Critic's Choice "Smile"!

 Critic's Choice Smile The art world has forbidden touching for so long that the idea of interactivity, however tainted by the icky proselytizers of techno-topia, can seem like a door opening from a cold, stifling box onto a golden playground. Aay Preston-Myint has merged his work in fiber and printmaking to create the installation Smile, a gleeful array of ornate masks and interchangeable backdrops that lets visitors enter elaborate fantasy vignettes. You can try on a crocheted green beard with teeth made of miniature arms harvested from soccer trophies, an “inside-out face” made of yarn and shellac, or a giant knitted headpiece reminiscent of McDonaldland’s psychedelic purple Grimace. The silk-screened fabric backdrops include one with missiles shooting through the night, another featuring eyes and hairy nipples, and one showing condos built on cute but suspicious brown clouds. Preston-Myint’s installation is a fully realized, approachable example of young Chicago artists’ fusion of fashion, craft, and participatory performance. Photographer Jennifer Brandel documented last Friday’s opening; the closing event will include a slide show of those images and a mask-making workshop. If you drop by before then, bring a friend and a camera. Through 1/19, Sat 1-5 PM and by appointment, closing event 6-10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-342-4597. —Bert Stabler

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Jen Stark in Wired Magazine

The cat likes to look at her worm holes. -- Jen Stark draws inspiration from fractals, wormholes, and MRI scans. Oh, and dead bodies. "My sister is a doctor, and she brought home these cross- sectional anatomy textbooks," says Stark, who creates paper sculptures that are coldly mathematical yet exuberantly organic. "Seeing a body displayed like a flip book was grotesque yet mesmerizing." Stark's pieces are indeed hypnotic: Coriolis Effect (below) is named for the force that rotates natural systems like hurricanes. Piece of an Infinite Whole (left), a 4-foot-deep backlit recess, is based on the artist's fascination with space. Very Doctor Who. We expected Stark to reveal that she uses CAD software and some kind of tricked-out handheld laser to construct her 3-D forms, on exhibit this fall at Heaven Gallery in Chicago and in December during Art Basel Miami Beach. Nope. She just sketches a design, grabs her X-Acto knife, and starts to slice. Link to Wired dot com

Jen Stark in ReadyMade Magazine

Hey Look! In the September issue of ReadyMade Magazine in the RE-View section there is an article about Jen Stark and it mentions her show here at Heaven Gallery. -- Construction paper and glue hardly evoke visions of fine art. But over the past three years, sculptor Jen Stark has transformed these elementary-school staples into intricate three-dimensional works. While the method itself is simple, the results are astoundingly complex - straightforward shapes are systematically reproduced with slight changes in size or position. It's a process Stark has labeled "evolving repetition," a way of creating hypnotic, rainbow-hued vortices that challenge the constraints of the artist's canvas. "It's labor-intensive", says the Miami-based 23-year-old. "But I like using such simple materials in a way that they exceed what people think they can do." Stark began working with paper during a five-month stint in France, where a study-abroad program with a two-suitcase limit and a dismal exchange rate forced her to be resourceful in her choice of materials. "Paper was all I could afford," she says. "So I bought a stack and started cutting, and the sculptures were born." See Stark's work at Chicago's Heaven Gallery from Sept.14 - Oct.7. - Jen Trolio (ReadyMade Magazine)