Performance from Self-Esteem Salon.

Self-Esteem Salon: Chris Verene's Day Spa for Viewers and Performers

Chris Verene with Christian Holstad, The Baptism Series, from Self-Esteem Salon.

Performance from Self-Esteem Salon.

Performance from Self-Esteem Salon.


gescheidle Contemporary Art
1039 W. Lake Street
2nd Floor
Chris Verene: Self Esteem Salon
April 4-May 3, 2008

New York artist and Illinois native Chris Verene presents a show of new photographs, video, and an intensive ‘live-in’ three-day performance artwork entitled, The Self-Esteem Salon. The Self-Esteem Salon is a decade-long highly interactive performance artwork wherein Verene builds a temporary, yet lavish and beautiful, sanctuary to be used in helping strangers/participants make a sincere and lasting change in their lives. The project is something like a day spa, a short time spent in therapy that will have positive results on one's personal life. The artist and his staff of "Group Facilitators" welcome visitors, clients and audience members throughout the duration of the piece, offering a variety of public and private experiences including cognitive therapy, massage (touch and non-touch), costume construction, audio therapy, and other activities that the artist has found to work over the past ten years of practice to raise clients’ self-esteem.

It is noteworthy to explain that many of Verene's Self-Esteem staff members began working on this piece as teenagers, and have grown to adulthood while participating in the work. The experience must be seen and felt to be believed. Some compare it to going to a church, others say it was like a family reunion, still others say it was like going to a very modest orgy. All descriptions are true, as the performers carefully structure the client's experience around what they believe he or she needs to have happen at that moment in the client's life.

The Self-Esteem Salon has a storied past including previous celebrity attendees: John Waters, Matthew Modine, Harmony Korine, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Baby Jane Holzer, and Amy Arbus, daughter of Diane Arbus, all have been involved in at least one performance. The Whitney Museum of Art hosted the piece during it's Biennial 2000, as has Christie's Auction House, and the notorious Hotel Chelsea in New York was host to a week-long version in 2005.

This is Verene’s second solo show with gescheidle. Works in this exhibition showcase some interesting moments of past performances at The Whitney Biennial 2000, Hotel Chelsea in New York, the Old Chelsea YMCA, and the Cavalier Hotel in Miami. Throughout the exhibit of photographs and video, evidence is seen of the ‘Model Search’ that Verene conducts in conjunction with the performance. These young teenagers and adults alike respond to advertisements placed by the artist in search of aspiring models, and the images with them are some of the exhibit's most powerful. Also featured are collaborative works that Verene did with famous artist Christian Holstad, who is currently featured at The New Museum in New York.

Verene first gained significant recognition in 2000 appearing in The Whitney Biennial and through the publication of an extensive catalog by Twin Palms Press. Verene’s work is in the collection of The Whitney Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Jewish Museum; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Walker Art Center; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, among others. In 2001, Verene was the recipient of the first Pollock / Krasner award given for photography. Verene’s work has been featured in ARTFORUM, Art In America, ArtNews, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Vanity Fair, Parkett, Harper’s, Vogue, and The New Yorker. Verene earned his BFA from Emory University in Atlanta, and his MFA from Georgia State University in Atlanta. He lives and works in Brooklyn with his wife, Ani, and their son, Nico.

Verene is simultaneously known as a musician and an artist, currently co-leading the Latin Rock group Cordero (Chicago's Bloodshot Records) with his wife, Ani. He is a founding member of The Rock*A*Teens (Merge Records), and founding member of the legendary D.Q.E., a Chicago/Atlanta music group first recorded by Chicago’s Steve Albini in 1990.

Chris Verene, Bomb (from the Self Esteem Salon) 2004.

Performance from Self-Esteem Salon.