Smile Politely

New Boneyard venue spotlight: Immaterial Gallery

As the 20th Boneyard Arts Festival approaches, Smile Politely is spotlighting artists and venues who are participating for the first time, as well as artists who are debuting work in a new medium.

I spoke with Phillip Kalantzis-Cope of Immaterial Gallery, a new gallery space located within Prairie Glass House. Immaterial Gallery offers a nontraditional, immersive gallery experience spotlighting artists currently working on projects with Immaterial Books. Both of which are led by Kalantzis-Cope and Tamsyn Gilbert. Immaterial Books “is an independent publisher of contemporary art and literature. We seek to cultivate an editorial perspective that challenges us to think critically—and in parallel—about subject matter, medium, and the book form.” Everything about this venue, its host, and the work to be shown, is carefully curated to inspire a thoughtful and transformative experience. It promises to be a much-needed addition to our local arts and culture landscape. 

Smile Politely: Tell me about Prairie Glass House? Where is it located? What kind of space is it? What inspired the idea for this space?

Kalantzis-Cope: Prairie Glass House is inspired by some of the great modernist houses of the twentieth century—but it is also unique in many ways. In fact, it is a very twenty-first-century building. All its exterior walls are gentle curves. It has 94 double glass doors opening out onto a magnificent prairie forest. In summer, open all the doors and it is a breezy pavilion. In winter, it is a warm oasis sitting gently in the winter forest.

The house is situated in 17 acres of forest on the edge of Champaign, a remnant of the original Big Grove, including some of the largest oaks in the region, up to 350 years old. The grounds include: the multi-award-winning Victor meditation hut by Jeffery Poss, architect; a picturesque pond with jetty; and the pyramid, a homage to the Mississippian culture and the people who for thousands of years lived in the forest on this very site. It is a private residence, available for hire for events—weddings, functions, and meetings. It has been closed during the pandemic. They are only now starting to begin the process of re-opening.”

The Boneyard event will be hosted by Immaterial Books. We are having our first show of the Immaterial Gallery–a gallery with no brick-and-mortar grounding, rather based on a curatorial program that is location and context specific. All of the artists participating are currently working on book projects with Immaterial Books. 

SP: What are you most excited for Boneyard visitors to experience?

We’ll be using the whole property and range of contemporary photo-media artists.

There will be two site specific works:

A Changed Sun—Will Arnold + Nick Mullins: a new site-specific sculptural collage by Nick Mullins and Will Arnold. The work draws inspiration from classic science-fiction pulp stories, comics, vernacular architecture, and play. (A portion of which is shown in the header image)

Dust and Ashes by photographer Micah McCoy in black and white shows a bare tree and clocktower rising above the ruins.

Image courtesy of Immaterial Books.

Dust and Ashes—Micah McCoy: Large format images placed along the entry pathway from the series Dust and Ashes. Below is a quote from McCoy’s artist statement. 

 “I wrestle with the age-old conundrum facing humanity when confronted with devastation in the presence of a quiet God. Loosely based on the Judeo-Christian story of Job, the series witnesses a family faced with existential crisis in a chillingly desperate landscape. Centering around a family home, the photographs map and chart the psychological space of my family’s private inner world. As I’ve photographed our farmhouse, the surrounding lands and took portraits of myself and my family, I began to see our home as a canvas on which the various sectors of our consciousness were laid bare. Here, I reckoned with the heavens, raised children, laid in the sunlight with my wife, and had a cup of coffee every morning and the space, once just a house, has illuminated itself to us all.”


We will have the work of three photographers, inside the house:

Mere Beauty by Phillip Kalantzis-Cope, Beach Boulevard by Brian O’Neill, and See it When I Believe it by Nathan Pearce, as well as a Provenance, a work of video art by Tamsyn Gilbert. We’ll also be displaying zines from Will Arnold and Nathan Pearce.

Smile Politely: Tell us more about the artists.


Will Arnold received his MFA in Photography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently lives and works in Champaign, IL where he manages the student labs and studios at the School of Art + Design at the University of Illinois. Will co-runs Work Press & Publication, a Risograph-based zine and artist book self-publishing venture. In recent years, Will’s practice has primarily focused on zines, comics, and artist books. Through collage and delving into and remixing historical comics, he explores themes such as landscape, epistemology, and memory.

Nick Mullins received his Master’s of fine art in Metals from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He currently manages labs at the Schools of Art + Design at the University of Illinois. Nick’s work revolves around improvisation, risk, chance, and the decay of memory.

Tamsyn Gilbert holds a BA in Cinema Studies and Anthropology from The University of Melbourne (Australia), a Masters in Media Studies, a Masters of Philosophy (Sociology) and a Ph.D. in Sociology from The New School for Social Research (USA). She seeks to understand the form and function of artistic practices, conceptualize their deep sociological meanings, and become an advocate of their artists via her written, artistic, and curatorial work. Her research connects the sociology of art, media studies, and cyberfeminism to explore the ways and which women are “seen” in digital environments. From volunteering at major film events including the Melbourne Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival to working on archival projects at Anthology Film Archives, to one-on-one collaboration with artists staging performances, she has been exposed to a range of media techniques, platforms, and tools of production and display. Tamsyn has also brought together exhibitions and events linked to international festivals (Venice Biennale and Liverpool Biennale), museums (Museum of Modern Art, New York City), and research institutions (Hong Kong Baptist University, Manchester School of Art). She had also created online platforms to foster collaborative content development and display.

Phillip Kalantzis Cope holds a BA in Public Policy from Monash University (Australia), a MA in International Relations from The Australian National University (Australia), and a Ph.D. in Politics from The New School for Social Research (USA). He uses the camera to draw attention to the subconscious of the everyday. In the reflected truth of the subject matter, he seeks to find redemptive potentials in the properties of our collective history. His work has been published, exhibited internationally, written about, and can be found in public and private collections.

Brian O’Neill is a sociologist and photographer based in Illinois, for the moment. His work explores the relations of society to nature, using a variety of documentary and analytical techniques. Much of his photographic and sociological output to date has investigated the practices and meanings of “industry” to local communities and environments. Rather than the typical documentary question – what is going on here? Brian’s work provokes a confrontation with a society that begs the question: how did we get here, to begin with?

Micah McCoy is a photographer and poet based in Central Illinois and Chicago. Micah’s work explores issues of religiosity, anxiety, and social detachment. With a background in Sociology, Micah captures artifacts left behind from the social interactions of individuals and communities as well as catching these interactions in progress.

In 2020, Micah accepted the Henry Nias Business in the Arts Fellowship with the Museum of Contemporary Photography. He currently serves in this role while working to complete an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. His work has been featured in many online publications and featured in exhibitions at the Urbana Museum of Photography, The Independent Media Center Urbana, JKC Gallery Trenton, NJ and others.

Nathan Pearce is an artist based in Southern Illinois. Pearce works in book and zine making and photography. Pearce’s publications are held in several artists’ book and library collections including those at MoMA, The Met, Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Center for Creative Photography. His work has been exhibited in solo shows at the PhotoNola festival, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Nizhniy Tagil Museum of Fine Arts and The Rangefinder Gallery in Chicago. He has been published in over 200 books, zines and exhibition catalogs; as well as online in The Huffington Post, The British Journal of Photography, Juxtapoz and Self Publish Be Happy.

Immaterial Gallery’s event will take place on Saturday, April 2nd, beginning at 2 p.m. It is located at 4018 N. Lincoln in Champaign. 

Top image, cropped, A Changed Sun, by Will Arnold and Nick Mullins, courtesy of Immaterial Books. 

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