Penrod may be Indy's nicest day, but sometimes nice isn't what you want out of your art and music festival. Sometimes you want booty bass and a crowded dance floor, naked people slathered in body paint, plenty of booze, trippy audio-visual sensoriums and the joy of exploring unfamiliar nooks and crannies in an abandoned warehouse. And Saturday night at 2323 N. Illinois St., the eight annual edition of Oranje should offer all or most of the above for the intrepid and well-rested visitor. A juried exhibition that invites musicians and artists from throughout the region, Oranje will host a variety of painters, sculptors, photographers, DJs, performance artists and other varieties of artists, eight of whom we've profiled this week. Tickets are $20, only those 21 and over are invited, and the event from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. More information - including a list of all those performing and exhibiting - is at www.oranjeindy.com.
It's a familiar story: an artist unappreciated in his or her homeland finally finds success in Paris. Even if clichéd, it's sometimes true. Ask soul/jazz vocalist and pianist Sean Haefeli, an Indianapolis native and then-Chicago resident who popped over to France for six months last year.
"It's just so much easier for music or art that's not mainstream to get on the radar," he says of France, where he scored interviews with glossy R&B magazines and prominent gigs before receptive audiences. "I was played on a radio station in Paris - and it would be like me being played on a Clear Channel station here, which is absolutely not going to happen. And that makes all the difference in the world."
But Haefeli has more in mind for his career and art than radio airplay. He's back in the States to study jazz piano at Indiana University, Bloomington. When reached by phone last week, he said that he was just trying to settle in, situating himself in an academic situation after performing professionally as far afield as Korea and Japan.
"It was one of the crazier decisions a lot of people thought I could have been making, including me at the time," Haefeli says of his decision to head back to school. Having never completed a degree in music (he has a BA in literature from Depaul), he hopes that his studies will give him the tools to realize any musical ideas he might have in the future.
Haefeli has taken a roundabout route towards pursuing his passions. "The two things I've done the longest and am strongest at are martial arts and music, both of which I started when I was seven years old," he says. Haefeli's biological father - Carl Haefeli, a trumpeter with local '70s-era funk group Ebony Rhythm Band - may have bequeathed him a musical legacy, but was killed in an unsolved homicide in 1978 before his son was old enough to remember him.
But his mom was also enthusiastic about music, and Haefeli got started early, beginning with classical piano. He didn't begin singing seriously until he was sophomore in high school, then studied opera for a year as college freshman before switching his major to literature. Haefeli's academic pursuits dovetailed with his interest in the Chicago spoken word scene, with which he became involved as fan and then performer.
Haefeli says he'll continue to work on his own material while in school, playing shows domestically between classes, overseas when on break. His two albums - 2004's Natural Hunger LP and 2006's Sound Strategy EP - bring together his interests in spoken word, jazz, soul and hip-hop. The songs onSound Strategy follow a consistent template, beginning with an unrhymed spoken-word opening theme (with a cadence that's more hip-hop than Gil-Scott Heron), then segueing into a lengthy improvised jazz section that shows off the chops of Haefeli and his collaborators.
The album's closer, "Balance," brings together those long-held interests in martial arts and music. The zen-like teachings of martial arts - from which, like music, he took a break before resuming studies at age 20 - inform the song's message about living a well-balanced life. Haefeli says of the song: "You try to find some equilibrium, so whatever obstacle you encounter can be handled in the right sort of way. It's had a lot of resonance as I've been travelling around."--Scott Shoger
The motto of wUG LAKU'S STUDIO & gARAGE is "Art is where you find it." Here Wug Laku, who manages to be both intensely creative and laid-back, rests on a red couch with his feet propped on his handcrafted pine coffee table, which he calls a stooble. "It's a table. It's a stool. It's a stooble!" Laku declares.
For his first year exhibiting at Oranje, Laku plans to recreate his comfortable gallery setting, providing an interactive experience where patrons may pause, sit, relax and converse. On view will be Laku's drawings, digital art prints, light boxes, and furniture plus works by artists like Cagney King who have exhibited in his gallery.
Laku's compositions explore relationships between shapes and colors, often juxtaposing the geometric with the organic. Through abstraction and clean design, Laku says that he tries to, "Provoke a thought... a thought process, and let viewers explore their own minds."
On this day in Laku's studio, metalsmith Nancy Lee stands nearby the resting Laku, poised near pedestals displaying her jewelry and sculptures. Lee's studio is within Laku's space, and at Oranje, the two will combine their adjacent booths. They are a couple.
Laku describes his art as being in "a middle ground between the practicality of the Midwestern style and the simplicity of the Asian approach." Appropriately hailing from Middlebury, Indiana, Laku learned woodworking from his father, a builder. Laku's pursuit of music brought him to Indianapolis in 1980 as sound technician for the band Roadmaster.
When he left rock and roll, Laku set out to become a commercial artist. Self-taught, he created cover illustrations for Broad Ripple's Village Sampler before venturing into fine art. Next spring, through an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Fellowship grant, Laku will travel to Scotland to see renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy's site-specific environmental art.
Laku's work has evolved over time from the illustrative to the abstract, a journey he says he took "by following the artistic process and not imposing my will on things."--Susan Watt Grade
Growing up in the small town of Georgetown, Ill., Nancy Lee's interest in art was borne out of a sensitivity to the little things - "pebbles, leaves, twigs, and buds, from which I created my tiny fantasy world," she writes in an artist's statement. Lee, an Indianapolis-based metalsmith, has maintained this interest into her adult years, fabricating jewelry, small sculptures and other objects using silver, copper, found items and natural materials.
"I found out that I see things other people don't," Lee explained while standing in her workspace at wUG LAKU'S STUDIO & gARAGE. "I see images all the time, and being able to get those images out and reinterpret them in metal helps the fantasy worlds come out."
Before pursuing her art full time, Lee was project manager for the expansion of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She was introduced to metalsmithing as a student at the Indianapolis Art Center, where she recently began teaching. She also studied at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where she was a studio assistant last spring.
Her copper sculpture, "Pod," was awarded a first-place ribbon at the Indiana State Fair. Lee's designs are well-crafted, confident, eloquent and often playful, employing both minimalist forms and variable lines.
Lee auspiciously met her partner Wug Laku through Elegant Funk, a show organized by Smaller Indiana artists. During that time, a 40-foot oak fell on Lee's home studio, where "Pod" sat half-finished and unscathed on her workbench. Laku invited Lee to utilize workspace next to his studio, and she's remained there since.
Lee participated in Oranje 2007, and will repeat her popular jewelry making activity where participants may bend and forge a copper bracelet affordably for ten dollars. She also will exhibit and sell her work, including jewelry designs that consider the body as an architectural canvas. Lee wants others to experience and appreciate the craft behind the art.
"Everything informs design...things you feel, things you see... I am always looking for the next possibility," she states. "Sometimes as a design begins to be fabricated in my hands, I follow the path... and it (the work) informs itself as to what it wants to be."--Susan Watt Grade
Ben S. Jacob is a musician in full. Not only is he a classically-trained musician and composer, he also likes to get loud in a band format and improvise with various avant-garde ensembles.
BASILICA, the collective he started in 2005 with fellow alumni from Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, combines all those aspects into one sensorial display. It's chamber music on a suicidal bender.
"I really wanted to find a place to bring them all together," Jacob says. "That's what BASILICA was founded on that synthesis between disparate elements that aren't necessarily associated. It's the same way a basilica in ancient Rome was a meeting place for communities to gather and share ideas and make collective decisions. That was part of the reason for choosing that name."
Visual arts such as film projection and interactive video have been included over the years, as well as poetry and other texts. There's even a scientific component.
"We do a lot of research into sound engineering technology to get unique sound possibilities," Jacob says.
This year's performance at Oranje, their third overall, will be BASILICA's most audacious undertaking yet. The ensemble plans a six-hour set of their barraging sawed-string and grindcore pummel. Intertwined will be video and dance by outfits peripherally connected with BASILICA, all of which will mimic the ebb and flow of soundwaves. Other highlights include abstract artwork and a segment featuring facial recognition technology.
Underlying the installation is the Unified Fields Theory, which holds that at the elemental level of existence, all things become equal in a uniform field of vibrating energy. The goal of the exhibit is to create that energy with each aural and visual aspect stationed throughout the space.
"In Indianapolis I don't think there's anything else quite like it," Jacob says of Oranje. "I've been to other various experimental types of things, but with the people Oranje brings and the variety, it's been a good experience. That's the reason we thought it would be a great move to expand our interactivity and engagement in all human sensory capacity."
There's so much to digest at a BASILICA performance that Jacob says attendees often focus on specific parts, such as an instrument or multimedia portion.
"It becomes a very personal thing for each person," Jacob says. "Everybody gets something different out of it."--Wade Coggeshall
Andrew Duncan (Andy D as he's known in musical form) isn't strange - gimcrack wardrobe, cheesed-out '80s sound and outdated facial hair notwithstanding. He's merely a product of the changing times.
The Greenwood native returned to Indiana a year ago from Brooklyn. He left the Hoosier state as Duncan but returned as D, a rat-tailed, mustachioed cad in cutoffs and flourescent shirts rap/talking about sexual conquests and his keen ability to start a party.
In high school Duncan played in a metal band. Not your standard chugging fare, but the "hard Primus, Ween weird sort of stuff." By college his muse had devolved into simple noise.
"Then I realized, wait a minute, this is the exact opposite of what I really like," Duncan says. "At that point I was just getting really obnoxious, just to see how far I could go, how much I could take."
He'd always liked pop music structure, and was awestruck the first time some cousins played him "Brass Monkey" by the Beastie Boys.
"I had never heard anything like it," Duncan says. "I reacted like, 'What is this!?'"
Reaching back to that epiphany, Andy D was born. His debut, Choose Your Perversion, features a retro, new wave sound and bawdy boasts, among other subjects. Duncan says it's not rap or rock, but every term he concocted to describe it - like prog-hop and electro-funk - was already taken. Now he just calls it party music.
"Every song I write is meant to be danced to, or can be danced to," Duncan says. "Hopefully it's party-inspiring."
As for his appearance, Duncan swears it's done un-ironically.
"I don't really wear anything on stage that I don't wear every day," he says.
The bright shirts with the unicorns and rainbows remind him of his childhood. As does the rat tail and moustache. It took him four months to grow the latter.
"My facial hair was never that full at all," Duncan says. "I feel like kids have crazy imaginations, and when I was a kid and saw older men, I realized one day I'll be a man."
He may be a man now, but his childhood wonderment hasn't left. Duncan has always questioned society's definition of maturity anyway.
"I know a lot of people in business suits who are emotionally 5 years old," he says. "I'd rather look like a 5-year-old and emotionally be an adult. I feel like I'm mature enough to be able to wear whatever I want."
Indeed, Duncan's cross-genre look and sound isn't as contradictory as it may suggest.
"There's something in our culture now where so much is added on top of everything else," Duncan says. "There's so much for people to like. Everyone is able to like everything now. And people are hanging onto their childhoods longer."--Wade Coggeshall
Jonathan Earley lives in Columbus, Ind., where he currently works full-time as the web and multimedia designer for Screaming Eagle Media. But his artwork reflects his fascination with Japan, which he first visited when 16 years-old.
"During my first visit, I literally felt like I had traveled into the future," he says. "I remember as a young kid, my biggest influences were high-action comics, sci-fi movies, action figures, and cartoons, and I think visiting a culture that emitted the same types of vibes that I got from my early childhood influences gave me a sense of euphoria and fascination. So I try to reflect that sense in some of my drawings."
At Oranje, the 24-year-old animator and web designer will display his drawings (using sharpies on foam core and paper), digital illustrations and digitally manipulated photography. In some of his drawings you see Japanese script, which Earley incorporates in order to add "an extra element of stimulation or mystery to the pieces."
The kind of stimulation and excitement you see in this artwork is lacking in the Columbus arts scene, according to Earley. While renowned for its architecture, Earely's hometown doesn't have much to offer for many younger residents. "As it is now," he says, "people finish high school and leave as quickly as possible and if they do come back they feel like they fail."
Earley said that he initially felt this way when he returned to Columbus from California. After earning a BA in Digital Arts and Animation from Cogswell Polytech in Sunnyvale, Ca., he supported himself for a year in the Golden State by working as a video production artist, web/graphic designer and 3D modeler/animator. Even with his considerable array of skills, he found the cost of living was just too high. When he was offered a job as a web designer for his hometown newspaper, The Columbus Republic, he accepted it.
What he's not willing to accept, however, is a Columbus without the cultural glue to retain its young. To do his part, Earley founded C-buz.com, a online zine that features interviews with Columbus-based artists and musicians.
Earley hopes the site will expand "to the point to where if you're in high school or college you automatically know what C-buz is and recognize it as a source of inspiration."--Dan Grossman
Stuart Sayger has been drawing for as long as he can remember. But it wasn't until he attended IU-Bloomington as an undergrad - studying journalism - that he started thinking that his hobby could become a profession. It was there that he began to learn the tools of the trade, including an auspicious encounter with a new computer program, Photoshop, while working as an illustrator at campus paper The Indiana Daily Student.
Sayger put himself on the bleeding edge of comic book illustration by learning Photoshop in the early '90s, but his initiative and drive were more important elements in helping him establish himself in the industry. Sayger writes, illustrates and publishes his comic book series Shiver in the Dark, entirely by himself.
Shiver in the Dark, currently in distribution with Diamond Comics, revolves around a character named Grace, a spoiled and inconsiderate college student whose theft of a book from an old bookshop brings about dire consequences.
Grace is nasty by design, says Sayger. "By being nasty and cutthroat, she's not going to be such an easy victim like the female victims in so many horror movies."
The success of Shiver in the Dark led to steady work for Sayger as a professional comic book artist. The biggest seller on which he's worked is the Bionicle comic book series for Lego Toys/DC Comics. It's been distributed worldwide in nine different languages, and is now on shelves in major book retailers as a children's graphic novel series published by Papercutz.
Sayger is currently making a comfortable living illustrating collectible cards for White Wolf Games, but he would like to find more time to work on his Shiver in the Dark series, which offers him an artistic control he doesn't have when working on collaborative projects.
At Oranje, Sayger will exhibit large-scale paintings of his graphic art, composed with gouache, oil, pastel, and acrylic. "A lot of people get to see the finished comic book but very rarely do people get to see the pages the work is drawn on," he says. "I'm going to have the original pages side by side with the full printed page."--Dan Grossman
On the street, the man known as Skittz is soft spoken and humble. It's only on stage that the Indianapolis-based emcee puts his large stature to use. Long known for his work as the backup rapper in the Mudkids, Skittz is now preparing to step into the spotlight, by pursuing his own music and putting the finishing touches on a solo album, Rhyme Strong Vol. I: The Book of Struggles.
Skittz's earlier work with the Mudkids was entirely improvised. That facility for freestyling may have worked against him, keeping him from developing the craft of songwriting.
"Everything that people have heard from me over the last ten years has been straight off the top of the head, and I take a lot of pride in saying that," Skittz explains. "I'm just really starting to come into my own as an actual songwriter. I didn't realize there was that much to it. Freestyling is such an easy, natural thing to me that I never really focused on writing concrete songs. I've felt so many nights where I've been that typical guy at the typewriter that is looking to the right at all those crumpled pieces of paper on the floor next to the trashcan."
It was only when Skittz left the Mudkids that he felt comfortable pursuing his own work. "I didn't ever feel like there was cohesiveness where I could have creative input," he says of his time with the hip-hop ensemble. "I was reluctant to do some of those things, too, just because I was probably inappropriately nervous about stepping on (Mudkid bandleader) Russell's feet and feel like I was trying to take over or overstep my bounds as part of the group."
Still, Skiitz isn't developing his voice without the help of others. He's working on new tracks with fellow emcee A.C.E. O.N.E., and he'll be joined at Oranje by DJ Helicon.
"Being around other people's energy helps me thrive as an artist," Skittz says. "No man is an island, but there's a lot more required of an individual artist. As a crew, you have much more eyes to look at things, but you also have to decide everything as a group. We're just trying to rep Indianapolis."--T.J. Reynolds