Wednesday, August 27, 2003

“Presto” Brian Priest - J. Martin Gallery – Aug. 27, 2003 – 1 1/2 star.

This is an installation/performance piece where Brian lives in a red styrofoam sphere (recycled from a Cisco convention display he made) and creates small assemblage sculptural pieces on order for $20 a pop. Fortunately, Brian is not solely confined to the sphere as lie has the freedom to open or close the gallery and use the toilet. A Samsung monitor displays the isolated interior (documentation more than voyeuristic), showing Brian working away on his art. Visitors to the gallery can choose five objects, then place those five objects into a wire bin that is placed on a shelf while they wait for Brian to work them into one of his clever forms which then gets ejected from the sphere an a green ironing board slide. It's somewhat Little Rascals. When asked if this display was an installation about installation, Brian said, laughing, "I don't know. I'm just in this damn ball makin' shit." To many artists the art is in actually making the art object and not the final product. Here we have that process isolated and under examination. If this is what "Presto” is about, then it's not very thought provoking. Living in a confined space is hardly a fresh idea - and the best art usually has a philosophical purpose to explore. Despite the breadth of talent Brian has, this is an underdeveloped effort. Living in a bubble, after all, implies self-absorption, not seeing the world realistically. Perhaps this is a statement about underestimating the public's knowledge of and appreciation for art. Through Aug. 31, 2003; 317-916-2874. – Mary Lee Pappas

“Peaceful Light” Olga Popova – Indianapolis Artsgarden – Aug. 27, 2003 – 2 stars


Twelve photos from seven countries hang along the South end of the Artsgarden. And in the tradition of Artsgarden exhibits, it's pretty uneventful. Though Popova claims professional fashion and travel photography under her belt, these works fall short when compared to the plethora of local work found at the Photography Gallery. They are images you think you've seen before -snap and click documents of exotic scenery, The mostly calm images with balmy/hazy atmospheres aren't totally without merit. A 1999 black and white image of NYC captures a mirrored image of city life in patterns against a building's windows with more awareness than seen the other works. Her vision in this show is definitely not unique, Through Aug 29, 2003. 317-631-3301. – Mary Lee Pappas

79th Annual Hoosier Salon Exhibition – Indiana State Museum – Aug. 27, 2003 – 4 stars

The 187 works of art hung salon style in the gallery space look great. The variety of quality art by skilled Indiana artisans gets better every year. Indiana landscape and livestock images are abundant, but the selection of portraits are the real stand-outs. Judy Crawford's “Shimmer," a merit award winner, got my vote for popular prize. The soft feeling and gold leaf portrait of a girl in a lavender swimsuit and turquoise swim cap is lush with jewel tones. The handling of her face is beautiful. Pat Cotton's Matisse-like "Ipswich," a purchase award winner, features a woman wearing blue against a patterned yellow background. It is lively and rich next to its nearby works though its primary colors are slightly muddied. And the most remarkable painting of all is "Figure with Blue Background" by Lorraine Sack How does she do it? The model is eerily lifelike even at a distance of less than a foot. It's worth a visit to cast your own vote for popular prize, Through Sept. 21, 2003. 317-232-1637 - Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

State Fair 2003 – Indiana State Fairgrounds – Aug. 20, 2003 – 3 stars

Closed Aug. 17. The State Fair is composed of so many guilty pleasures the scene becomes surreal. Quite farcical and befuddling were the middle-aged cloggers happily hoofing it to a Bon Jovi remix, but, not moreso than the llama limbo where poodle trimmed llamas literally limboed with that signature limbo song blaring in their competition arena. In the Pepsi Coliseum, the organist played "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" while draft horses pulled their spit-shined carts around the ring. And then there's deep-fried everything, everywhere, producing five-star smells. Elephant ears and corn dogs send my stomach into regressive upset at the thought. The every-walk-of-life crowd carrying huge plush stuffed animal spoils from the Midway games, the colorful lights and the muffled screams from the rides create a fantastic and eccentric once-a-year piece of performance art. - Mary Lee Pappas

State Fair 2003 – Indiana State Fairgrounds – Aug. 20, 2003 – 3 stars

Closed Aug. 17. The State Fair is composed of so many guilty pleasures the scene becomes surreal. Quite farcical and befuddling were the middle-aged cloggers happily hoofing it to a Bon Jovi remix, But, not moreso than the llama limbo where poodle trimmed llamas literally limboed with that signature limbo song blaring in their competition arena In the Pepsi Coliseum, the organist played "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" while draft horses pulled their spit-shined carts around the ring. And then there's deep-fried everything, everywhere, producing five-star smells. Elephant ears and corn dogs send my stomach into regressive upset at the thought. The every-walk-of-life crowd carrying huge plush stuffed animal spoils from the Midway games, the colorful lights and the muffled screams from the rides create a fantastic and eccentric once-a-year piece of performance art. - Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Mike Johnson - Hubbard and Cravens – Aug. 13, 2003 – 2 stars

Some of Johnson's landscapes look stiff and uncomfortably executed. "Prairie Sunset" just misses its mark. Though the colors are rich with hot reds, there is awkwardness and a little incongruence to the barn on the horizon and the hills. On the other hand, "Hay Bales" dramatically portrays sun seeping through a dark ominous and white cumulous clouded sky to illuminate the subject matter. The flat yellow of the gold frame is a perfect match to pick up the golden lit bales. Capturing color and atmosphere are Johnson's strengths, though his work technically falls short of that found around the corner at Lucas and also when compared to the collection of talented plein air artists found locally. Through August, 2003; 317-251-516 1, - Mary Lee Pappas

“Endangered Species” - Wire Soul Gallery – Aug. 13, 2003 – 1 1/2 stars

Artist William Arnold is a homespun naturalist whipping up life-sized animal likenesses out of old heavy-duty wire. There is no getting around that this man loves animals and what he does. They are crafty backyard art with prices ranging from $7,500 for a bison (the Indianapolis Zoo has one) to $30 for a hummingbird. Tag on an additional fee for a paint job. Though he recreates animals on order, each is somehow one of a kind, complete with its own certificate of authenticity. 1-70 rest areas in the state and Gas America Travel Plaza in Knightstown can boast Arnold art, too. The Wire Soul space is shabby (a little too a la natural) and not quite as nice as Tim and Avi’s Salvage, only without the salvage. The waterfall and caged raven are pretty cool. Though it hardly looks like a suitable space to do his work justice, it doesn't seem to be hurting his sales. His love of wildlife extends to the Wire Soul "yard," which may be the closest thing to a prairie downtown has (outside of the NE corner of 16th and Central) with its Queen Anne's Lace. At the time of my visit, several hundred sparrows were enjoying it with their pigeon friends. Through Sept 30, 2003; 317-236-9473, - Mary Lee Pappas

“A Mother and Son Paint" Bertie David and Douglas David – Hoosier Salon – Aug. 13, 2003 – 3 stars


If the David clan had a coat of arms it would bear heraldic bushy peony blossoms and their signature color, powder puff blue. This show is, quite literally, like mother like son in terms of color and topic. Bertie, an accomplished china painter, gingerly layers colors upon one another between firings to create romantic imagery on porcelain and small canvases reminiscent of this style of work from 100 years ago. The overall effect is precise, decorative and flowery. It's simply beautiful on three large German porcelain vases adorned with peonies, hydrangea and wisteria. Douglas, being his mother's painting progeny, seems to have inherited his mother's delicate palette of cool kelly greens, bluey-lavenders and very pale orange and yellows. Unlike his mother, his "Sunset's Passing" is executed with easy, loose, smooth strokes that push some of his work into the sublime. Florals and landscapes fill the Salon. Through Aug. 23, 2003; 317-253-5340. -Mary Lee Pappas

"Intangible Spirit" An obituary for artist Harry Blomme published in NUVO August 13, 2003


By Mary Lee Pappas
Published in NUVO August 13, 2003

Harry Blomme knows what God looks like. “It’s supposed to be a surprise,” he once told me. Blomme, a local artist, passed away suddenly the weekend of July 12. He was 69.

“He lived his life in preparation for this,” Bill Bickel, director of Holy Family Shelter, said. In 1997, Bill became Harry’s caseworker at the Homeless Initiative. A former Southern Indiana farmer, a Flemish Canadian export, Harry was homeless and epileptic. “Health was always a concern,” Bill said.

I first met Harry six years ago when he and Bill visited a Massachusetts Avenue gallery where I worked to check out the art. I can’t recall whose art was hanging on the walls, but Harry I remember vividly. He gave me a deftly drawn charcoal portrait of a girl as a token of his visit. This was typical Harry.

“It always amazed him when someone would take an interest in him,” Bill recalled. “He was spiritual and approachable. He looked at situations so optimistically and held by his convictions. He was much, much more than a homeless artist. That doesn’t begin to explain who he was. He broke stereotypes and boundaries about homelessness without knowing it. He looked at himself as being one of us and folks treated him that way. That’s what we want. No one should be labeled.”

When U.S. Rep. Julia Carson was presented with two of Harry’s paintings, “She was, I think, very humbled,” Bill said. One was of Carson and the other was of Rosa Parks, who Harry had read was an inspiration to Carson.

Harry sold some of his paintings at Utrillo’s Art, owned by Greg Brown. “He intelligently approached his work. His method was fascinating and impressive. It’s stuck with me and affected my own work,” Greg said of his friend Harry.

Three years ago, just before Harry got settled into his apartment (called “studio-studio”), he lived with David Hittle, of Lutheran Child and Family Services. The annual April Show, an art show inspired by Harry’s talent, started from their close friendship.

“Very intangible” is the only way David could explain the impact Harry has had on him. “Harry had a clear and profound effect on people he may have only met once or twice.”

Harry’s passing was sudden. “He was doing very, very well,” Bill said.
“I saw him the day before and he was having a blast,” Greg recalled. “He’s kind of a gad-about. He was full of life and having fun.”

Harry’s funeral was July 19 in his hometown of Rockport, Ind. “It was packed. It seems that the people of Rockport knew Harry as we knew him here. He was known for pulling out his sketchbook,” David said. “The music was awesome. Southern Indiana shoutin’ Pentecostal music. Very bluegrassy. Real good stuff.”
“I would put Harry up there as one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had,” Bill said.

David had difficulty putting the effect Harry has had on his life into words. “Gargantuan is the only word to describe it.”

A memorial service for Harry will be held at Roberts Park Church on Aug. 14, 6:30 p.m. If you own a piece of Harry’s work, please bring it for a display after the service.

For more information on Harry’s art visit www.aprilshow.org. The Web page for an interview with Harry July 3, 2002, can be found at www.nuvo.net/news/archive/002660.html.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

"Singular Vision" Jeanne McLeish and Mark Burkett – it’sALLart – Aug. 6, 2003 – 3 stars

McLeish has a tunnel vision green and brown watercolor palette for her woodsy plein air efforts. Lovely and technically on the mark, they still feel tight and safe. Burkett's " Bottom-land" farmscape is inspired compared to other efforts on exhibit. A mauve underpainting peeks through a pale blue sky (slightly grey with lavender), edges of distant barns and around bare branches of trees. Yellow dabbles dot their way across the lavender and pale orange foreground. It'sALLart owner, artist Keith Hampton, has altered and oomphed the interior of the former Eye Blink space by painting the walls flat white and the floors terra cotta - a color picked up in the benches and throughout the space. The painting presentation is great. Rotating selections of Hampton's own distinguishable landscapes and flowers are deservedly always on view. Worth a visit. Through Sept. 8, 2003. 317-852-5461. – Mary Lee Pappas

Norman Rockwell’s “Downhill Darling” - Indianapolis Museum of Art, American Gallery – Aug. 6, 2003 – 2 stars

This is not the young love "Downhill Daring" image of a boy, a girl and dog sledding down a hill as popularized by the obscenely mass licensed poster art that can be purchased on the Internet for as little as three dollars. This is another one ... of a bunch of brighteyed boys sledding. On loan to the museum from the Saturday Evening Post Society this illustrated painting was the cover image for an issue of The Country Gentleman magazine in 1919. Rockwell, of course, did hundreds of magazine covers for the Saturday Evening Post, his first in 1916. It's a typical apple pie narrative piece with the prominent vocal point being the blue-eyed, rosy cheeked, boys framed in a solid block of white like an illustration cell. Opposite this painting sits "Love Song," an expressionistically dappled piece of Rockwell's minus the obvious for-production elements, earning it a rightful place in the American Gallery. Through Dec. 2003; 317-923-1331. – Mary Lee Pappas