Wednesday, September 29, 2004

AYS - Hubbard and Cravens, 49th and Pennsylvania - Sept. 29, 20004 - 3 stars

Three energized paintings by students from three schools that participate in AYS (At Your School) after-school cultural arts programs just so happen to be a pretty good match for the coffee shop interior. "African Musical Family" by Stony Creek Elementary School kindergartners in Noblesville has a hot chocolate-colored background on which bold black outlined drums seem to wigggle in some musical unison. It's lively and playful. "Massai Warrior Shield" by Washington Woods Elementary students is almost a step-by-step lesson on how to compose. A black outlined shield image lays on top of a colorful striped, stylized, Kente cloth-like background that contrasting swipes and strokes of color have been layered on top of to create depth. It's a great way to teach freedom and control with a paint brush. All three works were inspired directly by the African drumming lessons on djembes the students received from local percussionist Lawrence Clark. The paintings truly reflect the spirit and presence of drums. The efforts by Shamrock Springs in Westfield, "Masks of Luck," likewise builds on the African arts theme in a way that any anstract expressionist would commend. Action painting in reds, blues and greens revolve around kid-rendered images of African masks. It's like one big rhythmic burst created by many, many hands. All three paintings were group efforts among student participants who learned color, contrast, illusion and painting through these uninhibited exercises. Through September; 317-251-5161. - Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

"Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of the Iraq War" - Monument Circle and the Wheeler Arts Community Building - Sept. 15, 2004 - 5 stars

Sept. 11-13, 2004. Organized by the American Friends Service Committee (, Eyes Wide Open was emotionallly and politically poignant. It was only by miraculous coincidence that this wound up being exhibited in Indianapolis on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Scaling the north steps of the Monument, 1,007 pairs of black combat boots created a very graphic portrayal of the war in Iraq's military casualties. The appearance was eerily suggestive of the rows of small white Civil War solders' headstones at Crown Hill Cemetery, as if these boots were funerary monuments. "It makes the numbers real," said Richard K. Curtis, P51 "Mustang" fighter pilot in WWII, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters and the Presidential Unit Citation. Every pair of boots was tagged with a laminated, white piece of paper that in black ink simply labeled the name, age and state of each killed American soldier - "Sgt. Eliu A. Miersandoval, 27, CA," one read. Some boots were adorned with American flags, pictures of those fallen soldiers represented and symbols of peace. Also gripping was a board listing some of the over 10,000 Iraqi civilian casualties - "Fathollah Hejazi, 71, 30 Nov., Samarra, tanks and gunfire." Innumerable civilians were listed as anonymous - children and elderly among them. It was a stirring form of tribute for the lives lost and the families that grieve. The installation was truly an instrument for mourning and a reminder of what civility and humanity are. Shame on Indianapolis' TV and print media for the lazy coverage of this moving display. For local information email - Mary Lee Pappas

*Visit to read writer Becky Oberg's news coverage, "Eyes Wide Open, Ugliness ensues as groups clash over war"

"Americana" - 805 S. Meridian St. - Sept. 15, 2004 - 4 1/2 stars

Dear Laura Bush, poets are writing more anti-war poetry now than ever even with your censorship of it at the White House. And the poetry of Elizabeth Krajeck ("Color-coded Sin Advisory System" and "Color-coded Homeland Security Shame Advisory Card") inspired this satirical and passionate exhibit curated superbly by artist/photographer Jack Hartigan. Krajeck's poetry paint chips and expressions of grieving for democracy fill a chalkboard as you enter the space, setting a smartly critical tone of how free speech has been stifled under the current "W" administration. That sweeping theme is allowed to breathe in this space, with each participating artist's political statements being expressed and understood without the use of pretentious, contrived or overblown jargon. Every piece in this show is of great quality and could stand alone as simply a great piece of art. Though each piece is worth discussion (aesthetic, technique and intent) the photographic works of Hartigan are ripe with shrewd satire and censure of the current state of our government. A portrait series based upon a 20th cerrtury German photographer, Walter Sanders, depicts Indianapolis citizens, including one of a Latino immigrant. When viewed in the historical context of Sander's work, the image addresses the issue of temporary work permits that enable a modern state of slavery and questions the current state of human rights. "It's Almost 9:11; Church and State; It's Almost 9:11 " is a piece that takes direct aim at civil rights without brashness. It's a six-image photographic triptych, half true-life documentation of a local Catholic elementary school and half of enlarged studio-shot hands - a hand over heart during the recitation of "The Pledge of Allegiance," a handshake between a white and black hand and hands in prayer. Our flag hangs above a picture of Martin Luther King and President George Washington in one frame with another frame showing a statue of the Virgin Mary draped with a rosary that also shares the classroom space. A cut out of Sponge Bob near the statue reminds us of the effervescent youth that inhabit this school and of childhood. The clock on the wall indicates the time as nearly 9:11 a.m. The center scene is a close-up image of a child's awkward new cursive on large lined beige paper that reads of gay hate rhetoric posted with other written assignments displayed in the school's hallway. It is shocking and sad, but also a reminder of the freedom upon which this country is based and of what faith truly is. Other participating artists are Angela Edwards, Adam Noel and Linda Adele Goodine. For more information contact Jack Hartigan at Through Sept. 17; 955-8601. -Mary Lee Pappas