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The Alchemy of Heresy with Michelle Hartney and Ann Lewis

November 1, 2023 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


The Alchemy of Heresy with Michelle Hartney and Ann Lewis is a panel discussion about the wave of book bannings happening across the United States. Artists Ann Lewis and Michelle Hartney will introduce their new project, The Alchemy of Heresy, which will be unveiled at the NADA art fair in Miami in December of 2023. Through the installation of a network of sculptural “Little Libraries,” each filled with banned books, this project seeks to challenge the boundaries to knowledge and imagination. Each little library becomes a beacon of defiance, inviting readers to explore the forbidden words and worlds that challenge the status quo.

Register for the Zoom discussion here.


Michelle Hartney is a Chicago based artist and activist. Her work focuses on gender rights, reproductive healthcare issues, and cancel culture.  Utilizing fiber, ceramics, wood, embroidery, and social practice, she has completed projects that address birth control access in America, obstetric abuse, post partum PTSD, gender affirming care, and the roles racism and misogyny play in maternal health outcomes in the United States. Her interest in using art to address social issues began during her graduate studies in art therapy at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Hartney often offers cathartic actions for viewers to participate in. She has collaborated with the ACLU, Improving Birth, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses, and Birth Monopoly to raise awareness about reproductive health issues.

Hartney has performed guerrilla activations at The Art Institute of Chicago and The Met, calling on cultural institutions to provide the truth about artists they represent and context about problematic work in their collections. Her work has been published in the New York Times, CNN, BBC Radio, The Guardian, Ms. Magazine, Vice, PBS, Women’s Health, Artnet News, and Hyperallergic.

Ann Lewis is a Providence-based multidisciplinary artist who uses public space and participatory performances to respond to current social and political issues. As an interdisciplinary activist artist, she incorporates painting, installation, sculpture, and participatory means to explore themes related to American identity, power structures, and justice. Ann’s work often includes repetition through graphic elements, and a limited color palette while conveying messages around intersectional social justice issues such as gentrification, women’s rights, and police brutality. Her work is informed by engaging affected communities and reflects relevant scientific data through intuitive use of concept-specific materials.

Notable recent works include Just One Day (2021), a kinetic sculpture representing the estimated 1280 incidents of gender-based violence that happen each day in the United States. This work produced by manually punching over 1,000 holes in waxed canvas, is suspended from the ceiling and makes a full rotation every 72 seconds. Each revolution represents the incident frequency of this systemic national health crisis. Ann’s work and counting… is a chrono-reactive installation detailing every death at the hands of American police officers in 2016 on individual toe tags. Her work has been acquired by the New York Historical Society Museum and the US Library of Congress.

In 2017 she was commissioned by Now + There to complete See Her, which won An Americans for the Arts Public Art In Review Award. This Boston mural was created in community with local returning women and highlighted the humanity and dignity of women transitioning out of incarceration. Ann has since received several large-scale public art commissions, including Same, Same, but Different a 500′ long work at the Pittsburgh International Airport as well as 14,000 square foot mural at the headquarters of Duolingo.

Since receiving her bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Ann’s art has been reviewed in The Guardian, Hyperallergic, The LA Times, Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, and NPR. She has exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the US and abroad, including exhibitions at Petzel Gallery in New York, the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, and Seyhoun Gallery in Tehran, Iran. Through community organizing, participatory performance events, public art, and gallery installations, she continues her dialog of mindful and social evolution. Ann expects to receive her MFA in Digital Media from the Rhode Island School of Design in Spring 2023.


November 1, 2023
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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21c Chicago