• Words and Photos by Goldenxmisfit

Comfortably Bananas at Vault Gallerie

“I really wanted to create a big BOOM when people walked into the space. A wow moment where all the murals take over to create an immersive environment,” said artist/curator of Comfortably Bananas, Caroline Liu.

Those splashes on the walls are the first thing you see in Vault Gallerie in Logan Square. It feels like stepping, for a brief moment, into a hypnotizing realm of each artist’s mind.

“Since all of our work heavily relies on color and pattern, our artist personalities all have a deep non-stop work ethic; I wanted the title of this show to represent that. We’re all so strangely specific in our own artistic ways. Whether we’re making small paintings or an entire side of a building; we stay comfortably stubborn in how we create,” said Caroline.

(Top left clockwise: A.Zak, Kate Lewis, (Sub)Urban Warrior, Liz Flores, Caroline Liu, Emmy Star Brown)

These six artists local artists, A.Zak, Kate Lewis, Liz Flores, Caroline Liu, Emmy Star Brown, and (Sub)Urban Warrior, are women muralists in Chicago. The fact they’re women artists shouldn’t have to be something distinctly pointed out, yet it’s expected to be. While interviewing Caroline we discussed this, and she pointed out something that has stuck in my head: “why does it have to be a “women’s” show?” Groups shows of all male artists aren’t labelled as such.


Research compiled by artnet news and In Other Words “gathered and analyzed data from international auctions, leading galleries and the Art Basel fair” from 2008 to 2019 (first five months). The results showed $196.6 billion was spent on art with $4 billion of that consisting of women artists. That’s just about 2% of the gross amount. From that $4 billion, around $1.6 billion of it comes from five major artists: Yayoi Kusama, Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Agnes Martin.

That’s an extreme imbalance in the amount of work by women artists being represented in a huge market. Caroline noticed this as an artist and at a Soho House conference with Liz Flores, A. Zak, (Sub)Urban Warrior, and Kozmo. The talk created conversation and reflection on what it’s like being a woman muralist today. Caroline shared,

“We all agreed how it almost felt like a boy’s club sometimes and while we all knew each other; we’ve been mostly isolated from working/collaborating together! So, after the talk, we all mutually agreed that we wanted to start a girl’s club, which I coined with the name Hot Greatness.”

That collective eventually brought the opportunity of a show at Vault Gallerie working with owner Delilah and other female artists expanding the collective.

A.Zak, Kate Lewis, Liz Flores, Caroline Liu, Emmy Star Brown, and (Sub)Urban Warrior were kind enough to give some brief insight into their work, the show, and what’s next!

(Caroline's lovely dog Granpaw)

EMMY STAR BROWN

About:

With each piece, I seek to highlight the interplay between shapes and negative space to story-tell. I begin with a color-intuitive approach that focuses on creating connections and visual balance. My hope is that my work evokes emotion, a feeling, a memory, a personal experience.

Show:

Comfortably Bananas was a unique opportunity to work alongside such a unique and inventive group of Chicago women. This experience not only gave us such a strong sense of community but allowed us one space to shine together.

What’s next?

I am currently working on several new canvas commissions and murals across the city. I also have a hat design debuting with the Chicago Bulls next month.

(SUB)URBAN WARRIOR

About:

I’m a suburb dwelling urban artist who loves to mix fine art and street art together. My work is ethereal and organic, inspired greatly by the natural world and the intangible energies of the universe. I get lost in my work in the best way and want others to wander into it and stay awhile as well. Spray-paint is my greatest love and passion and murals are my favorite way to express myself.

Show:

It was really great to transform the space with other female muralists and artists I respect, admire, and call friends. Opening night was a big success. Seeing all of our work live and breathe next to each other was incredibly inspiring and gratifying.

On piece “Vulnerability”:

Vulnerability is strength. I’ve been feeling incredibly vulnerable lately, and sometimes it makes me feel so weak and so pathetic. Then I remind myself, it takes great strength to show your true self and to own who you are; the good and bad parts, the dark and light. That roaring tiger is in you, that durability is there, and you must remember that always. Things can feel so bleak and hopeless but, you need to look within and find that strength. Keep showing your whole self, it’s beautiful.

What’s next?

I will be painting at several hostels in Costa Rica during the rest of February, then painting at the Lacuna Art Lofts, and am planning on painting in lots of festivals over the summer!

CAROLINE LIU

About:

Currently, my work focuses on daydreams that highlight happy and sad moments, fear, comfort, and intimacy. The push and pull between my realism and cartoon imagery allow me to create a dialogue about our identity: how we perceive it in real life vs. in our minds.


I create several icons throughout my work that represent specific feelings or experiences. In my mural [for the show], I painted this large expressive eel (who I named Liza). She’s cute and playful and a little awkward, but nothing to be scared of. However, in real life, I’m terrified of eels. I think eels are creepy and unnaturally long, but they pose no harm to my life. So, in this mural, Liza is here to remind us that sometimes fear can be silly and learning to coexist is therapeutic in the long run.

Did the show’s results fit your vision?

Yeah, it was pretty much 100% spot on. I finished almost everything the day before and had a moment where I was able to just stop and take in everything at once. It was a wow moment! A proud moment. It was exactly what my brain had envisioned from my very initial sketch.

What’s next?

I'll have work in a show called SLAYSIAN opening at Co-Prosperity Sphere on March 20th. It's a show highlighting and focusing on Asian American artists. Other than that, I'm just taking it easy in my studio and working on new paintings! I'm very excited for the time to do so.

KATE LEWIS

About:

I am a Chicago based illustrator and muralist who blends geometric and architectural linework in a signature style. I intend to create work that challenges the viewers' perspective, both figuratively and literally, with my use of patterns and illusions. I call Chicago home, but most of my color palette choices are inspired by my travels and the sun-stained tropical hues of Florida; where I was originally born and raised.

Show:

Being part of this show was more than just making art within a theme. It was, for me, the experience of sharing a wavelength with all of these creative and empowered women is what made the show so special. Musicians get to jam together, and I’ve never gotten to experience that. For a visual artist, I imagine this was the equivalent. Maybe that’s to say if we were all musicians, I think we’d make a great band, or at least a funny one to watch (laughs).


The mural:

All of my pieces were made to stitch seamlessly into one giant design. The idea being that this was a self-contained, totally goofy series. I liked thinking that each of the pieces for this show was literally pieces of the whole design.

You know how when you lose a puzzle piece and can see the rest of the design and know exactly what’s missing? This felt like the opposite. Once the show is broken down and the mural is buffed out, you've lost 95% of the puzzle, but still have the five leftover pieces. It’s fun to think about what your brain wants to do in that situation to fill in the blanks.

What’s next?

There are a few releases coming up in collaboration with distilled liquor companies and even more female muralists, which will be super fun. Also, this fall I’m designing a hat/poster with the Cubs and doing a mural inside of Wrigley. They’re letting me throw the first pitch and all, so definitely come laugh with or at me there!

LIZ FLORES


About:

I'm a painter and muralist based in Chicago. I am deeply influenced by the everyday human experience, storytelling, and the female body. Working primarily with acrylic paint on canvas, my work is a representation of the human condition through lines, shapes, and abstract figures. It’s a reaction to life, an emotion, or a memory. Painting has always been my way of self-understanding and for viewers, it’s my hope that my work can spark self-reflection in their own life


Show:

What a way to start 2020 off! It was such an honor to create alongside so many talented women. One of the best parts was painting our murals together. Learning about each other's processes, learning about each other outside of art, and simply spending time together. Making art is often a very solitary endeavor, and I love that the Comfortably Bananas show changed that.

On piece “A Few Gray Hairs”:

One of the small works on wood that I painted was inspired by the very human experience of starting to notice more gray hair. I normally paint most of my figures with dark hair but with this one, I added streaks of white. I titled it "A Few Gray Hairs" and noticed a woman who looked at the piece, read the title, and smiled. That was the best.

What's Next?

I'll be releasing a print with All Star Press in March! It's my first print series in a few years, so I'm really excited. I'll also be participating in Vertical Gallery's seven year anniversary show in April. Lastly, I'm planning a solo show in the fall; more details soon!

A.ZAK

About:

I'm an abstract creator whose work aims to raise questions on the perception of time and space in an overworked society. While also promoting mindfulness by creating a meditative visual path for viewers to follow. I started pursuing art after a high volume call center left me feeling completely erased as an individual. It was due to the rigidness of the scripts I had to use, the amount of time I had to speak, and the number of calls I had to take to be considered an asset. I create to counteract the pressured criteria of "success" imposed on humans. Something less serious: I have a grey cat named Tugboat.

Show:

Being on the roster with so many talented artists was a dream. I have an unconventional art background, so being openly welcomed by these established women was more than I could have imagined. I've actually assisted all but one (only due to scheduling) with their mural projects. Working with them has been a gift and to show beside them was an even greater one.

What’s next?

I'll be incubating myself in my studio developing my style further. I'm also hoping to do a limited run print and secure more murals.

CLOSING RECEPTION: February 27th @ Vault Gallerie | 5-8PM

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