Wednesday, January 29, 2003

"Brain: The World Inside Your Head" exhibit review, Indiana State Museum, Published January 29, 2003 in NUVO

BYOB: Bring your own brain
Exhibit Review | Thru May 4, 2003
Mary Lee Pappas
NUVO, Published January 29, 2003

A deep muffled heartbeat seductively draws you into this hands-on exhibit. Your own brain will determine if you enjoy it - if you can stomach the reproduction dog brains. Will your soft, gelatin-textured brain remember the gory skull of Phineas Gage whose head was penetrated by a rod during an 1848 explosion? Will you relinquish any stigmas you may have had about brain-based diseases and disorders after learning that Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression? That Winston Churchill and Vincent Van Gogh had bipolar disorder?

Author, mental health advocate and Walter"s daughter, Kathy Cronkite, spoke at the member"s preview last Friday and said, "Learning disabilities may just be a different way to learn that may not fit in with the school system." Parents with children labeled by their teachers as generically dyslexic or ADD understand this all too well. Our brains make us uniquely who we are. An exhibit display says it best: "Your sense of who you are comes from an interior movie your brain constantly creates. You are the star, screenwriter, camera operator, producer and director. You are the movie studio and the movie theater. Rather, your brain is."

Commendable programming accompanies the exhibit, from a Brainy Brownies badge workshop to a program about stroke risk factors. Engaging for all audiences, from icky to profound, this exhibit was summed up best by Cronkite: "It"s fabulous."

Brain: The World Inside Your Head is on exhibit at the Indiana State Museum through May 4. Call 232-2637 or log on to for more information on hours and programs.

Milton Flournoy III "Milton's Mirrors of Contemporary Art" - The Cube Restaurant - Jan. 29, 2003 - 1/2 star

With very dim lights and few fast food counters within its front door, the Cube is an unfavorable venue for art. Not only can the potent burrito and pizza smells permeate artwork, grease can coat it. For the mirrors on display this could be doubly disadvantageous when all things airborne hit the thinly applied acrylic paint on the mirror surfaces. Sure, there are Raushenbergs disintegrating in museum storage rooms, but these mirrors hanging immediately above the laminated patron tables seem especially vulnerable to splattering mustard or greasy fingerprints. A boy at a stream, squiggles, an abstracted figure were a few of the maroon-toned (it was hard to discern in the light) doodled and random images on various store-bought mirrors. The Cube does neither these mirrors, not the artist, Milton Flournoy III, any favors. Through Jan. 30; 317-972-1382. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Group Show - LAMP - Jan. 22, 2003 - 3 1/2 stars

A variety of female artists' work, mostly good, some quite forgettable, hangs very well as a whole for this show. A+ for presentation. Opaque, flat glazed, small ceramic sculptures by Michelle Smith are kind of Monty Python meets Mary Englebright, but not really. The dainty pieces are given serene faces, one with something that looks like a yellow daisy swim cap, surrounded by the likes of periwinkle-stamped butterflies. Easily likable and bearing merit, they are whimsical without the art fair look. Yasha Persson's distinctively manipulated photographs are ripe with symbology, beauty and color, without an outrageous price tag. Stacy Novak's large oils, recently displayed at Vic's Coffee Shop, on the other hand, are a bit too high. Her soft Images, feminine pale pinks and designs she creates around her figures, are attractive and seductive. Her paints are mixed with some disproportion. It's like nails down a chalkboard to see dull spots next to high shine. Nancy Kruse's straight-on views of local church doors were decorative. She has a real sense of light and illusion, but reeds to work on the painting part. “Boxed ln," an installation by Jan Van Flexon and Indianapolis Museum of Art light designer Carol Cody explores confinement socially, culturally and personally. It's no surprise that MTV2 chose to film a spot with MadLab at LAMP last weekend. The LAMP (Local Artists Making Progress) space, a former nursing home facility, is steadily making progress This gallery is in it for the artists in a good-spirited, fundamental way. To get more of a taste, listen to LAMP director, Jennifer Kaye, on NPR's (90.1 FM) Art of the Matter this Saturday, Jan. 25, 4-5 p.m.;. Through Jan, 25; 317-722-0137. -Mary Lee Pappas

All that glitters - Indianapolis Museum of Art - January 22, 2003

* Pictured - An evening suit, designed by Coco Chanel, part of the "All that Glitters" exhibit at the IMA

* A personal aside - My mother was a buyer at L.S. Ayres during her time there from 1947 to 1968. Her expertise and experience have enabled and fed my fashion and fabric brain.

Currently on exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, All that Glitters consists of 20 primo examples of classic couture women's evening wear from the IMA's collection of over 700 pieces. Spanning the 1950s through the '80s, these glamorous garments are encrusted with hand-applied sequins and beads. They represent an era when dressing up was the norm for an urban evening. Plum colored walls create a sumptuous backdrop for these extraordinary 20th century garments in the third floor gallery dedicated to textiles. Designers represented are Coco Chanel, Guy Laroche, Givenchy, Fontana and Indiana"s own couturier trio Bill Blass, Halston and Norman Norell. Terrific examples of these designers' looks go hand-in-hand with the glitter of their meticulous, hand-embellished ornamentation.

Beautiful examples of Halston's work, the best represented of the group, size up style trends, quality and his distinctive look. Cute on the right person, a Pinto orange tank dress saturated with orange beads and a solid bugle-beaded tie belt from 1980 is a bit on the dramatic side. His bubble look jacket, made from a single piece of fabric, gathered at the shoulders, is masterfully constructed. More typical is a timeless 1980s red, long-sleeved cardigan jacket and pants, beaded in the same red with a unique, swirly pattern on synthetic fabric. It's topped off by a gorgeous double-layered silk chiffon halter top with a wrap-around waist sash. Though Halston's bead work was done in India from 1973 on, these two outfits represent the tedious art of beading by hand, which has mostly been replaced by machine beading.

You only have to think leisure suits to know that the 1970s and '80s weren't an elegant time in fashion history. Dressing up was fizzling out and a dated pink and black diamond patterned Givenchy top from 1985 shows it. This piece has a generic Bill Cosby sweater-trend look as opposed to the revered Hepburn style for which Givenchy is best remembered.

Though simple and tailored, the single Blass piece, a pink and purple painted and studded python jacket, would have required the right wearer to carry it off as elegantly as it was made.

A graceful, late 1950s strapless Givenchy ball gown is more to the point. The salmon pink silk shantung skirt is dreamily exquisite and need only be accompanied by Prince Charming. It's a typically cultivated ball gown of the day with a gathered skirt, fitted and embellished bodice, a little lowered waistband and horsehair reinforced skirt. Today, women don"t have the opportunity to buy dresses like this, let alone have a place to wear them. This dress would have been pricey for the day, though probably not a one-of-a-kind.

Hopefully, only one was made of the over-the-top Fontana early 1950s ball gown of silk velvet trimmed in ermine. It's no wonder that Fontana became known for theatrical clothes, having produced such an outlandish gown. It is more costume than evening attire. In extreme contrast is a Fontana silk lace and organza ball gown from the same period. All kinds of beads - scallops, metal, glass - sprinkle through the four panels of bias cut fabric.

The two Chanel offerings in the exhibit are by far the most timeless and refined. A silver and gold three-piece suit shows Coco Chanel's classic tailoring and unprecedented style. Francois Lesage, who did bead work for couturiers, should get full credit for a green Chanel suit on exhibit. A straight, ankle-length skirt falls below a simple hip-length jacket with a small mandarin collar - both meticulously adorned with green bugle beads. It is a gorgeous masterpiece. Lesage, who worked with all the best designers, took over an embroidery workshop in 1949 that was historically synonymous with luxury, having created for the likes of Napoleon III.

Most all of the beaded pieces displayed are executed on lightweight silk chiffon. Most notable is a sarong style dress by Halston from 1973 with a fish tail back. The silk organza is so heavily ornamented with crowded mirror, glass and other beads, you wonder how the raglan sleeves could hold under their weight. It appears to be remarkably heavy - though hardly a sacrifice for the lucky wearer of this work of art. This exhibit is a real treat, superbly exemplifying clothes as a complex artform. Fashion is an elaborate mix of collaborators, fabrics, designers, colors and trends all coming together - for a party dress. Through May 4; 317-923-1331.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Ivy Campbell and Zenobia Weigel - Hot House, Murphy Art Center - Jan. 15, 2003 - 4 stars

Ten-year-old Ivy is the daughter of artist Phil Campbell and 11-year-old Zenobia the daughter of artist Jo Legner Phil's partner, so it's no wonder that these two young ladies would be artistically ahead of the game for their age. Very imaginative and keenly observant, they've already staged four sold-out showings of their young drawings and paintings, the last of which was at Deano's Vinos. The girls talked about how they were founding their own theater club, having determined that a Shirley Temple styled Little Princess would be their first performance, all the while holding a yellow plastic Hello Kitty mini safe for their drawing sales. The 40 or so nude female drawings, executed in No. 2 and colored pencils, from 8-by-1O's to 2-by-2s, are quite admirable. Artist Lois Templeton purchased two drawings and praised the girls' confidence with portraying the naked female form and doing so with accuracy. They are all proportionately correct, cartoonish with outlines (not sketchy), each unique with individual expressions and Barbie enviable hairstyles that only girls this age could draw to boot. They asked their parents' permission to draw naked women, saying to Legner, "We need to do luxurious nude women." And so a reference book of nudes throughout art history was handed over and the prepubescent two copied classical poses for their darling line drawings. Every picture is appropriately titled for the woman depicted. Foe example, "Alien" depicts a single-breasted, naked, bulbous-headed alien, while "Devil" has red skin, a tail and horns popping out of her black Betty Paige hairdo. Priced art only $1 to $3, they would make a memorable Valentine's gift framed. The show ends when all the pieces have been sold; 317-686-0895. –Mary Lee Pappas

"Beige Vinyl" Prajex - pay toilet studio space, Murphy Art Center - Jan. 15, 2003 - 2 stars

"Polymedia by Prajex" is what the postcard touted and polymedia is what was delivered in this quasi installation, more a room with stuff in K. Artists Mark Diekhoff and Jed Bagby turned what was formally a pay toilet into nothing short of an interesting exhibition (quite literally) space. You can't put your finger on whatever in God's name they were trying to convey, but it was still fun to peer into the space with artist-recorded twangy, plunk-plunk-plunk guitar music eerily playing an annoying, nonstop, poetically impulsive ballad. Are they funnier than the rest of us, have more time on their hands or artistically more intelligent? An intentionally awkward sounding singer sang lines like, 'The lightning bugs in jars / (refrain) give it a chance / ahhhh Aubergine." Kermit the Frog is Pavaratti and Madonna a lyricist in contrast, so it was not a surprise that the tip jar was empty. Even though there were Reese's Cups and York Peppermint Patties to seduce an audience, I was the only one I know of that visited the space, had a Patty and happily signed their guestbook. In this tiny space were copies of their novels, inkjet prints for $25 and other stuff for sale. Their Web site has more of this curious "art" stuff for sale. Marketing was played up heavily here, more so than art, of which quality was sacrificed overall. Several large paintings, offered up at $799 each, were stacked in the hall and too big to flip through though the pale and warm colored swirling abstract on top was great. This was clumsy, but not without a funny factor. I hope it was supposed to be funny. 317-357-4710; -Mary Lee Pappas