Columbia College Chicago

Faculty and Staff Research

The Interdisciplinary Arts Department and the Center for Book & Paper Arts faculty and staff are a vibrant group of individuals, each of whom have ongoing research projects that advance a diverse range of scholarship, while enhancing our learning environment. Below are some examples of faculty and staff projects that are currently underway.
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Lives of the Saints, 2011
(inkjet on handmade paper)

Jeff Abell

My work has always been invested in issues of identity and sexuality and how these are defined through language, the body, and images. My recent “lip-synch opera,” Confusion, examined how identity is lost through an obsessive fixation on an object of unobtainable desire.

Currently, my performance work with sound and images called Baggage considers how identity is influenced by location, and how travel re-defines who one is. I am also at work on a series of photographs, tentatively called Lives of the Saints, that layers images of ancient Greek art, sculpture from Catholic churches in France, and Internet pornography.


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Hickory minus Barberry, 2012
(laser etched leaf)

Annette Barbier

Recent research projects include a series of works (Subtractions and Casualties) that revolve around ecological concerns, using a laser cutter to transform natural materials in ways that reflect on issues of extinction and loss of habitat through importation of invasive species. In Subtractions, for example, native leaves, such as oak and maple, are laser cut with the names and images of species such as European Buckthorn that are depleting resources and creating monocultures in the midwest landscape. Casualties is a series of glass discs, each of which features the photographic portrait of a bird that died in a collision with a glass curtain skyscraper. Other works, such as Approach, use motion capture data to describe our passage through time in a 75' frieze. In 2070 uses augmented reality to comment on the future of the environment in downtown Chicago when our climate will become like that of Mobile, AL. These works combine technological and physical processes to reflect on our interaction with the environment. In all my work, concept is intimately tied to a dialog with the medium.


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Celestial Workshops 003, 2007

Paul Catanese

I'm currently in the process of co-authoring a book with Dr. Angela Geary of Northumbria University, entitled Post-Digital Printmaking: CNC, Traditional, and Hybrid Techniques, to be published by A&C Black of London which addresses the contemporary practice of experimentation with programmable machine tools including CNC Mills, CNC Routers, Laser Cutters, and WaterJet cutters in order to create printable matrices that artists around the world have been engaging with for well over a decade. The book offers an in-depth investigation of historical antecedents, practical techniques, and a series of case studies with artists, residency programs, and printmaking studios. This book is an outgrowth from experiments in my studio practice in which I began using the Processing programming language to develop a series of drawing tools that would allow me to sketch constellations based on the fleeting structures suspended in the vitreous of my eyes, related to a parallel series of installations. These drawing experiments resulted in several editioned print projects, including Celestial Workshops 001 - 012 in which the drawing tools were used to control CNC machinery.


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Page from Annotated
Amusement Guide Magazine

- work in progress

Brad Freeman

My current project is an offset printed artist’s book titled Annotated Amusement Guide Magazine. The act of looking and the processing of subjective experience into form constitute the overarching themes of the book.

Based on photographs I took in Brazil and Chicago this document of the real is transformed during each phase of offset printing from digital files to ink on paper. Through an active engagement with the form of the book from page to page, the sequencing, color, and ordering of images coalesce into a haptic and visual whole.



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The bicycle is no longer viewed as a luxury item in China

Matt Harris

My current project is Vehicle (車),a short documentary on which I am collaborating with my partner, an anthropologist at the University of Chicago. Vehicle originated as an extension of her fieldwork in Southern China, and examines the evolution of the meaning of the character . Where it once was shorthand for bicycle, it is now more commonly used for car. The film captures narratives about people’s personal relationship with their mode of transportation, recounting their memories of China’s transition from bike culture to car culture. It examines the changes in embodied experience, and the materiality and social hierarchies of transport. It also reflects on the notions of modernity and mobility in contemporary China. Most of the shooting has been completed. We are presently editing interview material, with plans to film a few additional sequences this summer.

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Melissa Potter

Inspired by more than ten years working in the Former Yugoslavia, my recent scholarship focuses on gender ritual in this region. By tradition in some the remote and inaccessible Southeastern parts of the Balkans, a girl born to a family without boys is forced or sometimes chooses to live her life as a man in order to inherit property and take a leadership role in the family. In most cases, she never marries and never engages in a sexual relationship, hence the referral to these women as “sworn virgins”. I took a team of ethnographers interview Stana Cerovic, the self-reported “last sworn virgin” in her village of Tusina, Montenegro to interview her at her rural home. I asked Stana questions about the advantages of life as a man, and even whether it was possible to be happy without children. Through further interviews with young women in Belgrade (my home base when I work in the region), this work follows these diverse voices on my well-worn paths in the city of Belgrade, where I have spent ten years working and developing as an artist, and discovering my own brand of feminism.
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Touristic Intents Project

Mat Rappaport

My current creative research spans a number of interconnected art projects which inhabit the intersection of architecture, ideology and tourism as well as ongoing curatorial work through v1b3: video in the built environment [http://www.v1b3.com]. For the past four years I have been working on a multimodal art and documentary project that includes video installation, photographs, wall objects, an outdoor audio walk navigated through the use of surveyor’s poles and a narrative documentary. The project is centered on a case study; the never completed Nazi Resort in Prora, Germany. The mammoth site was built to house 20,000 vacationing working class Germans after the breaking of the unions. The intent was to use propaganda and the promise of leisure time to strengthen sympathies between the workers and the Nazi party. The site was never completed by the Nazis however the Socialist East German government completed the construction and used it as a military training site that also included a small officers resort. Currently the building is being redeveloped with a youth hostel and plans for apartments, condominiums and hotels.
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Miriam Schaer

My recent project, Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, addresses the question of why the existence of women who choose maternal independence over child-rearing angers or offends so many people and institutions. This is part of my continuing exploration of our culture’s pejorative views about women without kids. To produce each dress, I hand-embroidered representative negative comments on baby dresses using red thread to create scarlet letters. Gathered from interviews with childless women, online research, and personal experience, the statements taunt and accuse, and are typical of an endless flow of critical statements that seem to be growing bolder even as non-traditional families are gaining greater acceptance. Initially created for an exhibition on nanomajority.com, this phase of the project employed baby dresses as the ‘canvas.’ Moving forward I will use male baby garments to serve as the framework for additional quotes, continuing the conversation. I am also producing several girdle book-like sculptural objects that incorporate baby-shaped boxes, examining the idea of reproduction as a tool for political and social control.
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Trimming Type at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing
History Museum.

April Sheridan

I am currently investigating the history and production of wood type. As a researcher-in-residence at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing History Museum, I am documenting historical and contemporary production processes. I am exploring the use of wood type in other countries and cultures through interviews and am becoming acquainted with European display typography by making a series of experimental prints, called Novokomponovana, with Serbian wood and metal mounted type which I acquired through contacts made during a trip to Belgrade last fall (Thanks, Mel Potter!). Furthermore, I am curating a show tentatively called, On Display: Artists Reinventing Wood Type, which documents people producing their own new forms of wood and display size type for letterpress printing the process and shows the art being made with and beyond wood, with lasers, wires, adhesives, acrylic, and metal.
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Steve Woodall

My research interest and my work as an artist both center largely on the adaptation of found templates for visual/literary narrative. My small books Vision, Faint Yet Pursuing, Traditional Styles and Awake/Asleep all participate in a search for meaning hidden in received form. The forms can be as diverse as Homeric narrative patterns, schematic wiring diagrams, department store catalogs, legal transcriptions, vernacular maps, product manuals, and prosaic taxonomies of all kinds. These structural templates are as common, and unnoticed, as the air we breathe and their use can at some subliminal level find unexpectedly receptive neural hosts in the reader/viewer. The fundamental value of a particular form-as-concept might in some ways be indivisible from its materiality. This is especially true of printing. The photocopier, for example, imposes a filter of immediacy and flouts bourgeois ideals of "quality." Rotogravure, on other hand, lends objects a softened, valorizing glow that lifts them to the level of archetype: the strangeness of the disembodied household objects depicted in a vintage department store catalog has much to do with the quality of their representation in rotogravure printing.