The Hoosier Salon serves an important purpose for Indiana’s artists and Indiana’s cultural fabric. Artists who take their craft seriously are rewarded — often financially — and patrons who appreciate the time and thoughtfulness invested in a good work of art are given the benefit of a jury process in winnowing their choices, at least when it comes to Indiana Art at its Best.
This, the 83rd consecutive annual exhibition of the Salon (and the 18th year of its showing at the Indiana State Museum), includes 174 works of art by 142 artist-members — selected from 586 entries. Jurors Ann Piper, of Emporia, Kan., and Scott Wolniak, of Chicago, were faced, no doubt, with some tough choices; but this isn’t a science — right or not, it’s often a matter of personal preference when it comes to the jury process.
As in years past, the walls of the gallery were packed tight atelier-style; paintings stacked upon paintings, the occasional purchase or merit award ribbon hanging alongside. Although there is so much to look at, this year’s show doesn’t feel as overwhelming as past shows, which may have something to do with the sheer loveliness of it all.
Among the award-winning pieces, James Viewegh’s “Expectations” took top honors with Best of Show. The light-filled painting depicts a pregnant woman looking out her kitchen window, her expression enigmatic; is she simply thoughtful, or contemplating something deeper, even painful? A clue rests in a single piece of paper, an opened letter next to its torn envelope upon a countertop. The viewer is left to wonder at its contents — and this, ultimately, is what gives the painting depth, adding substance to Viewegh’s skill as a painter.
Content-wise, and in general, the art doesn’t stray far from conventional subject matter, even if the artists capture it beautifully in many cases. A few examples: Beth Forst’s “Two Blues” is a sublime smallish painting of eggs in a nest; Pam Newell’s “Callaway Spring” is an almost blindingly pleasant depiction of a walking path bordered by masses of flowering bushes lit from above; and Cheeri Dennis’ “Lauren” is a near-perfect portrait of a young girl, her troubled expression endearingly familiar.
With so many works in this exhibition, from still lifes and florals to sleek sculpture and sweeping landscapes, I feel compelled to offer a cliché: There’s something for everyone. But don’t expect to be challenged — expect to be soothed. As Hoosier Salon Executive Director Amy Kindred wrote in the exhibition catalogue, “Regardless of its form, I want to encounter work that intrigues me, calms me, excites me in ways that I can’t articulate verbally.”
The Hoosier Salon Patron’s Association 83rd Annual Exhibition, Indiana Art at its Best, is on view at the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St., through Sept. 9. For information, call 317-232-1637 or visit www.indianamuseum.org. For information about the Hoosier Salon, call 317-253-5340 or visit www.hoosiersalon.org.