Fall 2021 Publisher's Letter: Regarding Beauty And Opportunity in The Broken

Publisher and Intern Supervisor Ginny Van Alyea enjoying art in person again. Pictured: A Mirror Painting by Anjali Srinivasan at Ken Saunders Gallery


I listened to a church sermon recently about brokenness and disrepair. The priest then asked the parish to consider, ‘What’s wrong with being broken?’ 

We typically regard fragmentation as bad. A mess is there to be cleaned up. 

His question made me think, if we’re always seeking perfection, we are certain to never achieve it. We will be left unfulfilled. What if we look at broken as a new state of being – like a work in progress? Being less than whole may not equal imperfect. 

We are each living amidst ongoing uncertainty, and in response many of us have been reaching our individual and collective limits, sometimes hitting new breaking points. As we continue to live life in a pandemic, we also have the chance to look at ourselves with fresh eyes and take on new projects and causes.  

I keep looking at this fall compared to 2020, or even 2019. I see that day to day life is still weird, but it’s beginning to take shape. At CGN I’m especially grateful we have had the chance to interview artists and collectors in person in order to learn from them as well as be in the presence of figures who have been a part of, and influenced, Chicago’s artistic legacy. 


In this issue we hear from the following people (stories will all be posted online in the coming days and weeks):  

• Artist Tony Fitzpatrick says he became an optimist after a serious heart attack in 2015. Now 63 he’s still a work in progress, and he’s not done yet. 

Isobel Neal started a revolutionary gallery in the 1980s dedicated to exhibiting Black artists. What Neal saw as an imperfect art market led her to open a business to serve as a solution for more meaningful and representative exposure. 

• Artist Pooja Pittie was cut off from her new studio space during lockdown, but her day to day challenges living with a disability were eased by proximity to a home studio and by the chance to work on a new scale.

Audrey Niffenegger is putting together the Artists Book House piece by piece, and it’s been a multi-year project already. It won’t be ‘finished’ for years to come.  



We are steadily seeing CGN’s exhibition calendar fill up again. In-person art events still change frequently and are less predictable but planning and making the effort is brave. There is still a lot to go out and see. 

Two exhibitions I visited with my children this past summer aligned with my new outlook on the splintering of things and how to enjoy beauty in the unexpected:

Ken Saunders Gallery had two large mirror paintings on display by Anjali Srinivasan (pictured above). The glass had been smashed into pieces that were still held together. Whatever your superstitions might be about broken mirrors and bad luck, the result is beautiful and captivating – the old mirror showed one image. The new, broken one revealed many more. 

• Theaster Gates’s How to Sell Hardware at Gray Warehouse told the story of a South Side True Value that went out of business and sat, intact, for years before Gates purchased it and scattered the contents into breathtaking gallery installations. The store was never going to be made whole – the stock suddenly for sale again on the shelf, but it did transition into something beautiful and revelatory. 


Maybe as we look at art again in fall 2021 we can each be rescuers of overlooked treasure, seeing something anew, appreciating the value and opportunity of a fresh start this season.   

– Ginny Van Alyea


You can subscribe to the new fall 2021 issue of CGN here for $20/year for three issues