The jump between a burning wick and a burning building is short and quick; there is no finer line between comfort and fear than that which exists with fire. In this large-scale paper installation, fire consumes the interior of a building in Chicago known as the Comfort Station, and an accompanying video elaborates on the story of the fire. The installation is viewable only from the outside of the building, and the tall plumes of fire glow through the windows to the viewer outside. The viewer remains safe outside the building, looking at a frozen moment in time, before the windows blow out or the firefighters arrive.
In this project, Kate McQuillen examines fire as a material that we simultaneously need and fear. For tens of thousands of years, fire has provided humans with warmth, light, and protection. Campfires and flickering candlelight bring about feelings of safety, community, and comfort. Fire is often used to describe love and passion: hearts on fire, burning desire, old flames. But all of this comes with the caveat of control; when a fire is no longer tamed, it quickly moves into the realm of blazes, explosions, bombs, and wildfires.
McQuillen’s installation will be viewable from the outside of Comfort Station for the run of the show after sundown, transforming the distinctive historical building into a public art piece. The opening event on Saturday, January 24th will be held just down Milwaukee Ave. at Uncharted Books.
McQuillen’s video will be screening on a loop at the Uncharted space, and groups will cross the avenue to view the Comfort Station installation every half hour. Uncharted has also scheduled their monthly reading series, Opaque, to take place during this opening, focusing on themes relating to McQuillen’s study on passionate love, destruction, and attraction to the sublime.
Kate McQuillen is a Chicago-based artist working in printmaking and installation, and is represented by O’Born Contemporary in Toronto. Her group exhibitions include the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Galerie Art Mûr in Montréal, and the Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis. She has been the recipient of grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, among others, for her large-scale installations. Her work has received press in news outlets such as The Chicago Reader and Printeresting, and has been included in publications by Poetry Magazine and Rutgers University.