From the outside, the apartment building at 1711 Ridge Ave. looks like many others in Evanston. Clean, modern and unassuming, it’s easy enough to walk by and think little of it, just another apartment full of Northwestern students and young families in their restful domiciles. Step inside Communication junior Ashley Ciurcina’s apartment, however, and an entirely different reality emerges.
Her apartment is home to a small-scale art gallery, housing a mix of works by Ciurcina as well as pieces given to her by friends and other artists. The art permeates the apartment, manifesting itself in everyday objects repurposed with artistic meaning.
“I’ve just had all this stuff in my apartment through the years,” said Cirucina. “I continued adding more things because there was nowhere else to put them.” In addition to her photography, which lines the walls of her bedroom, other, more abstract works can be found through the apartment. One work, a play on “trash” and “ratchet” titled “Tratchet,” is simply a Jack Daniels bottle filled with refuse – marijuana ashes, tea leaves, chewed up gum, used condoms – which rests on the kitchen counter.
Ciurcina sees work like this as a means of expressing her emotional state.
“Someone came over and they said, ‘That’s so fucked up, why would anyone ever do that?’” said Ciurcina. “I feel fucked up sometimes, and people are afraid to explore dirty, uncomfortable feelings, which is something I like to push.”
Ciurcina, who studies communication studies and art theory and practice, decided to open up the gallery in her apartment as a means of fighting against the rigidity of the artistic community. Ciurcina has friends over for drinks to look at the work, and she encourages people to make appointments to come view her work.
“In our art classes we learned a lot about who gets to show what’s good art and what’s not,” said Ciurcina. “I decided, ‘Why can’t I have my own art gallery?’ and show people my work?”
Another element that has strongly shaped Ciurcina’s artistic output is her Chicago roots. Growing up in the Streeterville neighborhood, she grew up surrounded by the urban atmosphere, which she has documented in a series of striking black and white photos of old Chicago warehouses. Her most eye-catching work is also Chicago themed: a collage of CTA “L” maps, cut up and reconfigured in the wall leading into her room.
“I had them up originally in the rainbow spectrum,” said Ciurcina. “But recently I’ve been feeling a lot of weird feelings about growing up in Chicago and going to school so close. I had a little identity crisis, and cut them all up.”
No matter where she goes, Ciurcina plans for her art to follow her along. She plans to reestablish her art in the next apartment she lives in, and she hopes to pursue art in her professional career, whether as a graphic designer or as a college art professor. For her, the ultimate aim is to make sure her art finds its meaning beyond the classroom – that she can share her talent and passion with those around her.
“A lot of people make great art, [but] a lot of people don’t share it outside their classes,” said Ciurcina. “That’s kind of unproductive, so people are really excited by my idea.”