Artist of the Week

Cheryl Pope

March 15, 2017

Cheryl Pope is an artist focused in sculpture, installation, and performance. Her work questions and responds to the politics of identity as it relates to the individual and the community. Through her practice, she seeks to unfold the folds and puncture the surface revealing questions and constraints. Listening is at the root of each of her projects as she designs immersive situations for viewers to be confronted with political and urgent issues.  For the past six years, her research has been focused on systems that abuse power and the causes and effects of violence, specifically in Chicago, where gun violence exists as an epidemic.  This research includes ongoing collaborations with Chicago youth through the intersection of poetry and public, interactive installations in an ongoing project called JUST YELL.  Pope is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery and Galleria Bianconi.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am an artist, a boxer, a professor of fashion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Discipline is one of my gifts, which is also, as you know, a burden…. I love to work and prefer to always be working… In the studio, in the gym, with others. I love to brainstorm, I love to share. I love to make talk dream think collaborate design. I love to solve problems, find solutions, and to help make dreams of others come true.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I am working on a project with FLUX Projects in Atlanta for a public work, a product line in collaboration with FLIGHT CLUB based in NYC, and a summer basketball tournament for Chicago, at the park district.  I am also working to expand just yell into a design / art space on the West side in conjunction with an incredible boxing organization called THE BLOC. Additionally, a new body of work for two solo shows in 2018.


What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? I think it’s the call for fully developed, articulated proposals. I understand budget, and funding, and that it takes time to develop trust, but I think the call for fully flushed proposals, and I mean fully flushed: illustrations, renderings, models, conceptual summaries, budget, etc…… to receive approval for grants, or exhibitions, or even shows with galleries, is deafening the creative process. It denies the beauty of finding, of discovery, the distance between knowing and finding. To me it somehow discredits the role of the artist in society, our job to search through to try to understand and make through that understanding such that it may allow others to understand their own experience more or differently, or the experience of others more intimately.  I don’t see it shifting on the horizon, but I do think as artists we have the power to push that line and demand more tolerance for the unnamable and unknowable, comfort in the unknown, demanding trust, and standing strong on our role in society.

How did your interest in art and boxing begin? I began boxing as research. I wanted to think through more physically with the body, and there is a lot I’m interested in both at the onsite and as the practice and intersection develops. One interest at the beginning was to understand psychologically how the brain can control a tolerance within the ring when one is sparring, that is practicing, and that in the same context, the same ring, for a fight, that the brain can release the body to let go, to hit, to hit hard, and to not stop hitting. To feel comfortable with that kind of physical contact, a clean punch, honest contact….. I am always in my work, no matter where or what I’m doing, so its very natural to me that boxing, the research, the context, etc, is now woven into my practice.

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What was it like working under the artist Nick Cave for 12 years? Incredibly MAGICAL. He taught me what it means, looks like, takes to really be an artist.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? Poetic Journalism.

Guilty pleasures? Perfume.

Currently listening to? Chicago artists: Kopano Muhammad,  Lotus, and Maryiah Winding.

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What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? I haven’t seen it in person yet but will in March at the NEW MUSEUM, Jonathas de Andrade: O Peixe.

What artists are you interested in right now? Kerry James Marshall, Gian Maria Tosatti, Nate Young, David Hammons (always), and Mark Bradford.

Do you collect anything? Lucky pennies.

Favorite Chicago hangouts? Pete’s Place, the gym, the point on the lake in Hyde Park, and Soho House.

What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Water and dried prunes in winter, fresh figs in summer.

What do you do when you’re not working on your art? I’m never not.