Review: Art from the Heartland 

There's turbulence, but there's also transcendent beauty.

click to enlarge Pluto is for Lovers by Morgan Frew
  • Pluto is for Lovers by Morgan Frew

Art from the Heartland is juried and curated by Mindy Taylor Ross, who selected 80 pieces from a pool of 650 from all over the Midwest. It's an exhibition that's wide-ranging in terms of artistic media and subject matter, but it's no hodgepodge.  There are certain thematic elements that you might start to notice after a while.

And yet, Morgan Frew's oil painting "Pluto is for Lovers" might be a surprise for those expecting more traditional Midwestern subject matter (cows chewing cuds, covered bridges).

The dwarf planet's most prominent feature, an ice field, is outlined by a glowing neon tube — raised above the surface of the painting — in the shape of a heart. Frew's depiction of the dwarf planet, in soft and purplish pastels, makes it seem like a place you might want to bring your significant other on a date.

In contrast, Drew Etienne — in his painting "Sawtooth Mountain Ghosts"— has a knack for making the terrestrial seem otherworldly. Underneath the mountains depicted in this work, you can see the fractal geometries that might delineate such a landscape feature on the console of an F-15 — or an X-box. And while Etienne seems like a gamer at heart, this particular work reminds me somewhat of the haunting landscapes of the late Indy-based painter Susan Hodgin.

Not everything in this exhibition is otherworldly. Politics rears its head here and there in this exhibition, sometimes in a Jasper Johns kind of way.

Bradley Devlin's contribution is a metallic, wall-hanging flag made of found objects and mixed media entitled "No Way Out," with exit signs where the stars should be.

In Barbara Hosein's painting "Endgame," there's something similar going on conceptually. In the upper left where the stars normally are in the American flag you instead see a chessboard with actual pieces fixed to it. And the chess pieces left on the flag/chessboard suggest an actual endgame, one or two moves away from checkmate.

There's turbulence, to be sure, but there's also transcendent beauty. You see it in the tired expression of Margaret Davis' young volunteer building a sand barrier in a flood (a painting rendered in oil on resin and sandbags). You see it in the blown glass "River Ripples" vessels of Ben Johnson, where the surface of the glass seems to flow like water. You see it also in Dave Pluimer's stunningly clear photograph "Home," where you see a quiet building at night and the fierce, blinding stars of the Milky Way above.

Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St., through August 6

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