By Christina Reavley
The Sculptural Objects Functional Art and Design Fair, also known as SOFA, is a two-day art convention focusing on a love for art. SOFA Chicago has been coming to Navy Pier for the past 24 years. The show celebrates and showcases art from around the world, with an emphasis on 3D work. Individual galleries curate a collection of pieces that fit its individualized theme. There are also displays for art enthusiasts to buy new art and become familiar with new talent. Additionally, there are opportunities for artists to learn about different mediums that they would not otherwise be familiar with and to receive advice from working artists through demos and lectures. This past year, there were around 60 galleries from over 10 countries presenting work at SOFA.
This year, Ms. Minyo, Art Department Chair, was able to work with an executive from SOFA to obtain tickets that were affordable for students. Ultimately, Ms. Minyo took almost 40 Ceramics and Mixed Media students to SOFA to learn about and to become more engaged with the art world. While there, students acted as gallery curators, creating a catalog of ceramic works that fit a chosen theme. During my visit to SOFA, I focused on ceramic works that incorporated floral designs into their aesthetic. I examined work that was exceptional and expensive including wood and glass works. Some of my favorite pieces came from Next Step Studio and Duane Reed Gallery.
SOFA attendees are given the opportunity to meet an artist and speak to them about their work. Artists are encouraged to take the information they learn back to their own work. In addition to being an art convention, SOFA is a positive space for people of all talents and skill sets. Even if you do not create art or do not enjoy gallery settings, you can become engaged with work for its aesthetic or meaning. Galleries like Art Unified curates shows geared towards younger audiences; its work makes strong political statements and tells relatable stories. A unique element about the booth is that it also sells shirts showcasing the art and different political statements. In their mission statement, it says “Art Unified showcases art internationally, creating conversations through relatable humor, emotional, political and cutting-edge art”.
You can see that same theme of strong political statements with a piece from the Maria Elena Kravetz Gallery and artist Bob Clyatt. He creates American Flags embedded with objects from the citizens of rural towns around the United States. He calls this project “The Shared Spaces Project,” which began as a way for him to expand his knowledge of the world outside of urban New York. His ultimate goal is to create numerous shared spaces and “give us new insights, new ways of seeing ourselves, our similarities and our differences.” This piece in particular was created with the citizens of LaGrange, Georgia, and includes images that many people in the town come across every day. Clyatt’s idea of creating shared spaces can be useful in encouraging growth and knowledge.
Artwork shown at SOFA can go beyond what you think is possible as every piece is unique and out of the ordinary. The artists tend to combine elements that you would not otherwise picture together. At SOFA, you will never see a simple vase -- the artwork will explore the boundaries of surface and technique. You can see that exploration with this piece below from artist Steven Young Lee and the Duane Reed Gallery. These two vases have smoothed surfaces and follow the basic form of a vase. However, they each have holes with the ridges extending out as if something came from the inside.
The Sculptural Objects Functional Art and Design Show at Navy Pier is an amazing experience for everyone to grow as an artist and learn from other working artists. It is also a great time for us to grow a love for various types of art.