Artist Deb Sokolow at work in her Chicago studio.
Artist Deb Sokolow at work in her Chicago studio. (Robin Amer)

I produced a lot of stories this past fall and winter, but did a bad job of sharing them here. I’m finally getting to that, so you’ll see a few posts from me today.

Here is the first. Art/Work is a monthly profile series I launched in September 2011. Each piece features a contemporary visual artist exhibiting in Chicago talking about the inspiration and perspiration behind their creative endeavors.

Coming as I do from a visual arts background, this series has been especially fun to produce. I love spending time in peoples’ studios, and I love demystifying art and artists for a public audience. I think a lot of people have this notion that art is something that just emerges fully formed from the mind of some “genius,” rather than something that takes a ton of labor to create. Making art is work, and it takes a lot of trial and error and a lot of experimentation to get something right. It can take years for ideas to percolate, crystallize and develop.

Here are my four favorite pieces from the series so far. They include a primate-obsessed photographer who secretly wishes she was a scientist, a painter with a sense of humor and bona fide conspiracy theorist. I’ll post the next few as I produce them.

If you have trouble with the Vimeo links, you can see the whole series as it first appeared on here.

Spaghetti and ‘Cubist cokeheads’? Artist Scott Reeder seduces with humor.

With his “Cubist Cokeheads” and spaghetti on canvas, Scott Reeder is a funny painter, following in the footsteps of modern artists like Duchamp who challenged the art establishment with humor. But his new show at the MCA is less a challenge to – and more of a conversation with – the great painters of the past.

Art? Yes. Conspiracy? Maybe. Artist Deb Sokolow makes conspiracy theories come alive in graphic style.

Chicago artist Deb Sokolow creates giant narrative drawings that explore conspiracy theories great and small. Is she paranoid? Maybe. That doesn’t mean your postman isn’t really a drug smuggler.

With ordinary objects, artist Laura Letinsky instills – and questions – photographic desire

Through still life images both lush and disorienting, photographer Laura Letinsky explores her own love-hate relationship with images of domestic perfection.

Through primates, the evolutionary origins of war

In her photo series The Four Year War at Gombe, artist Alison Ruttan follows the roots of human conflict back to our primate ancestors.