Mile 5: 90th-82nd Street
This painting is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago. I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street, Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods." Check back next Monday to see a post about the next mile of Western.
When I first walked this stretch of Western, I was entirely surprised. I had no idea to expect 60 acres of closed-canopy oak woodland with nature paths, two miles of paved bike paths, and picnic areas to bound Western for a full mile. The Dan Ryan Forest Preserve is also great for sledding in the winter or taking a scenic hike in the summer. Part of it sits above Chicago's prehistoric glacial lake water levels, and referred to by geologists as "Blue Island," is one of the highest natural points in the city.
I found it charming and a bit disorientating to walk along this stretch with a tree canopy on one side and four lanes of traffic on the other. The image depicted in this painting seemed a fair representation of this mile, because in reality the forest is not pristine, in runs along with an understanding that it is bounded by asphalt, automobiles, and the human desire for development.
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Have you visited the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve? What did you think?