Past and present merge at Lane’s first ‘intergenerational’ art show
October 23, 2017
At her time at Lane, ’98 alum Norma Rios never took any art classes and instead focused her studies on a science-based curriculum.
Seventeen years later, after attending an all-women speaker TEDx event in the Pilsen neighborhood, she was inspired to pursue art. She now showcases her work in art shows and teaches mosaic stained glass art classes.
“Art is my life, my job and my livelihood,” Rios said. “It’s become everything to me; where at one point it was just a little hobby, now it’s everything that I do.”
On Sept. 14, the Lane Tech Alumni Association hosted its opening reception for the first student-alumni art exhibit in Gallery 2501. The art show, “Tribe,” is expected to run until Oct. 24.
The art varied from sculptures, mixed-media, photography, paintings and costume design — all created by students and alumni ranging from the classes of 1961 to 2022.
Michelle Weiner, president of the Alumni Association, said they wanted to do something “aspirational and intergenerational” that wasn’t a sporting event.
“There’s more to life than sports, and [art] gives you another sense of enjoyment,” said Marion Synowiec, a board member of the Alumni Association. “It doesn’t have to be a home run or somebody running for a touchdown.”
Many artists displayed in the gallery have different experiences of how art has impacted their lives and some have also chose to help others create their own art.
The gallery featured artwork from Morgan Lyons, Div. 858, who had the opportunity go to The Florence Academy of Art in Italy during the summer. There was also art by ’13 alum Garrett Leo Augustyn, who teaches art therapy classes with veterans, and ’64 alum John Kabot, who has offered art scholarships to art majors at Lane for the past three years through the Alumni Association, Weiner said.
Rios’ work on display at the art show was a stained glass mosaic of the Willis Tower titled “Forever Sears.”
Rios said the piece was one of three she created of her favorite Chicago views.
During the TEDx talk that made her decide to take up art, Rios said she learned how people can hold themselves down with their own fears and excuses.
“If you fully embrace what you want to do, and you project that out to people, then they’ll accept it,” Rios said. “They’ll want to help you in your mission because they see your passion.”
As students, alumni and other visitors browsed the artwork, 1940’s show tunes filled the gallery. The music was emitting from a Crosley record player playing a vinyl stacked with buttons of different shapes and colors, a piece created by Rose Olejniczak, Div. 876.
“It symbolizes my childhood,” Olejniczak said. “As a child, I would always collect buttons and nowadays I collect records so I combined them. [It’s] like putting two old timey things together into a modern piece.”
For ’69 alum Paul Natkin, music was a major part of his career in photography.
Natkin spent several years photographing for The Rolling Stones along with 4,500 other musicians, celebrities and bands over the span of around 40 years, he said.
Some photographing experiences that stood out to him was touring with The Rolling Stones and having his photo of Bruce Springsteen on the cover of Newsweek, Natkin said.
Natkin’s photographs were displayed in The Rolling Stones exhibit, “Exhibitionism”, at Navy Pier, which ran from April to July of this year. He said the three photographs of The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards displayed in Gallery 2501 were the same ones displayed in the exhibit.
Natkin also said he hadn’t come back to Lane since he graduated in 1969.
During his time at Lane, he said he was caught in the middle between the academic students and those who focused on skilled labor.
“I was a really bad student,” Natkin said. “I just hid in the corner and didn’t talk to anybody for four years.”
With no idea what he wanted to do with his life after graduation, Natkin said he took his first photo sitting courtside at a Chicago Bulls game in 1971 with the help of his father, who was a Bulls photographer.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Natkin said. “[My dad] had to show me which way to point the camera. He put the film in because I couldn’t figure out how to do that.”
Initially, Natkin became interested in photography for one reason.
“I always wanted to go to concerts, so I figured that’s the way to get in free,” he said. “And it worked.”
But Natkin said photography ended up being his life’s work, and throughout the years he maintained friendships with people he photographed such as Keith Richards and members of the Black Crowes and O.A.R.
“People like me because I don’t treat them like rockstars,” Natkin said. “I treat them like people because that’s what they are.”
A week before the opening reception, ’13 alum Cooper Fox said he met Natkin while they were putting up their artwork and that it was cool to see their photos next to each other.
Fox’s photography in the art show was of his friend Drew Williams, which he took in front of McDonald’s while still attending Lane, and of Clay Frankel performing with his band Twin Peaks during a “Parade to the Polls” concert sponsored by Chance the Rapper in 2016. Both Williams and Frankel were also Lane alums.
“I feel like it all comes full circle,” Fox said. “I never anticipated I would be doing something like this. I haven’t been back here in a while so it brings back nostalgic memories.”
Tucked in the corner of the gallery next to the photography were costumes created by students, including three designed by Brighid Martensen, Div. 853.
Martensen said she started creating costumes when she was in seventh grade and she fell in love with it. Her costumes ranged from one month to a year and a half to make.
The costume that took a year and a half to make was a hand embroidered red dress which Martensen said she constructed the piping that went in-between the seams and hand molded the jewels that were put at the bottom.
“I would die for that dress,” Martensen said. “I really would.”
She said the hardest part of creating a costume was getting started, but once she got the ball rolling she didn’t want to stop.
Martensen wants to create costumes in the future as a job, and the art show gave her hope to follow that dream, she said.
“It’s cool to think that everyone else in this showcase has come before me and has been in my shoes and they’re still making art,” Martensen said. “It makes me hopeful that I’m not gonna be a deadbeat artist.”
While many of the artists have been creating art for years and have achieved many accomplishments, professional artists like Natkin can’t help but be astonished by his work when he goes to print his photos.
“I look at ‘em and say, ‘Man, I can’t believe I took those pictures’ because of who they’re of and the fact that I went from being some unknown person to someone who hangs out with the Rolling Stones,” Natkin said.