Minority within a minority: Artists’ work grabs you into their worlds

Chicagoans tour the Center on Halsted to admire sculpture's work.

By Miyah Keller
Medill Reports

Two artists, two different styles, two master visions. Beyond the rainbow flag, two artists burrow underneath the surface to spark light on what curators call “inspiration.”

“These drawings are my escape and my comfort,” said artist Angelica Campbell. “This work is made out of my necessity to be creative.”

The LGBTQ art gallery’s latest exhibits launched recently at the Center on Halsted in Boystown. The center is among the Midwest’s biggest public promoters of programs that propel the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) movement. Opening night offered the official gallery debut of works by Angelica Campbell and Alan Emerson Hicks.

Now, every odd piece of artwork is a remark on society, yet each unique piece tells a different story regardless of how natural or abstract. Art reaches far beyond a stylish aesthetic. It’s an entrance into the artist’s life and their one of a kind experiences.

Societal struggles helped Campbell channel her true artistic passions into works that exude pure happiness in her life. She became homeless at 19 when her parents asked her to move out because they did not agree with her lifestyle. Campbell found the courage to survive and started to deliver Uber Eats on a Divvy Bike to make money. This opportunity brought her the income to afford a small apartment, but while making daily deliveries, she lost weight from continuously riding her bike.

After delivering all day, she would listen to music and draw her favorite singers, rappers and stars. The work emerges from her necessity to be creative. Her ideal media is clay to make ceramics and sculptures, she said. But at this moment in her life, the creative strokes of colored pencils are affordable and don’t take up much space.

“One day, I will get back to the clay, but until then,” she said. “I’ll keep on drawing.”

Artist Angelica Campbell’s true artistic passions flow through her favorite rappers or singers in a piece called “ASTROWORLD.”(Miyah Keller/Medill)

“My work is influenced by found materials,” said sculpture Alan Emerson Hicks, “the natural world, and time.”

There’s also Alan Hicks, a performance artist and sculpture. Hicks is an art illusionist who was asked by a musician in a “free Jazz” ensemble to create a sculpture in rhythm to the music of his band. As the musician played, Hicks would begin a piece of sculpture and complete it in the time of the stage performance. From that moment, he started to work with pieces that were more immediate because he wanted people to have this notion of creating art while listening to music.

“I called myself an art illusionist when I performed,” said Hicks. “I feel like the work that I do on stage is like a magic trick.”

Hicks works primarily with found materials such a hanger’s steel and rod armatures with colors added for textural tones. The ideas of maintainability and repurposing impact how Alan uses materials. The natural world has inspired his work continuously.

Alan Emerson Hicks newly sculpted piece, “Miss America,” 2020 is one of the first works on view in the exhibit the “Year of Perfect Vision.” (Miyah Keller/Medill)

Hicks moved from the North Side of Chicago back to his home neighborhood of Bronzeville, the South Side, to relive memories through his art. Living back in his community, living his truth “feels like I was having a love affair with Bronzeville,” he said.

The sculptures he produced are profoundly inspired to mimic the music experience. Artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Louise Nevelson, and Richard Tuttle are enormous influences for Hicks’ work. His newly sculpted piece, “Miss America,” 2020 is one of the first works of the “Year of Perfect Vision,” he said.

As you gaze at the piece made of natural found materials like old CDs, bottle tops, buttons, and stickers, you see the frame of art to make one beautiful image. When you visualize a woman, you particularly wouldn’t think she’ll be constructed by elements of urban life. The concepts of sustainability and repurposing influences create an artistic mind to design phenomenal work.

His studio is located in an artists’ building in Bronzeville with Gallery Guichard on the main floor. In June, July, August, and September, the Bronzeville galleries host a trolley art tour with spaces open to the public.

The exhibits close on March 7 at Center on Halsted location 3656 N Halsted Chicago, IL.

“Your niche is going to find you,” said Alan. “Do what you do, and the people that love your work will gravitate to you.”

Photo at top: Chicagoans tour the Center on Halsted’s new LGBTQ art gallery.