Hyde Park artists to debut at EXPO Chicago next month | Arts and entertainment – cialisdfr
Hyde Park artists to debut at EXPO Chicago next month |  Arts and entertainment
Hyde Park artists to debut at EXPO Chicago next month |  Arts and entertainment

Shawna Pryor is going to Mars — and to the Chicago EXPO.

A mixed-media artist and Hyde Parker, Pryor has been assembling a potpourri of vacuum-sealed home goods, beauty products and other essentials for an expedition to the red planet for years. This work, culminating in her series “Mars Afro Migration Care Package,” will be exhibited next month EXPO CHICAGO, the city’s largest showcase for modern and contemporary art.

“I’m very excited,” Pryor told the Herald.

Originally from the Detroit suburbs, Pryor moved to Chicago in 2010 to attend the School of the Art Institute’s MA in Drawing and Painting, where he now teaches classes as part of the Youth and Early College Program.

She began the “Afro Migration” series shortly after NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February 2021. That landing, Pryor noted, coincided with renewed public interest in the work of writer and Afrofuturist Octavia Butler, perhaps best known for her 1993 novel The Parable of the Sower. NASA even named the rover’s landing site the Octavia E. Butler Landing.

But the rover’s landing also coincided with a renewed interest among millionaires and billionaires in colonizing Mars—which gave Pryor an idea.

“It made me think… What would that look like if I migrated to Mars as a woman, as a black woman, as a black woman of a certain age?” she mused.

The result was her series of Care Packs, where she collects and vacuums items that would bring her joy, comfort and a sense of safety during an expedition among the stars.

Shawna Pryor art

“LetMeKnowIfYouNeedAnythingElseIKnowYoullFindYourWay.png” (2023) by Shawna Pryor.

The contents of the packages are varied. In one, a hair pick is mixed with paint brushes, a walkie talkie, and a pack of “Bee Signature” playing cards. In another package, subtitled “LetMeKnowIfYouNeedAnythingElseIKnowYoullFindYourWay.png,” the faceplate of a real astronaut Pryor helmet found on eBay stares blankly behind shrink wrap, its long breathing tube winding around a notebook and compass.

The airtight packaging is a nod to the way astronauts’ food is prepared for long-duration spaceflight, fitting into a major thread in Pryor’s work: Food as a vehicle for memory and culture. In a 2016 residency at The Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., she created works exploring the socio-political attributes of food and its overlap with contemporary hip-hop culture.

In her ongoing series The Tablecloth Archives, which launched in 2018 and will soon be on display at EXPO, Pryor stretches reclaimed tablecloths collected from thrift stores, friends and family over silver frames shaped like microchips. Juxtaposing the old and the new, Pryor transforms the humble tablecloth into a high-tech carrier of collective memory, where history, data and cautionary tales are passed down from one generation to the next. Placemats recall the physical space of the dinner table, where they collect the evidence of past meals through stains and wear, as well as the secrets whispered over shared plates, the words passed around like slices of post-meal pie. The pieces in this ongoing series are titled with real and imagined excerpts from these conversations: “…better, stronger, faster. These are the rules for…” or “…I left it open for anyone to see what. ..”

Pryor’s Tablecloth series also borrows from the central themes of Afrofuturism, a black cultural movement that combines elements of the science fiction and fantasy genres with experiences that shape the African diaspora.

“I love this notion of Afrofuturism, which is about the collapse of the past, present and future,” Pryor said. “It puts you in these different time spaces in a way that you’re present and you matter and you’re a contributing force.”

This year will be Pryor’s first exhibit at EXPO.


Her She They (2022) by bARBER.

Also debuting at EXPO bARBER, mixed media artist and fellow Hyde Parker, whose abstract figurative portraits challenge assumptions of identity and belonging.

Much of BARBER’s work at EXPO will feature his unique take on the classic stick figure, where he transforms them into cruciform symbols with torsos and arms protruding from blocky bodies and round heads. Although their race, gender and abilities are removed, each figure is imbued with its own distinct individuality, swimming in fields of colored paint and exposed material that lead the viewer’s eye across the canvas.

BARBER began his artistic career as a figurative realist painter, but was disillusioned with the social limitations of depicting the body without abstraction.

“The body has a lot of weight, doesn’t it? A lot of social connotations,” bARBER said. “I really liked the figure, I tried really hard, but people were ascribing different personalities or different narratives to the work that I didn’t intend them to ascribe to it.”

“I felt like, man, my subject matter, my figures are going through the same (things) that I’m going through as a person,” he continued. “I didn’t want that, I wanted someone to be free.”

While teaching pre-K in Atlanta, BARBER found a way to free his subjects from the same societal expectations he faced. One day, a two-year-old student presented him with a drawing of five figurines.

“My student came up to me and said, ‘BARBER, this is a family portrait,'” he recalled. “He said, ‘this is my mother, my father and so on’.”

Three days later, bARBER asked his student to identify the figures again.

“It was the same people,” he said. “So I found out that this kid was personifying chopsticks at two and a half years old, and I just finished my BA at Atlanta College of Art and I’m struggling with it.”

BARBER realized that, like his student, he could use colors, textures and proportions to capture the essence of people without narrowly representing the body itself.


“Ppl #9” by bARBER.

In his piece “Ppl #9,” a figure is collaged from various found objects: a paintbrush for hands, a piece of gold foil for the chest, all sitting on a crumpled 7up box. The theme of each painting is left up to the interpretation of the audience and thus becomes a conversation between the viewer and the artist. Is the gold foil masculine or feminine? Is the muted background a sign of the figure’s personality or class?

“Ppl #9” is one of dozens of portraits created by BARBER in his ongoing “Ppl” series, many of which feature objects owned by their subjects or otherwise inspired by their habits, cultures or personalities.

bARBER was inspired to incorporate this type of memorabilia into his figures by the traditions of the Gullah people, an African American ethnic group in the Lowcountry region of the United States, primarily coastal Georgia, North and South Carolina, and parts of Florida. The Gullah have a tradition of marking graves by using objects of personal significance to the deceased instead of headstones.

“If Big Joe died and Big Joe had a favorite mug or hat, they would take Big Joe’s mug and put it in a pile to distinguish his dirt hump from the other dirt hump,” BARBER said. “If Big Momma had a favorite quilt, well, guess what, that quilt went there.”

BARBER saw a parallel between these burial practices and so-called “town monuments” in black communities. Unorganized by general aesthetic principles, these memorials remember lives lost to state and community violence by collecting the personal belongings of the deceased. For BARBER, a part of one’s essence lives on in the things one has loved and left behind.

Like Pryor, bARBER was a Detroit native who moved to Chicago in 2020 to immerse himself in the city’s art scene. Prior to that, he spent several years traveling the world and earned a master’s degree in performance studies from the University of Iowa.

Fragments of this journey around the world will make their way into his exhibition at the EXPO.

“I started doing global travel in 2016 and the idea was everywhere I went I would buy materials or collect materials. I would have things in my work from Vietnam, related to things from Omaha, related to things from Japan and Haiti,” he said. “I think this is my way of saying that we are all one people. All of these things can come together from these different places and it’s still a work of art.

EXPO Chicago will be held at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., April 11-14. Meanwhile, Pryor and barber have a joint show, “Happy,” on display through April 25 at the Chicago Artists Coalition, 2130 W. Fulton St. This show serves as the finale of the duo’s HATCH residencies, CAC’s program for emerging Chicago artists.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *