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The Apostles of Humboldt Park (I, Apostle)

Cover of The Apostles of Humboldt Park (I,Apostle)/Tony Fitzpatrick

“I Apostle of this Garden of all of Humboldt Park’s ecstasies
They shimmer in the late afternoon like bright angels,
Like an answered prayer
at play in the bright and eternal music of sparrows.
I, Apostle of this radiant place, I cast my bread upon your waters.

Artist Tony Fitzpatrick is a Chicago son of the Southside, though he spent his formative years in the suburbs. Fitzpatrick is not just a visual artist. He is a writer, poet, actor on stage and screen, designer of signs and album covers, birder, activist, radio personality, raconteur, among other pursuits.

Fitzpatrick is a very gregarious and generous human being. If you look up the word humanity in the dictionary, the first definition should be Tony Fitzpatrick.

Tony Fitzpatrick’s works are on display and in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, and in private collections.

Some of his work is currently in an exhibition at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art on the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn. This will be his last museum exhibition.

Despite his fame, Fitzpatrick is still a down-to-earth “Soutsider.”

Tony Fitzpatrick published his latest book, “The Apostles of Humboldt Park (I, Apostle).” The book is a visual and poetic masterpiece. It contains works of art and poetry. The book came about during his almost daily forays to Humboldt Park during the COVID pandemic, walking, bird watching, and feeding the geese and ducks. It is a tribute to birds, friends who joined him on his forays, and the people in the park daily, including food vendors and fishers. The book is a spiritual tribute to nature and urban open spaces.

This book is beautifully visual and poetic. It is a slim but powerful memoir of time, place, fauna, and the people who inhabit that space. The artwork is stunning. The poems are religious about the birds and the natural and human world of Humboldt Park.

Humboldt Park was originally a limestone quarry. The limestone, used for many buildings in Chicago, came from there, including the limestone exterior of Second Presbyterian Church. The city commissioned Frederick Law Olmstead to design the park. It is one of the most beautiful and underappreciated parks in Chicago.

I have known Tony Fitzpatrick for over thirty years. We met through the late Chicago author, Guy Izzi. Fitzpatrick had a studio in what is now the gentrified South Loop. Back then, the area was sketchy. His current studio is on the border of the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

When Fitzpatrick has exhibitions of his works or the works of other artists, the studio resembles the post-WWI Parisian salons of American ex-pats. There are always a varied and eclectic group of friends, fans, and people from various arts in Chicago.

There is one thing to caution people about Mr. Fitzpatrick. It is the kind of thing where if you see him walking down the street, you want to hide the children, lock the doors, turn out the lights, and call the cops. Mr. Fitzpatrick lives on the Northside, yet he is an avid White Sox fan.

The Apostles of Humboldt Park (I, Apostle) is available on Mr. Fitzpatrick’s website.

The last man out

Image: US Department of Defense

Major General Chris Donahue was the last soldier to leave Afghanistan after two decades of war. He is not standing at the head or the end of a line of troops. He is not off to the side, watching his troops board the plane. He is alone.

Whether the photo was staged or not, it is powerful. It is a visual remembrance of the end of two decades of war.

There are iconic photographs of war. The naked Vietnamese girl running after a napalm attack or the helicopter atop the US Embassy in Viet Nam. There were powerful photographs from Korea and World War II showing the brutal ugliness of war and the camaraderie of the troops.

US Army Master Sergeant Max Beilke (Ret’d) was photographed and recorded as the last combat soldier to leave Viet Nam. He was killed on 911 at the Pentagon when one of the hijacked planes crashed into the building. Beilke was a civilian working on veteran affairs. The last man out of Viet Nam was one of the casualties that led to the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

Before photography, artists traveled with the troops, drawing and later creating paintings of battles and military life. During WWII, artists were deployed to record daily life on the ground, along with photographers and film artists.

The visual art of American warfare spans almost three centuries. Some of the art reminds us of the ugly brutality of combat. Art may be well crafted but is not always beautiful. War may be honorable and glorious, but there is no beauty.

Written history will determine if the war in Afghanistan was worth the blood, death, treasure, and anguish. The visual images show us the truth. There are probably millions of still and video images from the media, assigned military photographers or videographers, and the troops. There are probably drawings or paintings.

There is no record of the first combat soldier to step into Afghanistan. There is only the last, walking alone onto a plane. A soldier geared for combat, like the first soldier to step foot in that sandbox.