Multimedia artist Christine Buckton Tillman has mixed emotions about the Chicago suburbs, where she grew up. “In my youth, I rebelled against the suburbs, as all good punk rock young Chicagoans do,” she says. The suburbs, to her, felt artificial, imbued with a kind of glossy materialism in its mall culture. But there were parties and celebrations and plenty of beauty, too. “That beauty and that artificiality,” she says, “have always been at odds in my mind. I’m interested in how the suburbs are both kind of beautiful and sinister at the same time.”
Tillman earned her MFA in painting and drawing from the University of Iowa but now works in various media, including painting, ceramic sculpture, fiber, and installation art. Materials tend to influence the concept underlying her works, which, to varying degrees, draw upon her memories of a suburban childhood. Take her clay paper chain series, for example. Tillman appropriates a common birthday party decoration—paperchains cut from cheap, primary color crepe paper—for a highly technical, fragile, and functionally impractical ceramic sculpture. “Paperchains are super disposable when you’re done with them,” she says. “But the ceramic material is the opposite. Fired clay lasts thousands of years—it’s really durable but also fragile.”
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