Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"First Come, First Hung" Sulllivan Munce Cultural Center - Dec. 29, 2004 - 3 stars

I love the concept of this show, where the first 40 artists to submit their work automatically get accepted regardless of refinement, skill or any other criteria or theme. Children's, professional and amateur artworks, framed appropriately of course, hang side by side. In their randomness they somehow manage to make for a cohesive and interesting visual display, as if there was more to this than being lucky enough to be one of the first in line. A riddle of a task for the curator, this hardly feels like a free-for-all, but rather an inspired representation of what art is for anyone who actually has the gumption to make art. A fabric art piece, "Designer Martini" by Janet Cohen, is an eye-catching delineation from the predominantly 2-D fair filling the Mahaney Gallery with its stitched mosaic texture. Through Jan. 8, 2005; 317-873-4900. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"Poignancy Lost" The Marilyn Monroe exhibit at the CMG Legends Museum Dec. 18-19, 2004, Published in NUVO Dec. 22, 2004

Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit
CMG Legends Museum
Dec. 18-19

* A favor from the Press Preview Event, this real white rose pictured was inkjet embossed with an image of Marilyn by

CMG Worldwide, which manages intellectual property rights of famous celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, staged a two-day exhibit, a fund-raiser for St. Vincent’s Center of Hope, of what they touted to be “the largest collection of Marilyn Monroe artifacts ever assembled.” But why?

Even with international magazine covers donning Marilyn’s images wallpapering one lobby exhibit room, these “thousands” of said items, primarily belonging to collector Robert W. Otto of Chicago, didn’t seem to add up to the contents of even the Christies’ offerings at their infamous October 1999 auction.

“Never before seen,” another sales descriptor for the show, was more apt. Fake graduated pearls, dowdy underpants with Marilyn’s name markered upon them, plastic tissue box covers and a bad, faux jaguar three-quarter length sleeve coat an impersonator would turn their nose up at are probably items Marilyn never wanted to see again. With the $25 steep ticket price, importance beyond ownership was necessary for value to have been gained in this unflattering look at Monroe.

Any poignancy, significance or glimpse into the real Norma Jean these mostly mundane (no furs, no little black dresses) objects could have offered was lost in horrible presentation and inconsistent labels — some unprofessionally gushy. The average-for-the-time bathing suits weren’t the ones immortalized in Richard Avedon or Ben Stern photos. Were the awful dresses on display costumes or from photography shoots? Not even the alleged “Happy Birthday Mr. President” pink back-up dress was red carpet. The Irish knit sweater wasn’t the one from the George Barris photos. Context, historical interest, purport, personal history or any ordinary accompanying details to drive the authenticity of these pieces was needed.

The exception was an easily missed French black suit Marilyn wore in the late 1940s to modeling and movie auditions. Displayed within a case in the breezeway of the CMG building, it was not only exposed to damaging direct sunlight, but had hot, harsh, overhead can light beaming down on it from a very short distance. Set against a loosely woven lipstick red fabric, as everything exhibited was, the suit should have been given more precedence.

CMG should’ve used its not-for-profit museum status to garner funding to employ qualified museum professionals to safely display and author a cohesive story for the objects. T-pinning loose 40- to 50-year-old candid photographs to red fabric is unacceptable, shoddy to boot, and gave this “exhibit” an unsatisfying homemade look.

Currently the Brooklyn Museum of Art ( is exhibiting I Wanna Be Loved By You: Photographs of Marilyn Monroe from the Leon and Michaela Constantiner Collection through March 20, 2005, a more dignified and less weird display than this unfortunate local offering. Visit CMG online at

Elaine Wolf and Lee Ellis - CCA Gallery - Dec. 22, 2004 - 1 1/2 stars

You could drown in the plethora of watercolor floral arrangements and landscape style works in the CCA Gallery. Most are somewhat provincial and common while others, like Jane Wiley (great compositions and jewel-toned colors) and Bob Bratton's offerings, are way above the average - even moreso when their fair prices are compared to those of lesser works sharing the same space. Elaine Woffe's flat, cluttered scenes of streetscapes and the like are naively handled, skimming the boundary of outsider art when compared to other works on view. Of note: She offers the service of turning a favorite family photo (vacation scene?) into a painting. Elegant turned wood bowls are something the CCA has no shortage of either. Their co-op artisans consistently create unique and refined vessels, bowls and platters, including those featured currently by Lee Ellis. They are as sculptural as functional. Through Dec. 28, 2004; 317-255-9633. –Mary Lee Pappas

"Eclectica" - Arthouse 60 - Dec. 22, 2004 - 2 1/2 stars

Currently overexposed Indianapolis artists have a new venue and audience for their works in the very art friendly Zionsville at the former home of the Pidge. Works maybe seen too many times before in other places by Kipp Normand, Ellie Siskind and Kyle Ragsdale make this feel like a mini Harrison Center for the Arts with the unleveled salon-style hanging. Artwork felt crowded in this little old house. The jewelry was of limited string and bead skill, the glass works were fantastic, though knick-knackishly small, and most of the art represented a visually current pop genre. The best art in the place were the limited edition rock concert posters (there's a serigraphy shop on site) by co-owner Jeff Brown for the likes of the String Cheese Incident. More of this please! Kudos for showing art without a theme dictating the direction of exhibited work and for making a concerted good start. Through Dec. 26, 2004; 317-735-1460. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Artists seek new home - Bodner Studios - Dec. 15, 2004

Artists seek new home
Visual Art
By Mary Lee Pappas

*Pictured: Barbara Zech in the Bodner gallery.

Bodner Studios, the 3-year-old artist community located immediately south of Eli Lilly on Madison Avenue, will be having its last group show this Friday, Dec. 17, 6-10 p.m.

Owned by the Bodner real estate group, the building was put up for auction and consequently sold in late November.

“It might be our last show, or it might not be. As far as we can see, this is our last show,” ceramicist and Bodner artist liaison Barbara Zech said, referencing the Dec. 13 close date on the sale, which could get pushed back pending the status of the new owner. “We knew the chance was there that they would sell the building. We knew it was a matter of time. They didn’t lead us on.”

The Bodner artists (none tied to a lease) have 60 days from close to vacate. However, anxieties regarding what the actual close date is exist and, if delayed, it could afford them another possible art show and production time.

“Art is our business,” Zech said of the artists maintaining studios at the large, raw, industrial building. “We have to be ready to put our work on hold. A lot of artists have abandoned ship. I’m holding out until the last minute because I have a kiln [about 500 pounds] to move. Artists are getting anxious. We don’t know if we have two more months or a year.”

Bodner Studio artists have been a do-it-yourself bunch from building and tearing down gallery walls in the rent-free gallery, painting the expanse of walls (with paint donations matched by Bodner) and pitching in three clamp lights each for gallery lighting. Their hands-on volunteer efforts have made it one of the best local visual arts venues in the city, accomplished without not-for-profit status or outside funding. “It’s made us a strong community,” Zech said.

Artists who have been a part of the Bodner community will be participating in this group, tentatively the last art show for this group in this space of which Zech said, “About the only thing you could use this space for is artist space.”

Bodner Studios is located at 1200 S. Madison Ave. Call 679-4062 or e-mail with any questions. Visit for more information on the Bodner community of artists.

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Forrest Solis "A Celebration of Women in the Arts" - Bodner Studio - Dec. 15, 2004 - 3 1/2 stars

Indianapolis has seen an abundance of women-themed art shows in the last three years that have mostly fallen short on purpose and, in one instance, was simply an excuse to have a party according to the event organizer. Those errors in purport and substance by default help shape this group of large paintings about "women artists in underrepresented art forms" as comparatively original and honest. A costume designer, quilters and even a self-portrait of Solis herself are seen in these vibrant, somewhat painterly, compositions. A drawing, collage and painting faculty member at DePauw University having received her MPA from IU Bloomington, Solis' series is somber despite the warm jewel tones and though the women are depicted engaged in their art. Through Dec. 15, 2004; 679-4062. –Mary Lee Pappas

2004 Group Show - 4 Star Gallery - Dec. 15, 2004 - 2 1/2 stars

Artists represented by Katherine Carter and Associates (an arts marketing group) comprise this small show with some hits and some misses. Fortunately, the strength of the hits outweigh the weaker pieces by the likes of the questionably celebrated Rita Blitt, whose work looked like nothing more than streaks of worn-out magic marker on white paper. "Incendience," one of several 36-inch-by-30-inch paintings by Ron Clark, is downright sublime. It looks to follow a Rothko compositional formula where color (appearing like layers of laquer) is emotion. While this approach is hardly anything new, it's done exceptionally well and with great effect. Also of note were Elizabeth Austin's reverse glass paintings executed on half-inch plexiglass with acrylic paints. The pieces are dependent on her decoratively applied strokes of opalescent blues and greens speckled with glittered confetti. Organic vines are formed and appear mystical like shadows in moonlight. Through Dec. 31, 2004; 317-686-6382. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Residue and newness, "Flood/Margin, Part/Whole" an installation by Robert Bubp - Indianapolis Art Center - December 8, 2004

* Pictured - "Flood/Margin, Part/Whole," an installation by Robert Bubp, is on view at the IAC.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” Shakespeare told us in Troilus and Cressida. Robert Bubp tells us, similarly, that for every action there is a reaction in nature with his installation “Flood/Margin, Part/Whole.” For Indianapolis it’s imminent, this Wichita, Kan., artist reminds.

Eloquent and pointed in content, Bubp’s installation is composed of indelicate concrete blocks, sandbags, metal maps, dirt and video projections that appropriately feel plopped down into the Churchman-Fehsenfeld Gallery at the Indianapolis Art Center. Though a prevailing visual symptom of Indianapolis’ urban-rural sprawl, these rough elements are unexpected, if not temporarily startling to see assembled in a gallery setting.

“The inside looks like the outside,” a bemused visitor accurately said of the installation, referring to Kosene and Kosene’s Monon Row $375,000 a pop condos (phase V), seemingly spontaneously generating from concrete slab on mud foundations just yards from the IAC’s front doors on Ferguson Street.

Two fractional concrete block walls are stretcher bound in the gallery just as “phase V” appears at this moment. And, just like those and 55 other construction sites along the White River from the IAC to Noblesville the artist documents here, they appear as architectural residue combined with evidence of newness.

One wall bears sandbags and the other dirt rubble at its base while both reflect video images of the White River, fields of purple blooms, woods and farmland (some blurred images suggest fleetingness) juxtaposed against maps of Carmel. The consequences dealt with in this piece include the White River flooding downstream in communities like Rocky Ripple at Butler University.

Bubp reminds us that while Carmel has gone from a population of 2,000 in 1960 to 38,000 now, agricultural and wooded lands in this outlying district have been destroyed without a greater city plan. “Wherever root systems and foliage are cleared and replaced with non-absorbent materials [cars, roofs, streets, parking lots] runoff is significantly increased, which means river levels will also increase,” the artist explains in his statement. “Is Carmel going to develop a plan for flood control that will ensure its growth is not responsible for downriver flooding in a city that hands out sandbags when it rains?” This is also a town that has been unwilling to procure paper recycling receptacles because of their perceived unsightliness.

Aesthetically abrupt and intellectually in tune, this message of fragmentation in our new-growth community demands that citizens question city planners and the environmental scars that short-term developments are creating — the costs of which greatly outweigh rental income from the limited life of an AMLI apartment complex. It begs for responsibility from all parties. This work is a success from every perceivable angle.

“Flood/Margin, Part/Whole” will be up through Jan. 16, 2005. For info call 317-255-2464. - Mary Lee Pappas

Taylor Anne Smith - Starbucks (Broad Ripple) - Dec. 8, 2004 - 1 star

Smith's artist statement attempts to justify an artistic substance in her painfully informal canvases that simply doesn't exist. Infusing expresso, cabernet and shiraz into her paints for this "Coffee and Wine" series of minimalist splatter pieces seems a bit dramatic for the flat, low-pressure results. "Crimson Adagio," a big red ameba blob covering,a prefabricated canvas, has a thin wash of coffee-stained color that doesn't even tiptoe along the decorative. But see for yourself at Through December, 2004; 317-255-1624. –Mary Lee Pappas

Greg Seagrave - The Bungalow - Dec. 8, 2004 - 3 stars

Seagrave's locally distinguishable paintings are as colorful as they are busy. Improvisational twirls and angles, set predominantly in black, get sandwiched between woven brushes of layered color. The congestion is consistent from piece to piece and is as confidently applied as it is free. The freer the application in Seagrave's case, the more valuable the result. "Diva of the Boxed Wine Crowd," a large painting containing paper collage elements, demonstrates his apparent unending mania to keep pushing through the spatial elements of airy space that eventually create a finished effect more visually complex than some complacent Pattern. Evidenced also is a personal thrill, if not compulsion, to create. Through December, 2004; 317-253-5038. –Mary Lee Pappas

Edgar Degas "The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" - Indianapolis Museum of Art - Dec. 8, 2004 - 3 stars

A loan from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, this bronze sculpture stands in the company of paintings by Degas' Impressionist contemporaries Monet, Vuillard and Renoir. This is but one of 27 bronzes and two plaster casts of " La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ons" (1878-1881) made after Degas' death by Paris founder Adrien A. H6brard that reside in museums from the Joslyn Art Museum in Nebraska to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. In person, this iconic work held no surprises or insight in part because it's been so prolifically reproduced. Rather, it pushed me to imagine what the wax, flesh toned, wig adorned original exhibited at the Sixth Impressionistic Exhibition in 1881 would have looked like and how that first incarnation was pivotal in changing the face of modern sculpture. What aren't we seeing that caused such a commotion and how did it embody Degas' intentions? Here, we do see the dancer (Marie van Goetham) in fourth position, as an obvious unflattering break from idealized conventions - no pedestal, not pretty, from a family of prostitutes, ballet was unfashionable – though she passes for charming today. Having inspired the Paris Opera's La Petite Danseuse last year and been the subject of a children's book among other things, she is deservedly delightful. This variation's successfully subtle tutu is of gathered white tulle over two layers of aged taupe colored crepe all edged in pinking shears. Her hair ribbon is effective though looks to be inventively executed from store bought metallic mesh ribbon reinforced with wire. Through Jan. 2, 2005; 317-923-1331. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Honoring Hails - obituary for artist, art critic, and gallery owner Doris Vlasek Hails of Woodburn and Westcott - Dec. 1, 2004

Doris Vlasek Hails, of Woodburn and Westcott Contemporary Fine Art, passed away Nov. 17.

A Bohemian born in Chicago, she opened her gallery in the Murphy Building because Virginia Avenue reminded her of her childhood neighborhood. She trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago “at a time when professors taught the pictorial space of the Old Masters, before the era of marketing and artspeak,” she wrote in a letter to me.

She exhibited in Paris, France, had her first solo show at age 40 in Chicago and learned she could schmooze in a checkout lane at Marsh in the mid-’80s just after moving to Indianapolis. She authored art critiques and a farcical advice column, “Miss Advise,” for a local paper, taught at Herron in the early ’90s and painted compulsively her entire adult life, sometimes 12 hours a day for months on end.

In March of 1993 Doris lost her ego and, having been raised an atheist, found (or was found by) God through her TV on a Wednesday evening, for which her gratitude was immense. She enjoyed trees, animals (especially her cats), morning skies, seasons, opera and dispensing advice and encouragement to artists. She considered marrying Stanley Woodburn Hails one of her best decisions and believed that her purpose in life was to make art. Love and relationships were among the most important things she believed any of us could acquire on this planet.

In lieu of a wake, a retrospective of her artworks will take place at Woodburn and Westcott, located at 1043 Virginia Ave., Friday, Dec. 3, beginning at 5 p.m. 916-6062.

*Pictured is "Living Room," by Doris.

"Art for Their Sake" - Glendale Mall - Dec. 1, 2004 - 1 1/2 stars

A collaboration between Glendale Mall and Herron School of Art/IUPUI, the sale of these decorated, maple, pint-sized chairs donated by Glendale benefits Prevent Child Abuse Indiana. Efforts to collaboratively raise funds for this deserving not-for-profit are five-star worthy, but the actual student art up for bid (which is what is being evaluated) was not produced on a high level. A Pacers chair with a basketball net dangling below the seat and a Spiderman theme chair, among others, demonstrate the limited imaginative scope of these Herron students, not to mention how poorly some were rendered. But presentation, the community collaboration idea and promotion for this second annual event are great. Though the chairs are lackluster, they are deserving of bids for the sake of raising funds for PCAI. Winners of an ongoing silent auction for these chairs, called "Chairish the Children," will be announced Dec. 4. The last opportunities to place bids takes place Friday, Dec. 3, 12-5 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 4, 12-5 p.m. with the live auction of faculty designed chairs at 4 p.m. Through Dec. 4, 2004. –Mary Lee Pappas

William Forsyth "A True Artist" - G. C. Lucas Gallery - Dec.1, 2004 - 4 stars

This is a museum-worthy show and sale of oils, watercolors and charcoal drawings by William Forsyth from the Forsyth family collection that offers a great variety of approaches from this Hoosier Group notable. "Sunset ll," one of the smaller canvases available, radiates true colors of the remarkable natural occurrence it depicts. Brilliant yellow, white, hot pink and periwinkle are spontaneously applied with a palette knife across the horizon line, streaking the sky. These gestures compliment the mood and gradations of light. This 1898 effort, though highly Expressionistic, is reminiscent of the Romantic notion of pursuing the momentary and of nature mirroring human emotion. This elegant piece offers a most original aspect, particularly when displayed across from unflattering, informal charcoal portraits executed in a much stricter temper. Through Dec. 31, 2004; 317-926-2893. -Mary Lee Pappas