Tag Archives: Chicago artist

Meet the Artist in Residence: Lya Finston

Lya Finston, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of January 2020, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Lya some questions about her work and studio practice:

Lya leading a plate lithography demonstration on an etching press at Spudnik Press in Chicago

Lya leading a plate lithography demonstration on an etching press at Spudnik Press in Chicago

Q: To start off, could you please tell us about your background?
I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Cranford, NJ, which isn’t far from Elizabeth and Newark if you’re familiar with the area. In May 2018, I graduated from Oberlin College in northeast Ohio with a BFA in Studio Art and German Language. Since then, I’ve been living in Chicago, IL with two friends and my cat, Leoni.

I decided to move to Chicago in 2017, after spending the best summer of my life interning at a printshop called Hoofprint in Pilsen (now in Mckinley Park). Liz Borne and Gabe Hoare, who run the space, became lifelong friends and role models of mine that summer. As an intern, I helped them with various publishing projects, ranging in media from screenprinting and lithography to cyanotype and relief. Gabe also trained me in stone lithography that summer, which has been my primary artistic medium ever since.

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Lya assisting Florida artist Bob Mueller with his edition of large-scale woodcuts, printed and published by Hoofprint in Chicago

Q: How long have you been making artwork? Did you go to school for art?
As early as 7 years old, I aspired to be an artist, singer, spy, and primatologist (a scientist that studies primates). Monkeys in leisurely poses with double lives as high school students and super heroes remained the central focus of my work for the majority of my early years. My list of future careers narrowed out over time, but I never could shake my love for drawing.

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“Lunar Animals & Other Objects,” stone lithograph with screenprinted color

From the beginning of my time at Oberlin, I knew I’d major in art, but I fell into printmaking entirely by accident. I spent my freshman year floundering around various painting classes, uncertain where to land. I couldn’t get into the drawing class I wanted sophomore year, so, knowing nothing about it, I signed up for the same intro screenprinting class as my best friend. All of Oberlin’s print classes were taught by Kristina Paabus, who I’m infinitely blessed to still have as a mentor today. Everything about printmaking drew me in, from the process-driven nature of creating multiples, to the strong sense of community in all shared print spaces. During that first screenprinting class, I fell in love hard and fast, which left me eager to learn all the different branches of printmedia.

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“For Two,” stone lithograph

Q: Do you have a job other than making art?
For over a year and a half now, I’ve worked as a circulation assistant at the Ryerson and Burnham Library, which is an art and architecture library located within the Art Institute of Chicago. Working in a place where I’m surrounded by so many incredible artistic resources has been truly invaluable.

“Golem,” stone lithograph with screenprinted color

I bounce around between my apartment and three different studios in Chicago to make my own work. I continue to help out with publishing projects at Hoofprint in exchange for studio use and flatfile storage. I’m also a fellowship alum and current member of a community shop called Spudnik Press Cooperative, where I often go to screenprint. Because I work at the Art Institute, I have access to the School of the Art Institute’s printshop, as well. I’ve been lucky to print two stones there thus far, including the one above!

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“Trees,” screenprinted butcher paper & cardboard tubes

Q: How would you describe your work?
These days, I work primarily in lithography, screenprinting and animation. However, throughout the span of my residency at Main Street Arts, I’ll be focusing on linoleum relief printing.

I’m primarily inspired by historical phenomena that are fantastic and surreal, but still contain hints of truth, especially when they overlap with the evolution of printmedia. My recent subject matter includes giant prehistoric sloths, Kabbalistic monsters,  regional cryptozoology, and lunar aliens.

"Triplets," stone lithograph on kitakata paper

“Triplets,” stone lithograph on kitakata paper

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
My creative process usually starts with some research. I’ll discover something I find beautiful, strange, and a little bit scary that resonates with my identity in some way — whether it be where I live, where I have lived, the kind of printmaking I do, or my jewish upbringing. Then I’ll do lots of reading and thinking about it. I’ll spend my breaks at the Ryerson looking at lots of art books, drawing inspiration from different image compositions and collecting reference photos.

Next, I’ll start sketching out designs that contextualize my subject in a narrative, and often humorous way. Over time, I’ve learnt it’s important for my prints to tell stories, for me to laugh and make others laugh when I talk about them, and for me to exercise my love of drawing.

"Incident on S Professor St," stone lithograph

“Incident on S Professor St,” stone lithograph

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I’ve recently become fascinated with a phenomenon known as the “Great Moon Hoax.” In 1835, a newspaper called the New York Sun published a series of articles detailing the invention of a new telescope that allowed astronomers to see all sorts of fantastic happenings on the moon, including bat-winged humanoids, vast plains of giant amethyst crystal, and blue, bipedal beavers acquainted with the use of fire. All the images supplementing these reports were printed traditionally as stone lithographs and reliefs. When these articles were released, people believed them, since publications like these were how the masses normally received “factual” information on current events.

A lithograph of the hoax's "man-bats" relaxing near a distant "lunar temple", as printed in The Sun

A lithograph of the hoax’s “man-bats” relaxing by a distant “lunar temple,” as printed in The Sun

Lunar scene, from a Welsh edition of the moon hoax

Relief print from a Welsh edition of the moon hoax

The Great Moon Hoax’s 19th century impact isn’t so different from the way misinformation pervades the internet today. During my time at Main Street Arts, I’d like to complete a project that speaks to these consistencies in both a warning and humorous light.

As an artist in residence at Main Street Arts, I plan to complete an edition of books illustrating the original text from the New York Sun’s Moon Hoax articles. I’ll render these illustrations as linoleum-cut reliefs  in order to achieve an antiquated look that’s contemporaneous with the phenomenon I’m referencing.  I’d also like to experiment with incorporating my prints into various pop-up book techniques.

Linoleum relief stamps carved by Lya and Atlan Arceo-Witzl

Linoleum relief stamps carved by Lya and Atlan Arceo-Witzl

Q: What’s next for you?
I have a few projects lined up once I return to Chicago. Last year, I started collaborating with some writer friends of mine by illustrating, designing, and screenprinting their texts in the form of short booklets. I’m currently wrapping up an 8-page review of various menu items from the chicken-finger-centric, fast food restaurant Raising Cane’s. Next on my list are a comprehensive ranking of the Air Bud franchise, and a scholarly review of a dark, imaginary sequel to the classic Adam Sandler rom com, 50 First Dates. Chicago’s thriving zine and comics scene was my main inspiration for this project, along with a growing desire to incorporate more humor and collaboration into my work.

Lya printing at Spudnik Press Cooperative in Chicago

Within the next year or two, I hope to participate in the Printer Training Program at Tamarind Institute. Tamarind is a school in Albuquerque, NM dedicated to education, research, and publishing projects in fine art lithography.

Q: Where else can we find you?
The best way to follow my work is on Instagram, where my handle is @thehottestdjinmiami. I also update my website regularly, which you can find at lyafinston.com.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Emile Bouvet-Boisclair

I am a French Canadian born ceramic artist, residing in Chicago, IL for the last decade. 

artist Emilie Bouvet-Boisclair

Artist and a board of marbled cups. Photo by: Alexis Bouvet-Boisclair

Clay entered my life when I was 13. I was gifted lessons for Christmas with studio potter Lloyd Fitzsimmons. I long considered myself a painter, eventually graduating from State University at Geneseo with a BA in Fine Arts and a concentration in figure studies and water color. Despite this, as a teen, I purchased a potters wheel with my babysitting money before graduating from high school, and in my 20s, continued to enroll at local ceramic studios from time to time. Throwing pots was a welcome release from the seriousness with which I approached my canvases.

This set depicts flora and fauna native to North America- the Cuckoo bird and Paw Paw tree- one of the few fruiting trees native to this continent.

This set depicts flora and fauna native to North America- the Cuckoo bird and Paw Paw tree- one of the few fruiting trees native to this continent.

When I began merging my painting experience with clay, pottery making took on a more serious role in my life. I approached glazing pots with the eye of an oil painter — layering techniques of line inlay, and sculpture with glazes, colored slips and stains to achieve depth and nuanced color.

Jewelry box with typical adornment of flowers and also brains. Jewelry boxes are often gifted to young girls, one of many ways we initiate their values and status in society - this serves as a reminder of the importance of intellect.

Jewelry box with typical adornment of flowers and also brains. Jewelry boxes are often gifted to young girls, one of many ways we initiate their values and status in society – this serves as a reminder of the importance of intellect.

My work addresses an appreciation of nature and a hope to conserve the environment. 

birch wood inspired vases by Emilie Bouvet-Boisclair

The stillness of a birch wood forest is captured in my speckled line of vases.

The animals in my work often have very emotive facial characteristics — with the goal of creating a connection between the viewer and subject.

pufferfish planters by Emilie Bouvet-Boisclair

Pufferfish planters

Humans need to be better stewards of our shared home. Many of us live lives away from the small wonders of the natural world, wrapped in a bustling concrete jungles distracted by bright screens, crowded buses, and constant distraction . It is easy to forget our dependance and interconnectedness with our environments, and also all the creatures that share the earth with us.

Large bowl featuring puffins in a melting arctic with a rainbow throughout. The rainbow refers to a Christian story of Noah's Arc, and God's promise not to flood the earth ever again. We find ourselves in a time when sea levels are rising as a result of human industry; and our leaders are in position to play god to our planet, weather for better or for the self interest of the few.

Large bowl featuring puffins in a melting arctic with a rainbow throughout. The rainbow refers to a Christian story of Noah’s Arc, and God’s promise not to flood the earth ever again. We find ourselves in a time when sea levels are rising as a result of human industry; and our leaders are in position to play god to our planet, weather for better or for the self interest of the few.

Puffin and Rainbow Bowl (D) copy

Detail from Puffin and Rainbow Bowl.

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Photo by: Alexis Bouvet-Boisclair

My studio practice balances my love of sitting down and throwing production with creating more detailed, singular work. Throwing a board full of rounded vases is a meditation and a mental groove I can ride all day long. I find it gives me the mental space to develop and realize larger and more developed pieces.

Pottery requires a humbleness — there are so many facets of ceramics that have taken years to master — and there are lifetimes more of learning. Always having a challenge that seems attainable is one thing I enjoy from pottery making. It is a field which demands hours and full attention; the hurdles overcome and subsequent results in my artistic journey are hugely gratifying. 

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Pots in production. Every one of these that was a success has a pot that failed behind it.

In the last month, I learned to throw large pots — that was hugely difficult and tearful (this was for a commission with a tight deadline which I self assuredly accepted) and also self validating.  Each pottery technique that is mastered will open the door to new ideas and projects. 

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I love the interplay between the grouping of large pieces. These found a permanent home at the Hoxton Hotel in Chicago- they echo the stillness found on the lake front. Lake Michigan is a place to find a bit of peace from the city noise.

On the horizon for next year, I plan to experiment more with throwing large series; I enjoyed the play and interaction with scale, form and color in the pieces in my last collection. I also plan on bringing light into my work — I am interested in the possible narratives and hidden worlds that could be created using light — so hardwiring bulbs will be a skill I hope to attain soon as well. 

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Right now I am a potter- but I will always consider myself an artist first and hope to dip into my box of oils sometime in the future. 

You can see more of my work at TwinettePoterie.com or @TwinettePoterie on Instagram.


Emilie Bouvet-Boisclair is one of 44 artists included in the 4th annual The Cup, The Mug exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts, a national juried exhibition of drinking vessels. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. The Cup, The Mug runs through December 14, 2019.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Bryan Northup

Me with installation Artist with installation 'You Can't Put It Back In The Box'

Artist with installation ‘You Can’t Put It Back In The Box’

My name is Bryan Northup and I’m honored that my work “Cautionary Entrails” was selected to be a part of the de/composition exhibit at Main Street Arts. I am particularly pleased that this work found a place to be shown, framed in a such a compelling theme.

Cautionary Entrails

“Cautionary Entrails” by Bryan Northup

I am a Chicago based environmental artist, originally from Northern California. I have been making art for most of my life, drawing horses during church sermons and taking any and all art classes offered in high school. I graduated from California College of the Arts in Oakland, California with a BFA in Fine Art Photography and since then have been a self taught, intuitive artist.

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Earlier work, 2000 – 2014

I work in several media including cold and warm glass, painting, mixed media sculpture and photography. Until recently, I focused on working with glass, from traditional stained glass and mosaics to experiments with recycled bottles, creating kiln-formed, functional tableware, lighting and sculptural works.  See more here >

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Plastic art material

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My studio worktable, kinda clean

I was awakened to the serious problem of single-use plastics in 2015. I like to think that a dead tree changed the trajectory of my art practice. I was fortunate to be selected to create a public art sculpture through the Chicago Tree Project that utilized a dead tree (one of many in the city’s parks) as a framework for sculpture. I chose to shift my material from glass bottles to plastic beverage bottles for many logistical reasons, but through the process of creating the sculpture entitled “Message In A Bottle”  I discovered the invisible scourge of single use plastic and ties to the bottled water industry. Shifting my thinking, message and medium to create with everyday found materials that no one was thinking about seemed the most important outcome of the project.

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View while installing Message in a Bottle

Before this experience I had no idea that plastic lasts forever, never decomposing, or the amounts of plastic produced, used and thrown away on a daily basis, all designed to be disposed of. As I researched more, these facts changed my awareness and the focus of my artwork.

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Detail of a “sliced roll”

Now I use these plastics and foam to create wall relief and sculpture works that abstract food, mimic organic forms and invent pseudo-biological structures. I attempt to blur the lines between appetizing consumables, anatomical dissection and waste — exploring layers of meaning in an age where plastics have saturated our environment and penetrated human-kind both biologically and culturally, to the cellular level.

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Work in progress

While being an environmental plague, I have found plastic to be an incredibly dynamic art medium. I work with plastic as a fiber, a fabric, in some ways as a cooking ingredient, a food. I incorporate common tools such as chef knife to cut the rolls and an iron to laminate sheets of films together. Creating rolls, “sushi- style” is a technique I originated when I started working with plastic. It’s a meditation, adding unlikely and inedible ingredients like foam, bubble wrap, plastic bags while I reflect on how these same steps are so closely related to making nourishing food, something we crave and can actually eat.  I think about all the wildlife, particularly in the ocean that that ingest plastic because of our dependence on it.

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My first plastic wall relief, Sea Change, 36×48

The organic forms and textures I create suggest perishable matter, “flesh”, “tissue” likely to spoil and decay quickly, but because these objects are created with plastic, they will never naturally decompose  but just appear to be, forever, in a state of suspended decomposition.

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Detail

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me a bit better. You can see much more of my work on my website, www.bryannorthup.com, I post regularly on Instagram @bryan.northup and have a Facebook page @beyondbiolumglass


Bryan Northup is one of 31 artists featured in the national juried exhibition de/composition at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shopde/composition runs through June 28, 2019.