2630 W. Fletcher Street, Chicago, IL 60618.


SWAN at Lost Artists Colony

SWAN. Support Women Artists Now Feature

Chicago: 1/20/18 Women’s March to the Polls!

#womensmarchchi March to the Polls!

A most Historic moment. 300,000 strong voices in Chicago, and also all over the World, on January 20th 2018. I share my views from on location.

I was powered by the energy, diversity, and all the wonderous moment that kept unveiling themselves- in the faces of determination. Of voices to be heard and recognized. Of the women, strong. Of the allies united, men, children, youngest to oldest, people with disabilities, all marching.

The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers

I shot over 700 photos in the 6 hours I documented the day. My physical endurance was increased with each sign and face I saw, a nod of encouragement. onward… Also, video clips. a week later, I am still sorting and editing with amazement of “We the People”

I am sure I will be exhibiting many, –in search of a venue–but for now, in the moment, I am sharing some with you via social media and the impressive international website, Social Documentary.

Power to the People. Free Speech. Freedom of the Press, in whatever format–shoot photos, video, share, post!! We all need to be strong for democracy and our future!

If you wish to see a few more, here is the link:: thanks!

Nancy Bechtol : SDN WomenMarch 2018

Now::Historic Archives of RSG : Many Chicago Artists/Work

Glimpse Now::Historic Archives of RSG : Many Chicago Artists/Works

  •  Nancy Bechtol

The Randolph Street Gallery Archives features photographs, event calendars, posters, and other materials documenting the nearly twenty-year history (1979-1998) of an important Chicago cooperative, gallery, and performance space. With a particular interest in the social and political issues of its time and a deep commitment to community engagement, Randolph Street Gallery was a critical venue for new forms of artistic expression and left a lasting impact both locally and globally Peter Taub. DP: Could you give some background on Randolph Street Gallery? PT: Randolph Street Gallery (RSG) was an artist-run space in Chicago, founded in 1979. I started working there in the mid-80s. It was run by artists, directed by artists, and served artists.

Nancy Bechtol Comments:: This is just a glimpse into the place that, if you ever went there, or showed art there, it is embeded in your very soul. I was so honored several times in my early days to show my work. Controversial works were welcome.. Freedom of Art and Thought and Being There. Artists were engaged and the audience contributed interactively.

There is no saying RSG without the name of the legend\Peter Taub –longtime Director of RSG. Incredibly adapt at blending art, politics, and artists egos to create an art scene — inclusive and amazing –underlined to infinity.

For the curious, art lovers, artists and Chicago history buffs. take a look. it is a real eye opener. I just found out it was online! I flashed back to the infamous video I shot of Hamza that caused quite a stir when it played on CAN TV. honest and forthright, it nailed racial profiling..even in a well known restaurant. And my sound installation which needed walls built, and Peter Taub, assisted by husband, David, carried walls up from the basement, and made a house for the “Reagan Psalms”. “Hamza Speaks” is listed in RSG archive. Also, during the time of the Flag controversy, I displayed “On One Nightstand of and American Artist” a social political piece which also was in a group show by CAC –that gathered works done on and by flags, including Dred Scott’s piece, that was first shown at SAIC to much attention on the subject. ON and on and on..


Randolph Street Gallery

Randolph Street Gallery (RSG) was an alternative exhibition space in Chicago, Illinois, from 1979[1] until its closing in 1998 and a vital local force in the development of a variety of new art forms and the contemporary national and international arts milieu. Founded by two artists, Tish Miller and Sarah Schwartz, RSG began in Schwartz’s living room, later moving to 853 W. Randolph Street on Chicago’s west side.[2] The late 1970s, was a period when young artists in all disciplines were collectively founding visual and performing art organizations as alternatives to mainstream and commercial venues in many US cities.[3] RSG was one of more than a dozen ‘alternative’ galleries – along with many new ‘alternative’ theatre groups – situated on the near north and west sides of Chicago. The gallery’s focus was on the needs of artists and practitioners who created work that was unsupported, or at the time, perceived to be unsupportable by most commercial or institutional funders.[4] Randolph Street Gallery was also the locus for groundbreaking collaborative projects such as The File Room: An Archive on Cultural Censorship, conceived by Antoni Muntadas,[5] and was the publisher of P-Form: Performance Art Magazine.[6]

For nineteen productive years RSG fulfilled its role as cultural laboratory for Chicago and the general art world.[7] By the late 1990s, changing trends, expectations, and patterns of patronage in the arts took their toll on the gallery as well as on any of the other few comparable artist-run organizations in the United States (e.g., La Mamelle and the Capp Street Project in San Francisco, the Washington Project for the Arts in the District of Columbia) and the gallery eventually closed.[8]

Many of the emerging and mid-career artists who presented and experimented at Randolph Street Gallery are now recognized as leaders who have changed the context of our cultural dialog. They include visual and performance artists, photographers, filmmakers, sound and video artists, writers and curators.[9]

In 1999, the complete archives of Randolph Street Gallery were donated to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and include all available material documenting the nineteen-year history of RSG, a high percentage of which are original source materials. The archives contain historical records of performance, sculpture, visual and other art forms created or presented by local and international artists, artists’ portfolios, slides, posters, signage, photographs, performance art programs, publications, news clippings, publicity files, a variety of video formats, sound recordings, computer files, administrative records, and some works of art donated to Randolph Street Gallery for auctions and fund raisers.[10] Public access to the archives is possible on a limited basis and by reservation only. The Randolph Street Gallery Archives are complemented by an additional 33 linear feet of archival material from the editors of P-Form: Performance Art Magazine.


1.    Jump up^ Artner, Alan G. “To market…as an alternative” Chicago Tribune (17 Aug 1979: B12)

2.    Jump up^ Obejas, Achy “A Requiem for Chicago’s Incubator of Performance Art” Chicago Tribune (23 Feb 1998: 1)

3.    Jump up^ Warren, L. 1984. Alternative Spaces: A History in Chicago. Chicago. Museum of Contemporary Art.

4.    Jump up^ Obejas, Achy “A Requiem for Chicago’s Incubator of Performance Art” Chicago Tribune (23 Feb 1998: 1)

5.    Jump up^ Artner, Alan G. Muntadas’ Installation Fits Current Thinking” Chicago Tribune (27 May 1994: 64)

6.    Jump up^ P-Form: performance art news

7.    Jump up^ Hixson, Kathryn “Randolph Street Gallery” New Art Examiner (Sep 2000: 50-51) v28 n1

8.    Jump up^ Obejas, Achy “Randolph Street Gallery Closes, Victim of Rapidly Declining Funds” Chicago Tribune (14 Feb 1998: 5)

9.    Jump up^ Hixson, Kathryn “Randolph Street Gallery” New Art Examiner (Sep 2000: 50-51) v28 n1

10. Jump up^ Randolph Street Gallery Archives

External links[edit]

·        Randolph Street Gallery Archive, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

·        P-Form digital covers and table of contents, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

·        Ellen Rothenberg’s course, The Collaborative Project to preserve, process, and exhibit the Randolph Street Archives

·        The File Room. Initiated as an artist’s project by Antoni Muntadas The File Room was originally produced by Randolph Street Gallery in 1979-1998 with the support of the School of Art and Design and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

·        Two Chicago Galleries and Why They Closed by Victor M. Cassidy

·        Adrian Piper, My Calling (Card) #1 Meta-Performance (1987-88; 00:58:00) – include video file

·        Chicago Alternative ArtSpace Panel, April 2, 2008

·        Alternative ArtSpace Panel Discussion – includes audio and video files

·        Erik and the Animals, July 17, 2005 by Erik Fabian An archive of video documentation of performances at the Randolph Street Gallery from 1987-1996 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Flaxman Library.

·        Living Cross, Allyson and Alex Gray, Oct. 15, 1983 – Performance

MEL THEOBALD: Russian and American Artists (Portraits)

MEL THEOBALD: Russian and American Artists (Portraits) :: view now thru 6/18


Mel Theobald sees artists across boundaries into their essence. I am truly honored to be included in this collection of contemporary highly regarded artists. It is, to me both striking and shockingly the best capture of my artistic being I have ever seen. very insightful!

Here is what he wrote:

“Nancy Bechtol in Her Own Image” 2016 ©Mel Theobald

“Given all the artists I’ve had the privilege of knowing, it constantly surprises me how many of them were at one time my students in the brief 10 year I spent teaching. Nancy Bechtol was in the Interdisciplinary Arts Program for the Consortium of Colleges and Universities when as a young professor I was its coordinator. This experimental program was later picked up by Columbia College and has expanded the concept of fine arts to include all aspects of visual thinking while integrating performance, writing, music, movement and image making into a holistic art form. Nancy was in those early classes and later launched her career into photography, film and video. As a freelance journalist for the American Press Association, her investigations into social justice and artistic liberty led her to such documentary features as “Free Speech & the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew, Street Artist.” Never letting go of her creative independence, she became a voice for all artists and has had numerous exhibitions exploring various media. This photograph was taken at the opening of her exhibition at August House. Using computer technologies, she and her husband David explored the boundaries of digital imagery and conventional photography. Nancy is seen here in the light of her own creation.” (Note: taken at the Marya Veeck -August House Studio. Chicago. at the show opening this was a window projection/ 3 min. video by Nancy. “Real & Surreal” was a 2 person Show of Nancy Bechtol & David Bechtol)

Photographs by Theobald of 36 artists on exhibit now thru 6/18 at the Westville campus of Purdue University Northwest thru June 2018. Each photo of which he has additionally written a personal bio/connections to including: Sasha (Alexandra) Semenova, Andrei Dillendorf, Anna Chugonova, Annegret Reichmann, Barbara Crane, Bruce Thorn, Carole Harmel, Gennady Troshkoy, Hadji-Marad Alikhanov, Igor Obrosov, Tim Tansley, Roger Boyle, John Kurtz, Judith Geichman, Karl Wirsum, Kathleen Waterloo, Lee Tracy, Lev Kropivnitsky, Lialia Kuchma, Lidia Romashkova, Marina Schusterman, Mary Bourke, Nancy Bechtol, Naomi Maki, Natalya Nesterova, Olga Semenova, Oscar Romero, Philip Pearlstein, Ron Gordon, Ronne Hartfield, Rosa Timchenko, Sergei Pishchugin, Sergei Semenov, Todd Kursel, Vera Lebedeva

Text for the Exhibit by:::  MEL THEOBALD: Russian and American Artists

Although everyone has a certain mystique, nobody stirs the imagination quite like artists who are in a realm of their own. The general sense of what an artist does captivates people, not because they make art, but because they touch upon something that is at once penetratingly personal while being simultaneously universal. From them we learn to alter our view of reality. Some connect with the masses and some do not. No matter the nature of their work, artists share a common thread in that what they create might change the way others see themselves and, in my opinion, contribute to the betterment of the world in which we live.

           In that context, it is my experience – even my belief – that each of the people represented in these images is above the fray of normal politics, histrionics and economic outreach. They do what they do because they must. They are smart. They are introspective. And, they are visionary.

           At the invitation of the Russian Ministry of Culture, I had the extraordinary good fortune of curating two painting exhibitions in 1990, one of which would be sent to Chicago and the other to various locations throughout Europe. An unexpected consequence of being in Moscow was the introduction to dozens of artists with whom I would develop a continuing relationship. A handful of them have visited Chicago while I, in turn, have returned to Moscow nineteen times, spanning the end of the Soviet era to 2016 which marked twenty-five years since its collapse.

           Early on, it was apparent that the artists of Russia were being thrown into a capitalistic torrent of galleries and collectors with little understanding of how those systems functioned. No longer receiving the benefits provided under a socialist system, they turned to foreign countries who were clamoring to see their work. Under intense competition they entered into the unfamiliar domain of marketing and critical evaluation that had previously been regulated by academic and political operatives. Many fought as dissidents against a debilitating and restrictive system of propaganda while others endured unimaginable hardships and survived in their struggle to liberate themselves from the draconian limits of free thought imposed by their government. Following the now famous Sothby’s auction of Russian art in 1988, the government began exploiting its artists by exporting them and their products to foreign countries in hope of harvesting foreign currency. In that environment, I began taking box loads of art supplies, brushes, paints and fine papers as gifts to the studios of Moscow. If there was one element that unified us, it was the sense that art rises above the barriers of language and ideology.

           Most of the dissident artists had become expatriates, leaving behind the more conventional artists whose brand would define the future of Russian art. Having met and befriended so many of these creative minds, I came to believe that whether Russian or American, we are all engaged in the same pursuit. Although my interest in art was constant, my level of cultural exploration was diverse. As a painter I was focused on imagery, but as a person I was engaged in the significance of the individual. My circle of acquaintances included painters, writers, musicians and arts administrators. The earlier photographs from the 1990s were more documentary than narrative, but with the evolution of digital photography, I pushed for something much more profound: the varied stories of the artists were as much about their personalities as their creations.                                                            Having reached this conclusion, it was only a matter of time before I began juxtaposing those artists I knew in Russia with the artists of Chicago. My lifelong commitment to the Chicago art community stretched back to my years as a student and conservator at the Art Institute. During the mid-1990s, I was engaged in an alumni scholarship fundraiser at the School of the Art Institute, where my direct association with artists expanded even further. It seemed only natural that my growing collection of artist’s portraits would include both Russians and Americans.

           There are currently over 125 artists included in the series and it continues to expand. This exhibition offers only a partial look at the many brilliant and daring people who form the nucleus of those groups. Sadly, too many of them have died, some before I had a chance to capture their images. Still, it is my hope that after viewing this exhibit, there will be a greater understanding that there are no borders between artists. We speak an international language that is meant to elevate human consciousness. It is in that place that I find the mystique of artists to be as important as the work they produce.

To see the full collection, or contact, visit Mel’s website at: Artists Portraits by Mel Theobald

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