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Three to See: Art on the Edge

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This week's Three to See throws down the gauntlet! It's a challenge to get you thinking outside the box, or at least moving outside your zip code. If you do, you may just discover a little about your city and your neighbors. Chicago Public Radio's Carrie Shepherd has these picks.

First, a trip to an emerging arts district where you might least expect it. Bridgeport. Yep, that Bridgeport.

MARSZEWSKI: Historically it's kind of a lily-white racist n'hood that was a bastion of hate toward any people of color, back in the ‘60s and 70s but surprisingly the n'hood has become like, I think, like the 3rd, 4th, or 5th most ethnically diverse n'hood in Chicago.

That's Ed Marszewski. He's the director of the Public Media Institute, the organization behind the 7th annual Select Media Festival. It kicks off tonight at the Co-Prosperity Sphere at 3219 South Morgan Street.

This year's theme is Infoporn. And while that seems like a strange mix…a little dull and a little dirty, it offers a new way to sift through the constant steam of information in our daily lives:

MARSZEWSKI: There's some things that you look at that kind of reach at you and kind of blow your mind at how the information's been displayed. The way people quantify, or qualitatively display really complex subjects or really complex data that make no sense if you look at them in regular forms or charts. Or scientists using high tech scanners who are looking at the mices brains and scan them and it creates a beautiful kind of impressionistic piece.

The festival explores universal themes: politics, money, power:

MARSZEWSKI: People want to see how power relationships work so a group, a kind of collective of artists from all over the world have this organization called University Tangent and this Bureau des Touts creates these power maps that allow you to look at these flow charts of how corporations and government officials, bankers, etc. are related to each other, who funds whom, or whose on the same board. They're really complex, kind of frightening maps that make you realize that you don't really want to know anything about this anyways.

Bridgeport is becoming more than a destination for White Sox fans. The neighborhood now boasts a fast evolving arts community.

For our next choice, we go from a neighborhood once known as “hardscrabble” to an artist who lived life on the outer edges. Finding Beauty: The Art of Lee Godie runs through January at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.

Cleo Wilson is the Executive Director at Intuit. She says that Godie is not only remembered as an artist, but a constant fixture in downtown Chicago:

WILSON: Many people knew her b/c she worked on Mich Ave. She actually started selling her work on the steps of the Art Institute. And it was during an impressionist show at the Art Institute. And she said: ‘Wanna buy a painting? I'm better than that', referring to the Cezannes that were on exhibit there. And she called herself Chicago's French impressionist.

And it wasn't only Godie's art that people were drawn to:

WILSON: I remember seeing her one time where she had put on a sweater but she had put her legs through the arms and then tied the waist of the sweater, she had a belt to hold it on. But she was quite a personality.

That personality comes through in the way Godie defined her own beauty. Wilson says the artist took pictures of herself in bus station photo booths. You know, those old black and white picture strips. She recreated her image: bright pink lips, striking blond hair and sensual poses revealing a protruding clavicle. She signs the photos: “Miss Godie, French Impressionist.”

Even though she wasn't part of the art establishment, some of her creations are rumored to be worth close to $15,000.

You can view Finding Beauty: The Art of Lee Godie Tuesdays through Saturday. Intuit is located at the intersection of Milwaukee/Ogden. Just ring the bell at the lime green door. The exhibition is free.

The final pick is the Polish Film Festival of America. It's been around for 2 decades. Festival director Christopher Kamyszew says it owes its success to the interest of many Chicagoans, not just the city's huge Polish-American population:

KAMYSZEW: The New York Times on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Cannes Intern'l Film Festival, ranked the film festival as one of the five most important events promoting European film in the states and the festival has many aspects, it brings together, not only Polish people, but people of various cultures, from all over the country and all over the world.

One of Kamyszew's top picks this year is pretty timely. The documentary My Father, the Lou follows a Polish woman's journey in search of her Kenyan roots, only to discover that she is descended from the same tribe as the most famous man in the world right now, President elect Barack Obama.

My Father, the Lou plays tonight at the Gallery Theater in East Village. Other films include two Oscar contenders, and a retrospective of Jewish subjects in Polish film.

This weekend you can also catch a couple of “secret” screenings, one of which is free. The Polish Film Festival of America runs until November 23.

So this week's theme began with a request to step “outside” but it actually hits much closer to home. A neighborhood constantly evolving and welcoming new residents; A film fest marketed to one group that really speaks to many; and a woman redefining beauty, and laughing in the face of high art, on the steps of one of our finest institutions.

Hmm….seems pretty Chicago to me.

For Three to See, I'm Carrie Shepherd, Chicago Public Radio.

Select Media Festival
Through November 22
Also the inauguration of the new monthly happening, B.A.D or The Bridgeport Art District

Finding Beauty: The Art of Lee Godie
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Through January 2009

The Polish Film Festival of America
Through November 23

Music Button: Warsaw Village Band, "At My Mother's" from the CD People's Spring (Orange World)

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