DAVID BECHTOL. wall installation panoramas Alaska (above)
The Lost Artists Colony
Chicago (North Side)*, IL 60647
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!
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
https://rhizome.org/editorial/2016/nov/17/ 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 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. 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. 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. 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, and was the publisher of P-Form: Performance Art Magazine.
For nineteen productive years RSG fulfilled its role as cultural laboratory for Chicago and the general art world. 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.
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.
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. 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 http://digital-libraries.saic.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/pform
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
· 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.
· 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.
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: