'Breath' by Susan Hodgin, part of 'Dream Stills: New Work' at Galerie Penumbra
Dream Stills: New Work
Through April 29
Artists come at their craft with different strengths and, with any luck, these merge with a creative talent that lends a numinous quality to the work. In the case of Susan Hodgin, the second of four female artists showing consecutively at Galerie Penumbra in a series entitled "In Her Element," the artist draws up images from her subconscious, as she describes it, fluidly bringing them to life as abstractions of interior visions inspired by nature - with the electric charge of brilliant and brilliantly subtle color.
Many artists struggle mightily to make sense of palette; and stunning results can be achieved with a minimum of hues. Hodgin knows how to make a predominance of red a joyful occasion rather than just an intense one. Thus the art takes us to a place where we experience it, rather than observe it intellectually as a structural exercise, or one we feel has to be interpreted through the lens of artistic expertise.
I maintain that this is a case of "no experience necessary." The greatest works of art, the ones that transcend time and place and that ever-elusive art market, are the ones that speak to us without the need for interpretation. The impressionists drew forth the makings of matter through its illumination; and any aesthetically powerful work of art continues to do this - that is, provide a universal experience of beauty.
Hodgin's solo exhibition, entitled Dream Stills: New Work, is a sublime collection reflecting an inspired bout of productivity - a true gift when it comes, as any artist knows. The collection has a cohesiveness, as if Hodgin further explores a line she has been dancing with for some time now, evidenced in other recent, much more modest, showings of work around town. But here, she's honed in on a certain palette or collection of palettes, a certain exploration of shapes. Hodgin's work morphs leaves and petals into orbs: These are now available to assume new roles, which may or may not need to be defined. They could speak to the limitlessness of the skies or the sea, and all that may exist in either endless depth.
Hodgin achieves this spaciousness through color: a deep, drunken blue births a landscape of indefinable happenings, surrounded by lighter shades, equally light-filled. Abstracted fronds sway and wave at us, ever beckoning. Heavy burgundy stones defy gravity, speaking to stillness - and bring us back to Hodgin's own explanations: viewing this work as a collection of interior "film stills."
Hodgin's exhibition was preceded by the overtly feminist paintings of Peg Zeglin Brand, and will be followed by two other Indianapolis-based female artists who, like Hodgin, were selected for the quality of their work rather than any inherent message. And if something must be said on this front, it's something I've certainly said before, and will likely say again: Art as an experience of gender - either creator or viewer - is outside of one's sex. Femininity and masculinity are qualities first and foremost, rather than definitions of personhood. Once we start viewing - and valuing - art this way, rather than anatomically, we'll be relieved of a terrible burden.
Dream Stills, new work by Susan Hodgin, is on view through April 29 at Galerie Penumbra, 1043 Virginia Ave., in Fountain Square. Call 317-508-8043 or visit www.galeriepenumbra.com for information.