Monday, October 29, 2007

an open letter to the sears center

Since November 1 marks one year since I both e-mailed and mailed the following letter complaining about being escorted out of a Bob Dylan concert, and I have yet to receive any form of response from Steve Hyman, the executive director of the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, nor anyone for the matter, I've decided to publicly post the letter and NON-FLASH photography.
(And as an update, thanks to the live-music sharing website and a kind man name Jerry, I now own a copy of the show so I can finally catch up on the songs I missed.)

November 1, 2006

Dear Mr. Hyman,

I recently attended the Bob Dylan concert at your venue on Saturday, October 28. Dylan is my absolute all-time favorite musician, and when I found out he was going to be playing in my hometown of Hoffman Estates, at a brand new arena, it was like Christmas had come early. Everything seemed perfect from the get-go; we had no trouble parking; got into the venue easily; the employees we encountered were really friendly, and we were extremely impressed with our seats—section C101, row 9. This was my seventh time seeing Dylan live, and honestly it was the best I've ever heard him sound.

When he began the sixth song of the set I was still enjoying everything about my experience. Well, that was the case until suddenly the show was rudely disrupted by two of your security guards who made everyone in my row stand up. I thought nothing of it until they approached me and asked me to come with them. I asked why, clearly confused, as I had done nothing that was against the rules of the arena, but they just repeated, "You need to come with us" without any further explanation. I would have refused to follow them, and looking back on the unnecessary actions that followed, I should have. But I felt bad that they were blocking everyone's view around me, so I obliged and followed them out.

Apparently I had been singled out for having a camera. I was led to a small office and had my camera confiscated by your security personnel until the end of the show. Now, upon entering your venue that evening, the security guard who searched my purse saw my camera (I obviously wasn't trying to conceal it in any way) and simply said, "No flash photography." I told him "That's fine. I never take flash photos, and besides, the flash is broken anyway." Back in the office, the only way I could think of proving that I was not taking flash photography during the show was to prove that my camera is incapable of it. I demonstrated that the flash doesn't even pop up, so there is no way it could have flashed even if I wanted it to. (If you need further proof of this, I can send you copies of my recent Canon service order.) When I was allowed to return to my seat some twenty minutes later, even perfect strangers sitting in my section (some of them with their own flashing cameras!) were just as confused as I was and asked why I was removed since I had never used the flash.

This offensively unnecessary situation completely distracted me for the rest of the show because all I could concentrate on were the hundreds of cameras flashing all over the arena. There were people in the third row from center stage literally holding cameras over their heads and flashing pictures! Not only that, but there were security guards lounging around in front of the stage in plain view of all these people flashing photos, and not ONE of them ever even made an effort to tell someone to stop taking pictures, much less lead any of them out of the arena, causing them to miss part of the show. Needless to say, I am appalled and outraged at the way I was treated at this concert, seeing as I didn't even flash my camera once. I still can't fathom why I was singled out, asked to hand over my camera for the duration of the concert, and made to miss part of it, when I didn't even do anything wrong.

So in short, thanks to the hypocritical and unnecessary actions of your venue and staff, my highly anticipated night of seeing Dylan perform in my hometown was ruined. It should have been the all-encompassing perfect evening it started out as, and instead was one of the most disappointing events I've ever been to. If you want to establish a rule, then that rule needs to apply to everyone. Otherwise, please allow your guests to harmlessly enjoy the show, especially those guests who actually make the effort to follow the instructions of your entry guards.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the above address or e-mail.

Thank you for your time.

Alyse Liebovich

For the full album pre-confiscation click here

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

high on art

"Oh--so you're going to miss the Bears game?" This is what Amy asked me at my art show Saturday night after I responded "11-6" to her question about Sunday's schedule. "Did we just meet yesterday?" The answer is no. We've been friends for almost 20 years. She's always been Sporty Spice and I've always been Scary Spice (I don't think I'm scary, per se, but I do have curly hair and sometimes people equate being "artsy" with being frightening).

I joked with my artist neighbors on Sunday that we should put a sign outside saying "BEARS GAME BEING SHOWN ON WALL #321--COME UP AND VISIT!" after someone informed us that football was the reason the final day, which is usually the busiest, ended up being so slow.

But let's start from the beginning. Since timing in my life seems to be impeccably bad, the fact that my employers decided to move the same week as my art show shouldn't have surprised me. I assured myself that I'd be able to juggle both tasks, but with moving comes extra responsibilities (i.e. even less time to worry about my own life/projects), and I ended up having a total meltdown. On Monday of that week I sat in the middle of my bedroom floor with my laptop as movers took out my bed, dresser, etc. attempting to upload all my photos to be printed. Mid-uploading is when AT&T decided to shut off our DSL service, which was not supposed to happen until the following day. For the remaining few days I spent hours driving around and parking in random empty parking lots and alleyways stealing internet signals from people who don't care enough to password-protect their wireless accounts (shout out to "linksys" (outside a Dunkin Donuts), "stapleshotspot," and "wabansia").

Thursday night I sat at our new island counter in the kitchen and framed all my new photos...and managed to cut my hand (not too badly) on the shattered glass of a frame I opened that happened to be broken...go figure.

Friday morning my dad came down to the city to help me hang all of my photos. Amazingly we found a metered spot to park right across the street from the Flatiron Building. Ah yes, this year, despite requesting to be placed next to my favorite artists (who I met at my first Around The Coyote festival in February), I not only wasn't put next to them, but was put in across the street in a different building...while all three of them monopolized the SW (?) corner of the third floor of the Preferred Lofts building. More on the Wonder Boys later...
Anyway, my dad and I hauled all the photos up in one trip. Just like last year, he insisted on hanging the entire show, so I let him do his thing, while I watched, silent and grateful. I patted him on the shoulder when he was done and said, "Lunch is on me" until I realized I had left my purse in my apartment. "Shit!" I yelled. "Well. Lunch is on you. I'll pay you back." We went to one of my new favorite restaurants--Jerry's Sandwiches--where Amy met up with us. Amy talked about her new, fancy consulting job, while my dad and I chowed down supersized sandwich concoctions. "You get a signing bonus??" My dad squealed. "Yep," Amy confirmed. "Lyse," my dad said to me, "you should get a job there!" I just rolled my eyes. Last time I checked I wasn't really in the position to consult anyone about anything, nor do I want to be in that position. I'm perfectly fine being a personal driver and doing art shows, thank you very much.

Amy came back to my place to be my personal helper for the remainder of the afternoon/evening, while my dad headed back to the suburbs to host his annual poker night. As soon as he left and Amy and I walked into my apartment, I realized I had forgotten to bring two of the framed photos to the Flatiron. The first thing I did when we moved (into the mansion next door) was hang my photos wherever I found lonely nails sticking out of the walls. They fit in so nicely that I forgot the one above the kitchen sink and the one in the bathroom above the toilet. One helpful thing about moving was that tools were readily available, so I borrowed four nails and a hammer from Max's mom and walked over there (with Amy, both of us juggling a cooler, a mini table thing, a folding chair, my photo portfolio, the two large frames, my guest book and business cards) and hung the remaining two five minutes before the show opened.

(photo taken by Amy)
Before she left for the night, Amy brought me hot pepper noodles from Penny's and copious amounts of Newcastle, as well as a bag of ice, to put in the cooler, which my dad brought from home--it was made to resemble a giant box of Kodak film--surely intentional on his part. I shared a wall with one of my favorite artists, who I met during the Pilsen art walk in Fall of '06, Deva Suckerman, and with a new artist, Jenny Loomis, who I ended up buying two pieces from. Someday, when I've saved my pennies, I intend on purchasing one of Deva's unique wood paintings.

"Levitate" by Jenny Loomis

"Thrive" by Jenny Loomis

Saturday morning I went across the street to finally see the "Wonder Boys"...Damien James, Shawn Stucky and Gabe Mejia...and not far from them, John Kowalczyk, who also graduated from my high school.
I ended up buying a screenprint from Shawn

"the dream grew stronger" by Shawn Stucky

and a framed drawing from Damien

"(devon and western)" by Damien James

I also vow that someday I will purchase something from Gabe and John.
I never felt so guiltless about spending money--I literally felt high on art. My wise friend Abbi said, "You're supporting people doing what they should be doing" as an explanation for my giddiness.

(me and my new budding photographer, Otis)

When I arrived back at my wallspace, I met a four-year-old photo prodigy named Otis (the son of an artist, Lee Klawans), who brought me not one, but two flowers. I let him take some pictures with my camera--he was such a natural! He and his old brother, Ben, along with their dad, led me down the hall to a gallery where the kids have a hideaway area at the top of a ladder. They invited me up and I kneeled among giant stuffed animals and framed photos of Marilyn Monroe. Ben switched on an old-school TV and a dated episode of Benji broadcast into the play area, a black&white screen stuck amidst so many vibrant colors. We took snapshots of each other, and they showed me the awesome view through the rooftop window that looked out at the Chicago skyline off in the distance.



On my descent one of my cowboy boots got caught on the rung of the ladder and I lost my footing. I began to fall embarrassingly slow and caught myself by grabbing onto something...which ended up being something on wheels...therefore not succeeding in my attempt at stabilization. Nothing like making a grand entrance into a gallery full of people. Here I am! Not only am I a first-class klutz, but I double as a photographer-come visit me down the hall!
"Wow," Lee said. "And you were only drinking water..."
"Yeah," I replied, my face burning, "that's why I don't drink."

My photographer friend, Brian, who I hadn't seen in almost a year, stopped by. Then my friend Shilpa showed up. She drove all the way down from Michigan just for this! I decided to take a break from my 11-hour day and check out the other floors of the Flatiron and the Preferred Lofts with her, where she got to meet the Wonder Boys. While I wandered around, again high on art, I got a call from "Home." I answered excitedly, expecting a parent to be on the other line informing me they were heading out the door to drive down to the city. Instead, my dad informed me that they weren't coming. It's amazing how you can go from high to low in such a short span of time. I was bummed out, but I made myself get over it and concentrate on the people who were there.
On our way back, my phone rang again.
"Hey Alyse--It's Becki--I sitting here pretending to be you." Thank goodness I left a note on my little table saying I'd "be right back" with my phone number because otherwise I may have missed her and Albert's visit. I hadn't seen Becki since we graduated high school over six years ago!

All of my regulars as well as some Israel friends showed up around the same time soon after Becki and Albert left. Non-stop visiting and laughing until the very end. I even met a girl who saw my business card and said she works for a hotel design company that might be interested in my "different eye" and a man who's on the committee of an organization called Global Alliance For Africa, which sends art therapists (a field I'm high considering going into) to work with kids and other artists in Africa!

As I already mentioned, Sunday was pretty slow-moving, although there were still some notable happenings. One man walked by and without stopping said to me, "You look like a movie actress!"
Later, I was standing with Deva, both of us leaning against the wall chatting. A couple with huge, unfaltering smiles approached us and in an accented voice, the woman said, "You two look like art!" We both laughed. Her husband, still smiling, nodded several times. About an hour later, I was down the hall waiting in line for the bathroom. The happy couple passed by and waved at me shyly. "Movable art!" The man declared suddenly. "Yeah you could buy me!" I exclaimed. "No, you can't," the woman replied, although I'm unsure who the decision was directed to.

I had a few more visitors, including Max, who actually took a break from video games to come see me with his step-dad, Alex.
Max (who's 13 and the son of 2 surgeons) Logic 101:
Max: Whatever happened to that guy you liked?
Alyse: Ugh. The same as every other. Pretended to be nice then ended up acting totally disinterested.
Max: You know, he was probably passing kidney stones.
Alyse: What! That doesn't even make sense, Max!
Alyse: But you know what. I'm going to go with your logic because that makes me feel better about myself! I'm just going to go up to all the guys who've ever been jerks and [softly placing my palm on their shoulder] say, "I really hope you feel better."

(Max and me)

One of my favorite things about these shows is listening to what people say when they think no one else is listening. While I was downstairs visiting Jacqueline Roig, another favorite, and buying her book, I got stuck behind some people in a narrow hallway.
"See, now this is real art," a woman said to her three friends, as she pointed to some very realistic oil paintings of city scenes. Her friends nodded in agreement. "I bet none of the other artists in this festival can produce something like that," she continued. I almost tapped her on the shoulder. I almost said, "Although impressive, I bet that artist couldn't produce anything that the other artists have created...that's the beauty of art." But I refrained.
I also enjoyed listening to people's commentary about my own work. This was a totally different feel than when I showed in the Lofts back in February. There you have two walls that form a corner, allowing a space for viewers to step into, making it easier to engage with the artist. Here, I sat in a chair facing my own work and the backs of the people looking at it. Once in awhile people noticed me sitting there and asked if I was the artist. The fun thing about specializing in travel photography is that people frequently try and guess where certain scenes were captured and get really excited when I tell them they're right. More specifically, the subject brought up the most, was hot dogs, inspired by my shot of Gray's Papaya in NYC.
"I ate so many hot dogs my senior year of college-" I shared, "-I haven't eaten one since!"

"Gray's Papaya," New York City, 2004

Lindsay and Amy volunteered to come back and help me take down all the frames and carry them to my car. As a thank-you I treated us all to Chipotle. All in all it was my most successful show. I'm hoping to do it all again in April.
For more photo documentation of the weekend: