Eileen Dorsey and Ish Muhammad live 300 miles apart, yet they do the same thing on the third Friday of each month: host art walks in multigallery complexes. While vastly different in style — Dorsey is a Cleveland landscape painter and Muhammad is a Chicago post-graffiti abstract expressionist — the coincidence became an opportunity to learn from each other with a studio swap. In May, Dorsey spent a week in Chicago observing the arts scene, collaborating with Muhammad and presenting an art walk show. Muhammad will do the same at Dorsey’s 78th Street Studios gallery Sept. 15. Dorsey shares lessons from her cultural exchange.
Dorsey got a feel for graffiti when she tagged a life-sized, truck-shaped toy chest that’s also been tagged by other artists visiting Muhammad’s studio. She interpreted it in her own style by doing a painting of the chest and getting Muhammad to tag it. His work encouraged her to play with blurring the line between positive and negative spaces. “Some of those shapes made its way into my artwork,” she says.
Dorsey was impressed by Chicago’s abundant public art, especially a mile-long mural showcasing different artists’ works. “Street art makes people more aware about the art community,” she says. She’d like to see more public art here and plans to add some flair herself by collaborating with Muhammad and local graffiti artist Bob Peck on a Gordon Square Arts District mural.
Observing Muhammad, and meeting clients and art fans in Chicago refocused Dorsey’s painter’s eye. “It helps your creative flow because it’s easy to get stuck into the same-old, same-old routine,” she says. She plans to keep collaborating and is continuing to apply to interactive artist residencies in other cities.