First Friday reviews, May 2014 

click to enlarge Emma Overman, "Neither Here Nor There" (detail)
  • Emma Overman, "Neither Here Nor There" (detail)

Emma Overman: Bookish
Indy Reads Books through May 30


I'm a longtime fan of Emma Overman's paintings. With their child protagonists, menageries of animal characters - and Overman's sweet sense of humor - they seem illustrations for children's books unwritten. (And in fact, Overman has illustrated a number of children's books.)

But these paintings aren't just for kids, and elements of her personal life sometimes seep in, giving a deeper, darker resonance to her acrylic on canvas paintings. But oftentimes the meaning of the work is right on the surface, as plain as day.

Most impressive at this Indy Reads Books exhibition is "Neither Her Nor There," which depicts an oval-faced girl reading a book under an oddly placed chandelier at the door of a deep dark forest. Exploring the world of the imagination is the theme. And in a bookstore like Indy Reads, what could be more appropriate?

click to enlarge Justin Cooper, "Lilythread"
  • Justin Cooper, "Lilythread"

Anti-Gravity: Paintings by Justin Cooper
Monster Gallery, closing reception May 30


Some of Justin Cooper's previous works evoked the Eastern Orthodox tradition of icon making, portraying jaguars with haloes on surfboards and the like. And though they were beautiful, thoughtful pieces, showcasing Cooper's superb skill as a representational artist, they weren't the most spontaneous paintings in the world.

These new mixed media paintings (on canvas) are looser and freer. The subject is a young woman who - occasionally carrying a black hole in her hand - you might describe as a 21st-century Alice in Wonderland. His palettes are limited, and calligraphic line work is pared down to the essentials against the white of the canvases.

New Perspectives in Genesis: The Binding of Isaac in Art, Music, and Word
Domont Gallery


A faux Torah scroll is the centerpiece of this 12-artist group show, connected to a seminar on religion, spirituality and the arts co-sponsored by Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary.

The scroll is John Domont's take on the binding of Isaac and other stories revolving around the father of us all, Abraham. In the interior of this unrolled scroll, you see shadowy acrylic paintings on paper. Psychological speculation-cum-commentary is supplied by wall text such as "The initial wounding often comes with a trauma that bleeds into adolescence." You also see here how Judaism bleeds, as it were, into Christianity and Islam. A noble exercise, but the stridency was a turnoff for me.

click to enlarge Susan Hodgin, "Faceless"
  • Susan Hodgin, "Faceless"

My favorite piece was David Landis's "What Now?" - a steel sculpture shaped like a tree with wind-turbine-like blocks balanced on the branches. How exactly did this sculpture tie in with the exhibit theme? Unbound by any exegesis, I felt free to draw my own conclusions.

Susan Hodgin: A Limitless Existence
Harrison Center for the Arts through May 30


In Hodgin's landscape-like paintings, she created the illusion of three-dimensional space by unconventional means. Instead of seeing mountains and their peripheries, as in traditional landscape painting, Susan Hodgin took you deep inside them. But this particular exhibition is less landscape-oriented, and Hodgin's recent struggle with cancer has led her to work on a smaller scale, in size of both her canvases and subject matter.

There are many mixed media works on paper - many of them highly gestural - and numbered journal entries take you deep inside her attempt to find the sublime inside her own struggle. "My sublime has become very small," she told this reviewer. "Whereas before it was very large."

click to enlarge Erin Huber, "Savannah" from the Mother Artist Project
  • Erin Huber, "Savannah" from the Mother Artist Project

Erin Huber: Mother Artist Project
Harrison Center for the Arts through May 30


The photographs in this exhibition also appear on Erin Hüber 's Mother Artist Project blog, where they're joined by Q&As with featured artists. Huber's main object of interrogation is how "mother artists" balance their aspirations as artists with their occupations with mothers.

click to enlarge Allan Askren, "Back Home Again"
  • Allan Askren, "Back Home Again"

These black and white digital photographs feature the mothers in close proximity with their children - and the exhibition itself is in close proximity to new work by Susan Hodgin, one of the MAP subjects. While the photos sometimes capture lighter moments, they also suggest it's not a bed of roses bringing up baby while creating art.

One photo, "Savannah," shows its titular subject, a fashion stylist, in her studio, looking at least momentarily overwhelmed, her head in her hands as her child crawls in the background.

Raymond James Stutz Art Gallery through May 30


Indy is the Circle City, the Crossroads of America. Both monikers come to mind looking at "Back Home Again" by Allan Askren, a wall-hanging sculpture made from bike parts soldered together in the shape of Indiana. Indianapolis is represented by a bike gear and the circular housing surrounding it, and this state's numerous highways become bike chains pulled taut. Another standout is Michael Pietrocatelli's "Drumcycle" which merges a bicycle with a drum kit. While it's not possible to ride this bike, at least you can play the thing.


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