Tuesday morning I took two buses to 46th & Western and picked up a car from Enterprise. Back at my place I shlepped five boxes containing ten framed 16″x20″ drawings down three flights of stairs, filling all available space in the little vehicle, then drove north.

Stan Klein and his dog Ella met me at Firecat Projects a few minutes after I got there. We laid out the drawings along the walls, then Stan put on some jazz and set about measuring and estimating where everything would go. He asked whether I’d prefer to hang them myself but I was more than happy to have someone else do it. I left him to his task and went to the art supply store.

I was hoping to find numbers to stick on the walls but they didn’t have any; I got stencils and a hard pencil instead, after calling to make sure Stan was ok with me writing on his walls. Then I stopped at Mariano’s to order a couple of meat and cheese trays for the opening and headed back to the gallery.

Stan had one wall done, so I set about tracing out 1 through 10 just below each frame. It went fast and easy. Emboldened, I tried to jump ahead and do the opposite wall of the room, which would end with the last piece, number 49, as Stan was done with that side now. I counted and recounted backwards several times over and still wound up making mistakes. Good thing all it to correct them was an eraser. It got worse as I went along—on the back wall I had to redo a sequence of five numbers. But the show looked pretty good anyway.

Several times throughout the afternoon people would pop in to look at the flatfiles Stan was selling out of the back room. A couple were sold and I helped empty them and carry them out to the buyer’s car. They were full of Tony Fitzpatrick’s postcards and show catalogues, left over from when this place had been his studio. 

Wednesday morning Frank Spidale pulled up to my place in a Dominican University short bus. We loaded up about forty paintings and drawings onto the seats and drove downtown. There, my brother Boris, who’d flown in for the occasion, met us at Flax Frame to pick up the rest of my work. We got on the Eisenhower and headed west to River Forest.

There was no loading dock available, so we walked the pieces to the elevator a few at a time. Upstairs in the gallery we laid out roughly what would go where and went to lunch. Frank and Boris hadn’t seen each other in many years but seemed to get along. This boded well for the hours of work ahead.

Back at the gallery, I left them to measure the walls to hang framed pieces while I worked on the opposite side of the room to lay out a wall of unframed charcoal figure drawings. A former student of Frank’s worked on designing the vinyl lettering for the show title, running in and out of the room several times with letters that were first too small, then too big, then, just about right. After that, Boris enlisted her to put the numbered map tacks under the pieces that were already hung. Not the most challenging work but hopefully she got something out of it.

Boris had worked as a gallery installer so Frank and I left him to take the lead on hanging much of the work. He was very thorough measuring and re-measuring each wall as he went. I’ve always just eyeballed every show hang so it was interesting to watch two people who had done this work professionally do their thing on successive days. Stan had it much easier, as every piece was the same size in the Firecat show and the room didn’t have any unusual angles or nooks. The O’Connor Gallery at Dominican is full of alcoves and irregular spaces and the work in the show was different sizes and mediums, some framed, some not. So Boris’s and Frank’s task was much more difficult.

They did it all with good humor and I felt fortunate for their help. Any help hanging a show feels like a great luxury and a weight off my shoulders. Now both shows are up and I’m relieved that the months of preparation and stressing over it are over. I hope a few people see these shows but I’m mostly looking forward to doing the next thing. Whatever that may be. —Here is the painting I did of the Dana Hall Trio performing Pat Metheny’s “Rejoicing” at the Jazz Art Collective a couple weeks back. 

—I illustrated an excerpt from a Marine’s book about his time in the Iraq War for The Rumpus. I used one of my friend Noah Vaughn‘s photos as a reference—not the one below—and he totally busted me.