Open Mic Friday: featuring visual artists from Chicago’s Old Town Art Fair

Last weekend, on a visit to Chicago for a friend’s wedding, I was lucky enough to attend the 62nd annual Old Town Art Fair with Ré of Sparks in Shadow. It’s a juried show running the gamut from kinetic sculpture to oil painting to jewelry, and the artists came from far and wide. We spun prize wheels for free pens and sticky notes, and a barbershop and hair salon offered free trims and $10 mini stylings, respectively. The weather was perfect (sunny with a light breeze) and the air smelled of Polish sausage and sauerkraut.

My favorite artists from the show:

Andy Chen, Indianapolis-based fine art photographer and gallery director of StutzArtSpace, a nonprofit visual art center. I loved Chen’s moody city shots and his awesome bio.


"Window," Andy Chen,


Zeny Cieslikowski, a Baltimore-born, self-taught fine arts photographer who now lives in Northern California (I should look out for him at local shows!). Cieslikowski’s photos are all on film, not digital, and he has been working long enough to have scored the domain name His evocative photos tell such stories — they’d make wonderful writing prompts.

Chocolate Cup

"Chocolate Cup," Zeny Cieslikowski,


Marty Hulsebos, a landscape photographer whose vast vistas are filled with spare grandeur. Only the BW images were displayed at his Old Town booth. I loved the lines and swirls of his canyons and rock formations, and the play of light in his shots of forests and prairies.


Image 18140, Marty Hulsebos,


Clifton Henri, a Chicago-born and -based photographer whose work provides a powerful interpretation of American life. On one wall of his booth there were these two photos, hung in just this arrangement, telling a story:


"In My Lifetime," Clifton Henri,


"What Happened To the Dream," Clifton Henri,


Lisa Kristine, a San Francisco-based photographer whose incredible images span the world and many species of life. She has created several books and documentaries about her work, with proceeds going to humanitarian causes. Several of her photos caught my eye at the show, but this is the one that almost made me cry. The man is the leader of a Thai monastery that rescues tigers, and this tiger was rescued as a cub.


"Tiger's Guardian, Thailand," Lisa Kristine,


Jay Long, an Austin, TX-based fine artist whose dreamy, surreal images and humorous creatures immediately grabbed me when I walked by his booth. I love the way his mixed-media paintings incorporate text. The old-fashioned feel of his lines, as well as the colors, make his work feel like antique illustrations from some fantastical (and slightly creepy) alternate world.


Detail from "The Last Tree," Jay Long,


Edwin Mighell, a native artist from Alaska, who makes printed tiles from Cook Inlet glacier clay. His prints have the most beautiful gentle lines and the colors evoke a cold northern landscape. I’m fascinated with the way he depicts people and animals with their ribcage and insides showing; his blog says this is common in coastal Alaskan art. The tile below shows a shaman in his animal spirit form, a halibut.

Halibut Man

"Halibut Man," Ed Mighell,


Nha Vuu, another Austin, TX-based artist, whose paintings are an interesting new take on traditional Chinese styles. I love how her ink drawings of people and houses are almost cartoony, and they have so much movement in them, when I saw one out of the corner of my eye, I thought it was a hanging mobile.


"Action Study #400," Nha Vuu,

Do you have any favorite artists or art fairs to share?