ReviewArt

Art Experiences in Bloomington, Indiana, and elsewhere

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Don Geyra at The Venue

One of Bloomington's foremost painters, Don Geyra, is showing in Bloomington again, at The Venue.
Don is a cool cat whose journey took him from Bloomington (grad. school in painting), to a successful career in NYC as an artist, as a manager at CBGB and as a scenic creator for film, television and broadway and now back to bucolic Bloomington...


Don spoke about these and other matters at The Venue the other day.  

Geyra is a great raconteur, full of stories about punk rock stars, great movie directors and the glory days of Bad Old New York City, when it was a decaying monster but still very much the greatest city in the world.  

Now Geyra is living in the Hoosier Hills and has made Life in the Hoosier Hills his topic...


The way I understood it, the main theme of Don's talk was the importance of discipline, in the sense of knowing one's craft, for the creative artist.  Geyra specifically cited Johnny Ramone as someone that who might be thought of as opposed to discipline who was actually very disciplined.

Showing at the same time as Don Geyra was jewelry artist Lori McDonald, of CharmHouse.    Lori makes both jewelry and small assemblages.  Both kinds of work truly are charming.

Lori demonstrated her work in front of one of Don Geyra's paintings...
Together they made me thing of the famous Manet painting...
Lori McDonald collaborates with other artists, so her pieces range from charmingly representational to abstract...

Don Geyra's studio seems to be imbedded in the southern Indiana landscape...

Meanwhile a completely different artist has been showing at the Waldron Art Center, Rick McCoy...
McCoy's show is called Spin City...




Monday, June 8, 2015

Heat and Hell and a Birthday in Bloomington

Recent travels through Bloomington, Indiana found the town in the throes.  Barbed wire...
... help ingo to keep pipes and housings prisoner, while casting cast ominous shadows, mocking the summer  heat...
Spring arrived more as an assault than as a caress ...
resistance futile...
A sidewalk  turned green...
other sidewalks received emergency help, proving that Bloomington is a town that cares...

All of these signs and symbols seen on Bloomington's streets of fire should have warned me.  I should have known that something was coming.  But it was only in search of my long lost optigan that I stumbled into The Artifex Guild late one night.  What I found was Hell in a living room ...
similar performance but not filmed at artifex guild

Artifex Guld is a charming bungalow house where experimental bands play.  It is  painted all white on the inside, with interesting art here and there and at least one really comfortable couch.  It's so cozy that it might  not be a place where you expect to look up and see someone setting up a very large sculpture made of steel pipe...
also not filmed at artifex but similar
... and someone hanging from it as a way of making music...

This element of the unexpected  seems to be  part of the charm of the noise performance duo Pedestrian Deposit  - two people dressed all in black, perhaps like goth-influenced Kabuki prop manipulators, use a bevy of electronic age equipment on one hand and a batch of impressive industrial age equipment on the other to create a soundscape that manages to be rumblingly threatening and dreamily evocative at the same time - all incongruously in a living room environment.  Unlike much 'noise music', Pedestrian Deposit's music seems to be as much dance as it is music, and it seems to invite narrative interpretation.  As one of the performers manipulates heavy duty chains, ropes, pulleys and springs, pulling and leaping, and the other hovers threateningly over a table loaded with buttons, knobs, boxes and wires, striking like a snake from time to time,  sado-masochistic narratives come quickly to mind, but over time (and this is a performance that stays with you a long time) they seem to be superceded (for me at least) by deeper thoughts about family and community dynamics, with all their social/economic/technological contexts, fraught with hidden meanings that seem to take lifetimes to understand.

Pedestrian Deposit gave the best performance I have seen live.  Since it was the eve of my birthday, I especially appreciated it.

Imagine my surprise when I saw virtually the same sculpture in an art gallery the next day!
Well, it's not exactly the same, but it's a lot the same.  A Famous New York Art Critic agrees...
This oddly familiar sculpture is part of a very interesting exhibit  of works by Dale Enochs at the Waldron Art Center...
Large weights unsteadily borne seemed to alternate with slighter weights stoutly held up, as if being offered...
Prints dance frenetically, like maggots crawling in their thousands over  traditional icons of life and death...
... and sometimes translate to painted metal sculpture, even more frenetic, but held and bound by words...
Various tools are also honored...

Words do always seem to try to bind reality in some way...
So there is no better gateway to heaven and hell than an urban alley where the war of words on the wall turns into noise, and noise turns into currents and something beckons at a distance ...
Happy birthday self.  Experience awaits.  One way or another.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

ekphrasis II - Words that Must be Said

Poets and painters assembled again at The Venue this past Saturday.  Five poets had chosen five artworks by local painters as inspiration for poems, which they recited on Saturday, along with unrelated poems.  The chosen artists also discussed their paintings (and one drawing).

Standout moments included a portrayal, in word and dance, of a jolly but sadistic cat pursuing a butterfly.  Don Geyra, the painter whose work was thus interpreted, quickly assured us that no butterflies were injured in the making of his painting of a cat, nestled amongst green leaves, contemplating an orange butterfly. Don's painting  itself is very quiet, but suggests the possibility of sudden movement.
painting by Don Geyra

 Another evocative painting in the show, by Mark Blaney, features  a balcony somewhere in the Caribbean and a woman who seems to have fallen asleep while hanging laundry.  This laundry  - half attached to a line and flapping wildly in the breeze -  seems to take on the shapes of her dreamings.  The poet who chose this painting to write about thought of voodoo and  the soft-spoken wisdom of a woman's body and soul and the pink colors inside a conch shell, where the boundary between two colors is like the ocean shore, or the edge of a sheet flapping and flying in the wind...

The artist who created a drawing of masks spoke to us about how interested he is in scouring thrift shops for evidence of long forgotten cultural fads.   Long after their heyday, they wash up on the shores of Discardia.  What, he mused, does a society say about itself when a generation chooses blankly staring faces, such as ceramic masks, to decorate homes with?  Is this a secretly sad message?  An expression of lostness?
Hangers On, drawing by Ray Perigo

  I thought of Romans and the way they liked to decorate courtyards with masks.  

The poet who wrote about this piece reflected, as I recall, on the truth of theater and the invisible theatrics of everyday life...
Animal Eyes by James Dorr

A yarn piece by Martina Celerine also seems to reflect on the droppings and leavings of time.  Hovering between sculpture and painting, a spring flower, bulbous in root and bloom, seems pregnant with new life.  It rises from a dark brown mass, a rich bed of earth, secretly crammed with the forgotten fruits of a consumer society - nuts and bolts, broken toys, etc..  The poet who wrote about Celerine's piece was reminded of those richly painted old master still life paintings, often so riotously full of color, texture and  life, but that also invariably contained 'momento mori' moments;  perhaps a bit of rotting fruit or some other reminder of the intertwining of death and life.

Another artist's paintings of flowers have the richness of old master paintings, but also the lusciously flowing light of impressionist paintings.   Her poet was not able to be there but she spoke to us about her working process - I was particularly struck by the thought of shreds of gold and silver leaf floating through the air and catching glints of the light.

Flutter, painting by Patricia Rhoden Bartels

It was another great evening at The Venue!

Images and words have found other battlegrounds in Bloomington.   This bit of graphiti was scrawled over some historical photographs on the B Line Trail...
Setting aside issues of propiety, property, expense and civility, this is a breathtaking bit of point/counterpoint -- the one thoroughly planned and permissioned, the other spontaneous, done on the run -- really caught my attention.  I love the way it self-describes, but at the same time, it seems determined to cut through - if only for a moment, until washed away - the sweet and sticky glaze of nostalgia with which we sometimes cover the sainted past.

Some other less daring, less brutal, but still wild graffiti found a more traditional locale for graffiti,  in a blind alley...
The result seems to be an ad hoc chapel, a tribute to the unintended layerings of urban life  - or an explosion of utterings in a silent hall.

Nearby, seen through dirty plate glass, what look like holdover chairs from the sixties seem to be caught in a trance...

They reminded me of an old Simon and Garfunkel song...
I wonder if they speak of things that matter?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ekphrastically Yours

An Ekphrasis is a poem written to describe a painting or sculpture or, more broadly, a poetic meditation on a visual artwork.   Tonight poets and artists gathered to share five Ekphrases written by Bloomington poets about paintings of five artists who show their work at The Venue.  Other poems were also shared and the artists whose paintings were written about also spoke about their work.

Gabe Coleman, human easel and Venue director

Much thanks is due to The Venue for bringing artists and poets together this way.  It was a daring and brilliant effort to stimulate creative conversation, and the results were very moving.

A fragment of a man's torso and face, which intrigued the artist because she felt that it made her look at a person she knew in a new  way, inspired a poet to meditate on the way a hot afternoon can slow down time, lending portent to small gestures.  
End of Day Repose, painting by Judy Shapiro

Care*Taking, poem by Tony Brewer


A landscape depiction of a meadow and nearby stand of trees bravely forsaking the certainties of winter and embracing the liquidities of spring became, in poetry, a field of skulls admonishing the onlooker to leap without fear into the now.  
Springtime Melt, painting by Monique Cagle

Silence is not Silent, poem by Joseph Kerschbaum

A painting of a skull, sitting in a meadow with flowers growing comically through its eye sockets reflected a young artist's thoughts about death and hopes for immortality achieved through the creative act.  For a poet, it became a child's song of love for life, ecstatically woven by winds sawing through holes between teeth in a jaw no longer dead but reborn.  This poet led the assembled group in a singalong that melted some of the awkwardness between poets and painters.
Untitled, painting by Ray Perigo

The Ten Teeth of Death, poem by Patsy Rahn

A fourth painting represented shallow but broad ocean waters moving over a rocky bottom, resulting in an abstract pattern of blues, with skeins of white, like iridescent murmurings.  The artist wanted to create for the viewer a peaceful sense of beauty.  The poet who wrote about this painting said that it was a harbor where no ship could ever sail and so (as I heard it), a harbor for thoughts.
After Wave, painting by Dawn Adams

Blues, by Shana Ritter

Another poem read by the same poet related very well for me.  She described gather good stones for throwing, together with her six year old grandson, and filling up his little red wagon, in order to take them down to a placid pond, where they could one by one be thrown in, creating little disturbances.  She related her grandson's delight in the uniqueness of each splash and her own delight in the fact that each stone, in the middle of all that sudden chaos, found its own center.


The fifth painter had a very special story to tell.  Her father was a photographer who was arrested in 1967 because he was arrested during the demonstrations in Chicago - for taking photographs!  He was in the same courtroom as the Chicago 7.   Her painting was a landscape based on one of his photographs, which seemed to represent an older person on their way home, perhaps from market, weighed down by both purchases and years, but not oblivious to the rich, golden light falling all around her.  To the poet, as I recall, this tiny but strong person in the painting seemed to be a beacon, drawing light to her, but also giving off  inner light.  I thought that perhaps this had something to do with the role a beloved elder can play in one's memory.
Home from Church, painting by Susie Gregory

Home from Church, poem by Tonia Matthew

Celeb visitors to the art/poetry show included the Art Dog...

Art Dog was accompanied by his friend, Emily Purcell, director of the Farmer House Museum.  They must have been scouting talent!

Another show that seemed to have something to do with memory was seen recently at the Waldron Art Center.
Clay is a material that, as I see it, is inherently about memory, partly because it is such an ancient material for human beings to work with, but also because it receives and holds impressions.  It takes what is fleeting and makes it about as permanent as anything human can be.  This particular clay show at the Waldron seems to fervently embrace these ancient associations that come with working in clay.
Forms seem to be, perhaps, rocky outcroppings, 

or baskets mysterious in use, 

or strange beings...
The Famous New York Art Critic was charmed  by friendly forms and ropy textures...
and decided to settle in and maybe never leave...
... at least for a while...
Most of the pieces in the show featured fascinating textures...
These were not always made with clay, but often seemed to use other natural materials, such as straw...
and perhaps charcoal, and paint...



Another artist offered reflections on the relationship between the artist and the natural world...
... using clay, paint and mirrors...

Spiraling forms embrace the viewer, healing the isolation that looking in a mirror can imply, embracing the looker.
This embrace is explored further on torso-shaped forms.

A painting show, also in the Waldron, also seems to evoke memories of people and places once known...
In one piece that I find very moving, an older and a younger figure seem to exchange loving thoughts. 
One is reminded of Chagall...

Also at the Waldron were fascinating pictures from a youth group trip to South America...

My favorite picture could easily be ruins from ancient Rome...
The unexpected pageantry of life...

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