Posts By: Studio Assistant

Member Interview Series: Yu Wei

Yu Wei is a visual artist and an independent publisher who is always wandering, reading, drawing, printmaking, photographing, and writing. She makes books and whispers stories through visual approaches. Wei was also a fellow at Spudnik Press from July 2021 to February 2022 and is currently preparing a studio in Beijing to continue her art practice.

Wei was interviewed by Spudnik Press 2022 Spring Intern Andrea Ye. Andrea is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, concentrating on mix-media drawings and printmaking. Her work addresses the sensorial and sentimental connection with nature. 

Andrea Ye (AY): Your website has information about your life and undergraduate experience in Beijing, China. I’m actually also born in China. Can you share something about how you started as an artist in China?

Yu Wei (YW): I went to a middle school in China where we focused on art a lot. After graduating, it was very natural that I go to an art school in China for undergrad and continue it here in Chicago. I studied graphic design for my undergraduate degree and came to Chicago to study at the SAIC Visual Communication Design department. 

AY: How does your life in these two art schools compare?

YW: In China, I was more focused on myself and my own personal art practice. I didn’t have much collaborative work during my undergrad, except for a few group projects. The Visual Communication department at SAIC has a different vibe from that of other departments. Other graduate students all have studio cubes, but our department has this kind of office setting. Because of the pandemic, many people went back to their homes so there were only two of us in that studio and we worked together a lot. I also took a lot of courses from printmedia and that was very interesting, because you always work in the print shop. It’s different from just sitting in front of the laptop.

AY: What class did you take in printmedia? Any particular medium?

YW: I work a lot with risography because I make books. The first class I took is called “Adventures in Self-publishing.” That’s where I began to know about the system of self-publishing. And this is one of the books I made with risography (see Image 1)

AY: Can you talk about the process and your inspiration? 

YW: Do you have a lot of dreams? What kind of dreams? Is it more related to life in reality, or if it is more weird and bizarre?

AY: I would say most of them have connections with real life. I dream about real people but they kind of weave into some surreal scenes and strange plots.

YW: I used to have dreams connected to real life. Basically, it’s like a reverse version of my day. But during the pandemic, when there were around two months that I just stayed in my apartment, I started to have weird dreams that are totally different from the dreams that I used to have. They’re like adventures. Sometimes I wake up and feel exhausted. 

AY: Sometimes I wake up and wonder if a dream is actually another world and I just got back from there.

YW: Yeah, I feel that, too. What is real and what is not real is kind of ambiguous. When I have dreams that feel like I’m about to die, I will wake up and realize that maybe I just died in that world and came back to reality. I never had these kinds of dreams before the pandemic, and it is quite surprising personally, so I made a book about them. 

Image 1: “What adventure down there awaits its end?”, 2020 riso-printed book, 8 x 10 inches


Image 2: “What adventure down there awaits its end?”, 2020 riso-printed book, 8 x 10 inches

AY: So these sides are images of the dreams (see Image 1). And what are these on the other side (see Image 2)?

YW: It’s a full moon cycle. On the front is my bedsheet and on the back is the moon phase on that day. And if you unfold it, the image of the dream is inside. I also included the weather of that day.

A: Oh and I also saw on your website you made a book about the moon? I really like that one. 

YW: Yes. The inspiration is from a class where we made a Whole Earth Catalog for 2070, so I made a fictional history timeline of the Moon from 2020 to 2070. The project was in the form of a scientific or archaeological report. I wrote the timeline from the perspective of people who migrated to the Moon and how they looked back to their history from 2070. I made this riso book based on that timeline. 

Image 3: “THE LUNAR ARCHIVE: 2020-2070”, 2021 riso-printed book, 4 x 10 inches

AY: Can you talk about the history timeline a bit more?

YW: It’s very vague. In 2020, humans began to immigrate and landed on the near side of the Moon. As time passed and people expanded toward the far side of the Moon, their connections and emotional attachment to the Earth faded. 2050 was the turning point when they reached a distance where the Earth-Moon system of communication was lost. This caused a shift in perspective. The history is written by people living on the Moon in 2070, so they identify with the Moon more than the Earth. They address the people on the Earth as “they” (see Image 4) and call themselves “we” (see image 5). But before 2050, the story is about them as people from the Earth. And when they completely lost contact with the Earth, it started the history of the people of the Moon. 

Image 4: “THE LUNAR ARCHIVE: 2020-2070”, 2021 riso-printed book, 4 x 10 inches


Image 5: “THE LUNAR ARCHIVE: 2020-2070”, 2021 riso-printed book, 4 x 10 inches

AY: In real life, do you spend time looking at the Moon at night?

YW: Yeah. I like to browse through space news like the NASA website. I also drew the surface of the Moon as my drawing practice based on real craters. I wrote the whole narrative in 2019 and the book’s timeline starts in 2020. I also started to practice drawing the Moon’s surface in 2019. So when 2020 came, I decided to combine these separate works into a book that I finished in 2021. I recently read about a performance artist who talks about her piece as a dying project as she ages, and I find that so beautiful. I’m thinking about continuing this project and expanding it a little each year, until 2070. I’m still thinking about it.

AY: That sounds like a very long-term artist book project. What makes you use books often as a form of your art? 

YW: Reading has been a habit for me since I was young so books are the most familiar medium to me. I like books because they do not give me the pressure found in other forms of communication. For example, our conversation right now requires an instant response, either through words or expressions. But that is not the case with books. You might read a book years ago and one day you think about it and you have some response to it. Books don’t blame you for anything. I feel comfortable when others look at my art through the form of a book. I think they probably feel comfortable, too.

AY: How about texts? I find many bilingual elements in your books. 

YW: Yes, I insist on doing bilingual pieces because the Chinese language is just beautiful. I don’t translate from one language to another in some of my books. There are some texts written in either English or Chinese only. I think this is a unique experience for bilingual readers because they can realize the subtle differences between the two languages. These differences are not because they got lost in translation. They were intended.

AY: This makes me think of the word “wandering” mentioned in both your bio and artist statement. There is a feeling of “wander” between the two languages since some words do not have direct translations. And if one can recognize the words in different languages, there are two spaces to land on and a seam in the middle that belongs to this person. Many of your previous books, including the one you made at Spudnik Press, were printed through riso. Are there particular reasons for this decision?

YW: With risography, I get to create the whole book completely on my own. The book I made at Spudnik is a collaborative work with my friend who’s a photographer. Risography gives me more control over the final outcome and I feel like I’m making something from the very beginning to the end. This year, I worked with my friend again to print a project called “Parallel” (see Images 6 and 7). It is currently on exhibit as part of my Fellowship at Spudnik Press now. 

Image 6: “平行 parallel”, 2021 riso-printed newspaper, 10 x 16 inches


Image 7: “平行 parallel”, 2021 riso-printed newspaper, 10 x 16 inches

AY: What else did you do during the program? And how did you find out about Spudnik Press?

YW: During the process of application, I wrote a proposal for projects that I want to do during the eight months of Fellowship. We also did weekly monitoring shifts in the studio and attended seminars where we talked about things like teaching and writing for grants. We also had an exhibition for our public programming. My graduate advisor recommended Spudnik Press to me and I knew several students who went through Spudnik’s Fellowship Program before. After I graduated from SAIC, Spudnik became my working studio. I also sold some of my books here during the Hubbard Street Lofts 3rd Floor Market event last December.

AY: That sounds really nice! Where else do you sell or where else can we find your work?

YW: I have also sent my books to independent bookstores like Inga and Buddy in Chicago and Printed Matter in NYC. And I just concluded an exhibition on March 26 at the International Print Center in NYC as well. 

AY: Since you recently wrapped up your Fellowship at Spudnik Press, what is next for you?

YW: I’m flying back to China this May. My friends and I are planning to build a private studio over there to continue making art. We are planning to set it up for screenprinting and risography for now. I will have the information about the studio on my website soon. I am also on Instagram at @by.yuwei.

Member Interview Series: Alex Belardo Kostiw

Alex Belardo Kostiw is a graphic designer, artist, and educator. Her work deals in poetic and iterative elements, visual structures of comics, and conceptually driven forms. By exploring ambiguities of written and visual language, her publications and prints make space for complex realities of identity and human intimacy. Alex received an MFA in Visual Communication Design from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in English literature from the University of Chicago. She lives and works alongside two cats.

Nick Sekits is a multidisciplinary artist who works largely in illustration, printmaking, and multimedia. His work is often influenced by scientific processes, the natural world, and folklore. He graduated in 2020 with a BA in Art and Biology with concentrations in drawing and herpetology.  

Nick Sekits (NS): I read that you originally got your bachelor’s degree in English literature. What drew you to print media?

Alex Kostiw (AK): I always loved both books and drawing. For me, they went hand in hand as modes of storytelling–drawing was a way to imagine a story. I went to a college that had a small art department at the time. I loved English Lit, which was my major, and I ended up doing a visual art minor focused on drawing. After graduation, I worked in the art history department. I think that’s when I started to think more about illustration as a way to express a critical understanding of a text rather than as just something ornamental, or as having a one-to-one relationship with what the text already says explicitly. Thinking about that and also working for this department, I became more interested in graphic design and screenprinted posters. And I learned about Spudnik Press, which was not too far from where my partner at the time was living. I signed up for a couple of printmaking classes to refresh my creative practice, and I actually just ended up falling in love with printmaking. And I realized how much I missed learning, so I went to grad school, and that’s how I got to what I do now.

NS: So your journey with print started with Spudnik in a sense?

AK: Yeah, pretty concretely.

NS: What drew you to Spudnik Press?

AK: From what I can remember, there weren’t really a lot of resources like Spudnik Press. And I liked that it was this community space with so much emphasis on different forms of printmaking.

NS: Yeah! I haven’t been there very long, but it does feel very community-oriented. You completed a residency at Spudnik 2016 and are now teaching there, right?

AK: Yeah, I started teaching this past fall, but I have to say, it’s something I was interested in doing for a while. I also wanted to be part of Spudnik again. I haven’t had as much time for my printmaking practice. I figured, if I’m there, I’m going to feel a little more inspired, I’m going to feel a little more connected, and I can also get back into my own work.

Inventory: Recollection | saddle-stitch binding in hard case, accordion fold, laserjet, edition of 1

NS: Do you find yourself returning to literary works or authors as sources of inspiration?

AK: Yeah. One of my favorite authors is Virginia Woolf. I regularly return to Orlando, her sense of humor in that book and the gender play that goes on there […] it’s definitely a novel before its time. I also love her concept that the self is something complicated and that it can be difficult for a person to understand themselves, let alone other people. I’m interested in her work on the kind of unspoken language that happens when two people become truly intimate with each other, or the idiosyncratic language that is unique to them. I also love reading Anne Carson and her poetry, especially her translation of Sappho. The kind of openness there, all of that space where Sappho’s original poetry has disintegrated because it was on papyrus. That stuff didn’t really last, and so we’ve just got these scraps. I think that style definitely influenced some of the writing that I’ve done. And I love comics. It’s hard to choose a favorite in the realm of comics, but I do really like Jia Sung. Jia’s work is fantastic. She’s trained as a painter, but she has also ventured into comics, artist’s books, and poetry.

NS: I have some artists to look into! I also looked at your self-publishing website, and it made me curious – what does self-publishing mean to you?

AK: There are dynamic definitions of what publishing is. Is it in a digital or physical space? What’s the scale of it? Is it something where the artist has complete control? Is it a collaboration? Are we touching every single book or sending them off to a printer? Self publishing for me means that maybe I work with a printer who is better at using a risograph than I am or who has access to more colors than I do. But for the most part, it’s going through the whole process of writing, drawing, and designing the book for how I want the reader to interact with it, or what space I want to create for the reader to inhabit. I think of the book not just as an object, but as a physical and psychological space. I tend to think about my projects as books, even when they don’t necessarily look like books. They are a kind of narrative sequence meant for a person to move through.

NS: It sounds like self-publishing can mean many things but you prefer to be hands-on with the product you’re making.

AK: I think the other extension of that is I really miss being at art book fairs and comics festivals. I feel like that’s when I get to really connect with people and see them connect with my work. There’s something so rewarding about seeing someone pick up one of my books and go through it, how their face transforms at various moments, or how they’re interacting with the pages. I really miss that.

Enchiridion | 36 pages, saddle-stitch binding and accordion fold, risograph and xerox, 5 x 10.25 inches

NS: I am also interested in sequential art, which I guess is comics in a broad sense. I love how your work dissolves the expectations put forth by traditional comics and really uses them as a narrative device.

AK: Thanks! I honestly feel like in the comics community, especially here in Chicago, a lot of people really push this idea of what a comic is. For that reason, I often think that the only difference between comics and artist’s books is production value.

NS: Right, like what kind of paper is it on.

AK: Exactly. Was it hardbound? Did you sew it by hand? Those are lines that I really just throw away from my work. But yeah, there are a lot of innovative artists here in Chicago, and we’ve got such a great comics community.

NS: On your site, you mention “creativity within constraints.” Could you talk more about what you mean by that?

AK: There are a lot of ways that I think about constraints. I’ll start with this French writing collective called Oulipo. Oulipo is a group of writers and mathematicians interested in discovering new text in existing texts. They felt that all texts that could possibly be generated are already out there. They used algorithmic writing techniques, like composing a new piece out of every fourth word in a found text. Or writing an entire novel written without the letter E. And it’s not just that the letter E is missing from the writing, but it’s a mystery about a character who feels that something is missing and is searching for it.

I found that applying constraints forced me to think about writing as a kind of problem-solving that I had to navigate. Creating limitations gives me a place to start with a project and helps me focus on what the project is really about. It’s a lot like design thinking. In branding, you have a set color palette, a set number of fonts, and different standards for combining them. But within that, there are still endless possible combinations, right? And I think that’s defined how I engage in many aspects of my creative practice. When it comes to screen printing for example, maybe you’re only going to have three screens or two screens to use to make an image. But by reconfiguring or manipulating those couple of stencils, you can make a variety of prints. And when you have constraints as the creator, you also extend those constraints to your audience. You’re only giving them so much. So a lot of my work is also gestural. My work might give very little info to an audience, and it’s up to them to take those gestures of a story and discover what they will in them.

NS:  If there is a project that would best introduce your work to people who have not seen your work before, what would it be?

AK: I feel like it should either be the latest thing that I completed or one of the first things that I completed. In grad school, one of the first classes I took is a seminar where I think everyone got into a fugue state at some point, because we were so exhausted trying to pull our projects together. I don’t mean this in a self-congratulatory way at all, but I still look at this piece and think, “Whoa, if I went back, could I do that again?” And I’m not sure I could! The project is called “BOX Actaeon.” It’s a box inside of another box with imagery printed on the outside and inside of each of the boxes. You look through these organically shaped openings throughout and there’s a knob at the bottom to turn the inside box as you’re rotating the outside box. And as you turn it, you can piece together the Greek myth of Actaeon. Actaeon is a hunter who accidentally sees the goddess of the hunt, Artemis, when she’s bathing. She realizes this and turns Actaeon into a stag, and his own hounds tear him apart. Even though it’s one of my first projects, it still encapsulates the interest I have in books as a space that isn’t necessarily what we think of as a book form.

BOX Actaeon | paper object, risograph

The more recent work is a show entitled Pakiramdam that I put together for Co-Prosperity last summer. It is a collection of prints of manipulations of family photos, some on paper and some on fabric. On the windows, there’s also a comic of my mother and I folding a bedsheet, and of a hand trying to grasp at the idea of a seashell, and a couple of short texts. I basically wanted to make a zine, but as an installation project. That piece is really about the ways that people can exist and connect with each other across space and time. My family emigrated from the Philippines, and I was born in Sweden and spent part of my childhood there. I wanted to speak about having a mixed-race identity through these hybrid forms of prints and comics juxtaposed with each other. Since we’re scattered on two continents, it’s pretty normal for my family to interact through screens. But now, the pandemic has made this normal for everyone else–being present in people’s lives, even when we’re physically absent.

Pakiramdam | Installation at Co-Prosperity Sphere (Chicago, IL) digital prints on organza and paper, acrylic paint, vinyl, wood, fishing wire. Documentation by Colectivo Multipolar

NS: What are you working on or what’s getting the gears turning for you at the moment?

AK: I have been doing a lot of teaching. I also have this running series of “bookmark books.” They’re comics that are an outlet for recurring thoughts that are barely even a thought. I am also reworking the text that I originally wrote for my Spudnik residency. It’s been an interesting process because the piece is technically five or six years old. In some ways, I’m the same person I was five years ago, but I’m also a different person. So reworking the piece, I think the characters in it are shifting a bit according to the values and ways of thinking that I’ve developed over the years. There is a kind of comfort in going back to your work and thinking, “This is worth seeing through and giving it a second life.” The other project that I really want to get to is turning “Pakiramdam” into a zine. I did a lot of research into material culture of the Philippines that didn’t come through explicitly in the show, so I’m working on putting that together.

book/mark: A Name | 12 pages, saddle-stitch binding, risograph printed, 2 x 7 inches

NS: Between teaching, editing, and ongoing work on personal projects, it sounds like you’re juggling a lot at once.

AK: Yeah. I think one thing I’ve learned is that sometimes, I feel a pressure to be productive, like I’m not working fast enough. But there’s no “too fast” or “too slow.” If I feel like I’m doing what I can do right now and I’m happy with what I’m doing, it’s fine. It’s enough.

NS: Something that I feel plagues many artists is the feeling of not producing enough, fast enough. But it really is okay. Some ideas are slow ideas and that’s just how they ought to be. Where’s the best place for people to kind of get in touch with you or find your work right now?

AK: I am @meanwhile_alex on Instagram, but I take long breaks from social media. I also try to update my websites ( and every once in a while with new projects.


Member Interview Series: Don Widmer

Don Widmer is a Chicago-based papermaker whose primary practice involves  pulp painting, a form of papermaking in which finely beaten and highly pigmented pulp is ‘painted’ on a base sheet of pulp. His current architectural investigations are created entirely out of plant fiber. Widmer began exploring his architectural study while obtaining his MFA in Interdisciplinary in Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College, where he took part in transforming a CTA train car into an art gallery. 

Widmer was interviewed by 2021 Fall Intern Alice Zakharenko. She is in her final year for her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, concentrating in relief printmaking and monotyping. They discussed  art fairs, the papermaking community, and Chicago landscapes among many other topics. 

Alice Z (AZ): I understand that native Chicago buildings and landscapes are intricately embedded in your ongoing practice because they are a part of your daily life. Is there a reason why you choose certain structures to illustrate? 

Don Widmer (DW): It’s mostly storytelling. I love dark, mysterious stories. [Imagery of] Ship disasters and buildings that have an interesting backstory are very appealing to me. I made a fantasy image of a dirigible descending over the Medina Athletic Club, which is the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago. I researched it and nothing ever mounted that spire, but it’s just fascinating to think about the concept of a dirigible hovering above that building. I love these backstories; either I find them on my own or people tell me about them. 

“Sailing Over Chicago No. 1”, 2018 pulp painting on handmade abaca and cotton rag paper 36 x 24 inches ; 91.4 x 61 cm

AZ: The concept of storytelling and buildings ties in with memories. Do you want to have more of a personal connection with these architectural images?

DW: I think when I first started doing architectural imagery, I was more interested in trying to represent a building in the best way I could without really thinking about the concept of memory or what type of an image I was creating. As I’ve looked at the results that I’ve gotten and what images I think are the most successful, I realized that there’s sort of a haziness to them. […] They seem to have a life of their own, like they may have been created 50 years ago. I started thinking about working with historic imagery, creating almost fantasy images of buildings based on how I look at their architectural renderings. With the Athletic Club, the dirigible hovering above it creates a scene that has never existed, but it could really spark the imagination in a way.

“Tashmoo No. 3”, 2020, lax pulp painting on handmade denim / linen / hasta paper with metallic foil inclusions, 24 x 36 inches; 61 x 91.4 cm.

AZ: Are you trying to memorialize these buildings or are you trying to preserve the memories that they once had?

DW: Sometimes. You know, I haven’t really thought about that, but I think both are true. Like, I have done images of the Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee because they were going to tear them down since they were starting to decay. People found the funding for them, so they’ve kept them. In a way, I was really interested in preserving the images of these really remarkable dome structures because they’re so interesting. I think that there is a part of my practice that wants to remember this image or to get people to talk about it, look at it, and ask about it. 

AZ: It’s interesting to see that everything revolves around storytelling and amplifying the fact that we still need oral traditions to have a connection. I was wondering about your experiences in art fairs. Does the venue tend to change the context of your work when you’re displaying in a gallery on white walls versus interacting with everyday people?

DW: It does. It is different. It’s really being in touch with just the general public. There are people who are visiting my booth at art fairs who might never go to an art gallery, and there are also people that are very educated in art and architecture. I mean, I love it, because it keeps my work from getting too intellectual. Sometimes I do have to take a step back and move away from what people are expecting me to do, and just throw myself into a project that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time regardless of its marketability that works at an art fair. I have pieces that I wouldn’t necessarily show at an art fair. So, I think I am interested in both venues.

AZ: When you’re showing your work at the art fairs, do people focus more on the structure of the work or do they focus more on the storytelling aspect? 

DW: It’s hard to say. I mean, every person is different. There’s a lot of talking that happens at the fairs with people when I’m explaining my process. I haven’t figured out if that’s what clinches a sale. My hope is that I’ve created an image that somebody could look at and not know anything about how it’s created, or what it is, and fall in love with it. It’s not me trying to sell the piece by explaining everything that went into creating the piece and the story behind it. I think it could help with someone making their final decision, but I would hope that people would be able to just look at a work of art and say, “I just love the way that this looks, the feel I get from it, the detail I can see in it.”

Widmer, “Steel No. 4”, 2019, pulp painting on handmade cotton / denim / bamboo / daylily paper, 36 x 24 inches ; 91.4 x 61 cm

AZ: I imagine that you do the marketing and everything by yourself?

DW: Yes. It’s hard, you know? This past year with COVID, a lot of arts organizations, Spudnik and others, have really stepped up to support artists. I’ve taken many Zoom workshops. I just did one on how to revamp my website, utilize different social media, and all of those things for marketing oneself. They were very affordable and they brought in some really good people to teach those Zoom classes. It was really fantastic because there was the time to do it too. 

AZ: You taught paper making classes here at Spudnik. Is that correct?

DW: I taught one paper making workshop here with the pulp painting, yes.

AZ: How did you get involved with the community here?

DW: I think it’s when Angee Lennard came to Columbia and spoke to one of my classes that I first got to know about Spudnik. This was probably 2010. I had done some letterpress at Columbia and I took some workshops here. I remember taking linoleum block carving class here. I think it was even a different space than where it is now. It was a smaller space. I just really fell in love with the ease of working here. You know, being around other people that you could talk to, but everyone was sort of working on their own thing. It was just a very affordable, very supportive environment. When I graduated and no longer had access to the facilities at Columbia, this was a place where I could come and feel like I could get my work done. Specifically my print work that I was doing at the time: letterpress. 

2010, Widmer in Spudnik’s relief carving class

AZ: Is it the community environment that draws you in to Spudnik or is it more about having access to a studio facility?

DW: It’s definitely both, you know, because there may be one or two other places that one could go to print. The atmosphere here is, like I said, there’s just an ease or relaxation of working here where it’s supportive. I don’t know how else to explain it, but it’s a nice, open, light, place to work. 

AZ: Since paper making in general is a very niche community, how do you feel about having a tight knit community? Would you want more people to be involved?

DW: I think it will always be a sort of niche community because of the amount of labor and effort that goes into paper making. It’s not for everybody, for sure. You need a space where it’s going to be completely wet. It’s worked out really well for me because at the art fairs, most people have not seen or heard of the medium before, so you have an immediate audience when you’re talking to people and an immediate interest because they’re learning something new for the first time, something they haven’t seen before. That’s where it worked really well in my favor. I love that it’s a small community and everybody knows of everybody else for the most part. I go to the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland and I can talk about people I know in Chicago or Wisconsin and they all know each other. It’s really nice. I would love for more people to be introduced to paper and include it in at least part of their practice, or to collaborate with someone that makes paper. I would love for that to happen, but I don’t think that it will ever be as popular as other types of art forms because it’s just not as accessible.

AZ: Do you collaborate with other papermakers often or is this just more of a solitary experience?

DW: It’s mostly solitary. Although I’ve had papermakers come over to my studio to use the beater if they don’t have their own beater or they’re working on a specific project where they need a particular type of pulp. I’m always open to helping out someone that needs access to materials or equipment that I might have. Yeah, there’s that little bit of collaboration. It’s not often but I have worked with other papermakers on projects.

Widmer’s papermaking studio

AZ: What do the collaborations entail?

DW: One time, somebody who had little experience with papermaking was interested in a conceptual project where she was making paper from materials gathered from pieces of land that used to be gas stations. They couldn’t be used for a while because they had pollutants in the ground. She was gathering weeds or plant material from that space. We worked to create a pulp from these plant materials and made the sheets of paper. Then, she created art on those sheets of paper. 

AZ: Was that one of your favorite collaborations? 

DW: It was fun! It was like a new territory for both of us.

AZ: Have you been inspired by artists’ stories to create your work?

DW: Oh, I definitely am inspired by speaking with other artists. If it’s not in a place, like an art making place like Spudnik, it’s at the fairs themselves. I was just speaking to a photographer who prints on Japanese papers. She’s interested in a collaboration where I would make the paper. I’m going to experiment with making bamboo paper for the first time from cooking down the bamboo and see if I could form a paper that she can print on. This would never happen if I’m not talking to and sharing ideas and stories with other artists.

AZ: I understand that you also use native plant fibers, is there a reason why you do?

DW: It’s just experimenting. I always like to do something new. People started giving me plants from their gardens and then I would experiment. Andrea Peterson, a paper maker in Indiana, suggested it would be interesting to use Midwest plants like corn for my steel yard pulp paintings. It’s conceptual because the steel yards are no longer in existence but used to be a huge industry in the Midwest. People are really fascinated when they look at it. They’re not quite sure what the images are or what the medium is at first when they’re looking at it at an art fair. When you start talking to them and you say, “This is made from corn,” people become totally enamored by it.

AZ: Is there a show coming up that you want to share with the community?

DW: My biggest show of the year is coming up in December, which is the One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart. That’s always the first Thursday through Sunday of December. […] It’s such a fun show and there’s so many different types of art to see. I always really have a good time there.

AZ: Are there any other places online that you want people to know about besides

DW: Yeah, on Instagram I’m @donwidmerpaperarts. That’s probably the main thing besides Facebook

Member Interview Series: Osée Obaonrin

2020/21 Spudnik Fellow Osée Obaonrin

Osée Obaonrin is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in poetry, fibers, and most recently print. Originally from the Republic of Benin, she grew up in the DC area and currently resides in Chicago. Obaonrin focuses on the documentation of grief, mourning, and the self. She attempts to reconcile with the losses that have opened her to grief, the pain that has come along with it, and perhaps find hope as a means of resistance. She was also a 2020/21 Spudnik Press Fellow, where she focused on screenprinting. 

Obaonrin was interviewed by Mariah Joyce as part of her summer 2021 internship with Spudnik Press Cooperative. Mariah is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and current MFA student in Printmedia at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mariah has a background in journalism and philosophy, and her artistic work is a tool through which she processes personal questions of meaning, identity, and interpersonal connection.

Mariah Joyce (MJ): You were a guest a few months ago on “Inside the Edition,” the Chicago Printers Guild podcast, and talked about coming to print relatively recently. I’m curious how that happened. Has working in print changed how you express yourself at all, or is there anything that you’ve discovered about what you can say in that medium that you had to say differently in another one?

Osée Obaonrin (OO): I used to write more than anything else. That’s kind of the conversation I have now: I don’t really write anymore, but I still want to call myself a writer, still want to be attached to this idea of being a poet, and I think that’s my first love. When you define poetry, it’s very much trying to express yourself with as few words as possible. But oftentimes it doesn’t feel like it’s very literal even if the words are very literal because there’s kind of a gap. When we remove the traditional rules of structure and grammar, we relate to the words in a different way, the meanings feel abstracted, because we’re not used to pure minimalism as a form of clarity.

And since I’ve started making prints, I’ve never printed anything very figuratively. It’s still very abstract, and it’s still about creating that essence of the feeling through imagery, and so I think in that way it relates. But print gives me the physicality that writing gave me because I loved doing it by hand, but not in a full body sense, and that’s why I’ve enjoyed print. I also think there’s a nice visual quality to having a stencil on a screen or a burned screen and having that transfer, and it’s really quite satisfying to see ink on paper. 

Work-in-progress screenprint on fabric for HATCH survey group show

MJ: I feel the same way. Especially when it’s not a one-to-one where you’re painting with ink. It’s a transfer so it feels more like a process of discovery. Then you figure out what you just did. 

I noticed there is still language incorporated in some of your prints and visual art. Do you find yourself gravitating towards images and words to express different ideas, or do you think they’re different ways of expressing the same idea? 

OO: That’s actually an excellent question. Am I really saying the same thing over and over again, or am I trying to figure out different things? And I think, both? I’m trying to figure out the same thing, which is me. But there’s different aspects of me, and there’s different ways in which I’ve grown to exist, on my own but also through interacting with other people, so I have different questions about that. But at the end of the day, the core is just who I am and the question of exploring these different relationships.

MJ: And that process of self-discovery, did that start with the language and over time move into the visual stuff, or are they separate, doing different things?

OO: They’re not separate, they’re not doing different things. I think it did start with language. I was drawing and doodling all through childhood, but one of the first ways I understood myself and self-expression was through writing. Like this is very much my home. And then I was able to, through print work and also just visual work after that, shape what it is that I’m really trying to say about myself. It’s a little weird thinking about it now. Like maybe print is a little less freely expressive. There’s a lot of editing in the way that it works, and I try to remove as much editing as possible in the way that I print, but at the same time there is still planning that is involved in the process. That’s a new concept I’m kind of figuring out. 

MJ: I think that makes a lot of sense. In writing, especially in poetry as I understand it, there’s actually so much editing work in the background that you just never see, and so it’s interesting to think about printmaking as also a process of editing. It’s an interesting connection.

OO: And I think printmaking starts with the editing. With writing you could write all the words that you want and then afterwards you have to go in and reduce or add or expand, whereas with print work you’re editing through the whole process. You do have to edit out and choose a thing and go from there, and I think maybe in poetry and the written word your brain is doing that automatically. 

Test screenprint on paper for HATCH survey group show

MJ: And it’s interesting to also think about how pure medium, time, and material constraints go into that, because I think you’re right – if you were writing, obviously there’s still effort, but the amount that you lose by just spitballing a bunch of ideas versus burning every screen that you came up with an idea about is just so different. 

OO: Yeah, and so then in a way printmaking can also be more frustrating too, like, I failed and I wasted all the paper, and the inks, and the time.

MJ: In your artist statement, you talk about your work as a means of understanding yourself, and processing grief and loss. Do you think that it helps you understand those experiences or make peace with them, or is it not really about trying to do that, is it about maybe sitting with it?

OO: Yeah – I think there’s so much that you can never understand or finish. Like I think grief is something that never ends, so I think it’s a process of letting it happen, letting the feeling be felt and sitting in it, like you said. 

Obaonrin with test prints and studio experiments

MJ: Does that come to you naturally?

OO: It doesn’t sit with me naturally. I think that’s why art and writing and all of those are a safe haven for me, or have felt like it many a time.

MJ: That resonates with me. It’s probably not true for everybody, but I feel like it’s true for a lot of people who do creative things. I also noticed that you talked about how the more honest you are in your work, the more relatable it is to people. I’m curious, what about that relatability feels important to you?

OO: No one wants to feel like they’re alone ever – ever, period. We’re all trying to conform to be accepted, but also we’re all just learning social practices and cues, just like social norms. But also stepping into ourselves, and sometimes ourselves fit outside of that, so you have to navigate that space. I think that we all don’t want to feel alone. We want to feel like someone else is feeling what we’re going through because being alone on an island is not fun. And it also doesn’t make sense. If we’re all here and we’re all human and there are millions and millions of us, how does it make sense that I’m the only one feeling this way?

MJ: Are there any writers or artists that you remember giving you that feeling of, “oh, I’m not alone. This person is somehow vocalizing what I’m feeling?”

OO: When I was really young, as in elementary school, I remember Phyllis Wheatley always sticking out to me. She was a Black child who was enslaved and sold to a family who ‘experimented’ with the idea of teaching a Black child to read and write. Phyllis’s story always fascinated me, the first Black American poet with a published book of poetry. And honestly I can’t really tell you any of her poems at this point in my life. But I think it’s being able to see yourself, too. And I think I was really lucky in the sense that I was taught by a Black woman, I believe Mrs. Hudson, in elementary school. It was a Black woman teaching me about poetry and Black poets. At the same time I remember very vividly learning about Langston Hughes, and so I think it made sense to me that someone who was successful for the work that they did looked like me. And they were successful despite all of the things that said that they couldn’t be or wouldn’t be.

MJ: What do you think makes someone an artist?

OO: I think everyone is anything they want to be. I know a lot of people wouldn’t agree with me, but if you do something creatively at any point and you enjoy it, why not? You’re an artist, you produced something! All we’re doing is producing things. For some of us it gives us emotional satisfaction and release, for some people it’s financially how they want to exist in the world, and for some people it’s just a hobby. But if you’re doing something creative, why is there a barrier to say someone is an artist and someone isn’t?

MJ: Speaking of producing, what projects have you been working on recently? 

OO: I’ve been burning fabric for a new piece. I’m trying to see if I want burned fabric, or if I want to burn the fabric and print its silhouette.

Work-in-progress screenprint on fabric for HATCH survey group show

MJ: What is it that is calling to you about the burnt fabric?

OO: It’s hard to say, I think it’s very intuitive. One, I love fire, fire’s a very interesting object to look at. Also the fact that it exists and how we discovered it as humans, I think that’s really exciting. But I’m really looking at gaps more than anything else, because fire creates holes in objects. I think that’s probably the biggest thing: gaps between things and the idea of removal. A lot of my work has to do with my friendships and relationships, and there’s a parallel with this idea of removal and gaps and burning away. As we get older relationships change and shift, and I’m really thinking about that.

MJ: Yeah, it sounds like the space that absence makes, a little bit? 

OO: Yeah, very much so.

MJ: Are you making that piece for a particular show?

OO: Right now, I have the Chicago Artist Coalition HATCH Residency, so we have our ­­­survey group show coming in August–coming soon-

MJ: -a little too soon-

OO: -a little too soon, yeah, that’s how it feels. I’m making a new piece for that, and so I’m trying to figure out exactly what that piece is going to look like. 

MJ: Where else can we find you?

OO: You can see my work at the upcoming HATCH survey group show, I Sense Something Has Changed, which opens August 13 (opening reception 5-8 p.m.). I’m also excited to share that after promising to make an online print shop for about the last year, in August I’ll be having a print sale on my website! And you can find me on Instagram at @owe.sea. 

Member Interview Series: Holly Cahill

Holly Cahill is a Chicago based multidisciplinary artist working in painting, drawing, fibers, sculpture, print, and collage. Her process-oriented abstractions weave together elements of the fantastic found at the heart of our domestic and shared environments. Cahill received her MFA from the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati and her BFA from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. She is the current Director in Chicago of Tiger Strikes Asteroid, an artist-run, non-profit network of gallery spaces with locations in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Greenville.

Holly was interviewed by Samantha Foster as part of the Summer 2021 Internship at Spudnik Press Cooperative. Sam is a printmaker pursuing her MFA in Fine Arts at Columbia College Chicago.

Below is the interview that touches on community involvement, artistic collaboration, Holly’s 2018 residency at Spudnik, and her career trajectory.

SF: Let’s start with what brought you to Chicago. Why did you move here, and what made you decide to stay?

HC: I moved to Hyde Park with my husband, Zach, when he got into University of Chicago for his MFA. We love Chicago and it’s always a challenge to take in everything the city has to offer. There are a million things happening at once and I often feel I fall short on everything I want to be doing and seeing, which is to say that I’m very proud and grateful to live in such a dynamic and engaging place. Relocating to Chicago was tough in the beginning, just trying to find community after graduate school and not knowing anyone. That was over 15 years ago now.  It was a saving grace that Zach was going through his MFA program, so I got to meet all his colleagues and fellow students at the start of our time here.

SF: Community seems to be a thread that connects your work as an artist and an organizer. What does community mean to you and how does it manifest in your artwork?

HC: I think, community can mean a variety of things in different contexts. For me, being part of a community is essential. It has to do with considering those around you and feeling a sense of belonging to something whether it’s in the context of a print shop or an exhibition space and, as artists, finding ways to share our practices, goals, values, and resources. In any community, if we can get to a place where each person we are spending time with feels valued, then I think we can all grow and learn from one another through our involvement. I feel this sense of community as a member of Tiger Strikes Asteroid (TSA). We each take turns curating exhibitions, but we also collaborate on them and other projects as a group, which has brought us closer together in creative ways. We aim to be supportive of the artists we work with through our exhibitions and programming and consider them to be a part of the community as well as those that visit and are supportive of our program in other ways.

I’ve thought about community in terms of my own practice too. I refer to my collages as mimicking an ecosystem.  They contain scraps which originate from a variety of processes, sources, and points in time that are then gathered together in forms that more recently reflect on growth within a diverse ecosystem. In many of these works, I’ve been inspired by vines that navigate the shadows to locate other plants they can use as support for their development. I’ve also referenced roots in my work and the vast networks that trees, for example, form with one another underground. More recently, I’ve been learning about moss, which is a very ancient plant species that is incredibly adaptable and can serve as a protective environment for a host of other creatures like insects.

I’m always interested in the many ways we can realize how interconnected we are within our environment – how we can respond to and find meaning through those experiences.

Detail of Study of Thorns (unfurling) | acrylic, graphite, ink, watercolor and velvet flocking on paper mounted on velvet 36″ x 30 x 1.75″ 2020

SF: It’s great you’re able to make connections between your own work, TSA, and the organizations you’ve been involved with. Does collaboration impact your art practice?

In a way as artists we’re all working somewhat collaboratively by sharing our work, through our awareness of the trajectory of art history, and being influenced by those experiences. For the most part, my practice has been a fairly solo one while my curatorial work has been more collaborative. I have co-curated several exhibitions and find that a really generative way to be working in collaboration.

It wasn’t until more recently that collaborative elements began to enter into my own practice. A very old and dear friend of mine, Meredith Haggerty, started a project called Collage Stop. The first iteration was a workshop she organized at the Art Therapy Institute of North Carolina where she invited myself and another artist from the San Francisco bay area, Erin McCluskey Wheeler, to participate by contributing scraps to the event. The community from the area was invited to make work with our scraps and contribute to a fundraiser for a new program that they had been working on to support immigrants and refugees.

That was the first time I was part of something like Collage Stop, where I was giving parts of my work away for others to use. The funny thing is with scraps, the more you use them the more you have. Since the event, Meredith kept some for herself and mailed others to Erin and I. We have all been using them in our works since. Erin will often post images of her work and point out where scraps of other artists are within it. It’s fascinating to see a little piece of my work in hers. Likewise for my collages, there are little scrap pieces of Meredith’s painted gold, and Erin’s variety of different types of colorful marks. During all the isolation we’ve been experiencing throughout the pandemic, having their scraps to use made me feel a closeness to other artists working.

The experience also broadened my vocabulary which is something I’m trying to do within my work – to bring together these varied and rich surfaces, marks, and colors. Once I started working with their scraps I thought “wow, I would have never done this.” Working with gold seemed like too much, but collaborating with Meredith got me engaged in the ways she finds meaning within it. The same thing happened with Erin. There are certain colors she gravitates toward that I would not normally use because my color palette tends to be a certain way. This project broadened the way I was working and the choices that I was making. There are definitely some collaborative elements to that way of working even though I feel strongly that Erin’s work is hers whether she uses my scraps or not, and the same with Meredith.

Study of Thorns (regenerating) | acrylic, graphite, ink, and watercolor on paper mounted on velvet 30″ x 30″ x 1.5″, 2020

SF: Like a behind the scenes collaboration. It’s not the first thing you know about the work, but there’s another layer. You’re not necessarily saying “this is brought to you in part by a collaboration with Holly, Meredith, and Erin.” It’s more like, this is the work, which includes collaborative aspects that makes it rich and dynamic.

HC: Yes, that makes it all possible: shared resources. It’s similar to how Spudnik not only has equipment, but knowledgeable staff and printers that you can learn from when you are occupying that space together. I think art benefits from that kind of cross pollination. One of my favorite things is working alongside other artists and participating in that way of observing the activity around you that also allows each person to work independently – where we can come together and veer apart.

SF: Speaking of shared resources and collaboration, how did your Spudnik residency create new methods of production that helped you make discoveries, and do you still utilize them today?

During graduate school, I was very active in print, especially lithography. After graduation the idea of working in a cooperative print shop didn’t occur to me, and I didn’t have the equipment to continue making prints on my own in the way that I once was. Subconsciously it didn’t seem like an option to explore, so it took seeing the inspiring work that was coming out of Spudnik to get me back to print. Kelly Kaczynski made an incredible set of woodcut prints at Spudnik with Stan Shellabarger where she developed a technique with many pieces where they could be assembled and reassembled over time to build up the stages that appear in much of her work. Seeing Kelly’s work led me to apply for the residency at Spudnik. At that time, I had been deep into the development of a body of work on paper that references illuminated frameworks created with painting, resist, and graphite. Through the residency, I wanted to tease out the dense layers within that work.

Because I was just getting back into print, I thought it would be interesting to explore several types of processes. I used aquatint, sugar lift, engraving, and other techniques too. I worked with the idea that each plate was a field of activity and tried to rethink my process of layering. I was also interested in chance elements, so I was placing objects between the paper and plate too – different pieces of fabric, cut paper, egg shells, and threads. In the beginning, the layers retained dense space that was closely related to my prior works and I felt stuck. That’s when one of the other resident artists suggested printing off the plate. I tried that and it opened up and allowed this light to come in. All these layers were relating, but then I could build on that to create a matrix. I used monotype on some of them so there were continuations/repetitions of forms. It was satisfying for me because they were all unique prints but then they also formed one work as a whole when I arranged them together and continued working on them.

Shuffle | intaglio with monoprint, grid of 16 12″ x 12″ prints, 2018

SF: Having the other resident give that suggestion also ties into this shared space. Especially with anything creative, you can get lodged into one way of thinking and it takes someone with fresh eyes to give another perspective.

HC: It’s so true. I will be forever grateful for those suggestions. I think as artists we often want the idea to only come from us, but sometimes a little push from someone with fresh eyes is just what you need and kind of the reason you’re there to begin with.

SF: Your CV shows an upward trajectory. Were your achievements planned or did they naturally grow into further opportunities?

I think opportunities build on opportunities. The biggest shift for me was being able to leave the full-time paralegal work that I was doing and to focus more on my own practice. At the same time, around 2016, I was approached about becoming a member of Tiger Strikes Asteroid and it wasn’t even on my radar to eventually take on a directorship. Anna Kunz and Michelle Wasson were the first two co-directors who started the chapter here and got the program running. Being a member of TSA was an important shift in focus for me. I’ve benefited a lot from not only having more time for my practice, but also by curating and working behind the scenes as a member of TSA.

In terms of curating, my first project with TSA was a big one because I discovered curating can be a productive way for me to explore my interests with other artists while also creating a space where I felt I was supporting them in ways and growing in new capacities. This has thankfully led to curatorial opportunities in other spaces.

In terms of my art practice, I had been working in the studio in a very solitary manner for quite some time as well as participating in a few residencies outside Chicago. I wanted to have those same types of opportunities I had at residencies far from home, but in my own city. Spudnik was a big step to getting me more entrenched in Chicago, then more recently I was a resident in Hatch at the Chicago Artists Coalition. Not every opportunity is strategically targeted for a particular outcome, but I think as artists we need to be proactive and seek things out. These experiences have been important to my development, especially being out of school for so long. It’s like another form of education to go back and participate in these types of programs.

SF: That’s really key: lifelong learning. It’s so vital.

HC: Yeah, exactly. And to push yourself and reach out to people.

SF: Do you see any similarities between Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Spudnik?

I like to think of Spudnik as a role model for how it treats people who come into the space. It’s always welcoming and open, and that’s what TSA members hope for our visitors’ experience. We’re both non-profit, cooperative models. Our members pay dues and volunteer, which supports the space and is similar to Spudnik. The way we provide exhibitions for artists is similar. Spudnik is helping to support artists through programming, career development, exhibitions, and facilities access. Our facility is the exhibition space and we are trying to be supportive of the artists that exhibit with us. We also make time to review proposals or have studio visits with our members. These are ways we can be supportive of the members that are similar to how Spudnik operates – this interview for example!

Untitled | watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper 22.5″ x 30″, 2014

SF: I love seeing crossovers like that and how it’s mutually beneficial!  Focusing back on your personal practice, you utilize themes of shared environments and the natural world. How do these elements inform your work?

HC: I go for walks in the same places most days. I enjoy seeing how the landscape changes and what’s growing, what’s dying, how the light affects everything – whether it’s sunup or sundown, or midday. All those subtle and not so subtle shifts and trying to be present in the landscape is a huge inspiration for me. My walking time is somewhat exercise, but more like time to think, open my senses up, and observe what’s around me. I would say too that traveling has been really great over the years. Something that struck me when I was an undergrad – I went to Italy for a semester – was just how different the quality of green was there and how the colors would change so much. Later when I traveled to Japan and spent time in Kyoto, I thought about the possibilities within the space of the garden – many very small in scale while immense in the space they created utilizing distant views along the turns in the path. Though, I think my work currently is more grounded in my everyday experiences with the same places and seeing new things that come up that influences me the most.

Holly in her studio

SF: Is painting and print a springboard to trying other disciplines?

HC: My painting background is informed by my interest in a lot of other disciplines. I’m working to incorporate a number of different techniques like needle felting, hooking, various types of fabrics, and objects that can be manipulated are still like painting. Somehow the more I stick with painting, the more I am devoted to it, but I want it to incorporate all these other interests too. That’s part of the challenge which is fun and interesting. There are  always new things to discover. My love of working on paper and process is also connected to that interest in print as well.

SF: Your recent shows were fantastic – is there anything upcoming that you would like to share?

Thank you so much, Samantha! One thing I want to share is an exhibition I co-curated with Teresa Silva that is installed on the fifth floor at Mana Contemporary called It feels like the first time. The exhibition includes forty-six of our artist members across the country and is on view through September 30th with some programming to come. Teresa and I are excited to share the exhibition more in the coming months. Aside from that, I’ve been invited to make a piece for Western Pole, which is an artist-run space run by Jesse Malmed. I’m excited to be part of that program, which is just one of the many innovative projects he’s developed over the years.

Avian Oracle I, II, and II | ink, watercolor, and acrylic on canvas, velvet, hand needled felt and thread 120″ x 41.5″ each, 2019

The Hunger Will Wake Us: Hope Wang & Farnaz Khosh-Sirat

Featured Artists:

Farnaz Khosh-Sirat and Hope Wang


5/21/2021 – 7/2/2021


Spudnik Press Cooperative


The Hunger Will Wake Us | Artist Talk & Virtual Reception
Sunday, June 6
1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Zoom Meeting ID: 9199 0613 028

The Hunger Will Wake Us | Artist-Led Gallery Hours
Sunday, June 13
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Press Release:

This exhibition brings together new print work from Hope Wang and Farnaz Khosh-Sirat, who each explore the translational process of materializing digital animations and poetry text into print. Together they reflect on events of displacement through the metaphor of simultaneously losing and finding new meaning and new form via the act of translation.

Hope Wang uses printmaking, handweaving, painting, and photography to reimagine spatial association and visual perception. Wang references the architectural landscape as a malleable document of visual language where building facades become eroded, redacted, and defaced. Farnaz Khosh-Sirat is an Iranian light artist whose work employs digital tools to enhance human experiences of the sublime. Through the use of Persian architectural structures and patterns, Khosh-Sirat personifies human fragility in the contrasting positions between man and nature.

By reconfiguring fragments of hyper-specific architectural details, their works become “false” copies and traces of their constructed memories. These palimpsests’ postures of longing aren’t just decorative, but also serve as coded languages of their own.

Artist Bios:

Farnaz Khosh-Sirat

As an Iranian who has resided in various parts of the world, I am curious about the nuances of sacred spaces in the shifting cultures around me. My work engages the audience in my exploration of spiritual truths, human behavior, healing, and human relationships to the sublime.

I utilize Persian architectural structures and patterns that evoke paradise, and through the use of natural materials such as soil, grass, sugar and natural dyes, I personify human fragility in the c​ ontrasting positions between man and nature. ​As questions about technology emerge from the use of digital tools to enhance the human experience in feeling a closer presence with the sublime, I also transform these subjects into animations and video projection-mapped installations.

As my practice progresses, I have begun to question the idea of paradise, and am invested in manipulating light within space to create pause and meditative room to celebrate an honest struggle with truth.

Hope Wang

My interest in reimagining spatial association and visual perception scales into observations of trompe l’oeil and its projected desires, codes of spatial authority, and more broadly, how people form complicated relationships with the structures of their daily lives. Contending with sloppy traces of human activity around sites of industrial labour, my work references building facades that have been eroded, redacted, or defaced. I use hand-weaving, screen-printing, painting, and photography to reproduce these architectural “scars” and patterns from common construction materials. By personifying our structural environment as something malleable and flesh-like, I examine contemporary conditions of alienation through mimicry and shifts in material reality.

Through the destabilization of surface and its assumed material conditions, my work questions familiarity as sincerity or as artifice. Engaging provisional aspects of architecture that embody and evade meaning, I am both the skeptic and the nostalgic body: one longing for intimacy and perhaps only finding it in the liminal spaces that belong to nothing in particular.

Image Credit:
(Left) Farnaz Khosh-Sirat, Leyl (detail), screenprint on steel, 2021
(Right) Hope Wang, the night croaked with the ache of cicadas (detail), paper collage, 2021

Portfolio Review Sessions with Claudine Isé

Sunday, April 25, 2021
12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Spudnik Press, 1821 W Hubbard, Suite 302

$20 for Spudnik Press Members
Register Online

As part of our mission to unite our community of artists with art professionals throughout Chicago, we offer portfolio reviews throughout the year. Each artist that signs up for a portfolio review will receive a 30-minute, private review with a curator, educator, gallery director, or arts administrator.

This is a unique opportunity for artists to receive feedback on a current body of work or upcoming project, as well as suggestions on how to prepare for other professional opportunities. Participating artists should bring a portfolio of current work to share with the guest reviewer.

Guest Reviewer: Claudine Isé

Prior to launching the Chicago gallery Goldfinch which she owns and directs, Claudine Isé worked as a writer, curator, and educator in the field of contemporary visual art for two decades. Isé began her curatorial career as an assistant curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, then moved to Columbus, OH to become the associate curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts. In Chicago, Isé has written extensively on contemporary art and culture for publications such as, Chicago magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Bad at Sports, and New City. She was also the Editor of the Art21 Blog.

She currently teaches in the Graduate Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and previously taught in the School of Art and Art History’s Museum and Exhibition Studies Program (MUSE) at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She is the former Director of the Freeark Gallery + Sculpture Garden at the Riverside Arts Center and has a PH.D. in Film, Literature, and Culture from the University of Southern California.

Registration Details:

Space is limited to five artists. Advanced registration is required. The non-refundable registration fee can be paid online. Please register by Monday, April 19 and please contact staff if you would like to request a specific time slot. We will notify artists of what time slot they have been assigned by Tuesday April 20.

COVID-19 Precautions:

Please review our COVID-19 studio procedures before arriving. Members will meet in the Annex. Staff will sanitize surfaces between sessions. Virtual sessions on Zoom are an option for people unable to visit the studio in person. Please note that screen-sharing a website or digital images will offer better image quality than sharing works using Zoom video.

If you are not a member and wish to participate in this member opportunity, please join or renew your membership.

Skill Share Night #2

Thursday, February 25, 2021
6:00 p.m. via Zoom
Free for Spudnik Press Members


Every other month, members are invited to share a skill, process, or technique with their fellow members. Designed as a way to instigate organic “peer to peer” support among members, Skill Share events provide a platform for members to connect with each others creative practice. Demonstration are casual and conversational.

Presentations will take place in the first hour. Members are welcome to continue the conversation at the end of the official program.

Registration Details:

Please RSVP by emailing A link to a zoom meeting with be emailed the week of the event. If you are not a member and wish to participate in this member opportunity, please join or renew your membership.

Spudnik Press Announces 2021 Resident Artists

Spudnik Press Cooperative is excited to announce the three Resident Artists in 2021 who will bring new research, programming, and experience to our community: Alexandra Antoine, Mara Baker, and Aaron Hughes. The Residency gives mid-career and established artists full access to our studios for the completion of new print-based artwork, along with a stipend and support from our staff of professional printmakers. Each Resident also engages our community in unique public programming that is connected to their practice, and open to all. In 2021, we are investing in our immediate community of artists and welcoming all Chicago-based artists. In addition to these three newly-awarded Residents, we will be rescheduling residencies that were postponed due to Covid-19.

Alexandra Antoine plans to investigate diasporic foodways as collages of connection and remembrance. Focusing on okra, hibiscus, black eye peas, yuca and collard greens, Antoine’s project aims to create conversation around food traditions, cultural affirmations and self-healing.

Mara Baker‘s work is an extended meditation on the intersection of impermanence and regeneration. This residency will allow the artist to use the leftover residues from her installation practice as the base material for a new series of monotypes that echo the fragility of our material systems.

Aaron Hughes will be utilizing our screen printing and letterpress facilities to create prints for Autonomous Democracy, a project that explores, archives, and celebrates the history of temporary experiments in direct democracy within liberation movements.

Resident Artist Bios:

Aaron Hughes, March/April 2021

Aaron Hughes is an artist, curator, organizer, teacher, anti-war activist, and Iraq War veteran living in Chicago. He works collaboratively in diverse spaces and media to create meaning out of personal and collective trauma, deconstruct and transform systems of oppression, and seek liberation. Working through an interdisciplinary practice rooted in drawing and printmaking, he develops projects that deconstruct militarism and related institutions of dehumanization. These projects often utilize popular research strategies, experiment with forms of direct democracy, and operate in solidarity with the people most impacted by structural violence.

Mara Baker, May/June 2021

Mara Baker is an interdisciplinary artist who combines traditional fiber processes, found materials, animation, light, and video to create multi-dimensional installations, paintings and prints.  Her work is an extended meditation on the intersection of impermanence and regeneration. She reuses materials over and over, further connecting the work to the ethics of recycling and regeneration. Each project builds on the last, often deconstructing and reconstructing elements of previous installations and paintings responding to the architecture and context of each site or surface.

Alexandra Antoine, July 2021

Alexandra Antoine’s process begins with memory, photography and storytelling. She reflects on her time spent in Léogâne, Haiti, the birthplace of her parents, during her childhood and her time there as an adult. She focuses on the conversations she had with the elders in her immediate family where knowledge of lineage, wisdom and laughter were all shared with her. Traditional practices have lead her back to a familial practice she first learned through her maternal grandfather: Farming. Alexandra questions how the farm can serve as an art studio, and the greater relationship between food and art, and what that means for Black communities.

Learn more about the Spudnik Press Artist Residency

Image Credit (left to right): Details of “Cityscapes and Roasted Cauliflower” by Alexandra Antoine, “Chameleon Blind” by Mara Baker, poster by Aaron Hughes.

Shelter In The Speculative: New Works by Spudnik Press Members

Featured Artists:

Teresita Carson Valdez, Sam Hensley, Miller & Shellabarger, Yasaman Moussavi, Kianni Pleasant-Bey, Joshi Radin, Don Widmer


Ruby T


11/9/2020 – 1/9/2021


Spudnik Press Cooperative (Annex)


Shelter in the Speculative | Virtual Reception & Artists Talk
Monday, November 30
7:00 – 8:30 p.m. 
Zoom Meeting ID: 966 4803 1564

Shelter in the Speculative | Gallery Hours
Most Mondays 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Most Thursdays 2:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Most Fridays 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. with Don Widmer
Most Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. with Sam Hensley

Press Release:

For the 2020 Member Exhibition, Juror Ruby T has selected artworks that have a powerful physical presence: works that feel like a form of shelter, or are an extension or impression of the artist’s own body. During the pandemic, and mass movements for revolution, this exhibition asks: What kinds of physical and relational structures will we need, or need to build, in order to survive? How will the warmth and softness of our bodies guide us? 

In Audre Lorde’s 1978 essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic As Power,” she defines the erotic as “…a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.” She goes on to write: In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”

Kianni Pleasant-Bey includes excerpts from Lorde’s essay in Fever Dream, a soft altar space rooted in protecting and nurturing Black femmes/womxn and all that they embody. Sometimes prayerful, sometimes geometric, sometimes grim, all of the works in this exhibition show reverence for the power of the erotic and the sensual to help us navigate pleasure, illness, rest, memorial, and violence. 

Like a body, an artwork experiences and projects a physical life as it moves through the world. Experiencing art in this time of pandemic, we can more closely approach an artist’s work than we can the artist. With their rich textures and tactile materials, the works in this exhibition are further activated by proximity. 

Yasaman Moussavi’s Revelation paper pulp sculpture references the traditional central courtyard of Persian domestic architecture as a site of spatial and social interactions, along with family correspondence as a means of emotional and social exchange between family members in and far away from home.

Teresita Carson Valdez’s work draws inspiration from translation as world building, the histories of cloth, the palimpsest, the creation of new traditions and archeological imagery as markers of temporality. Her screen-printed and dyed cloth sculpture, A novena for the plague, feels like a sacred object for private prayer, made public via the extreme circumstances of the pandemic, undergirded by the movement of bodies through global trade and displacement. 

Even when viewed remotely, these works still insist on an awareness of our own spatial relationship to the artists’ bodies and internal worlds, via the stand-in, or symbolic object of the work. Miller & Shellabarger‘s Untitled pressure prints show layers upon layers of hands, giving the impression of being reached toward, or beckoned. The process for creating these images relies on physical pressure or force to create this bodily imprint, underscoring the labor and rhythm of human relationships— a theme at the heart of this collaboration between the married artists. Their gestures shift between moments of togetherness and separation, private and public, protection and pain, and visibility and invisibility. 

Don Widmer’s Darkness and Light, an artist flag book, presents quotes by Etty Hillesum, a Dutch mystic and writer, who documented her life during the German occupation of Amsterdam and her experiences at Westerbork concentration camp. The harsh, stacked geometry of the black book evokes a prison cell block, rooting our current crises of incarceration and fascism in the historical. 

Joshi Radin’s CardboardRecord006_1, made from found packing materials and used clothing in infant proportions, feels like an ultrasound from outer space after the aliens got their hands on our cardboard waste. The print records the marking of an absent body, as both a unit and a package, on a horizontal plane. 

Sam Hensley’s Little Like Yourself presents an animatronic sculpture of a mythical creature resting atop a miniature bed, its breathing slow and belabored. This piece evokes reclaimed experiences of chronic illness and disability, in which rest may be proudly claimed and celebrated. Beds become more than of convalescence, but also soft zones of  pleasure and even performance—bed as stage, stage as shelter, shelter as communion between bodies near and far.   

This exhibition’s optimism comes from its insistence on human touch, physical care and pleasure, and the act of sheltering each other, as if to say: “Even during apocalypse, even when we must rebuild everything, we will still have our bodies and each other’s bodies.”

Image Credit, clockwise from top left:

  • Yasaman Moussavi, Revelation 2, 2019, handmade paper and screenprint (detail)
  • Kianni Pleasant-Bey, Fever Dream, 2019, mixed media (detail)
  • Joshi Radin, Cardboard Record 006, 2020, monotype (detail)
  • Teresita Carson Valdez, A Novena for the Plague, 2019, screenprint, silk, dye discharge (detail)
  • Sam Hensley, Little Like Yourself, 2019, animatronic sculpture and zine (detail)
  • Miller & Shellebarger, Untitled 2, 2019, pressure print
  • Don Widmer, Darkness and Light: Words of Etty Hillesum, 2020, artist book (detail)

Portfolio Review Sessions with Regina Martinez

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
3:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Spudnik Press, 1821 W Hubbard, Suite 302

$20 for Spudnik Press Members
Register Online

As part of our mission to unite our community of artists with art professionals throughout Chicago, we offer portfolio reviews throughout the year. Each artist that signs up for a portfolio review will receive a 30-minute, private review with a curator, educator, gallery director, or arts administrator.

This is a unique opportunity for artists to receive feedback on a current body of work or upcoming project, as well as suggestions on how to prepare for other professional opportunities. Participating artists should bring a portfolio of current work to share with the guest reviewer.

Guest Reviewer: Regina Martinez

Regina Martinez is passionate about artists’ support and collaborative tension. She is influenced broadly from degrees in photojournalism and social and economic development. For five years, she was Artistic Director of a neighborhood art space called the Pink House in St. Louis (MO). She is a collector of children’s artwork. She is co-creator of the clothesline (St. Louis)a monthly audio/visual installation alive for one night only. Most recently she managed programs with Threewalls in Chicago. She is currently working towards an MA of Sound Arts and Industry at Northwestern University.

Registration Details:

Space is limited to five artists. Advanced registration is required. The non-refundable registration fee can be paid online. Please register by Monday, November 30. Staff will notify artists of what time slot they have been assigned by Tuesday December 1. Please contact staff if you would like to request a specific time slot.

COVID-19 Precautions:

Please review our COVID-19 studio procedures before arriving. Members will meet in the Annex. Staff will sanitize surfaces between sessions. Virtual sessions on Zoom are an option for people unable to visit the studio in person. Please note that screen-sharing a website or digital images will offer better image quality than sharing works using Zoom video.

Place Your Bids: Our Annual Auction Is Live!

Browse Our Auction and place your bids by October 18th at 8:30 p.m. CST.

Collectors can bid on artwork across many mediums including prints published by Spudnik Press and a selection of exclusive cyanotypes, as well as handmade goods, homewares, and experiences. For artist-donated items, up to 25% of each final bid will directly support the artist.

As a vital support structure for printmakers, Spudnik has always been one of the most flexible and accessible in the country, with many doorways into our studios and many new projects using us as their foundation. This auction aims to raise $22,000 to support our ongoing work.

New Editions By: Antonia ControErin HaydenSteve Reinke, and Selina Trepp

Artwork By: Julia ArredondoLeslie Baum, Théo Bignon, Ben BlountLiz Born, Elizabeth Burke-Dain, Holly CahillZachary CahillZoë CharltonC.C. Ann ChenHyegyeong ChoiRyan Travis Christian, Stephen Eichhorn, Stevie Cisneros HanleySue CoeClaire DainCeleste DeLunaMatt DemersEdie FakeBill FickMarc BenjaTony FitzpatrickSanya GlisicAdriane HermanCody HudsonCarol JacksonJaclyn JackunskiVesna JovanovickgWon KimJaime KnightChad KouriDave KrzeminskiAbe LampertBobbi MeierBenjamin MerrittDutes MillerJessie MottJohn NeffErin Jane NelsonBetsy OdomJason PicklemanB. QuinnBrad RholoffTemporary ServicesMiller & ShellabargerStan ShellabargerVeronica SiehlHugh SpectorOrkideh TorabiLisa Vinebaun, and Toshi Yoshida


Image above: Adriane Herman, Wreckage Salad (Low High Chair); 2017