Alex Belardo Kostiw’s self-publishing practice, exploring the unknown parts and possibilities of our everyday realities. Rooted in visual communication design and printmedia, these works deal in poetic, adapted, and iterative elements, visual structures of comics, and conceptually driven forms.

Sa Salita—Stories He Took with Him

26 pages, stab-stitch binding with fold-out pages, laserjet, 8.5 x 5.5 inches

A collection of fragments of my grandfather’s stories set alongside drawings of his hand gestures. Each page unfolds to reveal illustrations, bits of personal photos, and reproduced woodcuts that reference Filipino folktales and myths, my grandfather’s life and migration, and the dining table where I would sit across from my grandfather and listen. Together images and texts describe a dozen stories and imply many more.

the same heart

8 pages, one sheet folded, risograph, 4.25 x 2.75 inches

Sometimes, a family is less like a tree and more like a cadena de amor. This book is a letter to my roots and vines.

Enchiridion C.B.

36 pages, saddle-stitch binding and accordion fold, risograph and laserjet, 10.25 x 5 inches

The mythology of a trickster-god known as “Cate Blanchett,” in four parts: lexicon, cosmogenesis, epiphany, and artifacts. Enchiridion explores the arc of a god’s multiplicitous existence, the language of worship, and mythology as a means to understanding phenomena of the self. Manipulated and original images, tropes relating to divinity, and motifs repeating across multiple narratives imagine “Cate Blanchett” as a figure between reality and infinite possibilities—a reflection of ourselves. Finalist for the Broken Pencil Awards.

book/marks, 2019 —

This series crystallizes those aimless images and thoughts that I keep returning to, while exploring the possibilities of a 7 x 2-inch format.

I: A Name

12 pages, saddle-stitch binding, risograph, 7 x 2 inches

A Name is a brief, personal reflection on what it might mean to make a person. With images that allude to Greek mythology, Penelope, “the name without a girl,” is my idea of a daughter.

II: Wendr

12 pages, saddle-stitch binding, risograph, 7 x 2 inches

Wendr is a spell, cast on me by a stick I saw on the ground c. 2017. Years later, I still thought about it. Ruminating on magical wands, the book changes in orientation and reading direction so that reading it is akin to the pull and push of energy that characterizes magic.

Meanwhile, a witch wanders, wandless...

III: 6 Wings

6 pages, accordion fold, reduction woodcut, glue, 2022, 7 x 2 inches

6 Wings reimagines the mythological multi-limbed, winged Geryon, whom Hercules murdered for his red cows. Few depictions of Geryon have survived antiquity. To echo that, making this book, a reduction woodcut print with collaged covers, involved destroying the print matrix and parts of the prints. The book embraces Geryon as a fugitive body—forever beyond our grasp.

The Word Sm*t

40 pages, staple-bound, laserjet, 5.5 x 4.25 inches

In every erotic encounter there is an invisible and ever-active participant: imagination, desire. Octavio Paz

Brief descriptions of random Tumblr posts after the platform’s ban on adult content and of Google search results for kinky images are imposed on a grid sparsely populated with vague fleshy drawings. The result feels out the edges of erotica, the extent to which eroticism is a personal perception, and the role of withholding in desire.


Installation at Co-Prosperity (Chicago, IL), digital prints on organza and paper, acrylic paint, vinyl, wood, fishing wire
Photos by Colectivo Multipolar, courtesy of Co-Prosperity

Pakiramdam, a Tagalog word roughly meaning an intuitive or empathetic sensing of something or someone, explores how geographic and temporal distances can be collapsed by moments of recognition, a sense of kinship, or a memory. The project encodes my family’s history of immigration and migration, the in-betweenness of mixed-race identity, and embodiments of hybridity along the way. It interrogates how we locate ourselves, not just within place and time, but in relation to others; what it means to be present to others in spite of physical absence or distance; and notions of authenticity and synthesis in relation to cultural and personal identities.

Like spirits, we come together, overlap, and drift past each other in the narrative spaces of the project, a space in Chicago and in the countries of our minds.

I’m calling from a great distance

The Annex, Spudnik Press Cooperative (Chicago, IL), screen prints, laserjet prints, and xerox transfers
Photos courtesy of Spudnik Press

A series of varied-edition screenprints and an artist’s book relate the communications between a lighthouse keeper and an interplanetary explorer. A dive into wanderlust, solitude, and homesickness, the work uses the vastness of oceans and space to illuminate the smallness of humanity and the fragility of our bonds with each other.

The prints are divided into two sets. One is a sequence of a woman turning around in an increasingly figurative landscape. The other depicts planets and alien environments. The icons and gestures, which cross over between the prints and the book, become the intimate language of the characters’, and the audience’s, shared experiences. The solo exhibition culminated my work in the Spudnik Press Artist Residency.

Kitchen Table Stories

Curated by Melissa Raman Molitor
Evanston Art Center (Evanston, IL)

“The Kitchen Table Stories exhibition is a celebration of stories shared by local artists who identify as Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander. Artists were asked to share the stories that have been passed down to them from ancestors through family and friends, and create work that reflects ther own lived experiences. The result is an exploration of the intersections of immigration, citizenship, race, culture, social identity, multigenerational relationships, and family history. Melissa Raman Molitor, curator

This collection of woodcut prints, Salita, is a personal study of storytelling that nourishes us across generations, geographies, and cultures. The prints depict stories my grandfather told me at dinner when I was growing up—Filipino folktales mixed with his anecdotes—and how he told them—his gestures as he spoke and his words as I remember them. I ate his stories up, until they became part of me. And through these prints, I retell them, and they become part of you.

︎ Alex Belardo Kostiw
Alex is an artist, graphic designer, and educator in Chicago. Like dense knots, their work invites intuitive reading—and resists full unravelling. They frame moments of uncertainty in the everyday, making space for perceptions of reality to shift.

Through poetic narratives, imagery playing on unreadability, and layered formats, Alex destabilizes the familiar. Their storytelling deepens or shifts what the reader may take for granted about realities both personal and shared. Alex’s process often involves capturing, fragmenting, reframing, and/or combining different perceptions of everyday phenomena, such as reimagining birds as stories based on their names, or creating a sense of place by juxtaposing drawings from memory with old photographs. Through their practice, they guide readers in layering new interpretative meanings onto what seems well known or understood. They interrogate what constitutes knowledge of others and the self, making space for readers to perceive other possibilities and embrace what is fundamentally fluid and unknowable. Alex’s explorations include myth-making, in-betweenness, modes of inter/active reading, and books as installational projects. 

Alex teaches design foundations and approaches to narrative in Visual Communication Design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as printmaking at Spudnik Press, a community print shop. They are also the publishing arm of an art gallery and an independent designer focused on publications, visual identities, and illustrations that center historically marginalized voices in art and culture.

Alex holds an MFA in Visual Communication Design from SAIC and a BA in English Literature from the University of Chicago. They live with many reams of paper and two cats.
now / future
2023–24 HATCH Residency.
September 29–December 8, To Be Continued..., group show, Chicago Artist Coalition.

Comics, Zine, and Art Book Fairs: Boston Art Book Fair; Chicago Art Book Fair; Independent Artist Book Fair, New York; LA Art Book Fair (virtual); Seattle Art Book Fair; Autoptic, Minneapolis; CAKE, Chicago; CALA, LA; CXC, Columbus, OH; DiNK, Denver; MICE, Boston; SLICE, St. Louis; TCAF, Toronto; Zineland Terrace, Toronto. Exhibitions (*solo): Co-Prosperity, Chicago*; The Annex at Spudnik Press, Chicago*; Evanston Art Center, Evanston; Carlow University Art Gallery, Pittsburgh; Tephra ICA, Tephra, VA; Chicago Design Museum. Residencies: In Cahoots Residency (2022); Spudnik Press Artist Residency (2016–17).

Joan Flasch Artist’s Book Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Zine Collection at the University of Chicago Library, Zine and Comics Collection at the MassArt Library, Decker Library at MICA, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Pratt Institute Artist’s Books Collection, RISD Artist’s Books Collection, Zine Collection at Tufts SMFA Library, Haas Arts Library Special Collections at Yale University.

what’s in a name?