Critic’s Choice with Andrew Patner
Remarkable People, from broadcast on 98.7WFMT Radio Chicago

Earlier that day, I paid a visit to a visual artist relatively new to Chicago, Michael (Misha) Goro. As do my critical colleagues, I receive many mailings, e-mails, and telephone calls from artists or performers seeking a review of their work. Usually I just try to assure them that I try to keep track of things going on, I’ll look through my mail and various published listings and try to catch as much as I can. But as I took the call from Misha Goro, it seemed to me that there was more to his story. Born in what was then Leningrad in what was then the Soviet Union, the work that he directed me to on the Internet showed an uncanny understanding and appreciation of his adopted Chicago. When I tell you that the show’s signature piece, a depiction of the El and surrounding switching equipment, is called Urban Serenity, you’ll have a sense that this is a man who knows cities intuitively. That he was showing at the admirable not-for-profit ARC Gallery/Educational Foundation was also to his credit and so we arranged to meet. An artist can have a great story and make work that doesn’t matter and a great artist can be secretive or lead a relatively uneventful external life. But Goro somehow has managed to move around the world in an unlikely pattern — from St. Petersburg to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Salt Lake City, from Salt Lake to Champaign-Urbana, from Champaign to Chicago with other equally unexpected stops along the way: he is also a professional tango dancer who trained in Buenos Aires, his girlfriend is completing her Ph.D. in Syrian archeology at The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, he has successfully shown and sold his work in Japan, and he keeps a close relationship with his first cousin and fellow emigrant who is a professor of African History in New Jersey and also a model for Goro. The most intriguing thing about this not-yet-40 maker of beautifully worked etchings is that his work somehow conveys much of this experience and history quite separately from the jolly running commentary that he supplied in the gallery. From Venice to New York to St. Petersburg to Chicago, his show Urban Landscape is deeply felt, captivating, and highly original. It shows at ARC, 734 North Milwaukee Avenue, through the end of the month.

Growing up in what was then Leningrad in what was then the closed-border Soviet Union, Misha Goro could not have anticipated that he would not only travel to but live in countries around the globe. (As an instructive reminder, his father, a prominent architect in St. Petersburg still, was not able to visit the United States and New York City — a place he had dreamed of all of his life — until 1998 when he was then 76 years old.) It is not just talent that makes the truly humane artist, but the way he or she responds to the seeming impossibilities of life, seizes opportunity even from defeat or disaster, knows that giving is in itself the highest form of living. It’s having the courage and the fortitude to have a remarkable life.

I’m Andrew Patner.