Visual Art

81st Annual Exhibition

Indiana State Museum

Through Sept. 5

Visiting the annual omnibus of artwork that comprises the Hoosier Salon's annual juried exhibition is somewhat of a surreal experience. Imagine being suspended in time, simultaneously past and present, where a bucolic garden painted in watercolor has equal weight to a bronze abstraction. Throw in a whimsical figurine of a woman walking her dog and you have the full range of the Hoosier Salon oeuvre: mostly traditional, mostly well-crafted artworks that please but don't challenge in any substantive way - with the occasional exception. But this isn't to say there isn't a place for such an effort: to the contrary, juried celebrations of traditional art are an important means of engaging both artists and the public. For those who strive to make beautiful, honest pictures, the Hoosier Salon provides a venue for such artists to show their work to an appreciative public; and for audiences, such artwork may offer a bridge towards more challenging artistic expressions. Liné Tutwiler's "The Stately Elm" is on view at the ISM, part of the Hoosier Salon exhibit.

This year's offering of 188 paintings and sculptures by Indiana artists make up a relatively large percentage of works that were considered - the jury chose from 585 submissions, which means nearly a third of all entries made the cut. To further cull the herd, the Salon presents 42 merit and 25 purchase awards that include cash prizes totaling nearly $75,000. This is where more precise qualitative judgments may be made, and disputed; but one has to assume that the jurors, Judi Betts of Baton Rouge, La., and Dorothy Hraback of the Chicago area, had specific criteria in mind: Technical skill, perhaps, or authenticity to the chosen medium and/or stylistic approach, whether it was realism or impressionism.

Among the works my somewhat jaded eyes found notable were Scott Westphal's sultry and elegant bronze sculpture "June," a curvaceous abstraction with hard edges in all the right places. Also in bronze, Dora Natella's mythic "Gaia," depicting an anthropomorphized Mother Earth split in two to reveal insides composed of tree branches, is far lovelier than my description; its appeal even larger for its archetypal quality.

The occasional abstraction was conceived in the largely traditional sense of abstract art: Jerry Krider's "Hues of Humanity" offered a compelling metaphor in wood; human figures curved in on themselves were tightly placed in a wooden box. Terri Duncan's "Take the Road Less Traveled" is an ethereal abstracted landscape in oceanic blues and well-placed metallics. A surprisingly conceptual "Caution! An American Landscape," a three-dimensional collage of road trash by Patte Owings, was one of the most arresting pieces in the show. Many other paintings and sculpture also deserve a mention - and certainly each viewer will be specially moved by his or her own favorites. One more of mine: I was happily amused by Emma Overman's "Indiana State Fair," a cartoonish painting of a "big pig," target ducks, and a pastiche of carnival games. It is that time of year...

Now in its 81st year, the Hoosier Salon does well to stick to its original vision - "to have a work of art by a Hoosier artist in every home in the state." Certainly, beyond this, the possibilities are endless.

The Hoosier Salon 81st Annual Exhibition is on view at the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St., through Sept. 5, 2005, after which the artwork will travel to venues around the state. For more information, visit www.indianastatemuseum.org or call the Hoosier Salon Patrons Association at 253-5340.

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