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June 23, 2012 - An evening with Matt Woodward, L. Miller Lumber and Son and Big Science



I stood recently in a building that is about to be completely torn down. A building owned by one family since 1925, filled with memories, rooms and displays untouched since the '20s, with a beautiful warehouse where piles of lumber and plumbing supplies once filled the room. 

I stood in this empty and raw space full of character, and imagined what life was like when this building was a bustling hardware store and lumberyard. I listened to Bob, the owner, who spent his entire life here, first working for his grandfather as a young boy, and now running the family business. He has fond memories of the place, and there's a certain nostalgia in his voice when he talks about the old days. 

Times have changed though. Economics and the influx of big home centers, coupled with high taxes and costs associated with caring for such a large property necessitated that he sell the building. "I want this space to serve a purpose before it disappears forever," he said as he showed me around. "Let me tell you about The White Palette," I said. The conversation ended with Bob and I shaking hands. Our eyes filled with excitement at the prospect of The White Palette adding some history to his grandparent's legacy, and breathing life into this building before it would be demolished. 

On Saturday June 23rd, following our studio visit with Matt Woodward, we'll continue the evening at L. Miller and Son Lumber, on Division Street in the heart of Wicker Park. We'll bring splendor to this well-hidden jewel and discover Big Science, a group of talented young musicians, who, as one critic put it, "recreate '80s new wave with hustling guitars, slick keyboards, and yearning vocals, but few do it with greater stylistic charm than these guys." 

To honor Matt's new body of work currently presented at the Chicago Cultural Center and to create a link between his drawings and the Miller family story, please come dressed in all white or all black, or a combination of both. 

Matt raises important questions about the cultural effects of mass-production, the industry of replication, and the need society has for something easy to copy in its attempt to create an identity for itself. Replicating and mass-producing the singular ideas and visions of craftsmen like Sullivan or L. Miller contributes to putting an end to the very unique culture and identity these individuals and buildings embody. The story behind L. Miller and Son Lumber, and Bob having to sell his almost century-old establishment due to such demands, echoes the very message Matt is conveying. 

We will meet at Matt's at 6pm, then head over to the lumberyard for the soiree, where we'll have a sit-down dinner with Bob and the musicians before opening the doors to friends of The White Palette at 9pm.

photo credit: JJ Jetel

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