"Drawn From Life II: Art of the Human Figure

Hoosier Salon Patrons Association

Through Aug. 4

There’s something near primal about the desire to draw the human figure. The human body is both beautiful and grotesque: No two are alike, and even the exercise of drawing the same person for consecutive weeks yields endless possibilities for the pen, pencil or brush. Such was the inspiration, no doubt, for Drawn From Life II: Art of the Human Figure, curated by Cynthia Blasingham and on exhibit at the Hoosier Salon Patrons Association in Broad Ripple.

The almost single-minded purpose of the Hoosier Salon is to celebrate such timelessness when it comes to artmaking: The Salon offers prizes each year and a venue for Indiana artists who practice the traditional fine arts, including painting and sculpture, confined by largely traditional expressions.

Drawn From Life is certainly a celebration of the human figure as a source of inspiration, but it’s also a tribute to one of Indiana’s best-remembered traditionalists, Harry A. Davis (1914-2006). Davis was known widely for his paintings of Indiana landmarks, precisely and lovingly drawn. Davis earned his BFA from Herron School of Art in 1938, the same year he earned the coveted Prix de Rome, which was followed by a succession of other prizes and awards. Davis taught at Herron from 1946 until 1983.

While Davis’ figures are less-known than his architectural paintings, he had a facility for the figure that is evident in the two near-perfect drawings — one man, one woman — included in Drawn from Life. The works of Davis’ wife, who continues to teach at the Indianapolis Art Center, are also exhibited, and offer evidence of her own fine talent. Davis’ “Vanessa Seated” is magical, complex and yet straightforward: The placement of the figure, wearing black pants and facing the viewer, is psychologically seductive rather than sensual.

As Michelangelo is quoted as saying, “Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture.” The same, of course, could be said for drawing, particularly when it offers a three-dimensional depth that extends beyond the surface image.

Other notable works that move beyond sheer representation are the quick flourishes of Caroline Mecklin, at once neat and vibrant, epitomizing the notion of less is more. Mark Dillman’s large-format ink wash drawing, “Reclining Figure,” is nearly flawless in its simplicity — a spare drawing of a generously proportioned nude woman. In other cases, complexity is equally appealing, as in Gloria Fischer’s triptych, “My Three Favorite.” Male figures are drawn onto the canvas like Greek gods, surrounded by a collage of stenciled letters, musical notes and slips of red paper.

All finely rendered, the exhibition also includes works by Kathleen Biale, Cynthia Blasingham, Mark Burkett, Mary Anne Davis, Frank Downton, Tim Engelland, Glenna Heath, Corrine Hull, Judy Leiviska, Cassia Margolis, Jeanne McLeish, Vandra Pentecost and Jerry Points. As Blasingham explained, the works represent the range of drawing, from one-minute gestural drawings to mixed-media works that took upwards of two hours. Inspiration, after all, can be capricious.

Drawn From Life II: Art of the Human Figure is on view at the Hoosier Salon, 714 E. 65th St., through Aug. 4. Call 317-253-5340 or visit www.hoosiersalon.org for more information.