Indiana State Museum
Through Oct. 6, 2007
In Mary Lou Dooley Waller’s painting “Cruciform,” a hazy black cross emerges like an omen from a sea of brilliant, jewel-toned green. The cross could also be construed as a shadow, over which the suggestion of a figure is slumped, thus offering a richly symbolic image to consider. And yet Waller’s dance with paint is not just about content; it’s as much about process — the trajectory of paint being laid down into a structured, cohesive whole.
“Cruciform” hangs outside the NiSource Gallery at the Indiana State Museum, ushering visitors into the exhibition Curator’s Choice: Highlighting Indiana Art, representing ISM curator of fine arts Rachel Perry’s vision and commitment to presenting Indiana art — a task that no doubt calls for the same dance between process and content.
As the exhibition so beautifully illustrates, there is no shortage now — nor has there been historically — of talented Indiana artists. At the same time, the exhibition necessarily looks at historical art selectively rather than comprehensively, giving its most generous nod to traditional expressions.
More than 65 pieces from the museum’s permanent collection are hung more or less chronologically with special attention paid to Hoosier Group artists T. C. Steele, William Forsyth and J. Ottis Adams. A museum necessarily relies on its collections budget and the generosity of donors to build its holdings, and the ISM is at work building one of the finest collections of Indiana art. If there are holes, that is to be expected. These, it appears, are mostly in the area of modern and contemporary art.
Mary Lou Dooley Waller is representative of living Indiana artists whose works are rightly deemed strong enough to be kept in such a collection. A sampling of others includes Scott Westphal for “Comps” (bronze), a minimalist but sensual pairing of steel towers; Lois Davis for her painting “Invasion of Privacy,” depicting a frenzied narrative of tangled people and communications tools; and Kathryn Waters’ painting “Before the Storm” is a classic mood piece, nearly photo-realistic, evoking eerie calm before domestic turmoil.
From portraiture to landscape to florals to abstraction to sculpture to postmodern combinations of all of the above, this is a fine exhibition that speaks well for the creative talents of Indiana’s professional artists, and in many cases speaks to a sense of place. While the exhibition is heavily weighted towards male artists, sadly, this reflects the times when women artists were not recognized by the art establishment. One hopes that the museum will pay attention to this imbalance as it continues to build its already fine collection.
Curator’s Choice is on view through Oct. 6, 2007. Four rotating focus exhibitions will highlight the work of individual Indiana artists. Up now is the work of Glen Copper Henshaw, a versatile artist who worked in various painting and drawing media. Visit the Indiana State Museum in White River State Park. For information and directions, call 317-232-1637 or visit www.indianamuseum.org.