Leticia Bajuyo and Nel Bannier
Indianapolis Art Center
Through Dec. 11
"Has happiness become a commodity in the process of pursuing happiness?" asks artist Leticia Bajuyo, forming the crux of her installation "yard upkeep" on view at the Indianapolis Art Center. Bajuyo, who is assistant professor of art at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind., is influenced by the rural landscape of the Midwest; and while she explores the question through this rubric, she's not celebrating the pastoral. Rather, Bajuyo wonders with her installations what symbolic images such as poker chips or air fresheners have to say about our contentment, or lack thereof. "What is happiness?" she asks. "Is it contentment, ease, lack of pain, control?"
In "yard upkeep," Bajuyo places artificial grass inside circular ceramic containers and places them around the room, forming an organized series of "yards" - which, rather than suggesting the quieter aspects of rural living, suggest its opposite: the growth of housing developments in which land use is tightly controlled rather than expansive. Fenced-in areas of "Little Tree" air fresheners also suggest control. A table is strewn with green poker chips, an obvious begging of the "what is happiness" question.
"Are games, cycles, or products created in this pursuit [of happiness] part of the pursuit or are they distractions to keep occupied and optimistic in the meantime?" she asks. That, of course, begs a larger question - when "happiness" comes at the expense of the greater good, such as the degradation of the environment, then is it ill-gotten, and no longer happiness?
In the accompanying gallery, Nel Bannier, visiting from the Netherlands and teaching at the University of Evansville in Southern Indiana, explores other kinds of feelings - that is, how we live in our bodies. Bannier's ceramics are thoughtful and lovely; her overarching image is the foot, populating the space in individual sculptures that form one large installation. Incorporating text ("In a conversation / I juggle several selves / Depending on the topic. / These performances are hard work / but also an exciting game.") and mixed media materials such as wood and metal, Bannier's works suggest the inner riches springing from one's imagination, whether they promote "happiness" or not. Sometimes we create because we have to; there's no other way to purge what's inside.
Leticia Bajuyo's "yard upkeep" and Nel Bannier's The Human Form in Clay form a provocative complement. Both shows are up through Dec. 11 along with the work of abstract painters Elaine Lynch, Natalie Johnstone and Sandra Perlow in the main gallery at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St. Call 317-255-2464 or visit /www.indplsartcenter.org for more information.