Friday, May 1, 2015

A night's journey: From the Stutz to the April Show

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 11:50 PM

The Stutz is such a hodgepodge, with so many different painters, photographers, designers, that you can say anything you want about the Stutz Open House and find justification for it later. When it comes to the Stutz, I feel like a preacher with a bible in hand. And yes, when I visited the Stutz Open House on Friday, April 24, I had some of the verses, as it were, already picked out. That is, I planned on, at the very least, visiting the studios of the Stutz Resident artists. (I was on a whirlwind tour for reasons that I’ll get to a bit later.)


But I wanted to leave some room open for surprises. And find some surprises I did when I entered the shared studio space of Julie Perigo and Martha Vaught.

“We met at Herron,” Perigo says. “We were both going to Herron at the same time. We had a work study job together. We started talking and before you know it we were doing things together and we’ve been friends ever since.”

When you walk into their studio space you can see that their friendship has had an influence on their art. These artists deal with serious subject matter, but from different angles, each with a strong narrative element, and they complement one another artistically.

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Julie Perigo’s acrylic and mixed media painting “Three Spring Maidens” has a style reminiscent of Art Deco and Art Nouveau with its brightly colored backdrop providing a striking contrast to the three nude female figures in the foreground, figures the color of clay. Some of the decorative, 3D aspects of the work were formed out of computer cables and conduit, and these will be part of the forthcoming “Obsolete Artifacts” exhibition opening at the Raymond James Stutz Art Gallery starting May 1. (Artists participating in this event “are given license to construct art pieces out of recycled tech parts,” according to the Stutz web page).

If it were just a painting it would be intriguing enough and beautiful enough on its own. But there are hand-painted computer keyboard keys here that resemble tiles in a mosaic. Such 3D touches hint at Perigo’s work as a sculptor (also on display in this venue).

When creating this work, however, Perigo was also thinking about some recently uncovered murals in Cincinnati.

"They had covered all of these murals," she said. "And then they forgot about them. In these buildings they started tearing down the drywall and these beautiful murals were behind it. People realized that they were treasures. And here we have obsolete art turning into something much different than the computer keys they once were.

Now, when I tried to get her to elaborate, she couldn’t recall if this in fact was the Charley Harper “Space Walk” mural covered by drywall since 1987, currently being restored at the Duke Energy Convention Center, but hey, maybe it is. The story’s certainly worth looking up.

At any rate this work made me think a little about Pompeii and how computer keyboards, like Pompeian mosaics, one day might be uncovered from the ashes of our civilization.

Like Perigo, Martha Vaught had quite a number of impressive paintings and prints on her side of the wall, but it was “Rage, Snap, Barb, Flip” that really captivated me. The center of gravity in this painting is the hub of a wheel spinning around: imagine that this wheel is floating in space creating its own gravity. And imagine then that there are horses running along the surface of this planet-like wheel chased by a farmer driving a John Deere tractor.

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There's Cubist influences in this painting but there's something else going on as well. This depiction not only plays with, but distorts the laws of gravity. I recall seeing it as the “Cold, Dark, Unsecurity” show at the Stutz Art Gallery back in February and I recall being impressed by it. The main theme of this show was violence and this painting certainly fit the bill. Perhaps the gravity in this painting is the heaviness of dwelling in thought on an act of violence — long after it has receded into the past.

“I grew up in the horse world,” Vaught told me. “Some people can treat horses very horribly. This was based on an actual event. It was an act of cruelty there was no reason for. I was just exploring the idea of why somebody gets in a rage and just going round and round and just getting more and more angry...Horses should never be kept in barbed wire because they cut themselves on it. Horses are not aggressive animals on the whole.”

Vaught changed some of the facts, but in this painting it is very hard to tell what exactly the act of violence it was specifically being referred to here, and where exactly the ground is. But the feeling that violence inflicts on a victim is, after all, a feeling of natural law being violated.

So then I was off to the studios of the Stutz Resident artists. The Stutz residency program is an underappreciated aspect of the Indianapolis art scene. Since 1996, the Stutz Artists Association has been granting free studio space to two local emerging artists per year. The monies raised by ticket sales to the Stutz Open House are what fund this program. The synergy that you find here between the Stutz Business Center and the sponsor Raymond James & Associates and the Artists Association is but one example of how business and non-profits (as well as local government) working together help drive an arts scene.

It was because of this program that I first came across the art of Cheryl Lorance, who’s definitely got a whole lot of art going on in her studio. Egg-tempera as well as oil painting, mixed media sculpture, print-making. (She even sells a brand of soap in her studio.) Some of her paintings, such as “Spilling the Tea” recall Paul Gaugin and the work of other French Post-Impressionists with its bold coloration and its stylized portrayals but she is also perfectly capable of an uncanny realism when she feels like it.

This particular painting, though, has a sinister edge all its own: you see the huge tea pot and the woman carrying it to the table — in a red dress — and the faces of the tea drinkers. You can also almost see the scalding red burns that are about to be doled out.

Lorance not only channels the tradition of European painting but the power of myth and metaphor. And then her sculpture, about which I’ve talked about before, is by and large more abstract, but equally metaphorical and the titles, like her sculpture "Either/Oar" intriguingly play with sculptural form as well as with words.

I was also pleased to see Marna Shopoff get the nod this year from the association: I’ve been a fan of her work since I first saw it in the 2010 Herron undergrad exhibition. The direction her painting has taken has been increasingly abstract over time, but there is always at the heart of it a love of architecture; how it’s possible to take comfort in the solidity of certain buildings in a frenzied world where time itself is fractured and commodified. But there was nothing solid about her depiction in her as yet untitled behemoth three-panel triptych (measuring 9’x5’) showing her architecture-inspired abstract meditations going off in a more florescent direction.

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The bright color in much of the depiction, as fractured as sunlight coming through a pane-glass window, is quite a contrast to some of her earlier work, such as “Drive by Night.”

Admittedly, I was doing something of a drive by: I had to be home by 11 p.m. and I still had another venue to visit: the April Show. Why? Because the Stutz, as vast as it is, does not begin to contain all of the various forms of art going on in Indy.

When making my rounds at the Stutz Open House last Friday, however, I was a little surprised that most of the artists I talked to had no idea that the April Show — a one night only showcase for artists facing challenges — was also occurring on this same night. Although the April Show venue, the hallways and rooms of an unassuming house at 322 Arsenal, was a thousand times smaller than the Stutz, I think it’s equally important as a venue.

When I arrived at the address, the home of one David Hittle — the owner and the founder of the April Show — it was jam-packed with people. The Stutz had perhaps attracted some five thousand people that evening. It seemed like the same number of people were packed into Hittle’s House. Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a bit, but there were enough people inside to make me wonder if the ground floor might collapse under the pressure of so many people on the floorboards.

The walls of the house were equally packed with paintings and drawings from floor to ceiling. (Hittle had told me that one time he had considered showing work on the ceilings of the house but they had not gone to this extreme, at least not yet, not this year.)

Most prominently displayed was the work of Jerome Neal, whose depictions ranged from abstract compositions to elephants in the African savanna to dense cityscapes to trains: a whole wall downstairs was dedicated to his work, mostly in oil on board. Among the trains depicted was Thomas the Tank Engine, revealing a playful, exuberant side of his work. If there’s one word that might describe his compositions it's dense: heavy with expressive detail and different colored paint in layers, one on top of the other. And it's fun to rub your hands across the rough textures of his compositions.

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His cityscapes are particularly dense; heavy with mind-blowing detail, like a scene from the wildest night in Jazz Age Gotham City. And details — the work of an amazingly-talented artist — are everywhere in his work despite the muddiness of some of his compositions. I say muddiness, but I don't mean muddled. I mean mud as the color of the earth, because it is there mixed in with other colors; bold greens and yellows, the color of living breathing things. Neal's is an earthy, primal, visionary art.

Neal is one of the oldest in the April Show, born in Chicago in 1941. He has worked many of jobs over the years — drove a cab, worked in steel mills, and even served in the Air Force. But he is now, finally, supporting himself through his art.

The youngest this time around is 24-year-old Alex Perry, exhibiting his work for the first time at the April Show.

His watercolor on silkscreen work depicts hundreds of different thimble-sized characters. I caught up with Perry in the upstairs hallway where a number of his works were on display. He describes himself as having been an extremely shy child who submerged himself in video games. And his childhood passion became his subject matter when he became a student at Herron School of Art and Design.

“The characters I thought of based on inspiration of video games,” Perry told me. “They are games that I either had or don’t have. It’s a lot of characters up in my head. They’re mostly platforming videogames.”

After talking to Perry, I step outside, my last stop of the night. I caught up with Brian Duff, a 34-year-old Fountain Square resident; I hadn’t seen him since 2009 when he had a solo show at the now defunct AV Framing Gallery.

Duff was living in a homeless shelter then, and he has had to contend with various psychological disorders in the past, but I was happy to hear that he is doing better now.

His work struck me then, as it again struck me at this show, with its bold expressive color, its interesting choice of subject matter; in this case it was a violin on a pool table and in the background you could see a scene out of Van Gogh, a starry night.

And as Duff and I talked, it was nice to look up at the stars and feel the cool breeze blowing through my shirt. It had been a whirlwind tour, but I felt that I had seen what there was to see on this night. There was much work (i.e. writing this blog) to do, between shifts working as a manager for Goodwill Industries and caring for my daughter, but that could wait until another day. I was simply content to listen to Duff talk about his painting that he was clearly so passionate about, despite only receiving modest economic benefit from it (so far).

There was struggle in Duff’s art — struggle that I’ve so frequently found in my writing as a journalist and a poet — but there is also exuberance.

And it is those exuberant moments we live for.

“I did a series back in ’06 of fifteen paintings of a billiard table,” Duff said. "It seemed a pretty good time to revisit that. As far as having a compelling image, I thought the more I revisited, the better it would be.”

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Indy Film Talk: Hoosier critics at Comic Con

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 4:00 PM

This weekend, at Indiana Comic Con, you can attend panels featuring the stars of pop culture — and the people who analyze it. 

I'm honored to announce that Saturday, at 7 p.m., I'll be participating in the panel, Movie Critics Speak Out, with friends and colleagues Chris Lloyd, Bob Bloom and Richard Propes of the Indiana Film Journalists Association

This week, I sat down with the panelist who invited me, Joe Shearer, to prepare for the panel and talk about his experiences at conventions and as a critic. 

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NUVO: This is your third go-round participating in a critics' panel at a convention. What is it like to be inside the entertainment world you analyze, face-to-face with the fans and creators of the films you write about?

Shearer: I don't know about a convention counting as being "inside" the entertainment world, but it certainly is fun to interact with other fans. First and foremost that's what I consider myself — a fan of popular culture. Just being at a convention is fascinating. Seeing people who are fans of the same movies, TV shows, comics, books, and other media is a lot of fun. For some of us, it's a rare chance to actually learn new things about them when we encounter people who have more knowledge than we do. This is true even as a critic.

NUVO: What are some of the major things people don't know about film critics, the kind of information you can give them an inside scoop on during the panel discussion?

Shearer: These days, it's rare to encounter a critic for whom writing movie reviews is their primary job. This is true for me and virtually all of the people I know who do reviews. The Internet has made that almost impossible compared to the days of every newspaper having their own critic.
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Also, critics, even someone like Roger Ebert during his heyday, do not see everything. First of all, it would be virtually impossible, because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of movies that are made and released in some form or fashion each year. I don't know how many movies I see a year, but I did keep a log one year and came close to 300. That number fluctuates for me, but I would imagine that's pretty close for someone who would consider themselves a pretty seriously devoted film buff.

NUVO: What do you hope attendees will get out of this panel? What are you expecting them to ask?

Shearer: I always hope people will want to know about our process and discuss the things that we think constitute a good movie and a bad one. At some point we have ended up talking about things that matter to a lot of us critics, like our battles to get screenings so that we can see more movies, but I don't know if that is terribly interesting to the general public. I guess the answer to that is simply that I hope they will ask us questions they would want to have answers for. At our last panel we talked a little bit about blogging and starting your own web site, which is how many of us ply our trade these days.

There are also some fun screening stories that I love to share with people. I was once groped by a man at a screening, and have seen arguments that almost turned to fights, heard all sorts of weird things from people, and seen movies out of the order they were intended to be seen in.

NUVO: I'm honored to be participating in this panel with you. What advice to you have for me in terms of how I should approach it?

Shearer: My best advice is to not look at this as a public speaking engagement and look at it like you're just talking to a bunch of people with similar interests who are interested in knowing more about what you do. Pick one person from the audience and pretend you're talking only to that person. Being relaxed is the biggest thing; a crowd is only intimidating if you let it be. 

NUVO: That's great advice for how to approach Comic Con in general! 

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Slideshow: Steampunk through the Looking Glass

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Slideshow
Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow)
Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow) Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow) Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow) Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow) Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow) Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow) Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow) Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow)

Steampunk through the Looking Glass at The Columbia Club (Slideshow)

The Circle City Aerodrome, Indy's steampunk society, returned to the Columbia Club over Valentine's Day weekend to host an immersive steampunk weekend. They had a little help from Q Artistry and Angel Burlesque — not to mention all the unaffiliated enthusiasts who came in character.

By Michelle Craig

Click to View 14 slides

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Slideshow: Wizard World Indianapolis 2015

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Slideshow
Wizard World Indianapolis 2015
Wizard World Indianapolis 2015 Wizard World Indianapolis 2015 Wizard World Indianapolis 2015 Wizard World Indianapolis 2015 Wizard World Indianapolis 2015 Wizard World Indianapolis 2015 Wizard World Indianapolis 2015 Wizard World Indianapolis 2015

Wizard World Indianapolis 2015

Wizard World, a three day convention devoted to comic books and related culture, made its inaugural stop in Indianapolis last weekend. Visitors to the Indiana Convention Center collected celebrity autographs, shopped merchandise, attended panels and took photos of other attendees, many dressed in superhero and comic book character costumes.

By Mike Allee

Click to View 20 slides

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ilan Pappé: Words are not Neutral

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 8:30 AM

One thing Dr. Ilan Pappé said during his talk Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine, Past and Present on Friday night, Jan. 30, at IUPUI stuck with me more than anything else he said.

"Words are not neutral," were his words, in the context of the Palestinian Authority going to the United Nations to demand statehood.

But there were many other words and phrases that Pappé, who is professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies of the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, used during his talk in provocative contexts. These were terms that you would never hear, say, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu using in regards to the subjects of Israel, Zionism, and the Palestinians. Phrases like ethnic cleansing. And incremental genocide. Or words like colonialism.

And such terms drew the ire of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) that released a statement on the night of his talk. They expressed their disappointment that the IUPUI Political Science Department was allowing Ilan Pappé, who they labelled a "discredited historian," to express his views.

It did make sense to me, however, that the JCRC didn’t want the current and past actions of Israel against the Palestinian population described as “ethnic cleansing” and “incremental genocide.”

This is, after all, the group that sponsored the Stand with Israel rally at the Jewish Community Center on July 27, 2014 to support Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” assault in Gaza which left over 2,000 Palestinians dead. Five Israeli civilians, including one child, were killed by rocket attacks from Gaza during this conflict, as well as 66 Israeli Defense Forces soldiers. This was a war, in the words of Lindsey Mintz, executive director of Indy’s JCRC, that was about “an existential threat to the state of Israel," and about “protecting their citizens from rockets launched at them by terrorists.”

Pappé didn’t talk much about this operation—ostensibly launched to respond to Hamas rocket attacks—during his lecture, but in my interview with him, he described Israel’s actions, trying to force the Gazans to accept “the same arrangements of incarceration in the West Bank” by using “all the lethal and most updated weapons they have at their disposal on the densest urban space in the world.” The results of such actions, Pappé said, “can only be genocidal.”

Pappé was more concerned in his lecture, however, about framing the conflict in different terminology than it is normally framed in the United States.

“The first entry in a new dictionary has to be colonialism,” Pappé said at the start of his talk “And it’s a very difficult concept to sell in regard to Israel and Palestine.”

Pappé went on to describe Zionism—the movement that brought European Jews to settle in Palestine—as a colonial movement, with similarities to the movements of European peoples to the Americas, to Australia, and to New Zealand. In all of these cases there was only one problem: an indigenous population that had to be reduced or eliminated, he said.

But when a colonial movement, in this case Zionism, is born out of suffering and victimhood, this complicates things, according to Pappé.

“One can fully understand and empathize why Jews in Europe felt insecure and wanted to look for a safer haven somewhere else,” he said.

“It’s not a complex story,” he said. “It happened elsewhere.”

The other thing that makes it hard to understand as a colonial movement, he continued, is that the displacement of native peoples in the Americas and elsewhere is something commonly understood to have happened long ago. Pappé describes what he labels the ethnic cleansing of Palestine - resulting from Zionism — as an ongoing process that began in earnest during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War when much of the Palestinian population was forcefully expelled from Israel by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Jumping ahead 60 years, Pappé described Palestinians as living in “the world’s biggest prison,” (the topic of his next book) where Palestinians are “locked from any elementary feature of basic life that you enjoy here in Indianapolis. They cannot ride a bus, they cannot go to university, their fields, they cannot go to their businesses….”

(It wasn't clear whether Pappe was referring exclusively to Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated urban areas, where the situation on the ground is considerably worse than in the West Bank.)

The two-state solution he describes as a delusion driven by American diplomats, “the best drivers in neutral that the world has ever seen.” The Israelis, according to Pappé, use this peace process as cover in order to consolidate as much territory in the West Bank as possible.

Pappé's proposed solution to the Israel/Palestine problem is a one state solution where Jews and Arabs have equal democratic rights.

At the end of his lecture Dr. Pappé took questions that audience members had written on note cards. So I submitted a question.

I asked if the extreme groups on both sides of the conflict would be able to live in the same small territory without killing one another, and whether or not the one-state solution was just a recipe for further conflict.

“I think that one of the common misunderstanding about any attempt to move forward with the one state solution that it is a solution based on the assumption of eternal human love for one another,” he said. “That a one state solution means that everyone is constantly hugging one another and agreeing with each other about moral opinions and future perspectives and so on…”

As the person who asked said question, though, I have no such misunderstandings. I thought that Pappé's response assumed that the person who asked it was naïve. I wasn’t making any assumptions based on eternal human love: rather I doubted that Hamas supporters and West Bank settlers could cohabit in the same space for more than a nanosecond without shooting their Uzis and Kalashnikovs at each other.

I cannot say that I’m a disinterested party in this. My background is Jewish (although non-observant), I speak a little Hebrew. I’ve been to Israel twice, seen how tiny a country it is, and can see why Israelis are obsessed with their own security. But I also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a predominantly Muslim country in West Africa for two years where the topic of Palestine didn’t come up (except among my fellow volunteers). That is to say, what mattered most to your typical Nigerien villager was getting enough to eat. And, seeing human problems in primarily economic terms, I cannot help but see the injustice being perpetuated when Israeli officials put Gaza “on a diet.” That is, attempting to restrict calorie intake in order to change their political leanings.

So while my cultural affinity is towards Israel, my political views are, shall we say, more nuanced.

And, as far as Pappé 's proposed one-state solution to the Israel/Palestine problem is concerned, it is not an option that I necessarily agree with, but since there is no possibility of a two-state solution diminishes every year as the Israelis build up settlements, roads and walls in the occupied territories at an ever-increasing pace (Pappe describes the two-state solution as “a dead body dragged out of the morgue.”) the one-state solution might at the very least a proposal that needs to be looked at and debated.

Of course, Israelis have legitimate fears about what a one-state solution would mean for themselves and their families. Just for starters, a one-state solution - one man, one vote - would almost certainly mean the end of the Jewish state if Palestinians one day outnumber Jews, especially if the right of return is granted for Palestinians and their descendants (a number upwards of 5 million people). The right of return is a proposition that Pappé wholeheartedly endorses.

In a June 2014 poll by the Washington Center for Near East Policy, by more a two to one margin Palestinians polled in Gaza and the West Bank desire majority rule by Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. There are all sorts of questions that Israelis might have about such a state when and if the Palestinians outnumber Israeli Jews. Perhaps the most important question is this: Would Israelis have to vacate their houses when the Palestinian grandchildren of the original owners come back to claim their property?

Pappé has claimed in a previous interview that his Palestinian friends who support Hamas just want to live side by side with Israelis, not displace them (a claim that would do more to anger than reassure your typical Israeli who look at Hamas as a terrorist organization). But while it is unclear what his proposed one-state solution - or majority Palestinian rule for that matter, would mean for Israel’s Jewish population - it is understandable why most Jewish Israelis would want nothing to do with it, at least at this point in time.

Pappé acknowledges that—with a right wing government currently at the helm and a rightward-leaning Jewish population, that there is no hope for change coming from within Israel. It can only come from abroad, he said. That is why he supports the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement aimed at the state of Israel, taking guidance from the strategies of the anti-Apartheid movement which eventually forced South Africa to become a majority-rule country, he said.

So while I understand that Pappé's ideas might be anathema to many Jews, I don’t think Jewish students on campus are in any danger as the JCRC might have you believe. (I do think, however, that the Indianapolis JCRC would agree with Pappe’s contention that words are not neutral.)

“Unfortunately, talks like the one occurring at IUPUI this evening will likely incite hatred of the State of Israel and its supporters,” reads the Indy JCRC statement, “Thereby fuelling the flames of extremism and creating an anti-Semitic climate on campus that may become hostile to Jewish students.”

I personally wish that the Indianapolis JCRC would be more open to discussions about the future of Israel/Palestine including both Israelis and Palestinians of all different viewpoints, and perhaps hosting such a discussion. Such a debate would certainly be more informative and instructive than last year's "Stand with Israel" rally.

I also disagree with the JCRC’s characterization of Pappe’s lecture as “hate speech.”

To believe this, you also have to believe that being anti-Zionist necessarily means being anti-Semitic, a topic that Pappé quite naturally spoke to during his lecture. He, after all, is often accused of being anti-Semitic himself.

The case can be made that, in terms of politics—as an Israeli Jew—Pappe is so far out that he’s left the ballpark. But that doesn't mean he's anti-Semitic. He's Jewish, after all, and he has family back in Israel.

His political positions, however, have made it impossible for him to continue his scholarship and research in Israel, which he left in 2008. But in leaving the ballpark, as it were, Pappe is developing an audience of—and maybe even a dialogue with—concerned American citizens of all faith backgrounds, as well as of Palestinians.

You see, his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is widely read next door to Israel—in Gaza.

“In Gaza in 2009 we heard about his book,” said University of Indianapolis graduate student Fidaa Abuassi, during her introduction of Ilan Pappe. “But the only way to read his book was to smuggle it… Once we had access to his book we made copies, and we distributed them. And don’t worry about copyright because in Gaza we don’t have basic human rights.”

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Friday, January 23, 2015

A sneak peek at Meet the Artists XXVII

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 1:23 PM


Meet the Artists
, the Indianapolis Central Library's annual showcase for African-American artists living and working in central Indiana, returns for the 27th year this winter, this time bearing the theme "Art with Passion."

The show is up January 28 through March 28, with a Feb. 14 gala reception from 5-10 p.m. being your best chance to not only fulfill the show's directive and meet the artists involved in person, but also check out performances and meet a few authors to boot.

Slated to perform at the gala are the Urban Vibes African Drum Troupe; the Brian Reeves & Heart After God Ministries gospel choir; spoken word artists Tammy Burrus, Tony Styxx and VoCab Eyespeak; and the Bulletproof Band. And the event will include a tribute to poet Mari Evans, a fashion show coordinated by Alpha Blackburn and workshops on storytelling jewelry making, crocheting and balloon sculpting.

Authors planning to attend include Sonny Bates (The Creole Affair); Dr. Stanley Warren (Crispus Attucks High School: Hail to the Green, Hail to the Gold); Faith McKinney (Schmingling); Cherlisa M. Richardson (Summer Rain); Rosemary Featherstone Turentine (Straight Talk “Unchained”); Theresa Washington (All I Got Left); and Jonathan Thompson (Together We Stand).

The complete list of participating artists is as follows: James Pate (techno-cubism abstraction), Lisa Green (water colors), Mike Graves (graffiti), Latoya Marlin (oils), Aaron Underwood (color markers), Rebecca Robinson (acrylics), Omar Rashan (digital), Tasha Beckwith (mixed media), Lobyn Hamilton (vinyl and vinyl sculpture), Dennis Green (metal sculpture), D. DelReverda-Jennings (mixed media sculpture), Rehema McNeil (jewelry design), Tracy Morris (jewelry design), DeAndra Edmond (leather handbags, earrings and unique belts), La Monica Moore (nail artist), Pamela Carter (crochet) and Amani Tre Niner (tattoo art).

Here's a look at a few digital facsimiles of pieces featured in the show; head to Central Library during regular hours to see the real thing.

Lobyn Hamilton, "Return from Africa"
  • Lobyn Hamilton, "Return from Africa"


Tasha Beckwith, "Ethereal Sister II"
  • Tasha Beckwith, "Ethereal Sister II"


D. DelReverda-Jennings, "In Between Purgatory"
  • D. DelReverda-Jennings, "In Between Purgatory"


Metal sculpture by Dennis Green
  • Metal sculpture by Dennis Green


Tasha Beckwith, "Prophet, Priest, King"
  • Tasha Beckwith, "Prophet, Priest, King"

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Year's Eve at the IMA

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 at 2:35 PM

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If you thought, as I did, that schools of fish were flocking to your feet as you stood in line at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's Efroymson Entrance Pavilion getting your tickets at the IMA’s New Year’s Eve bash, don’t worry. It wasn’t just your imagination.

Because there were, in fact, images of schools of koi fish projected down on the floor of the pavilion. The koi fish were programmed to flock towards people as they stood in line. And there were certainly a lot of people, judging from the 1000 tickets sold at this event, which sold out. The tickets ranged from $125 to $200 a pop (and with the open bars everywhere it was certainly possible to drink like a fish).

The koi fish were brought to the IMA by the art collaborative Know No Stranger (KNS) working with Purdue University Assistant Professor Estaban Garcia who programmed this interactive installation.

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The IMA has gone big on the idea of collaboration, of course, hiring Scott Stulen, the IMA’s first ever curator of audience experiences and performance, this year. So it’s no accident that IMA’s partnership with collectives Know No Stranger and Big Car — which has done much to bring arts programming to underserved Indianapolis neighborhoods — were highlighted during this New Year’s bash.

Another KNS installation was a seemingly humble manual typewriter (an Olympia) that was hooked up to a Bluetooth digital interface. Patrons were invited to type their New Year’s wishes on the typewriter and have that text projected onto the lip of the balcony overlooking the Pulliam Family Great Hall.

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That text, once the enter key was pressed, travelled from left to right from the balcony lip into a sort of word pond on the Great Hall's wall. This was the repository of New Year’s wishes typed by other partygoers, texts that slowly faded to gray and then black. Each New Year’s wish in this constellation of words seemed to have its own center of gravity—drawing in individual words of other texts—because this installation was programmed with something called a flocking algorithm.

I talked to Mike Runge, a member of KNS—who describe themselves on their website as “a collective of artists facilitating experiences that make a more vibrant and creative Indy.” He viewed the KNS collaboration with the IMA as a watershed moment for this collective.

“This is completely new territory for us,” he said. “Partnering with the IMA has made it possible for us to do something that we’ve never been able to do before.”

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I typed out on the Olympia “Listen to your parents’ music in 2015,” and pressed enter thinking how art history more or less began with the cave paintings of Lascaux, France 17,000 years ago and is ending up with this? My message began to travel left to right across the balcony lip. Then I took a photo of the text with the camera on my Samsung Galaxy Light and texted it to a certain friend.

This friend, who is considerably younger than I am, have an ongoing argument about each other’s musical taste. If anything comes on the radio that’s older than she is, she labels as her parents’ music. I tell her that designation shouldn't necessarily make it unlistenable.

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Speaking of music, I caught up with Kyle Long, who writes a column for NUVO entitled A Cultural Manifesto, which explores all kinds of different musics from all over the world that he comes into contact with as a DJ. He was spinning records on the third floor balcony playing a mixture of pop music mixed with that of Mulatu of Ethiopia, known as the father of Ethio-Jazz, and this music informed the ambience of the bash. People were not dancing yet—that would have to wait until later in the evening.

What people were doing in a big way, in the early hours of the party, was eating and drinking. The Mixology Lounge was stirring up drinks at a sprightly pace—while Scott Stulen deejayed in that space. On the balcony food stations, mounds of all kinds of ethnic and ethnic fusion dishes abounded. My favorite was the Thai meat salad that I washed down with a splash of champagne. At that second floor food station there was a sculpture, incorporating Styrofoam as a medium, called “Lemon Emoji,” by Tré Reising. Taking its cue from emoticons you might see on your smartphone, this particular emoji looks just like a lemon….with testicles.

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One young woman came up to the sculpture and cupped a hand around the lemon testicles, posing for a photograph.

Later I went down to the first floor and looked through the galleries of the American Wing. Just as I was about to relax a little and enjoy the gallery, I stopped in my tracks as a catering employee carrying a tub full of fried shrimp. I found it surprising that the caterers for the night were bringing their trays of food straight through the gallery into the Pulliam Great Hall. Imagine the press coverage the IMA would receive if one of those caterers tripped and got Pollock-like drips of Thai Meat salad all over a Georgia O’Keeffe painting…

I checked out the outdoor lounge. Heat lamps kept the patrons and the bartender warm and toasty and while Laurel and Hardy features were broadcast onto the IMA’s limestone walls. Temptation came to me there not in the form of a young woman but in the form of a cigar offered to me. I declined the cigar at the last moment as my paranoia kicked in; I feared that my insurance rate would go up if nicotine was detected in my system.

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I wandered back inside to see what Big Car was up to. Their contribution to the evening was a printing press. It was manned by staff artist Brent Lehker. He was making screen prints depicting the IMA, designed by Big Car member Andy Fry, on thick white paper. He was using orange paint in his screen print press positioned at the entrance of the Pulliam Great Family Hall when I walked up.

“We’re screen printing mementos for the evening,” Lehker said. “We’re going to print all the way through midnight.” And patrons were free to take a screen print home with them. (I took home two: one colored blue, the other red.)

As midnight drew near, the band for the evening, the Impalas, began to tear through a selection of what might be described well — depending on your age — as your parents’ music (with a couple of exceptions such as “Roar” by Katy Perry). I was somewhat surprised, considering the cutting edge interactive art and DJ Kyle Long’s presence that the IMA would go for this wedding band with a V-8 engine, as it were, playing Top 40 hits from the ‘70s up to the present. “

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But they were very good at what they did, and they had a sea of partygoers on the floor of the Pulliam Great Family Hall dancing their asses off.

It was mentioned in the program that there would be big reveal at midnight.

And I don’t know what I was expecting for the New Year. I had visions of Herron School of Art and Design associate professor Anila Quayyum Agha’s large “Intersections” cube descending from the ceiling and spinning like a disco ball with its shadow-casting light in the center as the lights in the Pulliam Hall draws dark with IMA CEO Charles Venable announcing at the same time that he had acquired it for the museum. (This six foot cube won the Grand Rapids-based ArtPrize juried grand prize as well as the public prize in October 2014.)

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But, alas, this fantasy of mine was not to be. Just before the clock struck midnight the Impalas cleared the stage. And at the stroke of midnight the screen behind the stage shattered into thousands of pieces, getting all over the band’s equipment and behind the shattered screen two saxophonists clad in white blew atonally a la Ornette Coleman to ring in the New Year. After such a fantasy — an admittedly absurd one, I admit — I was feeling a little let down.

Speaking of letdowns, many in Indy, not just in the arts community, are feeling let down by the IMA’s decision to charge a general admission fee starting in April. I must admit that I’m one of them.

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Sure, it can be argued that the IMA is now a hipper place thanks to its innovative programming under Stulen. But it’s hard to argue that the general admission fee makes the IMA more connected to the community, especially to its poorer residents.

I think the museum could do a lot to rectify this, though, by having a weekly free day or evening for Indiana residents rather than just every first Thursday evening of the month as is planned. (Just by way of comparison, the Art Institute of Chicago offers a weekly free evening for Illinois residents from 5 to 8 pm).

I’m not going to lie, though. I’m not going to say I let any of these contradictions bother me while I was ringing, and texting, in the New Year. I had a great time. And I’ll continue to frequent the IMA — my synagogue, my sanctuary, my favorite place in IndianARTpolis — even if I have to pay admission to get in.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Indianapolis Museum of Art to charge general admission fee

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 1:05 PM

The museum will not charge admission to the Sutphin Mall, home to Lichtenstein's Five Brushstrokes.
  • The museum will not charge admission to the Sutphin Mall, home to Lichtenstein's Five Brushstrokes.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art announced today that it will begin charging a general admission fee to non-members in April 2015, though several exceptions apply. An $18 adult general admission ticket will include parking and access to all exhibitions and permanent collections (including special exhibitions such as Dream Cars that were separately ticketed when general admission to the museum was free). General admission for children ages 6-17 will be $10 and ages five and under will be admitted free.

Admission will remain free for students attending four-year, non-profit and public colleges and universities in Marion County and Marion County public and charter school students on field trips. Admission will also be free for the general public on the first Thursday of the month from 4-9 p.m. 

Most of the museum's outdoor areas, including the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres and the Dudley and Mary Louise Sutphin Mall (which features Five Brushstrokes and Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture), will remain free for the general public.

General admission was free to the museum from 1941 to 2006, when a $7 fee was instituted for non-members. But by January 2007, the museum had reverted to a free admission policy. "For some people, the relatively modest cost of visiting an art museum prohibits them from ever setting foot on our beautiful campus," Maxwell Anderson, the museum's CEO and president at the time, said in a press release announcing the decision. "At IMA, that’s a barrier we can and will remove in order to fulfill our mission.”

Charles Venable, the museum's current CEO and president, told NUVO in November 2013 that the museum was considering a change to its admission policies: "I don't know what the outcome is going to be. But the board is definitely going to be doing a study and really taking stock of what does it mean to be free in a world where virtually everywhere else you go in Indianapolis to an institution, you pay — at the Children's Museum, the Eiteljorg, and on and on. What is the value of being free? Who actually takes advantage of that? Who wouldn't be able to afford a ticket otherwise? I think it's a wise decision on the part of the board at this moment in the history of the museum to take stock and really look at that. I don't quite know the timing. I don't know the outcome, but it's something that will be evaluated."


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Slideshow: International Festival 2014

Posted on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Slideshow
International Festival 2014 (Slideshow)
International Festival 2014 International Festival 2014 International Festival 2014 International Festival 2014 International Festival 2014 International Festival 2014 International Festival 2014 International Festival 2014

International Festival 2014 (Slideshow)

There was a wide variety of music, food, and dance at the 2014 International Festival! There were amazing displays and shows for all kinds of different nations. To see more pictures from the International Festival follow the link to our Flickr page!

Click to View 15 slides

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Friday, November 14, 2014

ARTx: The IMA's Scott Stulen Bringing Art Closer to Where You Are

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 8:26 AM

The Indianapolis Museum of Arts Scott Stulen
  • The Indianapolis Museum of Art's Scott Stulen


Last Thursday, the Indianapolis Museum of Art's first-ever curator of audience experiences and performance, Scott Stulen, announced the IMA’s ARTx series, made possible by a grant by a one million dollar gift from the Efroymson Family fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

“I distinctly remember when I wanted to be an artist,” said Stulen, standing before a mixed audience including journalists and non-profit admininistrators at the IMA’s Toby Theater. “It was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts… seeing this Rembrandt [a painting entitled “Lucretia.”] I saw it, I was probably about 9 years old on a school field trip.”

But Stulen got too close to the painting, and got scolded by the guard.

“And to me this experience stuck in my mind,” continued Stulen. “It wasn’t so much that I got too close to the painting, but it’s the fact that the experience that surrounds the art is something that you remember too. And when I think about that now I not only want to create things that inspire people and really hopefully create amazing works of art but also I want to change the way that museums work.”

From 2008 to 2014, Stulen was the Director of the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers, Project Director of mnartists.org at the Walker Art Center and Associate Curator at the Rochester Art Center. In these positions, Stulen became known for innovative programming including an Internet Cat Video Festival and the ongoing Open Field Project.

Breaking barriers down, so the IMA isn’t seen as an “ivory tower,” seems to be the guiding principle to much of the Stulen's new programming, beginning in January 2015.

A small sample of these events follows. Check out the IMA website for complete information on events, pricing, dates, and times.

A highlight of the 2015 ArtX programming would certainly have to be a monthly “Family Day,” free and open to the public featuring at various times throughout the year. Activities include a "Hip Hop U," in March and the transformation of the Great Pulliam Hall into a basketball court during the NCAA Final Four Championship in April.

The inaugural family day on January 3 will be include a disco dance party and a performance by the Grammy winning band Okee Dokee Brothers. And this day will also be the kickoff of the Saturday Morning Matinee series, which will feature family friendly films.

And the IMA will have ARTx Mobile at its disposal to bring art to the public, taking art around the city to First Friday events and around the IMA campus.

Indy writers and poets will get to step up to the microphone on during the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration: Speaking of Love — free and open to the public — on January 18, from 2 to 5 pm. “Visitors of all ages are encouraged to step up to the mic and share their own expressions of love,” according to the IMA’s promotional copy. Know No Stranger will be on hand to help you break the ice with strangers — potential friends — all around you.

And speaking of Know No Stranger, this group will be the first performing artist group in residence, performing throughout the year on the Toby stage and at Family Days activities. They will debut their Optical Popsicle event in October on the Toby Stage.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Indy Film Talk: The Impersonators

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM

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★★★★ (out of five) 

One of the great thrills of moviegoing is seeing a filmmaker grow. That’s exactly what you’ll see when local director Joshua Hull’s sophomore effort, The Impersonators, premieres at the Hamilton 16 in Noblesville this weekend.

If you’ve seen his first film, Beverly Lane, you know that Hull has a knack for embedding the otherworldly in the everyday. While that film finds an ordinary office invaded by zombies, The Impersonators presents one run by superheroes — well, misfits that dress up as superheroes for kids’ birthday parties. The employees of Super Rentals are put to the test when a crime-ridden town recruits them to lift local spirits and clean up the streets.

Shot all over Indiana, The Impersonators is made with the confidence its characters lack, inhabiting the superhero genre as smoothly as it steps outside and satirizes it. All the cast members deliver energetic performances and exude strong comedic charisma, especially Josh Arnold as the lead. 

Arnold's character, Les, has the hardest time living up to his superhero role. Slovenly and sarcastic, he always appears disheveled when donning the cape of Mr. Super. His boss, Ricki (Jas Sams) loses faith that he can fit the role, hiring a dumber but brawnier guy (Scott Richards) to fill his shoes and forcing Les to show him the ropes. “You want me to polish the gun you’re about to kill me with?” Les asks Ricki in anger — one of the many clever lines in Hull and Arnold’s screenplay.

In the crime-run city of Rockville, Les finds himself in a dangerous situation that affords him the opportunity to win the affection of fellow superhero, Miss Wonder (Melissa Revels).

As Les steps up, so does the film. Just when you think it has gone too far and lost you with an offensive joke or gross-out gag, it pulls you back in with a sincere superhero moment. The most engrossing scene is an illustrated flashback explaining why Rockville’s crime boss (James Copeland) works without guns. It details the traumatic incident that turned him against them — a gun accident on the set of his father’s film that’s eerily similar to the one that killed Brandon Lee during the production of the 1994 comic-book film, The Crow.
 
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It's a dark, stirring sequence — the kind you'd find in a Frank Miller graphic novel. On top of that, the film features a stylish, frenetic fight scene. 

The Impersonators is, first and foremost, a comedy, but it does a great job of imitating serious superhero films with these scenes. I've been following Hull's filmmaking career for a long while now, and this is the first time I've seen him confidently enter a popular genre. He once told me that he sticks to comedy and skirts around directing darker, heftier genre films because trying to make one "would be like asking the prettiest girl in school to the prom." It looks like he is gaining the courage. 
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The Impersonators certainly has the promotional panache of a major studio superhero film. Complete with comic-book style posters and a line of action figures, this is a lovingly-crafted passion project. Just as the characters in the film play dress-up with dignity, Hull put serious effort into this zany story, and it shows.

The Impersonators is playing in Indy at midnight for two nights only — Friday, Nov. 14 and Saturday, Nov. 15. 


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

VonnegutFest 2014: The complete schedule

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Alec Baldwin
  • Alec Baldwin

The second annual VonnegutFest kicks off Friday with a visit from Jess Walter, then gets going in earnest Saturday with visits from poet Billy Collins, comedian Nick Griffin and a virtual facsimile of Alec Baldwin. All events are free except Timequake Clambake, the Vonnegut Library's big fundraiser, but some free events are ticketed, so head to vonnegutlibrary.org to reserve seats. 

Jess Walter
Nov. 7, 6 p.m.The journalist turned six-time novelist, whose 2009 The Financial Lives of the Poets brought readers “right into the maw of current events” without seeming “like an op-ed instead of a novel,” according to The Washington Post, will read his work and offer his take on Vonnegut.
Central Library, FREE

2013 Vonnegut Look-alike Contest winner Emma Robertson.
  • 2013 Vonnegut Look-alike Contest winner Emma Robertson.
Breakfast of Champions reading and Vonnegut Look-alike Contest
Nov. 8, 10-11:30 a.m. A $200 first prize goes to the winner of the look-alike contest.
Irving Theatre, FREE

So It Goes release and reading
Nov. 8, noon-1:30 p.m. The first chance to snap up the third edition of KVML's literary journal.
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, FREE

Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day
Nov. 8, 2-3:30 p.m. 
Also part of Spirit & Place, this panel discussion led by Kelly McKevers, an Iraq war correspondent for NPR, will look at the ways in which art has helped veterans to transition to civilian life. “Vonnegut turned to writing as a way of coping with his trauma,” explains Julia Whitehead, director of the Vonnegut Memorial Library. “Vets understand how he felt after the War, what he wanted to do, the importance of sharing.” Panelists include Jim Brown, director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs; Olivia Cobiskey, U.S. Army captain, Iraq war veteran and writer; and Kenona Southwell of the Military Family Research Institute. 
Clowes Auditorium, Central Library, FREE

Billy Collins reading and signing
Nov. 8, 4-6 p.m. The former Poet Laureate and “most popular poet in America” if you believe The New York Times will spend a couple hours at the library following the Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day conversation held in the same space.
Clowes Auditorium, Central Library, FREE

Timequake Clambake
Nov. 8, 7 p.m. A fundraiser for the Vonnegut Library. Alec Baldwin will accept the first Kurt Vonnegut Humor Award (remotely) and comedian Nick Griffin will perform in person at this $75-a-seat fundraiser. “Mark Vonnegut stated that I ‘revel in making people feel uncomfortable,’” Baldwin said in a press release. “I thought the best way to make everyone uncomfortable was to not show up to accept the award. Besides, as a resident of Eastern Long Island I find the idea of a clambake in Indiana offensive. Otherwise, I am honored.” 
Central Library Atrium, $75
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