Defiantly Sculpting The Sky

About the Composition

As a young child living in a hamlet in downstate Illinois in the 1980s, my parents would take my brother and I to Chicago every chance they had. Perhaps more than any other state, the stark difference between the vast majority of Illinois, which almost exclusively comprises endless farmland speckled with silos and quintessential Norman Rockwell small towns, and Chicagoland, a gigantic metropolitan region that sprawls for from its urban epicenter (The Loop) for miles and miles in every direction, is unique, but also grounds the truly world city with Midwestern kindness and sensibility, despite its size, wealth, and struggles.

Chicago is renowned for its architecture and is the birthplace of the skyscraper; it is a city where architectural boldness and audacity has always been embraced, resulting in a skyline of dizzyingly tall and groundbreakingly designed monuments to human ingenuity (I’ve often believed that if Howard Roark, the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” had simply packed up and headed to Chicago, he would have had a much less tortured existence, but I digress…).
As a child, I didn’t understand how different Chicago was from every other American city—I simply hadn’t seen and experienced enough to make a thoughtful comparison. Now that I’ve returned to Illinois and Chicagoland, I have developed a deep reverence and respect for this city’s history, accomplishments, contributions, and people.

This work is an homage to the city and its makers—the “Windy City;” the “City of Broad Shoulders.” Every I time I emerge from Union Station and peer at the mesmerizing city, as tall as it is wide, a sense of wonder and awe always overtakes me. The wind off the lake whips through you and between the skyscrapers, and the view of the city from any of its myriad observation decks is both inspiring and a bit terrifying. Within this piece are elements of jazz (while not the birthplace, Chicago was a very important incubator of this uniquely American genre), evocations of rivet guns and the clanging of steel rebar, the sense of fear that the builders of Chicago’s superstructures must have struggled to overcome every day as they ascended higher and higher, all culminating into a triumphant, defiant, emphatic, and relentless hymn to progress.

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