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Formato's Focus
by Eric Formato
2018-06-13

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Welcome to Formato's Focus, a monthly spotlight that shines light on the interesting people doing amazing things within our community.

This week we turn our attention to Margaret Bobo-Dancy, a queer metal worker and artist who creates "Emotional Art" that features metal exoskeletons that various organisms use for protection, such as a seashell. It represents the process and frustrations one must go through to achieve new growth. When she is in her artist character, she wears these heavy pieces during performances that both weigh her down and protect her.

After seeing her impressive and fascinating work, I was curious as to how Margaret got to this point, and how she and her art fit into the LGBTQ community. Recognizing herself as queer since the 6th grade, she's had moments feeling very "other"—not as a woman, but rather, she sees her gender and sexuality as just "Margaret." What kicked off her artistic career was winning the Critical Fierceness Grant from Chances Dances ( a queer space dance party art collective ) and it helped her to afford glass sculptures which led to her success as an artist.

Back when she was working at a different metal shop, she helped in hiring and she was adamant about hiring people of color and queer people because sometimes they're not as experienced as white straight cis men, and that's because someone told them that they can't do this type of work or don't fit the mold.

Iron casting is community oriented—there are outings that people invite others to, and so starts the member's "tree" of who they brought into the community. The outings are a perfect way to introduce others to metal fabrication, which is an extremely expressive, empowering and cathartic process which Margaret says is good for queer people. Not only that, welding and fabrication also make good money. If more diverse people got involved in the field, it would be a better atmosphere for everyone in general.

Fast forward through many years of art shows and professional experiences, Margaret realized she wants to get more queer people involved with this amazing ancient practice of metal casting. When Margaret gets older she wants to teach people to weld and fabricate. She's just starting and learning compared to people with many more years of experience, but nonetheless, Margaret aspires to create an iron pour in Chicago to share the powerful feeling of fabrication with the LGBTQ community.

Check out Margaret Bobo-Dancy at www.margaretbobodancy.com or on Instagram @bobo_dancy, and be sure to check out her upcoming shows ArtShow Chicago Pop Up Gallery ( now through July 28 ), Show 4 ( July 27-29 at Hairpin Arts Center ) and her Solo Show "Ecdysis" ( opens Aug. 1 at Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan Ave. ).


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