Thursday, April 19, 2001

Sunsets and sunrises - Hoosier Salon 77th Annual Exibition at the Indiana State Museum - April 14, 2001

Sunsets and sunrises
By Mary Lee Pappas

*Pictured: ‘Serenity’ by John Domont, one of his two paintings that will reside in the Indiana State Museum.

The Hoosier Salon stepped out of the doldrums and into the 21st century with its 77th annual exhibition of Salon artists at the Indiana State Museum. The paintings of kitties, doggies and uninspired Indiana landscapes normally found in this show were still present, but carried an eclectic and acceptable charm when shown alongside their new, dynamic counterparts.

Illia Raha's "When I Was a Child," an abstract oil of fluid, radiating gold and purple, dreamlike hues, virtually exploded off the wall — especially when juxtaposed with the subtle foliage of its painted neighbors. "A Story of Stones," by Sam Sartorius, was another wonderful large-scale abstract with a subdued earth palette.

Patricia Rhoden-Bartles’ "Visions Upward" takes the typical Indiana landscape in a new direction — literally upward. The view/composition is unusual. You peer through bare, golden-orange-touched branches into a robin's egg blue sky. Her brushstrokes are furious and inspired.

John Domont's farm landscapes, "Serenity" and "Contentment," radiate with an ethereal heat unique to Indiana sunsets and sunrises. A familiar red barn is blue in shadow against the glow of a hot red twilight. This stylistic break from the Hoosier Salon norm still reflects Indiana’s sense of place.

The diversity of the Hoosier Salon exhibition is traceable to Ginger Bievenour, the Hoosier Salon's executive director of three years, and a renewed board of directors. Artist recruitment has been pushed and varied aesthetics have been encouraged under this new leadership. "I love abstracts," Bievenour said in discussing the current Salon show. "I was truly euphoric when pieces started coming in."

This show solidifies the fruitful collaboration between the Indiana State Museum and the Hoosier Salon. Both entities are anxiously looking toward the future of art education and heritage in Indiana. Proof in point: Domont's two atypical Hoosier Salon works were purchased for the Indiana State Museum's fine art collection by Douglas L. Tillman, a Hoosier Salon vice president, and will be displayed prominently in the museum’s future 50,000-square-foot Permanent Gallery. Caroline M. Mecklin's figurative oil, "Sleeping Man," and Angel C. Mercado's "Morning at the Light House" were also purchased by the Indiana State Museum Foundation from the show for the Indiana State Museum's permanent fine arts collection.

"We want a more comprehensive grouping of Indiana artists," Jim May, fine arts curator, said of the Indiana State Museum's fine arts collection. The quasi-Impressionistic Hoosier Group replicas thought of as the traditional meat-and-potatoes of Indiana art are not an accurate representation of art produced here since 1940. "We are making every effort to cover those years," May said.

May became curator in 1993 and shortly thereafter something wonderful happened at the Indiana State Museum: The paintings along the staircase finally rotated. And now, the rest of the 20th century in Indiana fine art is being investigated and displayed. A 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot gallery in the new facility will survey Indiana's art history in addition to the 50,000-square-foot Permanent Gallery. Attention potential art donors: Pieces by Mary Beth Eddelson and John Chamberlain are desired.

The efforts of Bievenour and May certainly will continue to move Indiana art forward. As Bievenour said, "The courage of an artist’s convictions to do new work must be applauded and encouraged."

Select works from the 77th Hoosier Salon Annual Exhibition will be featured in a statewide traveling tour. Call the Salon for details at 253-5340.