Omi

You studied art history and fashion in Florence and Paris. Now you are the creator of Fear No Art Chicago. Why do you call the Windy City home?

I’ve always said that if I’m going to live in the states I’m going to live in Chicago. It’s open, it’s accessible, people are friendly and you’ve got space. It’s not just the physical space but you’ve got the room to be creative and make your mark. It’s not cut throat like New York and there isn’t that chi-chi celebrity thing that L.A. has. Those things can get in your way where here you can just really be creative and people are open to that.

What is the Chicago art scene like compared to New York or L.A.?

Here people support one another. You can be someone just starting out like you guys, you can have a business and people will get behind it and see the value of that idea and say, “Hey, that’s great!” They won’t be like, “Well, who do you know? Where have you been? What have you done?” They’ll think, “These girls are smart and have a great idea,” and that’s how things happen in this town and I really respect that.

How did your idea for your live show “The Dinner Party” come about?

I love to throw dinner parties and I love to invite people who don’t know each other. I threw this awesome dinner party about two years ago. I had been interviewing artists for a long time now and I thought since I know so many artists that I should invite these people who don’t know each other and bring them together for one big dinner party. I did this at my house and I thought, “Alright, well this is a show!” It’s completely accessible and that is the goal of the show, to bridge the gap between the artists and audience. It’s really meant to be unassuming and fun with wine, food and art. It’s hard to go wrong with wine, food and chocolate!

Besides great conversation, what is a must-have for hosting a good dinner party?

A really wild selection of cheese! Stinky, soft and hard cheese from Spain, France and Portugal. It’s interesting to see who likes what.

What made you want to make this into a career?

In college I studied the lives of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre and it gave me the global perspective on art. They had such a tumultuous and interesting life. Simone de Beauvoir, this French writer came to Chicago and she had an affair with Nelson Algren and there was this nice Chicago tie. I think that opened me up more to the life of creativity than to an actual piece of art. Everything is a piece of art. When you open yourself up to that your life becomes a much bigger place. People usually think art is about painters but I think it’s about writers, actors, dancers and directors as well painters, sculptors and chefs.

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What makes Chicago such a great art city?

Oh gosh, there are so many reasons. Certainly we are an architectural hub and we stand out for music as well but we have wonderful public art that is all over the city. I think we have something like 700 works of art scattered everywhere. Something we are going to be talking about at “The Dinner Party” is the new Chicago Architectural Plan that is coming out this month. There is really a push by Mayor Emanuel to make Chicago an international art city. We are at a very exciting time for Chicago. We are at the cusp of dance, theater and the visual arts.

In all of your travels, what have you found to be the biggest difference between the lifestyle here versus abroad?

People are experiencing life more abroad than they are here. People are really so busy running around here. Paris is a busy city for sure but people are still stopping and saying, “Hey, let’s grab a coffee,” and they are really connecting. When people ask, “How are you?” they say, “My job is kinda iffy right now so I don’t know,” and they really give you an answer! I miss that and that is one of the things I’m trying to recreate at “The Dinner Party”, that connection with people.

For someone new to buying art, what advice do you have?

Right now we are in Chicago Artists Month so every artist in the city has a show somewhere. It might be in a coffee shop or in a fine gallery but everyone is showing their artwork. You can just go to chicagoartistmonth.org and there is a list of everything that is going on in the city. Every neighborhood is getting behind it and opening up every space possible. Buy what you love, buy what speaks to you. And for the rest? Who cares! You will be so happy down the road because that will be the thing that stays with you.

We picture your house being filled with beautiful art.

I travel a lot and I’ve lived all over the world so I have art from everywhere. Wooden sculptures, tapestries, silks that hang on the wall, sculptures, stone bowls. So it’s art art everywhere and nothing matches. It’s just a culmination of years lived all over the world.

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Who is one of your favorite artists?

Peggy Macnamara. She is the only artist in residence at the Field Museum. So how cool is this? You know how the Field Museum has all of those stuffed animals? She documents everything that comes into that museum. I have a huge life-size american alligator that she painted in watercolor that hangs over my fireplace.

Do you think of yourself as an artist?

I don’t necessarily think of myself as an artist. I think I march to my own tune. I have a big life and I want to maintain that diversity. I just try to do and experience as much as I can. I’m much more interested in experience than titles.

Do you have any talents we may not know of? 

I pick up languages really easily. French, Italian, German. I can understand Spanish because it’s so close to Italian so I can get by. But I don’t have the tech thing. [Laughs]

Favorite vacation spot?

Cambodia.

Go-to restaurant?

I love the Publican and Nellcôte. The restaurant that I really miss because it really stood out in my mind as exceptional is the Savoy Truffle.

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

Simone de Beauvoir. We would definitely drink wine and I really want to ask her how it is that she was able to be an advocate for open relationships. She was in love with one person and opened the door so that they would have other partners and other relationships and live with that uncertainty.

Fear No ArtPhotography by Neal Agustin

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Omi