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Edie Fake is one of Chicago’s treasured artists. As a friendly face behind the counter at Quimby’s Bookstore, he’s known for supporting the city’s independent artists and writers. He encourages budding zinesters to consign their work, is a founding organizer of the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE), and leads by example through his own artwork, including the award winning graphic novel Gaylord Phoenix. The city has embraced him, and rightfully so.
On Saturday, May 17, a crowd packed into Quimby’s for the Chicago release of Memory Palaces, Fake’s first art book. Memory Palaces is a collection of vibrant drawings in ballpoint pen and gouache that reimagine the city’s queer history by creating detailed storefronts in which it can live. These drawings were originally exhibited at Thomas Robertello Gallery in 2013. After viewing the exhibition in person, my only disappointment was not being able to take the work home with me, which I had become accustomed to with Fake’s art. A little over a year after the exhibition, I got my wish. The drawings were collected into an appropriately oversized book designed by Fake himself.
In the beginning of the book, Fake digs deep into his own personal history. He presents five gateways honoring friends who have passed away: Mark Aguhar, Dara Greenwald, Dylan Williams, Nick Djandji, and Flo McGarrell. The book is dedicated to all of them. Many of the buildings that follow are named after queer institutions from Chicago’s past, including: Jane, an illegal feminist abortion clinic, which Fake has drawn with fallopian tubes and ovaries embedded into its facade; Killer Dyke, a short-lived newspaper out of Northeastern Illinois University; and the Newberry Theatre, whose marquee reads “ANY BOY CAN” and “THE INSATIABLES” in alternating red and black letters. On the back cover, Fake placed “The Threshold of My Closet,” which illustrates the doors to the closet he lived in at his friend’s apartment, upon moving back to Chicago.
At the release party, Fake discussed his inspiration for creating Memory Palaces. He presented a slideshow that displayed photographs of his favorite architectural details in Chicago, which he incorporated into his own drawings. A faded sign featuring the shapes of unidentifiable household items became the inspiration for “Untitled Building (Shapes).” Fake characterized Chicago’s buildings as having an innate queerness to them—a flamboyance in the intricate details of the city’s architecture. He described queer space as a feeling. Queer people know this feeling—that internal sense of whether or not a space is open to them. That feeling radiates from the buildings he designed in Memory Palaces, and can be found in all of Fake’s work.
That feeling was also present on the night of the release party. Edie Fake does not only construct queer spaces in his artwork, he creates them for those of us who need them—on our bookshelves, in the gallery, at Quimby’s. This is why it was heartbreaking when Fake announced he is moving away at the end of the summer. However, Fake has become embedded into the city’s architecture. Riding on the bus down Belmont, I spotted an ornate entranceway that reminds me of his work. Walking down Lincoln, I came across a brick pattern used in the book. Unlike many of Chicago’s buildings, Fake’s presence cannot be erased from Chicago’s memory. He asks us not only to honor and remember our queer history, but to use it as inspiration for constructing queer spaces in the present.
By Edie Fake
Paperback, 9780988814936, 16 pp.