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Art from the Heartland

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Sarah Urist Green's taste in art has been influencing audiences for years.

As the Indianapolis Museum of Art's curator of contemporary art, Green was responsible for its attention-grabbing Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibitions. And these days -- along with her best-selling author husband, John -- she's hosting "The Art Assignment," a PBS Digital Studios web video series that asks working artists from across the country to suggest art projects for the public to try.

Green is a busy woman, but we got to speak with her about how the Art Assignment came together. The Youtube Channel updates weekly. - TAD FRUITS

But a more local side of Green will show up Friday when the Indianapolis Art Center's "Art from the Heartland" exhibition opens. She is the sole juror for the biennial show that focuses on works from the Midwest, including artists from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. Nearly 300 artists submitted work and about 50 were chosen for the 61-piece show, which runs through June 8.

As she selected pieces, Green didn't see artists' names -- just their submissions. So she is interested to learn whose works are whose on Friday.

"It is very rare, except in this kind of process, to access artwork without knowing the artists' name," Green says. "I really enjoyed the process because it does happen, in the art world where as someone who has a more prominent career, you sort of, whether you think of it or not, think of them in a different way than you think of someone with little experience. So it was fun to view everything with fresh eyes."

If a theme runs through the show other than the location of the artists' studios, Green says she doesn't yet know what it is. Some might expect a rural theme because the works have been created in the Midwest, but they would be wrong, she says.

"People shouldn't expect to see lots of farmland landscapes," she says. "People are analyzing their surroundings, not necessarily in a critical way but in a thoughtful way, (and) thinking about life here in the Midwest as an experience that is different for everyone."

An empty grocery store aisle inspired Indianapolis' Courtland Blade's painting, "The Frozen Aisle," for example. The piece is his take on never-ending abundance in American society.

Exhibiting artist Courtland Blade likes to explore what he calls "non-spaces" with pieces like this one, titled "The Frozen Aisle." - COURTLAND BLADE
  • Courtland Blade
  • Exhibiting artist Courtland Blade likes to explore what he calls "non-spaces" with pieces like this one, titled "The Frozen Aisle."

Two of Indianapolis photographer Amelia Morris' self-portraits were also chosen for the show. Both, she says, are "a little off-kilter."

She's delighted her work was chosen, and even more so because Green chose it.

"It's a good thing when you know the name (of the juror) and they've seen a lot of interesting things," says Morris.

Now in its third year, the exhibition doesn't have many requirements and no educational ones -- just that its artists be at least 18 and live in the Midwest.

Rita Grendze is one of the exhibiting artists. She's studied art everywhere from Manitoba to Latvia. She loves playing with light and tactile materials. - RITA GRENDZE
  • Rita Grendze
  • Rita Grendze is one of the exhibiting artists. She's studied art everywhere from Manitoba to Latvia. She loves playing with light and tactile materials.

"I love it, being able to put all of these people on a level playing field," says Art Center Director of Exhibitions Patrick Flaherty, who is organizing the show.

Art from the Heartland is hanging in two galleries this year (the Churchman-Fehsenfeld Gallery and the Frank M. Basile Exhibition Hall). But, by 2016 Flaherty says he plans to increase its capacity, maybe even outside the center's walls and into its art park.

"We could double the size with the applications we had this year," says Flaherty, adding that he'd like to also include videos and installation to the mix.

As he considers those additions, though, Flaherty is proud of the pieces that will be on display this year. And, of course, Green adds prestige to the show because of her art-world reputation, and she did a good job choosing a variety of pieces, he says.


What: Art from the Heartland, a 61-piece exhibition of works by Midwestern artists

Where: Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St.

When: April 11 to June 8

Cost: Free

More: Also opening Friday is the 22nd Annual Michael A. Carroll ArtReach Exhibition. The show highlights the work of Indianapolis children and teens, ages 5 to 18. It runs through June 8.

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