Deborah Stratman

About the Exhibition

Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman is centered on the artist’s celebrated film The Illinois Parables, which chronicles the history of the region through 11 chapters addressing such disastrous events as the genocide of the Cherokee people whose forced march—known as the Trail of Tears—passed through Illinois*, to the invention of the nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago, to the deadly police raid of Chicago’s Black Panther headquarters. In the film, Stratman travels to the charged locations where these events occurred and discovers the ways that belief, force, technology, and government mark the land, and how the landscape in turn marks those who call it home.

On the occasion of the exhibition, Stratman created an extension of the film—a twelfth chapter—in the form of a recreation of Studs Terkel’s WFMT radio booth and an accompanying audio program of the oral historian’s interviews.

The exhibition is organized by Jack Schneider, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Dr. Paul and Dorie Sternberg Family Gallery and Ed and Jackie Rabin Gallery on the museum’s third floor.

*A previous version of this text included inaccurate information and inadequate context. From 1838 to 1839, the United States government violently removed Cherokee people from their lands in the southeastern US forcing them to move to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma along a route known as the Trail of Tears, leading to thousands of deaths. The Trail of Tears is one example of the systemic and genocidal dispossession of Indigenous peoples perpetuated by the United States government. Another example, which also occurred in 1838, is the Trail of Death wherein Potowatomi people were violently removed from their lands in present-day Indiana and forced to march westward through present-day Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, resulting in dozens of deaths.

Present-day Illinois is situated within the lands of many Native nations, including the Council of Three Fires (Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Odawa), Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Meskwaki, Sauk, Miami, Wea, Piankashaw, Kickapoo, Illinois Confederacy, Peoria, and Shawnee. Members of these nations and more continue to live and thrive throughout Illinois. We would like to thank the Indigenous community members who brought these issues to our attention.

Feeling Tone

On the occasion of Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman, the artist created a twelfth chapter of The Illinois Parables in the form of the artwork Feeling Tone. This artwork consists of a recreation of Studs Terkel’s WFMT radio booth and an accompanying audio program of the oral historians interviews. See below for the chronological list.

Installation Images

Installation view, Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman MCA Chicago

Installation view, Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman, MCA Chicago

July 17–Dec 6, 2020 Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman MCA Chicago

Installation view, Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman, MCA Chicago

July 17–Dec 6, 2020 Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Vox Terra: On Deborah Stratman’s The Illinois Parables

Deborah Stratman, Opening shot of The Illinois Parables, 2016. 16mm film or DCP; 60 min. Image courtesy of the artist.


Thank you

  • Steve Badgett
  • Danielle Bitner
  • Jason Bitner
  • James Bond
  • Gordon Carter
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Paul Dickinson
  • Melissa Elias
  • Melinda Fries
  • Full Aperture Systems
  • Gary Johnson
  • Tricia O’Connell
  • Tim Russell
  • Josh Sauvageau
  • Allison Schein-Holmes
  • Kim Soss
  • Lorelei Stewart
  • Three Stars Resale
  • UIC School of Art & Art History
  • Rebekah Wiest
  • WFMT

This digital brochure was published on the occasion of the exhibition Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman, organized by Jack Schneider, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Dr. Paul and Dorie Sternberg Family Gallery and Ed and Jackie Rabin Gallery on the museum’s third floor.