Visual puns 

Travis Conrad Erion and Kristy Deetz
Indianapolis Art Center
Through June 11

It’s one thing to make a pun, but to take the time to realize that pun visually is something else entirely. Travis Conrad Erion has tackled such a potentially arduous task, employing the silky near-perfection of photorealism to achieve his ends. Erion’s paintings, comprising the exhibition Symbols of the Soul, paired with Kristy Deetz’s Enfolding Surface and Silence, paintings that also dabble in illusion as a way of getting at truth, offer a pleasant complement of art offerings to Indianapolis Art Center visitors.

Case in point: Erion’s “Bury the Hatchet” is a hatchet on a well-worn worktable. Certainly this is easy to “get,” as is “Fish Sticks,” a depiction of three (dead) fish displayed on sticks. But these are easy examples; Erion’s more serious efforts, the ones that earn the exhibition title Symbols of the Soul, are more enigmatic on second glance. “Repaired” offers three pears on that same worktable, one impaled with nails, another with screws and the other held upright with a sliver of wood shim. While the title’s double entendre is obvious, the suggestion of futility is not.

Colorado-based Erion, who occasionally challenges his still lifes with deeper symbolic suggestions, doesn’t repel us with anything enigmatic; rather, he allows us the opportunity to find our way into a work of art and find something obvious on the one hand and something delightfully puzzling on the other.
Fruit is the beloved centerpiece of the still life, and Erion uses it sparingly, and only as a means to an end; in other words, this may be realism, but it’s not about fruit. Classical realism never really was about surfaces anyway; rather, we were invited into a symbolic world where something unsaid spoke volumes.

Symbolism still reins supreme in art, and Wisconsin-based Kristy Deetz takes a look at symbols from a less obvious angle. Deetz’s paintings on carved wood, intended to conjure European canonical painting, are variations on a single theme: draped fabric (standing in for a human presence) and pears. These pears float and are referenced occasionally with diagrammatic lines; and like the fabric, they reference the human body.

But the deeper layers of meaning — “a boundary where interiors meet exteriors,” as she puts it — are enigmatic far beyond the imagery’s obvious suggestiveness. The deeper levels of art are not just for the well-studied, but when art suggests sleuthing is required, then it may be a turn-off. Better that the art stand on its own first, and those who want to make more of it can certainly do so.

The Art Center provides its usual helpful handouts with artist statements and/or bios for those who choose to look further.

Both exhibitions are on view at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St., through June 11. Call 317-255-2464 or visit for more information.

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