Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Master class, Jim Sholly makes art of art books - May 21, 2003

The designer just disappears! I’m sure I got credit somewhere in here,” Jim Anders Sholly says as he flips through Crossroads of American Sculpture, a book he designed for the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s retrospective exhibition of the same name in 2000. “It’s in four-point type,” he says, studying the forward pages and talking about how happy he was to be included in the project.

Principal designer and co-founder of the graphic design company Antenna, Sholly recently completed another book design project, The Herron Chronicle, The First One-Hundred Years, for the Herron School of Art’s centennial. It’s been a fitting project as Sholly earned his BFA in design from Herron in 1987 and has been an adjunct visual communications faculty member there.

“I became involved in the book project through Marty Krause,” Sholly explains. Krause, an editor and one of three authors for the Herron book, has been the curator of prints, drawings and photographs at the IMA since 1979.

Garo Andresian: Written in Stone, a catalogue of prints by Andresian, published by the IMA in 1995, “Was my first book with the IMA. Laura and I did it. It was so nice of them to take a chance on us because we had no real book experience. It was exciting ... a learning process.”

Laura Lacy-Sholly, Sholly’s late wife, was also his Antenna design partner. “We were this happy unit, functioning perfectly and then suddenly everything was different,” Sholly says. “It’s sort of hard to explain how that really was. Time is very strange. Sometimes it seems just moments ago and other times it feels a lot longer than that.”

Having met while attending Herron, the Shollys married in 1991. Laura passed away in June of 1999. A scholarship in her name was created at Herron.

Learning to work alone was very difficult. “Totally. Absolutely. Over the years we had worked out our routine,” Sholly recalls. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, but we each ended up taking on different aspects of projects and everything just sort of worked out. I’ve tried to maintain the same ideals and standards.”

The couple founded Antenna in their Broad Ripple townhouse apartment. “Laura and I were students together. We had the business before we were married. I think we always knew that it would happen, that we would be in business some day, but it really came together in 1990.”

While working for a small design studio, Design Ogden, they were offered rental space to do their own design work. Instead, they set up shop at home. “We actually had a typography instructor who was really influential,” Sholly says, referring to former Herron professor Candace Lorimer, who ran her clothing design business out of her apartment in the same complex. “We saw that it could be done that way.” Lorimer, who prints her designs for interior furnishings for her New York shop, employed the Shollys for projects. “We just had a couple of clients and it grew through word of mouth. It was this natural, intuitive progression. We didn’t know anything and we didn’t have anything to lose,” Sholly says.

Being a confident young couple had its benefits. “I think it was very appealing to clients. It showed a certain stability or something. We thought even though we’re independent, we’re small, we’re in Indianapolis, we could still do work that was still really going to be world-class. It was going to be very different, very thoughtful, and interesting.” Sholly starts to laugh and says, “We were really pretty full of ourselves thinking that we could do all of that, but that was the idea anyway.”

A match was made with artist Paul Harris early on. “We did work for an exhibit of Paul’s called One Night Stand.”

The Shollys were students in a silkscreen class Harris taught at Herron. “You could see them migrate toward each other,” Harris says of the Shollys’ initial attraction. “I can’t say enough about Jim. He is a grand, grand person.” Harris, who also received a BFA from Herron, requested that they create a souvenir book for his show. “Jim and Laura came up with all of it. They assembled them on the dining room table. Jim understands artists better than other graphic artists.” This project turned out to be the foot-in-the-door predecessor of future art book projects.

Annually, from 1992 to 2001, Sholly designs were chosen for the American Center for Design’s 100 Show of Excellence, an internationally juried review of graphic design. In 1996 Antenna work was also selected for Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture, a major graphic design survey at the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum, which led to multiple works by the Shollys being acquired by the Smithsonian,

“There aren’t many museums that are strictly devoted to design,” Sholly explains. “The inherent nature of graphic design is transient. It is typically meant to be used and then discarded. Some museums will have a small graphic design collection,” Sholly adds, “but it’s rare to have a museum dedicated to preserving it.

“I don’t know that graphic design is highly valued here, or something that most people are even interested in or even care about,” Sholly says of design in Indianapolis.

From production to print, Sholly was involved in every process of the casebound Herron book. “They didn’t impose any restrictions and gave me freedom to create.”

The half coffee table, half history book has a distinguishable Antenna look and feel. It’s physically and aesthetically soft. Even dark browns feel cool and elegant with the Antenna treatment of four-color imagery printed on uncoated paper. “It flattens it. It makes it a little more tactile,” Sholly says of how the technical process enhances the visual elements.

The Herron Chronicle is an Indianapolis art history book and a work of art unto itself, created by one of Herron’s best. Printed were 2,500 copies and they are available for sale at Barnes & Noble and through Herron’s faculty office, building HM, room 109. Copies are $40. Call 317-920-2455 for more information.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

33rd Annual Broad Ripple Art Fair 4 - Indianapolis Art Center - May 14, 2003 - 4 stars

May 10-11. The not-great weather only demonstrated how well the Indianapolis Art Center is organized and accommodating to attendees and artists under the weirdest of weather conditions. The BRAF turned out to be like a boot camp for artists, complete with thunderstorms, tornado warnings, high winds and cold weather dipping 10-15 degrees below what local forecasters promised. After dodging threatening green skies Saturday, there were a few ideal hours of sunshine and kettle corn aroma wafting through the air. It was so cold on Sunday that the Starbucks booth ran out of coffee. One exhibitor said that if an artist could make it through the weekend, then every art fair after would be a piece of cake. Optimism prevailed through this test of endurance as tents flew and ceramics crashed. Mud pits and rising White River water forced some artists to move to higher ground after the deluge of Saturday morning. A few left altogether. There was a State Fair aroma in the air from the straw salvaging the grounds. The hard-core and generous volunteers who braved it all defitiely earned the art fair wings and will be remembered (Betty, you rock!) for their tour of duty. Kudos to the staff for all their hard work, which is an understatement. Attendance for this fund-raiser was evidently low but that turned out to be of great benefit for the serious shoppers. To their advantage, lines were short and booths were easy to maneuver through. I spoke to several artists who were pleased with their sales while others were taking things in stride. If you stayed home, consider renewing your IAC membership soon. – Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Second Annual Artful Tread - Mass. Ave. Arts District - May 7, 2003 - 3 1/2 stars

May 2-3. This fun public display of artfully rethought old tired mixes local commerce with art more successfully than the 500 Festival’s cars to celebrate the 500 Festival. The creative diversity was evidently greater. Participating Mass. Ave. businesses displayed their tire art either in their shop windows or on sidewalks. Just as Chicago’s “Cows on parade” in 1999 brought life-size cow sculptures to the Loop, these real and thus life-sized tires engage the whole community directly with art through a little humor and wit. Urban Bloom’s suspended hangman treatment of a tire within a tire and old sign letters spelling out “ART” along the bottom perimeter was a great assemblage piece in and of itself. The flower planter outside of Jungclaus Campbell with a tire serving as a base was sweet and delightful. Jenny Elkin’s tire at her gallery was transformed into a cartoonish fish by having been painted orange, given fins and one big boggle eye. More obvious and equally silly was the minimalist approach to the project taken by 4 Star Gallery. Propped up in their front windows sat “Really Old Tire,” which was simply a really old tire cracked, worn and unadorned. Yat’s doused their peach-painted tire in glitter (it looked like a Homer Simpson-worthy fantasy iced donut) and Scholar’s Inn turned theirs into a huge Disneyland martini topped off with a cherry. Two days just isn’t enough time for the city to enjoy this. Perhaps next year the 500 Festival will exploit and put their funds toward enhancing this successful grass-roots art endeavor. There was no red tape on these tires. – Mary Lee Pappas