ReviewArt

Art Experiences in Bloomington, Indiana, and elsewhere

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...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Look in the Eye

When I came to Bloomington, Indiana -- from Boston -- in 1989, this wall painting was already fading away and already an iconic image...
Closing in on three decades later, it seems more beautiful than ever.  For me, this painting, more than the fish on the Old Courthouse or any other local image, represents Bloomington.  There is a soul here.  It's easy to miss amidst the generic hustle and bustle of a (proto?)typical college town, but there is a look in the eyes you occasionally see.  I somehow feel that as long as this painting is still there, Bloomington will still be there, for me.

I am told that it was created by an artist who went by the name Red Martha, after the flower, red martha.

Sometimes a look in the eyes turns a friend into an enemy and sometimes a look in the eyes turns an enemy into a friend.

Nearby was this balcony, a kind of opposite icon, in my eye...
In the middle of what looks to be a fairly expensive renovation/addition project, a few bucks spent on that iron railing would have created quite a moment of beauty.  Instead it looks like two small pieces of stock iron scrollery have been added as a kind of ineffective grace note.  I'm more impressed with the scrollery and other forms of decoration added to walls nearby...
The world of graffiti is such a funny world.   Some of it is legal (one could say, "tamed") and some of it is illegal (one could say "untamed");  there seems to be a kind of dialogue between the two kinds, literally so in this location.  Graffiti is inherently a paradoxical art form in that it tends to subvert property claims while making its own informal property claims.  Here the famed New York Art Critic takes in some more local  tame graffiti...
I love the way a larger picture can show more informal paint textures providing enlivening context and broader meaning...
Another piece of informal public art was seen recently outside Planned Parenthood...

It seems to be a painted plastic fetus laid into a chunk of geode laid into the embracing roots of a tree.  I'm not sure if this piece of art is meant to be associated with any particular political stance, but what a statement about the preciousness and precariousness of human life and its relatedness to the organic and inorganic worlds around it.

Another show that seems to touch on this was seen in preparation at the Waldron...
Clay is such an eternal art, from the human perspective (it seems to me), and it almost always seems to touch on the rootedness of human existence in both organic and inorganic environments.
Nothing seems to express human needs and longings better than earth, water and fire coming together through human hands to create forms.  Ceramic is the most plastic of all arts, surely.  A ceramic vessel or figure always seems to be a pause amidst transformations.

Another show was seen at The Venue...
Here one of Bloomington's best artists overcomes questions of style and era with humor and earthy observation...
... always attentive to movements of sun and wind...
detail

Meanwhile, a show in process of beinig set up  in a gallery nearby seemed to explore relations between gender identity and signifying activities....

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