Take a Number by William Dolan

Take a number please.

Back in 1984, as part of the issue that coincided with the Navy Pier art fair, Chicago Magazine published 4 photographs of 159 Chicago artists. The photo essay, “Artists by Number.” was a roll call of important artists in Chicago at that time. Do you recognize any of the names or faces? I’m sure you do…or maybe not!? How many of these artists would be included in a 2010 version?

As this week marks the 30th anniversary of the original Navy Pier art fair in Chicago, we thought it would be fun to take a look back.

Chicago Magazine, May 1984
Artists by Number
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Group Portrait of More than 150 Chicago Artists
by David Jackson
Photography by Toni Soluri

Artists by Number 1

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1-Arturo Cubacub; 2-Buzz Spector; 3-Mary Ahrendt; 4-Alice Lauffer; 5-Anita David; 6-Susan Sensemann; 7-Corey M. Postiglione; 8-Tim Hurley; 9- Paulo Colombo; 10-Charlotte Rollman Shay; 11-Fern Shaffer; 12-Othello Anderson; 13-Agnes McGregor; 14-Arthur Lerner; 15-Herbert Davidson; 16-Thomas H. Kapsalis; 17-Gordon Powell; 18-David Bower (behind 45); 19-Dennis Wojtkiewicz (behind 12); 20-Jerry Allison (behind 7); 21-Ben Benson; 22-Charles A Heinrich; 23-Richard Wetzel; 24-George Klauba (behind 14); 25-Hiram Nuñez; 26-Kerig Pope; 27-Robert Donley (behind 15); 28-Michelle Fire (behind 6); 29-Jeff Colby; 30-Dan Ziembo; 31-Philip Hanson; 32-Linda Lee; 33-Ted Stanuga (behind 21); 34-Dennis Kowalski (behind 47); 35-Estelle Kenney; 36-Kennet Hempel; 37-Derek Webster; 38-Nancy Steinmeyer; 39-Robert Amft; 40-Olivia Petrides; 41-Judy Geichman; 42-Christine Rojek (behind 40); 43-David Simons; 44-Ruth Aizuss Migdal (behind 46); 45-Terry Karpowicz; 46-Diane Christiansen; 47-Linda King; 48-Vincent Dunn; 49-Tom Robinson; 50-Roy Schnackenberg.

Artist by Number 2

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51-Norma Topa Gross; 52-Barbara Rossi; 53-Edward Larson; 54-Evelyn Statsinger; 55-Sylvia Birch Halperin; 56-Julie Richman; 57-Margaret Lanterman; 58-Susanne Doremus; 59-Carol Smith Block; 60-Nancy Plotkin; 61-Claire Zeisler;; 62-Stephen Luecking; 63-Karl Wirsum; 64-Bonnie Hartenstein; 65-Diane Simpson; 66-Irene Siegel; 67-Joan Lyon; 68-Stanley Edwards; 69-George Waite; 70-Judy Gordon; 71-Tony Phillips; 72-Jan Sullivan; 73-Paul Crisanti; 74-Susan Bloch (behind 65); 76-Kim Mosley; 77-Jeanette Pasin Sloan; 78-Bruce White; 79-Jim Nutt (behind 68); 80-Suellen Rocca; 81-Ellen Kamerling; 82-Mary Anne Davis; 83-Paul Martin; 84-Michael Miller; 85-Theodore Halkin (in front of 96); 86-Gladys Nilsson; 87-Virginio Ferrari; 88-Antonia Contro; 89-Don A. DuBroff; 90-Marcia Weese; 91-Ralph Arnold; 92-Paul LaMantia (behind 79); 93-Roger Brown; 94-Christian Ramberg; 95-George Cohen; 96-Dean Snyder; 97-Ken Holder; 98-Jane Stevens; 99-Dan Yarbrough; 100-Tom Scarff.

Artists by Number 3

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101-Hollis Sigler (behind 102); 102-Claire Prussian; 103-Tom Palazzolo; 104-Susan Michod; 105-L. J. Douglas; 106-Eleanor Spiess-Ferris (behind 120); 107-William Conger; 108-Joan Taxay-Weinger; 109-Frank J. Morreale; 110-Richard Kelley; 111-Mark Jackson; 112-Carol Haliday McQueen; 113-Nina Beall; 114-Steven Heyman; 115-Gary Justis; 116-Wesley Kimler; 117-Thelma Heagstedt; 119-Barbara Blades; 120-Edith Altman; 121-Phyllis Bramson; 122-Nancy Boswell-Mayer; 123-Matt Straub; 124-lorraine Peltz; 125-Harold L. Gregor; 126-Mary Min; 127-Joel Oppenheimer; 128-Michelle Stone (behind 107); 129-Alfred P. Maurice; 130-Richard Loving; 131-Sandra Jorgensen (behind 126); 132-larry Salomon; 133-Dennis L. Mitchell; 134-Steve Stratakos (behind 123); 135-Cameron Zebrun (behind 116); 136-Gaylen Gerber; 137-Susan Mitchell; 138-Gail Simpson; 139-Carl Kock; 140-Dean Langworthy; 141-Roger Machin & Spot; 142-Leslie Wolfe; 143-Fred Gude; 144-Robert McCauley (behind 130); 145-Bill Cass; 146-Don Baum; 147-Michael Zieve; 148-Deven K. Golden; 149-Arnaldo Roche Rabell; 150-Robert Lostutter.

Artists by Number 4

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151-Richard Hunt; 152-Joseph Hilton; 153-Ed Paschke; 154-Peter Hurley; 155-Neraldo de la Paz; 156-Will Northerner; 157-Kenneth Shorr; 158-Maryrose Carroll; 159-Kathleen King; Robert Appel (behind 159)

Photographer Tony Soluri stood on top of a rickety wooden ladder at the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, waving a camera, shouting instructions, and trying to get a better view. The people Soluri was yelling, 50 or so Chicago-based painters and sculptors, stood in a loose pack in front of him, each holding a numbered card as if waiting for service in a deli. “Number forty-four, ” cried Soluri, “I can’t see your face!” The artist holding number 44, Ruth Migdal, looked at her card, then moved her face. “That’s good. Now, one-oh-three, can you step to the left? OK, now ho-o-old it!”

Deciding whom to include in the portrait was an intricate and worrisome task for Robert Post, Chicago‘s art director. He contacted various galleries and asked them to give him a list of the painters and sculptors they thought important. Curators, collectors, and critics added names. As word got out, some artists even called to add themselves. Still, it was inevitable that some people would be left out. Some invitations never made it through the mail. And some people showed up uninvited. Fame is a tricky thing. It doesn’t always work out the way you planned.

For most of the 150 or so artists at the photo session, it was a reunion. “It’s a small community, really,’ said Estelle Kenney. “We overlap at parties and openings all the time. i know nearly everyone here. And I’m on good terms with a quarter of them. I think that’s extraordinary.”

When they weren’t being photographed, the subjects stood in cocktail party-size groups talking about very normal things. “Artists are normal,” explained Joel Oppenheimer. “When we get together, it’s mostly lifestyle talk. Vacations. Cars. You know—food.”

Judy Gordon and Ben Benson were talking pasta salad “I use Neapolitan macaroni,” said Benson. “It keeps its shape. Rigatoni tends to go flat.” He pressed his fingers together. “But this neapolitan stuff is wonderful.”

Two conversations down, Tom Palazolo was recalling a childhood snack. “My grandfather was Sicilian,” he said, “so there was always a bowl of olive oil in the kitchen. Ehen he wanted to keep me quiet he’d tear off a hunk of bread and dip it in the olive oil. It was wonderful. Like a Sicilian pacifier.”

As they talked, some of the artists milled toward the center room, where the photographs were being taken. The artists had been divided, first come first served, into groups of 50 or so. Each group’s picture took about half an hour. Soluri’s two assistants were corralling people for the third shot. Michelle Stone watched. “Artists are funny,” she said. “They all look so shy.”

Paulo Colombo stood by himself. If you looked closely, you could see that his socks had a leopard-skin pattern.

Edith Altman was peering at the number of the person next to her, Phyllis Bramson. “I’m into numbers,” announced Altman. “I have 120. You have 121. And over there are 105 and104. It’s random, but maybe not. Last year I was at a whooping crane watcher’s convention—I don’t know why, but I was there—and I found that there’s often a hidden order beneath the movements of cranes, and all things. And this group: Is it ordered or is it chance?”

Nearby, Agnes McGregor was studying her number—13. “Can you play this number in the lottery?” she asked. “I think maybe it’s lucky.”

Un unidentified person in red sneakers, probably a friend of the arts, piped up behind her: “Well, you know sometimes you win,” he sang. “And there are times you loose. And sometimes luck as we know it today comes out and smiles on you.”

Wesley Kimler, Gary Justis, and Matt Straub hovered on the edge of the group. All three wore black leather jackets and alarmed-looking hair. They were deciding what to do. “Let’s jostle our way to the front,” said one.

“Uh-uh. They won’t like that.”
“They won’t like us.”
“Let’s stand in neat rows then.”
“Like bowling pins.”
“It’s our fascist heritage.”

Anita David stood at the front, with her friend Olivia Petrides. “Oooh, lets pose!” giggled David. “Here comes the picture! Let’s lose ten pounds! Quick, let’s fix our teeth!”

A little to the left, Michelle Fire was wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt. She had plastic starfish on her ears. When the photographer strained to see her number, Fire winked.

Most people smiled or coughed or looked bemused. Then the flashcube popped, and it was done. “Now we’re famous,” said Frank Morreale. “What happens next?”

“Everything will change,” said Lorraine Peltz, guiding him to the bar. “The way you dress, the way you think, even the way you do your hair. Everything will change.”