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Local Artist Goes Green
by Amy Wooten
2007-08-01

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Local queer artist John-Michael Korpal is green, and it isn't with envy.

Korpal works in a variety of mediums, such as ceramics, acrylics, pastels and calligraphy, but incorporates found objects into his art. This environmentally-conscience artist who tries to live the greenest life possible wants people to re-imagine items commonly viewed as used or disposable through his art.

Rogers Park's Sunshine Gallery, 1925 W. Thome, will be home to Korpal's month-long solo show and sale, titled '[Re]cycle.' The show runs Aug. 5-26. Meet the artist at the Aug. 5 reception, 1-4 p.m.

Windy City Times had a quick chat with this local artist to learn more about being green, his process and more.

Windy City Times: You incorporate found items into your art. Would you say that you do that because you are environmentally conscience when it comes to your art?

John-Michael Korpal: In addition to that, its kind of fun to have that challenge of being able to create things out of things that I find. They often direct where the piece is going to go. Sometimes, when you look at the piece, you don't necessarily think you see anything that is recycled. The canvases I find, for example, I'll resurface them, then do another piece over them. They don't look like they are recycled, but more than likely, at least 90 percent there is re-used in some form. WCT: When was the first time you decided to incorporate found items into your art, or what influenced you?

JMK: I grew up on somewhat of a farm. Well, a house, but around us were a lot of cornfields and such, so it was kind of neat to see the backdrop of what nature did—it recycled things. So, it was also kind of nice, for me at least, to see that things come around again. Even if stuff isn't going the best that it can, things change. Everything about our lives recycles—it's just how we choose to use what we have. You know, whether we utilize it in the right way or throw it away as trash.

WCT: Having grown up in a rural area, how did coming to Chicago change or not change your art?

JMK: I moved to Chicago when I was 18. The things I would see were more mechanical. They still looked organic to me, but they had more of a structure to them. So it created an idea to create a balance between my natural idea that everything is organic and moving to things that were very structured—it was almost overwhelming. It was kind of fun to take both realities and kind of fuse them together to form somewhat of a balance, which I think I'm still trying to work on.

WCT: You work in a variety of mediums—painting, ceramics and even calligraphy. Do you have a favorite that you like to work with?

JMK: It depends on my mood. There are certain times where there is one medium I'm getting really frustrated with, and I have to do something different that balances it out. Calligraphy for me is more structured. It takes a lot more time because it is more of a precision-type work. Sometimes I'm not in the mindset to sit there and be that patient because I might want to do something brighter, larger and more free flowing.

WCT: You volunteer at Sarah's Circle. Tell me how you got involved with that, and how that incorporates into your art.

JMK: Years ago I used to teach at the Lincoln Park Zoo. I love working with people and I love teaching. There is that energy exchange, and I feel like I learn more from the people than they learn from me.

…When I interviewed [at Sarah's Circle], I was currently taking art as a major and I wanted to be an art therapist at some point. I have a background in psychology, because that was my major when I first moved here, and I wanted to incorporate all of my stuff.

…I would do one class on teaching them how to knit or croquet or how to sew, so they could actually have life skills. Often times, they don't necessarily have a place to call home, so for them to create a piece of artwork—it's like, well. this is great, but what do I do with it now? So, I had them create things that they could be proud of, yet also incorporate in their life. We had a couple of art shows for them. …It was just astounding what they did. It just blew me out of the water that they were capable of doing this.

WCT: Are you also a massage therapist as well?

JMK: I'm a massage therapist going on 17 years now.

WCT: A jack-of-all-trades!

JMK: I like being able to do a lot of things, so I don't get bored. It keeps my life interesting. I can fulfill all the needs that I have. It keeps me busy. I'm able to help people in lots of different ways, and still have fun doing it. I think life is about having fun. At least it should be!

See flyingdolphin.org for more information on Korpal and his work.


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