When I was a kid the hot summers in Chicago were something to be reckoned with very little air condidtioning outside of theaters and drug stores and bars. Indeed the time spent in the theater on weekends was often the coolest time of the week. I can remember reading MAD Magazine in the drug store all cool as a cucumber. Or picking up my mom's Hollywood Confidential magazine at the same drug store. I ran a lot of errands getting cigarettes for my dad (Camels 25 cents a pack). Neighborhoods were like small towns in those days the butcher shop the bakery etc all within short walking distance. I was always interested in insects I collected various insects in jars and built small cages out of drawers and cast off materials. Some summers seemed endless 90 degrees every day and the Lake Michigan cold as ice even after a long street car ride it was often too cold in the water and too hot on the sand. Existential city your name is Chicago.
We'd go to the landlady's summer cottage on week ends my dad would do work around the place and my sister and I would go swimming or just hang out with the hick kids in the subdivision.I hated being away from the city the country always seemed dead as a graveyard to me everything so far apart and people seemed slower like they weren't very engaged in thought or daydreaming. Time was different in summer without school without the cold weather, time seemed to stretch out like an eternity in front of me. I played a lot of baseball but my real past time was more philosophical. You have to wonder how it is that you are in this world at all and where you are and what you might do.
I was in high school when I got a chance to go to the Art Institute every Thursday for talks and looking around the collection there. I went with my friend from the art department Lenny who was way gay but bright and gifted art-wise. We always had a good time always looking at Lautrec and at the joys of 19th century French art which was so much the core of the Art Institute's collections. I think it was then when I thought art might be my destiny. Much as I loved baseball it was not to be whereas art seemed to beckon me like I always knew I would find my way to something i could do well. Of course it takes a while to develop a vision to find the means to execute one's vision etc. but I was so happy to see the world of art at the museum it was as if it was my real home. Indeed attending the Art Institute school was as much living in the museum's collections for the next 4 years. History had always fascinated me and studying art history was an excellent way to learn world history through the lense of art .
Those long afternoons looking at art had been a god sent it fixed me on a path I still follow today. Attending the School of The Art Institute of Chicago was a good thing though the school was dissapointing over all. A few fine teachers stood out like Sonia Sheridan my professor of serigraphy who really helped me enormously and Ray Yoshita my independant study sponsor who was a blessing (of benign neglect). Ray bought a piece from me too which was a very good encouragement. But like most art schools the real action was elsewhere. One thing I liked though was the wild diversity of the student body at the art school in Chicago. The school seemed like everything every form people could take was represented. This made me feel as if I was in the right place finally, even if the teachers were dreadful the students were pretty delightful.
jpg detail of- In The Time Being 1971 84 X 108" Collection of Walker Art Center Gift of Frances Gumm