Forever Fever (works list)

Works are listed chronologically in order from the days they were made over the course of one month in residence at Peach Black in Rotterdam.

Forever Fever (Untilted 1), silver gelatin print in second-hand frame, 70 x 100 cm, 2021

There's something about spending a whole year in a soft lockdown that slowed down my time just enough to start thinking about when I first started making art, before I let myself call it art. I would call it "projects". Examples of "projects": a collaged book from magazines, drawings, and gum wrappers stitched together and bound into an old mint tin; a cast of anime-style character sheets drawn with coloured pencil; a series of black and white photographs of Chicago alleys; blind selfies with my bookshelf and a self-timer. These projects had no destination, but nevertheless created a lot of excess.

Clockwise from upper left: my high school bedroom at night, with a textbook on the table and my stereo sitting on a shelf that would later fall off the wall (2003); mattresses in the alley behind my parents' house (2002); a selfie in oversized sunglasses and a wool blazer that belonged to my mother (2004). All sitting in front of a friend playing a guitar on a beach in Michigan who I no longer am in contact with (2009).

Forever Fever (Untilted 2), silver gelatin print in second-hand frame, 70 x 100 cm, 2021

I think I shot the most profusely, without abandon, when I first started learning how to use a camera. I wasn't thinking about what was worthwhile to commit to film, so I let myself "waste" the material in the name of understanding the rule of thirds, depth of field, bracketing, low-light metering, my camera's self-timer. These assignments and processes of learning left behind images that have a feigned unintentionality, letting me double down on my own sentimentality for my sister, my childhood dog, my cliche imagistic poetry in the name of a learning process. Now, I think these images could be the strongest ones I made at the time. They are the least contrived, and were the closest to my life and heart.

From upper left: an assignment on depth of field: my sister stands in the behind a fence in the foreground with a children's beaded hairband tied to it (2005); my childhood dog named Maizie (2002); a selfie in my bedroom with a haircut and a thrifted shirt combination I thought made me look French (2006). All cover an image of my friend Ashley Trumbo in a car on our way to Michigan (2009).

Forever Fever (Untilted 3), silver gelatin print in second-hand frame, 70 x 100 cm, 2021

Forever is a sentimental idea, cliche and vulnerable and romantic and impossible. I fell in love very deeply when I was a teenager, and the people I fell in love with influenced my life in ways I still embody. Early on, I used a camera to capture these people and myself, and they create an endless archive. In this way, they do become forever: I have photographs of the nape of a neck I used to kiss, the patio where I spent all of my time, winter sun hitting my body in my favourite outfit. As I got older, sentimental photography exposed my vulnerability and I stopped carrying my camera around.

An out of focus flash photo of two friends on the beach giving me a middle finger to signify either their resistance to being photographed or their general indifference (2009) is covered by (clockwise from upper left): my friend Rose resting underneath a patio table (2004); the neck of my first boyfriend (2004); my own body in the sunlight (2003); a streetlight covered in ivy (2003).

Forever Fever (Untilted 4), silver gelatin print in second-hand frame, 70 x 100 cm, 2021

I can catalogue all the places I spent my time in while in high school, when my world was small. Bedroom, CTA stop, train, school, cafeteria, theatre hall, friends' houses, backyard. It isn't difficult for me to catalogue the places I have frequented this past year in soft quarantine: home, studio, the supermarket, a handful friends' and lovers' houses. The world does get bigger, but sometimes only in the way that it accumulates a catalogue of places as memories. In my day-to-day, I move the same amount as I did then, probably even less in this smaller city. But as a memory palace, places have accumulated. Clockwise from upper right: a janitor in the hall of Walter Payton College Preparatory High School (2006); my sister Eloise in our mom's wool blazer (2004); the Western Brown Line CTA stop (2003); a from-the-hip selfie (2004), all covering a photograph of friends on the beach taken when they weren't looking (2009).

Forever Fever (Untilted 5), silver gelatin print in second-hand frame, 70 x 100 cm, 2021

Recently, I took some Zoom life drawing sessions with an old high school friend named Alex Schmidt. My first art class was a drawing class at the Art Institute of Chicago's Early College Program, a series of expensive pre-college courses for high school students I had free access to because my father taught at the school. We had life drawing sessions, and were given charcoal and large sheets of brown paper to work with. I loved the charcoal, but was shit at the drawing – I obsessed over shadows, working them as dark as I could, practicing gradual transitions from lightness to dark. I spent no time or attention on form, perspective, realism. I remember the teacher visiting my station and telling me I was interested in light, not form. She was the first one who recommended I try working in a darkroom.

This is an image of Alex sleeping on a beach in Michigan (2009), covered with (clockwise from left): a wet self-portrait in the first apartment I lived in after moving out of my parent's house (2009); an ivy-covered lamp post in an alley (2003); my father reading a book (2005); a tie tied to a lamppost (2005).

Forever Fever (Untilted 6), silver gelatin print in second-hand frame, 70 x 100 cm, 2021

At first, I thought Forever Fever was going to be a combination of old and new photographs taken on trips with friends. Forever Fever is the feeling I get every time I travel with a group of friends: the intimacy of living and moving and witnessing together creates the mirage that this group is family now, that this is what the rest of my life will be. By now, I have had so many rest of my lives. I believed in every one of them, still believe them now in some ways. At some point, I shifted gears from the trip photos. I think it is because when I combined images of these trips and these different groups of people, the combination challenged the uniqueness of my connections to them. All of those groups ended, as all trips end, and seeing them all together made the work about the end of them, some kind of memory tomb. I'm writing about emotional trips as well as literal trips now: endless forever fevers. We catch a fever once, we gain temporary immunity, we catch it again, our bodies remember, they learn from controlled exposure (a vaccine), we remember the year of the fever, the cycle becomes seasonal, we catch a fever again.

This is a photograph of a friend taking pictures of the Louvre in Paris (2004), covered by (clockwise from upper left): a selfie on my bedroom floor (2004); a tabletop at a favourite Japanese restaurant (2003); an aisle of a thrift store (2002); an out-of-focus selfie in O'Hare airport with a friend Rose they day she left for a year to live in Paris (2003).