Woman Crush Wednesday: Isabel Bravo

Imagine that Salvador Dali and Frida Khalo have a brain child and the personification of that image is a Chicago native, Isabel Bravo. Currently a student at Harold Washington College, Isabel is a multifaceted artist with experience in animation, photography, performing and visual arts. If you can name it, she’s probably done it. At age 20, she has already been director of art festivals and has had her art exhibited in the Flatiron Art Center in Wicker Park. The majority of her visual arts work has been by commission, however as of recent months she’s been taking those first steps, to present her own unique ideas and style to the masses. 

Although she started creating art as a child, her pursuit of a degree in art therapy and her art career both began at the same time. Isabel self discovered the positive effects of art therapy as a method of coping with her depression, which she also attributes to her start as a serious artist. It was during a month long stay in a hospital during her 16th year. What started as a way to combat the boredom that comes prepackaged with hospital stays, became a therapeutic yet challenging leap into a world, where she was forced to confront her self and her perception of herself through art. It was this month that helped produce the expressive surrealism that is heavily present in Isabel’s personal artwork.

With self portraits making up the majority of her non-commissioned art, it makes sense that the main influences on her style comes from Peter Paul Ruben, a renowned portrait artist of his time. The goal of her art is to present and share an idea, message or story that draws the viewer into the visuals and cause them to ponder; who they are, what they’re here for, even where they’ve been? Hers is an increasingly successful attempt to represent those hidden emotions we often dismiss, through artistic mediums. Are you up to the challenge her artwork presents?

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Its Strange Its Creative Its Probcause

One should take note from Colin Grimm, or Probcause as most refer him to. Seemingly working round the clock on different projects day to day he was just featured on Gramatik‘s latest album release Epigram. He was included in Back To The Future, which was also released in earlier months on Prob’s Drifters project through Lowtemp. Satoshi Nakamoto, named after the bitcoin creator is the second track on Epigram to be added to Colins music library. While stacking bitcoins as an independent creative artist, Prob joined the list of talented artists to remix Louis the Child‘s track It’s Strange featuring K.Flay. Probcause of course has been perfecting music production and worked on this remix with Drew Mantia adding a hip hop beat and some verses. They then invite Kat V to top it off with her violin. K.Flay having been raised outside of Chicago and Louis the Child, Prob and Drew being from the city; this song is got some heavy mid-west influence! Aside from his music projects Colin, if you have followed him long enough, you will come to notice has an amazing talent in visual arts. Dabbling in surreal art and videos Colin creates some real interesting pieces. Even publishing coloring book in which can fill in the colors of the creatures in Colins head and which you should totally buy. Colin also released this animation he created with Elijah Alvarado recently, getting to politics but with at twist. If you are familiar with WWE this will be even more funnier.

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Beauty Salon Hosts an Art Show with a Bang!

This past Friday, The Black Couch Studio and Gallery owner, Mark Narens, hosted an intimate art show at Bang! Salon in Wicker Park. The night starting at 7pm featured live-looping music from Ever Evolved’s own artist, Cameron Broderick. Singing popular songs such as Lights by Ellie Goulding, and So Close by Alex Clare made everyone pay attention to his unique layering  and bright talent.

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Cam Broderick Live Looping for the Guests of the evening

Of course though, the first thing you’ll notice about the salon is how eclectic it is. It’s electric colored walls and friendly staff is definitely something that jumped out at me. Not only that, but at how many salons do you see an empty Jack bottle being used for a sprayer ?

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Who knew Jack Daniel’s had so many uses?

I had the pleasure to talk to many staff members of the night and finally bumped into the owner, Eli. Searching for more about Bang! Salon, I just had to ask him how he opened up shop. Working for 5 months out of his apartment with 2 other stylists from a previous failed business venture, they started to raise money for their salon. Luckily, his building used to be a commercial space, and he was legally able to incorporate Bang! before he even opened up the current location. Saving as he went, having loyal clientele  and borrowing just a little money let him open up shop for almost nothing. “Month by month I bought a chair here, a mirror there,  to what it is now. I mean we’ve been open for 8 and a half years now, with 8 full time stylists, 2 in training, and a full time front desk manager.”

What’s even more special is that Bang! Salon is in  the process of expanding, going from 6 chairs to 16. ” A lot of what is contributed to the success is not only my educational background of the industry [he also teaches], but also in 2012 I won Hair Stylist of the year for North America (North American Hairstyling Awards). I was nominated in 2 categories, and I won the biggest one … that gave us a lot of local recognition in Chicago, because I was the only one to win it here ever! That’s what helped us get to this next level, which is the expansion. ” It was surprising to find out from Eli that there was an awards ceremony dedicated to great hair stylists.  It’s something that always will be around as a profession, so its appealing to know that stylists, such as Eli, can and do get recognized for their efforts.

The BIG question I asked though is, what really makes Bang! Salon different from those in the surrounding area? Eli gladly answered, “My goal was to work in an environment where everyone was passionate … they are just as [excited] about what they are doing on their clients as I am. We like that comforting and welcoming environment,  [not stuffy and closed in like most salons, Bang! doesn’t even smell like hair products when you walk in]. We’re super diverse, catering from babies to older and elderly people … as artists it keeps us from getting bored and doing the same type of hair all the time. … We’re here to be the best we can be as stylists, cater to our client’s needs as well as we can; [but overall] just get along and respect each other as artists.”

When I asked if Eli had anything else to add, he spoke up about a company he is currently teaming up with, Lock and Loaded,a men’s grooming company. He’s their artistic director. They share a lot of the same values as Eli has with Bang! After developing for 5 years, the duo finally released a product line of 4 men’s styling products, shampoo and a conditioner. Even though it’s Chicago based, it’s quickly blowing up nationally, and starting to move its way across waters. The craziest part about it is the product has only been launched for 4 weeks. “Its fun to see that take off the way it is,” Eli adds.

Coming back to Friday’s event, this was actually Bang!’s first art show. Mark Narens had some wonderful pieces and prints displayed on the walls, and even laid some down on the leather chairs for people to pick up and investigate for themselves. Eli adds, “… just to do an event like this … [supporting] artists, I don’t see enough support in Chicago with complimentary artistic fields as there are … so  I’m really happy to help Support The Black Couch.” And The Black Couch supports the salons. They used to support local shops in the neighborhood because they supported art. But since they wanted to get back in it again, they called around to see who would be interested in hosting Mark’s show. Bang! was the first salon they made contact with. “As soon as I walked in for the first time I knew this was it” said mark, “This is the place.”

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A lovely psychedelic piece by Mark Narens

To book an appointment with Bang! Salon, call : (773)- 276- 9414

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The Black Couch Studio & Gallery

“Every piece of art displays a story”. But what is Mark Naren’s story? Well, Mark is the owner of The Black Couch Studio and Gallery.  The Black Couch is a place where creativity has no limits.  Offering everything from open mic nights, to group art and music lessons, the community can actively be involved in the arts. He has over 70 pieces of his own IMG_20151118_160635on the walls of the studio and has done thousands of others which have been featured in numerous art shows and sold for both residential and commercial use. His style of art has darkness and mystery. People who buy his art don’t solemnly come back to just visit Mark (even though that should be enough reason on its own since he is an excellent conversator). They come back for more of his art because each one of his pieces tell a story people want to hear more of.  Mark does a great job along with Suzanne , his wife, at keeping art and creativity alive.

Suzanne is Mark’s gatekeeper the core of everything The Black Couch is created on. He even wears a key around his neck to symbolize her importance. He is the key-holder and she is the gatekeeper. She organizes every meeting, and records every single person who has entered the studio. She is the brain of this operation.  Mark met his IMG_20151118_160551soulmate and business partner at the beginning of his art career .  Mark was creating centerpieces for Suzann’s son’s Bar  Mitzvah. When he saw her he knew he was “f**ked”  as said by Mark, “If i was to create my dream woman on a computer it would be Suzann.”

 

Mark and Suzanne have used their talents to create something bigger than art. They created after school programs to help kids with their creative freedom. They believe if you start kids off early, releasing their creative expressions, you will build their confidence and it creates a certainty that they will be able to figure out who they are wor who they want to be.  They have a need to let parents know what it means to be creative. It is an ongoing goal to get money put back in IMG_20151118_160700school art programs, because without art, kids will won’t be able to express themselves individually anymore. They recognize where power is and they want to fuel the littles ones early. Mark and Suzanne don’t stop there though. In just helping out, they have a philanthropy. They always give a percentage back to different community organizations and charities. Along as well with believing in feminism,  another point that Mark made was how he wants this to be “women strong”. This past year, around 85% of the artists Mark has worked with have been women. It has inspired his creative movement is just powering the creative. “People need to know more about how creative Chicago is. They don’t know about our musicians as much as they do in other places”

IMG_20151118_160941Mark finds encouragement and inspiration through music. The Black Couch welcomed Ever Evolved and now work side by side. One upcoming event is Misfit In Me. The objective of this project is “to bring light to  the  hyper-creative, that have an incredible strong belief in their own belief system”. An event we can’t miss with live production, performances and art. Misfit in me is something that Mark has been dreaming about having, and is ecstatic to see it come to life. It exemplifies all of his motives and shows everything he has been working towards for so many years. Another project he has collabed on with EverEvolved is Art Cases and smart laces. Partnering  up with Mike Booth (One of Ever Evolved’s MCs), their mission is to create art on phone cases and shoes. Everyone loves to stand out so , it’s going to be done with uniqueness of two products people use and wear everyday. They paint or mark up shoes and cases, each handmade with individual design, one will never look the same as another. Rhymster, another Ever Evolved artist,  just started MC Boot camp. It is an all-around interactive course for all ages interested in expanding their skills on the mic.  Its goal is to teach people to release their creative minds and unwind. It is to  help develop skills in poetry, spoken word, and MC-ing.  It also let’s you enjoy other’s art, and bounce ideas off one another, getting a really good creative flow going.

If you’re looking for unique art pieces, Mark is definitely the guy to see. If you want to meet him and see some of his art displays at a show, come out to Bang! Salon (1425 W ashland ave, Chicago IL) this friday at 7pm!

Feel free to stop by The Black Couch Gallery & Studio:                       Where: 4200 W Diversey                                                                                               Call: 847-321-5681

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-Lizzethe & Naihal