Chicago buildings look like dirty cakes, Edie Fake tells me, and I imagine not a wedding but the bachelor party—who or what kind of person might jump out of a giant dirty cake? Fake’s drawings from the “City of Night” series, which are fictional portraits of architectural façades, inspire a little guessing game. “I trust you can imagine what goes on inside,” says Fake.
He begins with the name of a historic Chicago spot that served or promoted the gay and lesbian community, such as Sappho, The Virgo Out and The Cabin Inn, and dresses it up in architectural fantasy. Although all of these clubs, bars, community centers and gathering spots are now shuttered, photographs and narratives exist in various local archives. Still, Fake refigures their street-view facades using a composite of architectural details culled from his observation of Chicago vernacular styles. These are small, human-scaled buildings, decidedly not skyscrapers, that sport rainbow siding, or a swinging saloon door, or slanted roofs like a suburban residence. There is little sign of people in these drawings, besides a half-pulled window shade in one. The facades are still and quiet, like the exaggerated monuments to the dead in Graceland Cemetery.
The “City of Night” series is Fake’s small side project to his grand scroll of Chicago gay history, currently in progress. He describes the scroll as a huge visual map, though not linear, and a “pile of history.” It will be more historically functional than the creative portraits of long-gone clubs, as Fake is conducting research locally at the Leather Archives, the Chicago History Museum and the Gerber/Hart Library. Both the scroll and the “City of Night” series are part of Fake’s investigation into the psychology of lost, or hidden, or secret, Chicago locales.
In the “City of Night” series, the place names become signposts for viewers to explore on their own. For example, the drawing with the rainbow siding is for The Virgo Out. I looked online and found out that, in the 1930s, The Virgo Out was a hub for the “pansy and lesbian craze in Bronzeville.” This is fascinating, and I’m further lured into this terrain by Fake’s good hand at drawing decorative patterns. The houndstooth, herringbone and geometric labyrinth designs (plus tons more hand-drawn patterns in Fake’s multi-issue zine “Gaylord Phoenix”) are not superficial pattern porn but, like the long-gone clubs, have their own social histories and cultures of identity. Patterns on repeat hint at an attractive continuum.
Published in Newcity (February 21, 2011)