Photos by Suzanne Seed are featured in the exhibit Wonder Window at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Credit: Suzanne Seed photos

Like many of us, Suzanne Seed was confined to her apartment in 2020 as Covid bore down on the world. What made it worse was that Seed, a photojournalist-author-playwright, had also lost her famed artist husband, Art Paul, in 2018, and she was alone in their Gold Coast high-rise apartment, which was overflowing with Paul’s art and books. Seed says she felt like a prisoner.

But she began to experiment with her environment and created a collection of photographs taken through her apartment windows. Thirty-three of these photos, called Wonder Window, are on display in the Second Floor Gallery at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. The exhibit is a must-see!

I met Seed in 2018 in a playwriting class we took at Chicago Dramatists, and I also saw one of her short plays performed in a small theater; I know her to be endlessly creative and innovative. When I learned about the exhibit opening reception Jan. 13, I knew it would be great, and I was not disappointed. 

Suzanne Seed Credit: Krisin Lems

I asked her about the inspiration for the work. “For years, I didn’t like being so far up, with no trees outside my window,” she answered, adding, “what made the difference in my not dismissing my view was my effort to treat it as if I were down there within it,” rich with possibility. 

A September 2021 article in the Chicago Tribune about an exhibit of her late husband’s works mentions that Seed had already begun chronicling the view out of her windows. Evanston Community Arts Director Angela Allyn told the Tribune, “Suzanne’s eye finds monumental beauty in a world just beyond her glass. It encourages each of us to look deeply and closely at the things most familiar to us, and to love them.” 

And this exhibit does exactly that – it is a revelation.

The 33 photos, taken through two windows with a cellphone, show us the beauty, fascination and mystery hidden in our everyday lives – if we just look.

Seed’s Big John Shadow, as Crab is one of the photos on display at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Credit: Kristin Lems

The images encompass a stunning range of angles, colors, shades and images, and they feature such dramatically different weather, times of day and cloud formations that it’s hard to believe they were all taken from the same apartment. 

The photos are splashed with dramatic images of sun, clouds, an airplane, moon and stars, nearby buildings, street scenes and window washers.

Seed’s clever and ironic titles enrich each picture to make us laugh, nod or raise our eyebrows in thought.

One photo, for example, is titled Big John Shadow, as Crab, showing the shadow of the John Hancock high-rise looming over brightly colored buildings below and, in fact, looking just like a crab. Drive Spots shows a shimmering view of the bend in DuSable Lake Shore Drive after dark, ablaze with a mosaic of rainbow lights.

Drive Spots by Seed is part of the exhibit at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center through Feb. 13. Credit: Kristin Lems

The photos also show humor, such as an image in which Seed looks out her window through one of Paul’s framed drawings.  

The exhibit reminds us that creativity and innovation will squeeze their way out of the most restrictive conditions. Other examples might be the lively street sounds of the “bucket boys” who tap brilliant rhythms on plastic buckets, the beauty of community murals and graffiti art or perhaps the Facebook group View from my Window, in which people shared photos of what they saw out their windows during their confinement in the early days of Covid. 

Seed’s exhibit will only be up for one month, but I suspect it will move to another Chicago venue next. 

Allyn, who oversees the Noyes Center gallery, has known and admired Seed for years, and says, “I had to convince her that this was something people would want to see.“  Indeed, you will want to see this! 

The hours for Wonder Window: How Memorializing My City from Three Blocks Above, and During the Pandemic, Transformed Me are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 13 at the Second Floor Art Gallery of the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

This is one wonder you will not want to miss!

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