Couples Doing it in public: art 

5 artist couples display individual and collaborative art at the Harrison Center

click to enlarge Megan and Corey Jefferson's artwork
  • Megan and Corey Jefferson's artwork


Would you and your significant other — if you were artists — be able to work collaboratively together on a work of art? Or would you show your work as individuals? And, if professional jealousy reared its ugly head during the collaboration, would you be able to keep it in check?

One or two of these questions might just pop into your head during the exhibition Follow Your Heart at the Harrison Center for the Arts (HCA) opening Feb. 5. In this exhibition, featuring five artist couples working in all kinds of media, you'll see some couples collaborating on their pieces, some showing their work as individuals.


"We've done shows before where we chose work from artists who were couples," says HCA curator Kyle Ragsdale. "But we've never done it where couples were the main theme of the show. I just think it's really interesting in a couple's relationship how [having] a partner influences the work or informs the other person's work or doesn't necessarily or how you compare the two people."

Quincy and Nikki Owens chose to collaborate. Their sculptural pieces, using woven bamboo as a medium, were inspired by a residency that he recently completed in Delhi, India, organized by HCA fellow Stefan Eicher. Quincy describes the sculptures as "woven, floating forms." (Quincy is an HCA artist and Nikki is the HCA Events Coordinator.)

"Our first instinct," says Quincy, "was that we should do this together."

click to enlarge Quincy and Nikki Owens working on a piece together.
  • Quincy and Nikki Owens working on a piece together.

Another couple collaborating at Follow Your Heart are Megan and Corey Jefferson. Megan is the grant writer for the Indy-based nonprofit Department of Public Words and Corey is a ceramics instructor at Herron School of Art and Design.

Megan's paintings depict seascapes and Corey's sculptures resemble boats. And the exhibition will have three of Megan's spare landscape paintings with Corey's sculptures popping out of them like seafaring imagery on a 3D movie screen.

The Jeffersons have collaborated with their art before on certain projects.

"Corey and I worked for a mural on Winthrop Avenue [in Indianapolis], on TCC Software Solutions," says Megan. "And the end of the building kept getting hit with graffiti."

They were asked by Holly and Dave Combs, the founders of the Department of Public Words, to assist with the building. The mural was designed to keep people from tagging the building, and the four of them worked together to complete the mural.

But according to Corey, it isn't often when they get to work together.

click to enlarge Megan and Corey Jefferson's artwork.
  • Megan and Corey Jefferson's artwork.

"So that's kind of the reason we jumped on it [the exhibition]," he says. "I've done a lot of nuts and bolts of Megan's painting framing, building stretchers, and Megan inspires some of my color choices too because she's just such a smart colorist."

Not all of the couples involved in this exhibition, however, are collaborating on their submitted work. And not all of them live in the Circle City. Gala and Zack Bent, who left Indianapolis in 2006 to live in Seattle, are sending their individual works to Indy from Seattle to show in the exhibition.

"Gala does primarily paintings (gouache) and detailed graphite drawings," says Bent. "We're just showing a collection of work that we've been doing recently. So I have these sculptures that I've been working on, and I've put them into this site that I've been photographing; it's [the site of] a forest fire from a couple of years ago."

Zack takes digital photos of his white geometric sculptures in the middle of the burnt forest.

"It's an intuitive process setting them up and seeing what happens behind the camera," says Zack. "Those are the prints that I'm sending. Then we're sending a couple of Gala's drawings. Her reference material is usually the natural world. They're a strange mix of illustration and painting that have these references to the natural world... that are a little bit more fantastic and imaginative."

If there are any downsides to working side by side as professional artists and soulmates, Zack fails to mention it.

"We decided that it would be better to just send some of our individual works and let whatever potential resonance between the two just be there," says Zack. "When we work — because we're both practicing artists with different mediums — we tend to have ideas bounce off each other. So something that one of us is working on one year, six months later the other might be picking those ideas up and running with them. Over time it's hard for that not to happen."
[Editor's note: Couples Amy Falstrom and Ralph Domanico as well as Andrew Perry Davis and Rachel Bliel are also showing work in this exhibition.

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