Walking up the Monon Trail through Broad Ripple on a hot July day, you look for a place to stop for refreshment. Crossing the main drag, Broad Ripple Avenue, you come to the intersection of Westfield and Winthrop. Turn left, and there’s an oasis of possibilities. You decide against the Sno Shack and opt for the Monon Coffee Shop. But wait: There’s the Bungalow. There’s no promise of food or drink, but the goods inside beckon: a minimally stuffed chaise lounge, a desk on stilts leaning against a wall, a frog tape dispenser, kitchen utensils with legs … soon you forget about your need for a beverage and start poking around. You travel deeper, into the imaginary. Just a handful of paintings dot the far wall; they’re not huge, they’re not miniature, they’re just … right.
You’ve come upon the work of Ellie Siskind, an artist well-known by artists and arts folk, longtime teacher at the Indianapolis Art Center, outspoken activist on behalf of the arts. There are a few of her paintings hanging here, but they represent two themes she has taken on in recent years, themes that could be summed up in one word: passages.
Siskind has concerned herself with the course of life, addressing the loss of loved ones and the transition of one’s own life into its later years. But Siskind does not brood. Rather, her paintings beckon like a curled finger, inviting us into a world we already know, offering a vehicle for our own reflection.
“Red Dory” is an empty boat, oarless, almost hovering in green water beneath a pink sky. Two red islands reach out for one another, leaving a small opening between — a passage for the boat into other unknowns. The colors are richly blended to be distinct, yet complex, so that red moves into pink but holds its own. The water is emerald, nearly shimmering with possibility — endlessly impenetrable and simultaneously suggestive of clarity, transformation.
“Beneath the Surface” suggests those depths. A nude woman stands gazing into the water, reaching over the rail of a bridge, a glowing fishing rod propped nearby. The sky is purple. The moon is yellow. The mood is dreamy, indigo. There are choices, more possibilities.
Siskind is more direct with paintings of grand dames applying lipstick: “LaTasha” and “Red Hat” are unabashed in their application of color. In “Generations,” on the other hand, a woman shifts from her older self to a young woman, as if sliding from the skin of a ghost. There’s no shame in either self; rather, an intimacy between what one was and what one will become, and a realization that somehow they exist simultaneously.
You step out of the Bungalow with thoughts of impermanence. You’re oddly refreshed and yet unsettled. The sunshine bears down as your earlier resolve gathers momentum and you begin the walk home.
The paintings of Ellie Siskind are on view at the Bungalow, 924 E. Westfield Blvd., through July. Call 317-253-5028 for hours.