by Claudia Eve Beauchesne (MS Candidate)

When you’re nearly snowed in, but all packed up and ready to embark on a trip to Chicago to attend your first professional conference, there is nothing left to do but brave the storm, take an empty shuttle to an airport terminal that feels like a ghost town, and plead with the only airline employee to help you find a way to reach your destination.

That’s the situation I found myself in as I set out for the College Art Association conference, an escapade that I hoped would restore my spirits after a few weeks of post-holiday blahs. As it turned out, the only way to make it to Chicago in time for CAA was to fly to Florida and take a connecting flight the next day. I decided to take my chances. After a short night in a Tiki motel in Fort Lauderdale, I woke up early enough to see the sun rise over the palm trees, and began the next leg of my journey, which would take me first to Atlanta and then, finally, to the city where the Blues Brothers carried out their “mission from God” and Ferris Bueller spent his day off: Chicago.

Of course, my favorite session of the entire conference turned out to be the one I had to run for, breathlessly negotiating the Hyatt Regency hotel’s confusing tangle of hallways with my luggage in tow. It was a series of talks by artists who use antiquated technology – like printing presses, typewriters, vacuum tubes and vectographic slides – in their work. Titled Hypo-Technology: Artists Remix the Anachronistic and the Obsolete with the Present, the session was incredibly inspiring from an art historical perspective, and, as a latch-hook rug maker, I may join the group’s professional organization, the Impractical Labor Union.

Other highlights of CAA 2010 included a demonstration of the way Roy Lichtenstein’s appropriation of cartoonist Jack Kirby’s comic book illustrations ended up influencing Kirby’s later work (from of the Comics in Art History, Part 1 session), and an account of artist Jan Estep’s trek through the Norwegian wilderness in search of the site of a secluded cabin where philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote most of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (from Intermix: Art and Language in Independent Publishing).

In my free time, instead of visiting the major museums or taking an architecture tour (which I had already done on my last visit to Chicago), I decided to explore the city’s emerging art scene. I saw the independent movie Beeswax (the latest addition to the so-called “mumblecore” genre), attended a sketch comedy show by the local troupe The Disasterists, and toured the galleries in Pilsen, a residential neighborhood with a burgeoning art scene. There, I stumbled upon the opening of a group show of prints and artists’ books by local artists at the No Coast gallery, a perfect complement to the sessions on printed matter and independent publishing that I had attended at CAA earlier that day.

As I flew back to New York (on a direct flight, this time) after a much needed change of scenery and five days crammed with art and history, I realized that the blahs had given way to a new creative energy. CAA 2010 was intense, and my feet still hurt from pacing four different airport terminals, dashing through the Hyatt’s carpeted hallways and dodging the “Caution: Falling Ice” signs on the frozen pavements, but Chicago, as a wise band once sang, you’re the inspiration.