It"s Monday morning at the Indianapolis Art Center, before 9 a.m., and already the halls are bustling with activity. A flurry of young artists move past me, their instructor pausing briefly up the corridor to point out the fiber art hanging on the walls. This art is why I"m here. Fiber Summer is in full swing.
"Women Of Taste: A Collaboration Celebrating Quilt Artists and Chefs" is on view at the Indianapolis Art Center.
The exhibit lining the western corridor, Spotlight On: Bloomington Artists: Material Matters II (through Aug. 11) is a solid offering, including more traditional weavings alongside edgier interpretations of the medium. Karen Balder, who exhibited at the Art Center earlier this spring, is of the edgy variety. Her "Brunette Quilt II" is an almost floor-to-ceiling piece of handmade paper sectioned into a grid of 4-by-8 squares and stitched with cascades of human hair. It could be creepy, but it"s not; it"s delicate and beautiful, speaking both of death, the ethereal beyond and re-birth.
Vickie VanFechtmann"s weavings, and there are several here, are structured and minimalist. Thick, triangular tufts of felted wool work their way outwards from the canvas so that the effect is at once toothlike and warm and fuzzy. In "Fitting the Pieces Together," the wool sections form a geometric abstraction in blue, rust, near-indigo and natural hues in many variations.
Gail Gayer Hale pushes the edges the hardest with her "Decomposition Quilt." Employing in subtle combination wood, fiberglass, polyester, paper and steel, the piece incorporates rusted nails to mimic stitches. Tiny twigs and other bits of things are embedded into the paper, its topmost edge resembling the jagged edges of a lakeshore after a long winter - all is gray and specked with detritus. The lakeshore effect is intentional; the artist was influenced by the industrial Lake Michigan shorelines of Gary, Ind.
Overall, the combination of concept and craft works quite well, and there are no sore thumbs to question here. Some expressions are simply timeless, and this smallish exhibit provides a worthy local overview of artists who are creating solid work in the medium. (Overlapping this exhibit, Expanding Boundaries: New Work From The Art Quilt Network, a selection of fiber art by artists from around the country, will open July 19.)
Also on view through Aug. 11, Women Of Taste: A Collaboration Celebrating Quilt Artists and Chefs is on view in the Hurt Galleries. As quilts continue to gain recognition as legitimate expressions of contemporary art, museums regularly exhibit ambitious quilt exhibitions such as this one. Women of Taste pairs 50 highly regarded quilt artists with 50 well-known chefs from across the U.S. who, for nearly a year, shared philosophies and creative visions, resulting in 50 collaborative quilts with a food-related focus. Several of these (including one by Indiana"s Penny Sisto of Floyds Knobs) are on view here, and the results are a smorgasbord of tastes, textures and colors. Curated by Girls, Inc., of Alameda County, Calif., the project has a worthy mission, which is to support the organization whose purpose is "to ensure that girls have the opportunity to grow up strong, smart and bold." These women provide excellent role models - and stereotypes are made to be broken. As I look down the hall and see another group of young artists gathering, I"m hopeful that mission will continue to be accomplished.
Material Matters II and Women of Taste continue through Aug. 11 at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St., 255-2464, www.indplsartcenter.org. Exhibits are free and open to the public.