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By Libbey Paul
Today, Saturday, October 9, promises to be a glorious day to find some of Oak Park’s hidden creative gems during ArtRageous! Oak Park's Studio Walk (click for the Studio Walk map). Margot McMahon is one of 25 local Oak Park artists opening their studios today from 2-7 PM. Enjoy this FREE event with people like me -- art groupies, families out for a fun outing on a beautiful fall day, and/or nosy neighbors looking for an excuse to peek into other people's basements or garages.
The Studio Walk will be followed by an Ice Cream Social at the Oak Park Art League (720 Chicago Ave, Oak Park, IL) from 7-9 PM. Attendees will get some free ice cream (on a hot October day!) and can enter a raffle with prizes donated by the participating Studio Walk artists. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the Ice Cream Social, or are “earned,” one for each studio visited during the Studio Walk.
I'm especially interested in visiting Margot McMahon's studio. Her piece, Wonder (stainless steel and fused glass -- see picture at top), is the emblem for this year's ArtRageous theme, Permutations & Combinations. In it, she combines gracefully curved steel with jewel-bright fused glass. I got a chance to see this piece up close during last night’s ArtRageous kick-off event, the Black & White party at Trattoria 225 on Harrison Street. Wonder is almost as tall as I am, and is, well, truly wonderful.
I wanted to learn more about Margot, so I got nosy and asked her some questions.
LP: Tell me about the creation of your sculpture, Wonder.
MM: For last year's inaugural ArtRageous event, Jessica Roble-Cinelli set me up with Bob Loro from Loro Auto Works. At the time, I was working on a stainless steel sculpture and was facing technical challenges; I needed more space and better equipment. One MIG welder later and I was able to complete my sculpture in the roomy space at Loro's. I showed the piece at Fermi Lab, but felt that the sculpture was missing something. It was a line drawing in stainless steel; the eye went right through it.
During that same ArtRageous event, I took my first fused glass workshop with Laura Henderson working out of Prodigy Glassworks in the Arts District. I fell in love with the process. Laura and I saw an opportunity to collaborate, and after two months, I had created enough fused glass panels to transform my stainless steel piece into what you see today.
When this year's ArtRageous planning committee requested submissions for artwork embodying their theme of Permutations & Combinations, Wonder seemed like an amazing match.
LP: How has that experience changed you as an artist -- or did it?
MM: While I’ve always loved color and been a “Sunday painter,” my sculptural work was more about exploring texture and form. I like a stony field, rough and organic textures. In the last five years, I’ve begun to add more color to my work. Wonder further blends my dual interests in form and color. I look forward to doing more with fused glass in the future.
LP: Tell me about your relationship with Oak Park as an artist.
MM: I’ve lived here for 22 years, and love the community’s concentration of creative types. Yes, Chicago has a lot of artists, but they’re spread out across the expanse of the city, whereas Oak Park has a tighter, less dispersed community. You can get to know artists here, and have fluid conversations and collaboration.
Margot and I talked a lot more about some of her work helping to facilitate the local arts conversation over the years. She served on the board of directors for the Oak Park Area Arts Council, was Commissioner for the Village of Oak Park’s Public Art Advisory Commission (see this article from 2007 for an example of what the Commission has done), and has a number of pieces of sculpture displayed in Oak Park, including three pieces at Beye Elementary school.
The more I get to know Margot, the more I want to experience her work, and I have many opportunities. She's a busy lady! Her newest work is being unveiled today at Peace Garden in Lincoln Park, and she's participating from October 15-29 in the Chicago Artists' Coalition Art Loop Open with her piece Ecosystem No. 1 (see picture above). Art Loop Open—Chicago’s new art competition—has a goal of transforming ten venues throughout Chicago’s Loop into interactive public art exhibits. Margot is one of 200 local artists, selected by an esteemed jury from a pool of 750 entries, who will be vying for more than $60,000 in prizes, as judged by, us, the public.
You can vote for Margot's work from October 15-21, when the public is urged to participate in the first round of voting. Vote once in support of as many pieces as you like by using the web or smart phone applications and texting. In Round 2 of voting (October 22-28), the top ten vote recipients (as announced on Friday, October 22) will be voted on by the public. The three winners with the most votes will be announced at an awards ceremony, Friday, October 29, and will receive $25,000 (1st), $15,000 (2nd) and $10,000 (3rd). Wouldn't that be a nice local "stimulus" if Margot won?!
You’ll want to see more of Margot’s work at her website www.margotmcmahon.com. You can even take a tour of the Chicago area to see her various sculptures. And she’s your neighbor -- how cool is that?