Its the fourth and final installment of Fear No ART's "This Holiday, Give Art!" blog. I am counting down the last days before 2012 by Facebooking one art suggestion a day and consolidating these suggestions into blogs of 11 each. This particular blog focuses on the gifts one might give to oneself.
This list is by no means exhaustive, so don't hesitate to buy the painting that you think your significant other will like that is hanging in your favorite artist's studio, café, or gallery down the block. And, of course, art doesn't begin and end with paintings, so I branch out here and offer a plethora of ideas, all with the general sentiment of "This Holiday, Give Art!"
1. A cab driver knows the heart and soul of a city. Reminiscent of Nelson Algren, cab driver and artist, Dmitry Samarov, tells of tales of the man on the street, the ordinary man living both an ordinary and an un-ordinary life, all from the inside of his taxi. Of equal delight and fascination are Samarov's drawings that accompany every story. This is the sort of book that mandates that you buy two copies. You have to keep one for yourself. Buy directly from the author/artist's Facebook page and save 30 percent!
2. I hate to drive. Yet, somehow, I long to be around the trucks in John Himmelfarb's paintings and prints. There is joy and energy in them. There is comedy and life. These are 1940s vehicles, pummeling along the road, often with heaps of junk. These classic shapes we can all recognize and relate to from our childhood toys, and the paintings carry with them an animated good feeling of what is fulfilled in a hard day's work. Truly a treat for yourself this holiday, even if you have to think lay-away.
3. I own several of Jay Strommen's ceramic pieces and each and every one, like all of his work, has a zen quality that makes me happy to be around it. Jay is a painter and photographer; but, he is best known for his ceramics and the peacefulness they carry. Dedicated to the discipline of creating harmonious vessels as well as sculptural work, Jay sometimes includes melted shards of glass in the bottom of his works, giving an even more reflective quality. Jay's pieces embody thoughtfulness. Give one of Jay's pieces and the recipient knows you love them.
4. Can't wait for baseball despite the fact that we already know the outcome of the Cubs upcoming season? Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year is an anthology chronicling the longest losing streak in sports history. Acclaimed authors such as Scott Simon, James Finn Garner, and Sara Paretsky take their places besides acclaimed fans like Ronnie Woo Woo Wickers, Lin Brehmer and Pat Brickhouse. The unique blend of voices, ranging from best-selling authors to long-time beer venders, explore the relationship these loyal fans have to their dubious team. Edited by Chicago Literary Hall of Fame creator, Don Evans.
5. Tired of your sad cubicle? Need more creativity in your life? Painter Danielle Klinenberg has developed and produced elaborate, exciting art-making programs like drop-in studios for Art Chicago and Lollapalooza and participatory installations for the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Notebaert Nature Museum. "A Muse" is her production company that has a Pop-up Shop and Art Studio, open through December 30, at LoveLeaf Press, 1211 N Wood, where everyone is invited to 'make art with a muse.' Buy gift cards in a one-on-one or small group art-making experience, create an art-making event of any scale, or simply drop-by to join in creative play or consult with 'a muse.'
6. Laughter is really the only medicine as far as I am concerned. This why I get to improv comedienne Susan Messing's show, Messing with a Friend at the Annoyance Theatre as much as I can. This veteran teacher and improviser is sought after around the country for her crafty comedy and take-no-prisoners improv play. See her live. Its twisted chicken soup for the twisted soul. Go and get twisted.
7. Dreams and alchemy penetrate artist/author Mary Osborne's book of mystic fiction in Nonna's Book of Mysteries. Set in Renaissance Florence, Osborne's young character Emilia turns to the science of alchemy to aid her in fulfilling her dream of becoming a painter, an unheard of option for a girl in the 1500s. Rich and magical, it is no wonder that Nonna's Book of Mysteries won the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year award and nominations for the Independent Book Publisher's Association Best New Fiction and the American Library Association's 2011 Amelia Bloomer award. This book is a delight and a treasure.
8. Michael O'Briant's strong technique shapes his paintings while the artist allows enough room to let feeling and interpretation breathe. Evoking emotion and well as a sense of the passing of time, O'Briant's paintings invite the viewer to relish in the space he creates. I have taken note of this dedicated and inspired painter. One of his paintings could be just the right gift to yourself in 2012.
9. Feel Like some fantasy? Then get your tix for one of the most exciting collaborations of 2012. Playwright Jessica Thebus and Redmoon artistic director, Frank Maugeri, team up for an other-worldly retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest with A Feast, an Intimate Tempest. You can expect puppets, animation, original music and brilliant writing in this sure-to-be hypnotic rendition at Chicago Shakes.
10. You might as well laugh your way into the new year with a cartoon from New Yorker cartoonist, Pat Byrnes. You can buy some of his classics (the snowman, Carl, kills me!) from the Cartoon Bank or one of his books to keep you smiling all through 2012.
11. Our new show launching January 30, The Dinner Party, is Chicago's newest and most creative arts show. The Dinner Party is a monthly live show at the Mayne Stage Theatre. Get your tix for this artist round-table discussion over wine and dinner, made by a different celebrity chef every month. Can't make The Diner Party the last Monday of every month? The Dinner Party streams live so you can watch on-line and tweet in! It's the hottest new thing for 2012 and you will want to be a part of it!
Follow Elysabeth Alfano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DinnerPartyChgo