2016 Fall in Review

What follows is a selected collection of images taken from The Green Lantern Press’ fall 2016 public program at Sector 2337 and (in the case of the Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater) Links Hall.


Gardener of Stars, an Opera by Carla Harryman and Jon Raskin w/ Tania Chen and Cris Cheek; still from performance directed by Julia Klein, Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Links Hall, 2016.


2016 Festival of Poets Theater

Kevin Killian, A Box of Rain, still from performance, Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Links Hall, 2016.



“Dust,” Robert Ashley.  Still from a reading directed by Alex Waterman, Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Links Hall, 2016.


“My mother is writing a book that will let us crawl back into the womb / send her all your cash now / there are no apologies in it / it isn’t dedicated to anyone‬” Jen(n)ifer Tamayo. Still from performance, Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Sector 2337.


Kevin B Lee

“It was as if the screen was to a building what a smart phone was to a person” Kevin B Lee, Still from performance, ” To Speak of Future Delights,” Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Sector 2337, 2016. Image courtesy of artist.


for_twovocalists by Nathanael Jones w/ Beth McDonald and Neal Markowski

“for_twovocalists” by Nathanael Jones w/ Beth McDonald and Neal Markowski; still from performance, Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Sector 2337, 2016.


"If we place ourselves in the middle we are lost" Cosmological Plants by Michael Pisaro, directed by Devin King.

“If we place ourselves in the middle we are lost” Cosmological Plants by Michael Pisaro. Still from performance directed by Devin King, Second Annual Festival of Poets Theater, Sector 2337, 2016.



New Age Now, Second Annual Green Lantern Press Fundraiser, Sector 2337, 2016.


mrezlivinSichuan fungus salad with black & cloud ear fungus & goji berries, my offering for tonight's #newagenow fundraiser for Green Lantern Press. 6-12, come through!!!

Sichuan fungus salad with black & cloud ear fungus & goji berries, Eric May’s contribution for the Transcendental Menu of New Age Now, Sector 2337, 2016.


"The 4-Hour Ouroboros Concept Stack" Brandon Alvendia's contribution the Transcendental Menu of New Age Now. Tonight from 7-10pm

“The 4-Hour Ouroboros Concept Stack” Brandon Alvendia’s vitamin contribution the Transcendental Menu of New Age Now, Sector 2337, 2016.


"Imagining a post-apocolyptic future is one of the things King Lear is all about" Craig Dionne presents his book, "Posthuman Lear" (Punctum)

“Imagining a post-apocolyptic future is one of the things King Lear is all about” Craig Dionne presents his book, “Posthuman Lear” (Punctum)


Jake Vogds, Pseudocidal Camper, still from performance, 2016.

Jake Vogds, “Pseudocidal Camper,” 2016. Still from performance, Sector 2337.


Jake Vogds, "Pseudocidal Camper," 2016. Still from performance.

Jake Vogds, “Pseudocidal Camper,” 2016. Still from performance, Sector 2337.


“I have failed to become a girl / a drill / a tablet / The marketplace winks knowingly,” Jay Besemer, Chelate, (Brooklyn Arts Press). Sector 2337, 2016.



“We are part of the flourishing of disability culture as a political scene in Britain” Petra Kuppers https://soundcloud.com/humanities-pitt/petra-kuppers-interview

"A birth in the wrong era is the risk you run when you are reincarnated" Galo Ghigliotto translated by Daniel Borzutzky @coimpress #Valdivia – at Sector 2337

“A birth in the wrong era is the risk you run when you are reincarnated” Galo Ghigliotto translated by Daniel Borzutzky, Valdivia, (coimpress), 2016.



“My homeland isn’t anthologies” Victor Rodriguez Nuñez translated by Katherine M Hedeen, (coimpress), 2016.


"That sort of quiet is toxic and in my state I have no tolerance for poison." Erik Anderson reads from "Estranger" (Rescue Press). Sector 2337, 2016.

“That sort of quiet is toxic and in my state I have no tolerance for poison.” Erik Anderson reads from “Estranger” (Rescue Press). Sector 2337, 2016.


"Most pornography, like literature, is a rebuttal to 'no one wants to see that'" @TarpaulinSky's Eliz.Hall #IHaveDevotedMyLifetoMyClitoris

“Most pornography, like literature, is a rebuttal to ‘no one wants to see that.’ ” Elizabeth Hall reads from “I Have Devoted My Life to My Clitoris,” (Tarpaulin Sky Press). Sector 2337, 2016.


"On the O of a euphemism / I would abandon you" Carla Harrryman – at Sector 2337

“On the O of a euphemism / I would abandon you” Carla Harrryman, Sector 2337, 2016.


"Who will defend the you when they are arrested for revolutionary gestures?" Misha Pam Dick, Sector 2337, 2016.

“Who will defend the you when they are arrested for revolutionary gestures?” Misha Pam Dick, Sector 2337, 2016.


"On Translation: A Discussion with Writer-Translators," Panel discussion presented as part of MAKE Magazine's Lit & Luz festival, Sector 2337, 2016.

“Metaphors for translation become proxies for thinking politically” with John Pluecker, Stalina Villarreal, Rebekah Smith, and Alexis Almeida; Daniel Borzutzky moderating. “On Translation: A Discussion with Writer-Translators,” Panel discussion presented as part of MAKE Magazine’s Lit & Luz festival, Sector 2337, 2016.


"Focus on the smallest story ever told" Wendy Spacek #psychogynecology

“Focus on the smallest story ever told” Wendy Spacek, Psychogynecology, (Monster House Press), 2016.


"You'd think my years in a boy band would have inured me from humiliation" Garett Caples reads poem "Garrett Caples Writes Again"

“You’d think my years in a boy band would have inured me from humiliation” Garett Caples reads poem “Garrett Caples Writes Again”



Stephen Lapthisophon, Lorelei Stewart, Matthew Girson, and Devin King: Panel Discussion, Sector 2337, 2016



“The stubborn, still living / force / That is the potato,” Stephen Lapthisophon, Sector 2337, 2016.


“A Rule by Nobody,” Installation image, Sector 2337, Chicago, 2016. Photo by Clare Britt.

“A Rule by Nobody,” curated by Third Object. Installation image, Sector 2337 (project space), Chicago, 2016. Photo by Clare Britt.



I Have Wanted to be Every Girl Ever: Book Release for Olivia Cronk’s Louise and Louise and Louise



I Have Wanted to be Every Girl Ever: Book Release for Olivia Cronk’s Louise and Louise and Louise



“I have no way of using someone else’s time to measure my own” Kenyatta Rogers.



“Never to have known that what I understood I no longer understand” Michael O’Leary invites the room to read from his new book, The Reception (Cultural Society), Sector 2337, 2016.


 John Judd performs for Styles of Radical Will (Italian Sculpture), a solo exhibition by Stephen Lapthisophon, Sector 2337, 2016.

John Judd performs for Styles of Radical Will (Italian Sculpture), a solo exhibition by Stephen Lapthisophon, Sector 2337, 2016.


“September’s here, midway there, it could end in tears,” Alberto Aguilar performs for “Wasted Hours – an evening of performance” curated by Every house has a door, Sector 2337, 2016.


Industrial floor mats / institutional garbage. Micahl Samama dances with weight #wastedhours

Michal Samama, “Another Heav(enl)y Day,” Wasted Hours-an evening of performance, Sector 2337, 2016.

Michal Samana begins Another Heav(enl)y Day, "Wasted Hours-evening of performance," curated by Every house has a door, Sector 2337, 2016.

Michal Samama, “Another Heav(enl)y Day,” Wasted Hours-evening of performance, Sector 2337, 2016.


A Brave New World of Options: Color and Form with Claire Ashley

In the last week of November, Sector 2337 is posting interviews and articles with artists who are contributing to our Dec 2nd fundraiser, New Age Now. Claire Ashley is known for her inflatable paintings—large-scale, brightly colored works that effectively consume and spill out of the spaces they are installed in. For New Age Now, Ashley donated a 2D work on paper, Facet (no. 9) (2016), inspiring a conversation about color in shapes and social landscapes. Claire Ashley received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL), and her BFA from Gray’s School of Art (Aberdeen, Scotland). Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, Ashley is now Chicago based. Currently, she teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Contemporary Practices, and the Department of Painting and Drawing. She is represented by Galleri Urbane Marfa + Dallas, TX.

Caroline Picard: Ive heard you say color is a noncerebral experiencewhat do you mean by that?

Claire Ashley: I think of color as linked to the visceral physicality of the body rather than only something you experience visually—it’s an interconnected system. I love Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink about facial expressions and their inability to lie and the idea that internal truth is hidden within a micro-expression—well, I also think that color has a similar underlying message to it. I think it’s an animal instinct that grows out of our ancient, pre-historic genetic coding for survival. Bright colors create a deeply ingrained alert in the body, whether that alert is about assessing danger or pleasure, we know we have to pause and pay attention. So, I use that aggressive pay-attention-to-me physicality and color as both warning system and system of persuasion in my work quite deliberately.

CP: Do you think its possible to separate shape from color?

CA: Hmmmm good question. Well, in my work I really enjoy the fact that color and shape get conflated, that the painted marks camouflage the form, often in ways that make each more intriguing. Color complicates the shape by altering our perceptual understanding of it: foreground/background, image/edge, symbolism/abstraction, illusion/physicality, convex/concave surface, all get called into question as your body assesses the scale and fecundity of the form and your eyes are pushed and pulled across and into it.

CP: Do you think society has changed with the advancement of dyes and color reproductions that make vibrant color more common in daily life? (Im partly thinking of friends who grew up in Communist countries and describe that color appearing more often was a dramatic shift after their country embraced capitalism)

CA: Yes, I am from Scotland so I inherently understand the visual and psychological greying effects of rain. When I moved to the States a whole world of fabulously crass, kitsch, plastic color opened up to me. Yinka Shonibare describes the opposite experience upon his arrival in Britain from Nigeria in 1980. He writes of being in color shock having moved from the vibrant eclectic color in Lagos to the grey restrained color of London (“Colour: Imperialism, Race and Taste”, Documents of Contemporary Art: Color). In addition to my own introduction to American color in the 90s, I think technological advancements have complicated our color environments and expectations. The ubiquitous and constantly illuminated screen is a supremely successful, if sinister, system of persuasion that has exponentially increased our experience of color. The super sexy and seamless gradient, acrid neons, glitter, glow in the dark paints, CMYK intensity, and body re-active materials create a brave new world of options.

CP: What is the difference (for you) between an inflated surface and a flat, planed surface? What about an inflatedor curvilinear surfaceand a splintered/diamond surface?

CA: Well I have an extraordinarily hard time with flatness, so the paper pieces I make are folded or crumpled in multiple ways so that they are more vocally present within themselves before I paint. They act in a more complex, multifaceted, substantial way much like human beings. I am interested in using the physicality and imperfections of each surface to create the painting. I want the paint to literally embody the form rather than allude to it, and the inflatables and the paper pieces whether they are planar, splintered, faceted, or crumpled come from a similar desire to think of the paint as a skin or camouflage, and the substrate as a body.




The Technology of Lyric Poetry: An Interview with Matthew Reed Corey

What follows is an interview with Matthew Reed Corey, a Chicago poet whose work has been published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Crazyhorse, the Massachusetts Review, DIAGRAM, Artifice Magazine, MAKE, Pinwheel, and elsewhere. Corey recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he won the AWP Intro to Journals Project Prize and the Paul Carroll Award in Creative Writing.

Corey will be a featured reader at New Age Now on Friday, December 2, 2016.

Jose-Luis Moctezuma: Your current project, Cream Rinse, “investigates the architectures, grammars, and possibilities of sleep.” This is a wonderfully counter-intuitive approach to that frequent and yet oft-overlooked state in which one is, presumably, least active. How did you arrive at this fascination with sleep, and what lyrical methods or techniques do you use to capture and utilize sleep as a force in your writing?

Matthew Reed Corey: I swear to you that every written history is a history of consciousness, I promise you that poetry gives access to what might be otherwise unobtainable, and I assure you that lyric poetry is a technology that desires to divulge the interiority of its speaking subjects. When I look through a lyric representation of consciousness, I interpret the apparatuses that give shape to lyric, and I’m aware that lyric manifests through the paradoxes native to those structures. At the moment of my submersion into its representative space, I acknowledge that lyric will never apprehend its subject, making it seem that I’m there for something else, whether it’s to chase the fleeting speaker, or to chew on the left-behind textures of its diction. If unconsciousness and its sigil, sleep, can be investigated, I would leave it neither to the accountants of truth nor to the empiricists but to lyric poets, whose nation is the unification of opposites. This is what A. E. Waite and other occultists mean by “the open entrance to the closed palace of the king.”

JLM: Is there such a thing as a “politics of sleep”? I’m intrigued by your insistence that (in your own words) sleep can engender “states of exception to the real texts that make sovereign power.” What do you mean by “real texts” versus “imaginary texts”? And how do concepts of “biopower” and “sovereignty” come into play?

MRC: There is nothing but a politics of sleep: where I write sleep, I also manifest what I cannot access or possess as a poor, queer, and disabled person. By sleep, I do not mean dreaming what one cannot have, but rather understanding that one always-already possesses the keys to “the closed palace.” That’s the lapis philosophorum the alchemists keep secret, just as I keep secret the topography of my interior landscapes, and just as you should keep the philosopher’s stone within the secret of your imagined body.

JLM: In speaking of sleep, I’m reminded of surrealist praxis, particularly of the photo of French poet Robert Desnos waking from a “sleeping fit” in André Breton’s Nadja. There’s also René Magritte’s mixed-media work in La révolution surréaliste (no. 12), where we see photobooth portraits of sixteen male surrealists, their faces modeling some type of sleep trance, bordering a reproduction of a painting (La Femme cachée) by Magritte. There seems to be something hermetic and occult about sleep. Does the surrealist stance regarding the magical properties of sleep influence you; or are the surrealists tapping into a much older hermetic tradition?

MRC: At the close of The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism, Patrick Lepetit quotes Philip Lamantia, the youngest surrealist poet: “‘…the bridge between sleeping and waking [will] become transparent as a teardrop—with no other work but the genius of present life.'” The genius of Plotinus’ era is Hermes in concert with The One; Baudelaire’s era has its Hermes Trismegistus, and the genius of Jung’s era is the syncretic Hermes. If I find something there with me as I sleep, I find Hermes in his wingèd boots, I find Thoth with his ibis’ beak, I locate self-awareness, and I become myself hovering over my bed in wingèd boots and with a bird’s beak. The “present life” kneels before us. Here’s what Breton writes: “God, who no one describes, is a swine.” Isn’t that so?

JLM: Thinking of the peculiar evolution of the terms “hermetic” and “occult” from the Renaissance up to now (and certainly even farther back to certain lineages of Platonic philosophy), I wonder what you think of the current concept of the “New Age” — what does this phrase mean to you?

MRC: Astrologers claim that the New Age signals the division between the Piscean Age and the Aquarian Age, or between different eras of human thought regarding the divine, or between opposing ways of being-in-the-world. In terms of lyric, I think the New Age invites 21st-century poets to look back (way, way, way back) at earlier written representations of a plastic self, of the dynamic first-person one would observe, for instance, in the ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. The earliest poems describe the transmutation of a lyric subject. The New Age, the Aquarian Age, is so old that we’ve forgotten it; this is a lie.

JLM: What realms and practices of lyric thought are currently interesting you “beyond the wall of sleep” (so to speak)? Which is to say: are there any future projects, themes, or concepts that are exciting you right now?

MRC: There is nothing but a politics of sleep: I’m experimenting by writing under psychic duress, by composing what is impossible, by writing through divination, by writing inside states of foregone consciousness, by writing across grimoires new and old, by writing English-to-English translations of ancient Egyptian poem-spells, by tying together the ends of a string, by swimming across texts in the public domain, by writing my true name and my number. There is nothing else, here, but this.

Jose-Luis Moctezuma’s critical and poetic work has been published in Jacket2, Chicago Review, Big Bridge, FlashPoint, Comma, and elsewhere. Spring Tlaloc Seance (Projective Industries, 2016) is his most recent chapbook. He is an associate editor at MAKE Magazine. He is currently at work on a dissertation on avant-garde poetics, transmediality, and automatism at the University of Chicago.


Magritte the Writer: Kathleen Rooney on Hyperallergic

In the last week of November, Sector 2337 is posting interviews and articles with artists who are contributing to our Dec 2nd fundraiser, New Age Now. Chicago-based writer, Kathleen Rooney will contribute to the curated, artist-made menu of transcendental delights with her SAMADHI POD DATES. When describing her inspiration for the dish, she wrote, “This past quarter, the Writing the Body creative writing workshop that I teach at DePaul got to experience one-hour-long floats in sensory deprivation tanks thanks to a collaboration between one of my students and the owner of Float Sixty in River North. I chose the most restrictive option of all, the classic Samadhi tank. These dates—with their small but dense pod-like shapes—suggest that container for producing altered consciousness.” Rooney’s Samadhi Pod Dates will be served between 7-10pm on Dec 2nd, alongside additional New Age creations  by Brandon Alvendia, Jessica Campbell, Rebecca Mir Grady, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Alyssa Martinez, Eric May, Midnight Kitchen Projects, and Edra Soto.

The following excerpted interview with Rooney and Cassandra Balzer was originally published on Hyperallergic.

Magritte the Writer

Kathleen Rooney’s most recent project, René Magritte: Selected Writings, co-edited with Eric Plattner, is somewhat out of the ordinary for this Chicago-based writer. This book offers English speakers a chance to dive into the life of René Magritte, the lauded Belgian surrealist painter.

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and the author of several books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the forthcoming novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. However, Rooney’s most recent project, René Magritte: Selected Writings, co-edited with Eric Plattner, is somewhat out of the ordinary for this Chicago-based writer. This book offers English speakers a chance to dive into the life of René Magritte, the lauded Belgian surrealist painter. It includes more than a few personal letters and journals; the artist, unbeknownst to many of his fans, was a prolific writer, composing manifestos, prose poems, and even a few film scripts over the course of his lifetime. Rooney’s book provides an intimate glimpse into the artist’s mind while establishing his talent as a writer.

I spoke with Rooney via email about this project’s unexpected genesis, her relationship with Magritte, and the inquisitive, genre-bending nature of the artist’s writing.

Cassandra Balzer: Your bibliography is impressively expansive; you’ve experienced everything from novel-writing to a crazed jaunt into the world of literary remixes. What specifically was your role in the forthcoming project, and how does it compare to your previous work? What catalyzed your interest in assuming the role of editor rather than taking a more creative approach?

Kathleen Rooney: Thanks! I think that the key to my expansive bibliography in general and this project in particular is that one of my favorite emotions is curiosity — I’m super-curious about a lot of things, and I love a good mystery. The origins of this project go back about two years, to late July of 2014 when I sort of accidentally stumbled on this long-lost manuscript. To be honest, it’s still kind of nuts to me that I — who have no academic background in art history (though I did work for years as a figure model) — have ended up helping to bring this book into the world. That summer, my friend and DePaul University colleague Eric Plattner and I went to the Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 show of Magritte’s work hosted by the Art Institute [of Chicago]. I’ve loved Magritte’s work ever since I was a kid, and I thought the show — which only came to the AIC, MoMA, and the Menil Collection in Houston — was excellent. As Eric and I went through, I was struck by the outstanding quality of the wall texts accompanying the paintings. Partway through the exhibit, it occurred to me that the texts were so well-done because they were excerpts of Magritte’s own writing.

As they funneled us out through the gift shop, I planned to buy a copy of his book. To my dismay, it wasn’t there. Through a lot of online and international detective work, I discovered that an English translation of Magritte’s writings had been commissioned and scheduled for publication in 1987 through John Calder’s Riverrun Press, but the publisher folded and the project never saw the light of day. So weirdly, a fully translated (albeit rough and typewritten) manuscript of Magritte’s Selected Writings by the now-dead translator Jo Levy had been languishing in an archive in Caen, France for close to 30 years, unbeknownst to just about anyone. Owing to the help of the librarian there, Alma Books (which held the rights to Riverrun’s catalogue) in the UK, and University of Minnesota Press here in the States, not to mention my phenomenal co-editor Eric, that manuscript is now a book, available to Magritte fans in English for the first time.

As for a more creative approach, the two-ish years that I ended up spending working with Eric to prepare this manuscript for publication did inspire me to take a creative angle on the material as well. I got to know Magritte and his household so deeply as I was reading his writing and working on my introduction, and that inspired me to write a novel-in-flash-fictions / prose poems told partly from the perspective of his wife, Georgette, and partly from the perspective of their series of beloved Pomeranian dogs, all called Loulou. It’s called The Listening Room.

CB: Why Magritte? As previously mentioned, his writing has never been published in English. What can fans of the artist expect from this publication?

KR: Magritte because, like I said, I’m a big fan and he’s the Belgian surrealist whose work I serendipitously happened upon (thanks to Eric’s Art Institute membership). It was like finding a Picasso at a yard sale or something, like “Can no one else have gotten to this before now?”

Fans can expect a witty, opinionated, and mysterious look into the mind of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. I say in my intro that Magritte is essentially a writer’s painter, so it probably isn’t surprising that his written output is so delightful. There are manifestos, prose poems, flash fictions, detective stories, interviews, reviews, polemics and all kinds of hard-to-classify texts (even film scripts!) in here, and it’s the kind of book that is rewarding to read both straight through and in small leaps in and out.

CB: Aside from the artist in question, what about this project drew you in?

KR: Aside from not having a background in art history, I do know good writing when I see it, and I found it incredibly galling that this stuff was not more widely available in English. Magritte is a great painter — that is well understood. But the more I read the writing itself, the more I realized what a wonderful writer he is as well. Reading the book, of course, gives you a great deal of insight into his work and creative process, but even people who are not fans of Magritte will find a lot to admire here just in terms of literary quality. Both Alma and University of Minnesota initially discussed with us whether we thought illustrations or images were needed, and we concluded that they were not because this work is so capable of standing totally on its own.

CB: I think that’s an interesting and important decision. In choosing to not include his visual artwork, you’re almost forcing the reader to acknowledge his prowess as a writer.

KR: Exactly. Or if not to force, then at least to encourage them to seriously consider his prowess as a writer. It also gives the reader a choose-your-own-adventure option in terms of how they want to engage with the book. They could choose to read it as-is, totally sans images, and have a rewarding experience that way. Or they could open up their browser to Google “image search” and choose to look up images as needed every time a painting gets mentioned, or simply when they’re curious about a particular image. This latter approach can be especially fun with the pieces that do refer heavily to his visual output, like one of my favorites, “On Titles,” a long list piece, which begins:

1. General comments apropos of titles:

The titles of pictures are not explanations and pictures are not illustrations of titles. The relationship between title and picture is poetic, that is, it only catches some of the object’s characteristics of which we are usually unconscious, but which we sometimes intuit, when extraordinary events take place which logic has not yet managed to elucidate.

  • Alice au pays des merveilles

We imagine the tree to be living in wonderland. To this end, the landscape and the tree have human features.

  • L’Invention du feu

The amazing discovery of fire. Thanks to the friction of two bodies together, suggestive of the physical mechanism of pleasure.

  • L’École buissonnière

Here, the idea of playing truant is applied to objects.

Life is no longer represented on a stage set, the roving imagination sees life as a show.

  • La Leçon d’esthétique

In the forest a hunter meets an art show.

  • Raminagrobis

The cat still exists in the twentieth century. The legend bursts into modern life.


René Magritte: Selected Writings (2016) is published by University of Minnesota Press and is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.


What Comes Next: Edra Soto on Sixty Inches from Center

For the next few weeks, Sector is publishing interviews with artists who are contributing to The Green Lantern Press’ 2016 fundraiser, New Age Now. The following excerpted interview was originally published by Sixty Inches From Center.

What Comes Next: An Interview with Edra Soto

Janny Lam

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Edra Soto is a Chicago-based artist, educator, curator, and gallery director of an outdoor project space called The Franklin. I’d looked up to her for a while and from afar, and a couple months ago we both happened to be invited to speak on an artist panel (where I finally met her in person and gushed over her like the fangirl I am). The panel was called “What Matters,” and when the main topic was brought up, she discussed her dedication to local artist communities and helping them outside of a more conventional gallery system.

But who is Edra, as an artist, herself? In anticipation of Connect Hyde Park Arts Festival, where she’ll be showing some of her own artwork, I had the honor of interviewing her; read our conversation below to find out.

Jenny Lam: How did you first become interested in art?

Edra Soto: I inherited my taste in crafting from my parents, who were artistic. My mother made cakes for sale at home. Wedding cakes, quinceañera cakes, birthday cakes… all kinds, shapes and forms. She was a perfectionist, so they were crafted beautifully and also delicious. After 10 years of leaving her cake business, people still asked for them.

She and my dad also had a commercial ceramic business. They casted coconuts and turned them into planters. We had a ceramic kiln at home for many years. My mom was also excellent at sewing. From my school uniform to my prom dress, she made many outfits for me throughout the years. My dad made our kitchen cabinets and bar and took stained glass as a hobby later in his life.

My grandfather on my mother’s side was a self-taught poet and painter. He used to recite a poem for me every time I visited him with my mother.

I did a lot of illustrations for sports and theatre events during high school. I found great validation from my peers and teachers. During my senior year, I led a drawing club that won a distinction. They gave me a gift certificate and a trophy that I saved in a closet for couple of years. When I was in college, I took the trophy and disassembled it to use its parts on a sculpture.

JL: Could you describe your work and the process that goes into it?

ES: I consider myself a conceptual artist. My process consists on focusing on a subject and developing a reasoning that leads me to create. Sometimes I take the role of a director or producer, and sometimes I handcraft myself. My goal is to create work that has inclusive, welcoming, and immersive qualities. I find inspiration in my upbringing, my personal and geographical relationships, and my relationships with the communities I have been involved with.

ES: Living in Chicago allowed me to broaden my education and consider my upbringing as a subject matter. I lived in Puerto Rico for 25 years before moving to Chicago. This is a significant part of my life, and it was only when I left that I acquired enough perspective to understand the significance, value, and idiosyncrasies of my Puerto Rican culture.

JL: What/who inspires you?

ES: Things that I don’t understand completely; the potential of something; what I can encounter while walking; raw nature; intelligent comedians; learning; traveling; music; kindness.

JL: In addition to CONNECT, is there anything else we can look forward to from you?

ES: I donated one of my Tropicalamerican chairs to Sector 2337 for New Age Now, their 2nd Annual Fundraiser for the Green Lantern Press. I am so proud to support one of the most dynamic organizations in the city and look forward to presenting GRAFT there in February 2017.

Among the exiting venues that I get to present my work in 2017 and 2018 are: The Arts Club of Chicago; The University Galleries at Illinois State University; The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago; Museo de la Universidad de Puerto Rico; DePaul Museum; Project Row Houses; the Pérez Art Museum Miami; and a long awaited commission from the CTA.

See the entire interview here.