Visual Arts review :: Thru July 14

Sculpture constructed of found objects is generally not considered fiber when the objects include window frames, bolts and beehive remnants; but the curators at the Indianapolis Art Center make this leap, and it turns out to be a valid one. The two-artist exhibit in the main gallery, displayed alongside more traditionally-conceived fiber art in strict mediumistic terms in the adjoining hallways, speaks to the notion of nature"s threads pulling together images to reveal a metaphoric content. Sook Jin Jo and Ellen Petraits have both been widely exhibited. Petraits has an Indiana connection, having studied at Herron School of Art and receiving her degree at Marian College prior to earning her master"s degrees, one in fine art. She resides in St. Louis, Mo., and exhibits frequently in Chicago. Jin Jo, born in Kwangju, Korea, earned her bachelor"s degree from Pratt Institute in 1991 and her master"s degree in fine art in Korea. Her work is widely exhibited and collected both in the United States and Asia.

But what connects these artists, other than the employment of found objects - most notably in wood - is a symbolically spiritual bent. Both artists show concern for what"s underneath. In the case of Sook Jin Jo, pieces such as "The Windows of Heaven are Open," composed of five window frames in various states of disrepair (but with their enclosed space whole, or intact) and two chairs, one without a seat inside the seat"s frame, reference a passage to some beyond. These and her other works, composed of wood pieces and parts collected from demolished buildings, are abstracted artifacts that guide us inward. A found window, empty of functional purpose, becomes a symbol of the unconscious or a higher consciousness. Open to the unadorned suggestion of sky, the potential meaning found there is limitless.

In "All Things Are Born of Being III," bald, slender limbs of trees emerge from a pocked wood panel. The effect is primitive. Some seeing is without eyes, and instead, is simply about connecting or trying to connect. Synchronistically, this piece echoes a smaller-scale work by co-exhibitor Ellen Petraits, who employs beehive frames as a backdrop for her otherworldly three-dimensional tapestries. Nature gives us the designs, the structures, thus suggesting there is a structure to all we see, feel and experience.

Petraits" pieces, though, are more narrative, and yet they are also delightfully obtuse. Petraits purposefully scribes onto her pieces images of universal meaning - the shape of a star, for example, or other manner of mandala in which a circular structure is the focal point inside a square or rectangle. Her "Untitled, Lunar Series," a simple wash of blue-green oils on a small rectangular panel, reveals a faint structure, a medallion shimmering underneath mists of color. Something is coming through.

By employing book fragments, Petraits speaks to the idea of a message and some meaning to be gleaned: in "Untitled, Altered Book Series," the artist carves out pages from a dictionary in the shape of a lotus, and a magnifying glass affixed over the space reveals the dictionary entry for "lotus." The artist"s darker pieces, composed of panels of wood painted with encaustic and affixed with objects such as a stone, leaf or nest, or some combination of these, give us more symbols to pursue in our own quest for meaning - and yet, there"s a darkness that seems to say, reverence for truth is what is important here. Is this pursuit of truth where real grace resides?

If the creations of these artists can be classified as fiber, then it has to be said that all cloth comes from the earth: Thread is an offering of nature, as are the branches of a tree, the veins of a leaf, the sills of a window that come from that tree and its endless cycle of death and birth. These are the truths, the weavings that connect all.

The artwork of Sook Jin Jo and Ellen Petraits is on view through July 14 at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St., 255-2464, www.indplsartcenter.org.

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