Chicago Bike Art Show Wheels to a Close

Steven Smock. "XTR." Giclee print. $260 (Shanley Chien/Medill)

By Shanley Chien

Chicago Bike Winter Art Show wrapped up this year’s expo with a house party to complement the medley of offbeat art at Genesis Art Supply’s gallery in Bucktown.

The final event on Friday continued to showcase approximately 150 pieces of bike-inspired art and transformed the mezzanine level into a lounge with a donations-based bar and a DJ for live entertainment. All proceeds went to the South Chicago Velodrome Association.

Members of the Rat Patrol Bike Club, a pro-bike and anti-consumerism organization, showcased some of their unique bikes made from recycled parts and scrap metal, including their show-stealing “Can Crusher.” The inventive mechanical apparatus delighted attendees with its interconnected bike pieces that crushes cans as the person riding the art pedals.

Rat Patrol Bike Club. “The Can Crusher.” Recycled bike scraps. (Shanley Chien/Medill)

Chris Castellan, a 10-year member of the Rat Patrol and the artist behind “Go Die in a Bed Wreck,” has been attending the art show for four years. This is his first year contributing artwork, though. After he found the vintage 1950s bed frame dumped in an alley, he spent 10 hours of work over two days putting the piece of art together.

“I’ve seen photos of other people who’ve done them, so I wanted to see if I could,” Castellan said.

Chris Castellan. “Go Die in a Bed Wreck.” Used bed frame (Shanley Chien/Medill)

Although many of the larger pieces were quite avant-garde, attendees couldn’t walk past the entrance without stopping to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of Andrew Bedno’s helmet art that inspired bike safety.

Bedno, artist and head of the Chicago Critical Mass, spent 40 hours of labor on each helmet and said his inspiration for the art was to promote bike safety for his then-girlfriend.

“My girlfriend said she wouldn’t wear a helmet while biking unless it was incredibly beautiful, so I created these,” the artist said.

With the event over, Bedno plans to donate his art to a new bike shop opening soon in Evanston.

Event newcomer Ruth Sierra said she appreciates that the art show brings together the biking community because it is an essential part of her daily commute to the nonprofit organization she works for in the South Side. Sierra has always enjoyed biking and rides 50 miles a day in the summer, but doesn’t consider herself as “extreme” as the other cyclists in the community who bike regardless of weather conditions.

“It’s cool to see people are on the other side of the [biking] spectrum. They’re on the other side of extreme,” Sierra said. “If you’re a biker all year round, that’s your lifestyle, so you can see that these kids eat and sleep and dream bikes.”

That’s the case for Sierra’s friend Marco Rayos, who won’t let Chicago’s snowfall stop him from riding his bike, except for when it’s “snowpacolypse.”

“I need to get to where I’m going,” Rayos said. “It’s winter. It doesn’t stop me, but it does slow me down.”

Although the closing event was an overall success in attracting a large crowd and bringing the biking community together, the event was not without its hiccups. Stuart Hall, co-curator of the art show, said the “family-oriented” strip tease that was originally scheduled for the closing ceremony had to be cancelled due to last-minute scheduling conflicts. Instead, the event featured a special cabaret-esque appearance by Underwear Mass, a nonprofit group that promotes gender equality. The group’s coordinators Krystal Gordon, Barbra Mann and Joel Wiersema skated through the art gallery in their scantily clad orange outfits to encourage attendees to join their bike and skate event at Chicago Critical Mass’ July ride.

“It’s underwear fashion and all about being positive about your body,” Mann said. “All body types and sexual expressions are accepted.”

The 18th annual Chicago Bike Art Show may be over now, but biking aficionados can look forward to more upcoming events, including Critical Mass bike rides every last Friday of each month and the World Naked Bike Ride on June 13.

Photo at top: Steven Smock. “XTR.” Giclee print. $260 (Shanley Chien/Medill)