The longest-running art fair in the country, SOFA (Sculpture, Objects, Functional Art and Design) CHICAGO, is celebrating its quarter century mark with a sell-out show at Chicago’s Navy Pier Nov. 1-4. The annual meeting place of artists, curators, and collectors focuses on the applied arts; its niche rooted squarely in ceramics, glass, jewelry, wood, textiles, and all objects of a 3D nature.

Approximately 85 exhibitor galleries representing some 800 artists from around the world are presenting at the fair, featuring unique works of art and museum-quality pieces.

A new floor plan made especially for the silver anniversary provides an interesting way to navigate the robust space replete with not only galleries and museum exhibits but also presentations by nonprofit art organizations and student-designed spaces vying for a cash award in a juried competition. Delectables are provided by Eataly Chicago for guests to nosh on while they ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh.’

Photos by Lee A. Litas.

Not to Be Missed

“Social Noise,” patina on bronze, 23” h x 18” w, framed, ($4,600) by Nathan Bennett, represented by the Blue Rain Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rather than straight painting, images are made of pigments extracted from deposits of metals used in liquid form, then applied with a hot bronze. The artist works with blowtorch in one hand and a paint brush in the other to achieve the ethereal effect. When the liquid metal is touched, it deposits iron, copper, silver, sulfur, and minerals, which then meld together to become part of the composition. Find Bennett’s soulful pieces in exhibit booth B7.

SOFA CHICAGO: "Social Noise"

“Golden Binoculars,” (girl_4), ceramic, glass, gold leaf, mirror, mixed media, 105 x 40 x 45 cm, ($6,700) by Namdoo Kim, represented by Gallery Sklo, Seoul, Korea. Kim offers his thoughts on outsized expectations placed by parents on children by clothing his half-human, half-doll figures (six in the series) in oversized garments. The golden binoculars are made to show pursuit of high ideals while their sheer size conversely represents the immense weight, pressure, and stress of unrealistic expectations placed on children. Binoculars’ iridescence allows the audience to reflect on themselves, making viewers part of the action. See Kim’s exhibit in booth A47.

SOFA CHICAGO: "Golden Binoculars"

“The Feather” made of Paraiba, a natural semi-precious stone from Brazil, necklace is 79.03 carats set in 18 carat gold and surrounded by 32 carats of white diamonds from designer Isaac D. Levy and Yvel jewelers. The large center stone can be removed and placed into a matching 9.97 carat diamond pendant to be worn alone; it comes as a set for a cool $1,000,000. Originally from Argentina, the Levy family is celebrating 130 years in the jewelry business and as licensed pearl collectors. Exclusively for SOFA CHICAGO, they brought 600 one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry ranging from $2,000-$1 million. Find them in exhibit booth B10.

SOFA CHICAGO: "The Feather"

“Hibernating Bear,” mixed media and live bullets, 11” x 37” x 35”, ($21,000) by Atlanta artist Mary Engel, represented by Blue Spiral 1, Asheville, North Carolina. Engel created the powerful image of a sleeping bear covered in live bullets as a socio-political commentary on the hunters who venture into hibernating bear caves to kill the defenseless sleeping creatures. Animals, especially dogs, are central to Engel’s work and philosophy. She specializes in mixed media and incorporates antique pieces to infuse her sculptures with nostalgia and make them timeless. Find Engel’s works in exhibit booth A11.

SOFA CHICAGO: “Hibernating Bear"

“Perseverance,” ceramic and mixed media, ($4,200) by Kirsten Stingle, presented by Okay Spark of Norfolk, Virginia. Hand-built with no molds, Stingle tears into the surface of the clay then builds up 20 to 30 layers of black stonewear and porcelain to achieve the bust’s finish in slips, stains, and underglazes. Seeking to convey metaphorically how one can be wounded by love, the artist makes layers visible on the outside of the clay to represent the layers of depth and vulnerability such feelings can carry. Finished with 10 pairs of antique scissors, find Stingle’s works in exhibit booth A21.

SOFA CHICAGO: “Perseverance"

“We Two Together,” bronze, 10” x 10” x 10”, ($3,400) by Michael Alfano, represented by Steidel Fine Art, London, England. The introspective piece shows two figures looking inward but creating a larger presence from their shared union. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”: “Shine! Shine! Shine! Pour down your warmth great sun! While we bask, we two together.” All Stingle’s sculptures are based on philosophical ideas and thoughts, with inspirational quotes accompanying each piece to enable the collector to live with, grow, and have interest in the creations throughout various phases of life. Find Stingle’s works in exhibit booth B32.

SOFA CHICAGO: "We Two Together"

“Studio XVII,” 2018, acrylic on birch panel, 16” x 20”, ($5,800) by Bruce Evans, represented by Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts, Binghamton, New York. Photo-realistic painter, Evans creates his vibrant and luscious images with acrylics using a combination of airbrush and paintbrush techniques. From his just-completed “Studio Series,” the works play with juxtapositions within the compositions to infuse their environment with a near-tangible feel, taste, and unabashed fun. Using brush, airbrush, and artistic sensibilities rooted in photorealism and surrealism, Evans has been engaging and stimulating viewer’s imagination for more than 35 years. Find his works in exhibit booth A48.


“12 Bar Blues for Bird (Charlie Parker),” 62 1/8” x 51 1/8” x 15 5/8”, carved glass, wood, brass, ($28,000) by Steve Linn, represented by Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak, Michigan. Linn’s “living icons” rise from a combination of kiln, cast, sandblasted-glass, bronze, and wood offering both artistic representation and celebration of subject. A master glassmaker, Linn offers a short history alongside his depiction of legendary alto-sax jazz musician Charlie “Yardbird” Parker such that the collector owns not only Linn’s creation but is gifted the knowledge of background and a piece of history. Find Linn’s work in exhibit booth A25.

SOFA CHICAGO: “12 Bar Blues for Bird (Charlie Parker)"

“Torso XII,” 36” x 24” x 5”, cast glass, ($9,000) by Latchezar Boyadjiev, represented by Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak, Michigan. Hailing from Sofia, Bulgaria, Boyadjiev’s work evolves from an idea on paper to a sculpture in glass that, when combined with light, has a powerful impact on the viewer. His dynamic shapes are supported by sensual lines that blend seamlessly with their environment. Boyadjiev strives to make his work exist not as art but rather as part of modern architecture, representing a contemporary environment that reflects the current era. Part of a series; find Boyadjiev’s work in exhibit booth A25.


“Red Lace,” hand-blown, hot sculpted glassware, ($22,000) by Alexis Silk, presented by Mattson’s Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia. Murano-trained, Silk’s molten medium combines conceptual expression with meaningful commentary on human nature and society. Part of her “hanging” series, the figure appears simultaneously as skin and garment. The cast iron meat hooks offer a visceral commentary on the objectification of the body while steel frames represent conceptual boxes of perception imposed by society. The torso’s crimson exterior is juxtaposed with a pallid interior suggesting that, if one goes below surface appearance, there is more to be discovered. Find Silk’s work in exhibit booth A31.


More from Make It Better: 

Lee A. LitasErstwhile columnist/photographer for the Daily Herald and currently 22nd Century Media, for the past 12 years Lee A. Litas has likewise been a dining and trend columnist and photographer for Pioneer Press, first under the Chicago Sun-Times and now under the Chicago Tribune umbrellas. Hailing from a half-Greek/half-Russian family where “filoxenia”  was the way of life, Litas now makes it her business to find the juiciest morsels, both newsy and edible, wherever she travels. Graduate of The American Graduate School of International Management-Thunderbird and Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism; polyglot, all-around gadabout, and Argentine tango dancer — not all at the same time, mostly.



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