“All the Stories She Was Ever Told”

Former Kish Instructor Delivers Artist Talk

Matthew Simonson, Editor-In-Chief

On Wednesday, October 14, Kishwaukee College’s art gallery hosted a reception and artist talk for former adjunct instructor Carrie Bronkowski, known in the “art world” as Carrie Ann Schumacher.

Carrie Ann Schumacher poses next to one of her dresses.
Carrie Ann Schumacher poses next to one of her dresses. Photo by Matthew Simonson.

Schumacher, who now teaches at the College of DuPage, discussed the origins, trajectory, and creative processes behind her quite unusual artwork.  She makes full-size, three-dimensional dresses from cut-out scraps of romance novels and displays them on headless mannequins.

As she explains in the artist statement on her website, the dresses attempt to shed light on the unrealistic expectations our culture has placed on women.  Due to the material used in the process of creating the dresses, they cannot actually be worn, which is intended to represent the fact that most women cannot realistically uphold our culture’s standards of “beauty.”

She also sees the stories from romance novels as unrealistic.  In the words of her artist statement, “reality never touches either the fashion or romance realms, but the former is advertised as a way to obtain the latter.”

Students and faculty reconnecting with Schumacher at the reception. Photo by Matthew Simonson.
Students and faculty reconnecting with Schumacher at the reception. Photo by Matthew Simonson.

Quite a few Kish students came to Wednesday’s artist talk solely for the purpose of seeing Schumacher again, whom they affectionately refer to as “Carrie.” She connected with most of them on such a personal level that they would continue taking art classes simply because she was the teacher.

“My favorite part of the reception was seeing my former students and colleagues,” Schumacher remarks.  And a few hours after the reception, she described the reunion in a Facebook post as being “bittersweet.”

As an instructor, she makes a deliberate effort to prepare her students to succeed in the real world after college, and she uses her wealth of experience as an art major to help students craft their own futures – both in the classroom and one-on-one.  “I had a lot of help finding my path,” she admits, “and that’s what I hope to do for most students. I can share my experiences and knowledge, and hopefully students use that to find where they should be.”

Schumacher was equally grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with members of Kish’s art faculty — most notably Steven Hoover, the Director of Kish’s Art Gallery. “We went to graduate school together, and we used to put on shows,” she stated. “I can’t thank him enough for all the work he did on the installation [of this show].”

In spite of all the work Schumacher has done, her lifestyle is still a difficult one. Hopping from one college to another is not unusual for adjunct instructors. “You really don’t get too attached to anywhere because you never know where you’ll be in 6 months,” she points out. Kishwaukee College was fortunate to have her for nearly 3 years.

As challenging as the life of an artist may be, the turnout of Wednesday’s reception proved that her efforts have made a difference in the lives of those around her, both as an instructor and an artist.