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Notes + Bolts Throws Two-Year Anniversary Show; Founder Kriss Stress Talks 'Blank Expressions' Project

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 13, 2014 8:30PM

Once more, this time with feeling: there's busy, and then there's Kriss Stress busy. The founder of Notes + Bolts, a music imprint with a penchant for releasing its work on odd formats, celebrates the micro-label's second year with a show at the Empty Bottle. Additionally, Stress has an art show unveiling the first 100 pieces in what Stress is calling the "Blank Expressions" series.

In "Blank Expressions," a portrait series, Stress uses a subject-provided photo, then removes the "traditional facial attributes of an individual - their eyes, mouth, nose." Using pen, ink, and collage, Stress draws a portrait of an individual against a set of words that they themselves provide.

The end result looks like this:

The first 100 entries in the "Blank Expressions" series [of which, full disclosure, this writer is one] will be shown at Simone’s in Pilsen starting next Wednesday, April 16. The Blank Expressions series will continue through until the end of the year and stop at 365 pieces.

Meanwhile, the Empty Bottle show is the day before, Tuesday, April 15. On the bill are local acts such as Axons, Zigtebra, mtvghosts, Velocicopter, and The Welcome. The show is $5, 21+.

For Stress, even though the "Blank Expressions" series was conceived years ago, there weren't enough subjects Stress knew to enact the project. With the high profile of Notes & Bolts, though, Stress found many subjects to profile.

"I definitely feel like Blank Expressions, and the larger amounts of attention that have been paid to my art over the last half a year, has been largely due to my having plugged into the music community by way of documenting it with Notes and Bolts," Stress said.

Because Stress was able to use the success, underground as it may be, of Notes & Bolts to properly kickstart "Blank Expressions," the success of the two projects is intertwined.

"I don't feel like I could honestly have one without the other, and I'm not sure that I would want to," Stress said. "There have been times where I've felt overwhelmed by the work load that's come with juggling these two pretty major things—but seeing the body of work has been pretty cool and that's something that I'm just going to keep chipping at without stopping."

In order to keep up with drawing the portraits—of which Stress has to complete one a day for an entire year—Stress said a schedule of working on a Blank Expression portrait first thing in the morning helped install a sense of consistency, serenity, and meditative discipline.

"It's definitely a meditative experience, getting up and doing this one thing day in and day out and very rarely taking a break from that structure," Stress said. "I think that consistency is a much higher pay off than the romanticized idea of the tortured artist who spends all day every day and all night every night slavishly working."

The show at Simone's on Wednesday has special significance.

"This show at Simone's is the first time that Blank Expressions have been able to be seen in a public setting and I'm pretty proud of how they all look together," Stress said.

"Once the entire 365 set is done, I definitely have some ideas on how to display all of them—I'm just going to need to find someone with a big enough space since these first 100 already take up a nearly 10x10 foot wall!," Stress said.

As for Notes & Bolts, Stress said more episodes of its Chicago Interview Series are planned, including trips to Milwaukee and Madison to interview bands there.

Empty Bottle is located at 1035 N. Western Ave; Simone's is located 960 W. 18th St.