LOGAN SQUARE — A local artist is disheartened after someone stole her “boob painting” from Unity Park this week, effectively shutting down a public art experiment meant to spark conversations among neighbors.
Monday, Elizabeth Shen put the artwork on display in Logan Square’s Unity Park: a large painting of women’s breasts with text that reads, “You are cordially invited to look.” Shen left a notebook next to the painting so neighbors could jot down their thoughts about the artwork.
“I wanted to relate to my art in a different way,” Shen said. “There’s something different about experiencing your art out in the world, in the park, to see people walk by it and not know what they think or how they feel.
“There’s no museum entry fee, there’s no hoity-toity gallery. It’s just there for people to view. I thought that was interesting, and I wanted to experience that.”
But the park gallery didn’t last long. The following day, someone made off with the painting — and the notebook.
Shen, who lives near Unity Park, said her roommate was first to notice the painting had disappeared.
Frustrated, Shen put up a new sign: “To whoever took the boob painting, put it back! It doesn’t belong to you.” She also posted in a neighborhood Facebook group in hopes of recovering the stolen artwork.
Shen, 22, is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago who took up painting during the pandemic. While she understands the risk of putting art in a public place, Shen said she had thought better of Logan Square, which is home to a lot of artists and people who appreciate art.
Shen said she had hoped the painting would be “respected — if not loved or cherished, just respected and left alone.”
“That didn’t really happen,” she said. “It’s making me really reflect on that. It’s making me think if I should evaluate my own expectations of my neighborhood, my community.”
The painting took Shen about a week to create. She used acrylic paint on a three-by-four-foot canvas, using photos of her friends’ breasts as inspiration.
For Shen, the painting is more than just a visual art — it’s a statement about women and their bodies.
“Female and feminine figures are … objectified by everyone, and it’s an act of resistance and agency to turn that process around and put it in your own hands. That is what I was interested in exploring,” she said.
Shen said she believes the content of the painting could’ve motivated someone to steal it.
“No one mentioned the painting bothering them, that it was offensive or didn’t belong in a children’s park, but I have to believe someone must’ve felt that way,” she said.
As of Wednesday, the painting was still missing, but Shen said she hopes someone comes forward and returns it to its rightful spot in Unity Park. That, or someone is enjoying it in their own home.
“I’d like to think that someone liked it and wanted to have it … I feel like I’d have compassion for that,” she said.
Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: