This summer at the Indianapolis Art Center 

click to enlarge From Margi Weir's Frontline Series/Detroit, on display at Indianapolis Art Center through August 4
  • From Margi Weir's Frontline Series/Detroit, on display at Indianapolis Art Center through August 4

This summer the hallways and exhibition spaces of the Indianapolis Art Center are jam-packed with the work of artists using unusual materials such as tape, floor debris, and sod in their work. But perhaps the most audacious of these artists is the one looking to use your spare change.

In Portraits of a Post-Industrial American, Stacey Lee Webber makes innovative use of pennies and other small currencies, creating from them necklaces, a saw and an American flag, all of which are on display at the IAC through August 4.

Webber, who grew up in Indy and is now based in Philadelphia, was on hand during the opening reception on June 14. One thing she made immediately clear: she's no coin collector. "Yeah. I do have a lot of coins but usually the coins are worthless," she said. "That's how I get them, people give them to me."

Looking at her sculpture, "God Bless America: Flag," made from soldered together pennies, you can see the fifty stars representing the states punched clear through the wavy (as if blowing in the wind) copper flag. You also see that the American flag stripes are approximated by alternating rows of pennies facing opposite directions (rows of "heads alternating with rows of "tails").

You might wonder where this artist gets her training (and her patience) to work with such an inflexible material. Webber received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ball State University in 2005; she went on to pick up her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008. During those years, she mastered the jewelry maker's techniques and tools that allow her to impose her will on base metals - and occasionally on more valuable materials.

click to enlarge Stacey Lee Webber - DAN GROSSMAN
  • Stacey Lee Webber
  • Dan Grossman
"I've done some permission pieces with silver coins that can be pretty valuable, but I don't have a gold or platinum coin that I'm working with," said Webber. "That's the whole idea of this, that I'm putting all this labor and time into things that are valueless."

Webber is not the only artist in this exhibition working on a small scale. Katie Vota uses microscopic images of tree and plant cells as references in her work cutting designs into white paper. In seeing this work, the viewer might ask how molecular structures resemble and/or are related to structures on the macro level.

And then there are the paintings of Margi Weir that explore the macro-level urban blight of Detroit, using images of decayed buildings as reference. In a gallery setting, far removed from the derelict neighborhoods in which these structures can be found, you might indeed find an odd, abstracted beauty in them. The paintings in her Frontline Series/Detroit are certainly beautifully composed in various inks and tusche. The depicted structures starkly against the unadorned rag paper on which they are painted, on which they almost seem to float.

Perhaps the most whimsical of the works on display are the sculptures of Lee Littlefield, on display both in the IAC building (in the Ruth Lilly Library) and in the ArtsPark bordered by the banks of the White River. His colorful work, said to be influenced by the Texas and Louisiana Bayous, seems to be a cross between the hybrid creatures/plants from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and those found in The Lorax.

But the whimsy of his work is tinged with sadness. Littlefield had been expected to attend the opening, according to Patrick Flaherty, director of exhibitions and artist services at the IAC, but he died last Sunday of Stage IV lung cancer in his home.

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