Friday, July 01, 2011

Interview: Dave Voelpel

After much delay and procrastination, I have finally managed to get this post up live on the blog. I had the opportunity to talk with local artist Dave Voelpel a couple months ago at an opening of his at the Circle City Industrial Complex. So, without any further delay, here is a brief I did with him. Enjoy and Thanks Dave for your patience and understanding.


1- How would you describe your work and artistic practice? How has this changed or evolved over the years?

I would describe my paintings simply as abstract landscapes. My work incorporates sometimes heavy paint as well as some thin washes and glazes mainly working in acrylics and water based mediums. I work in studio at my home and also enjoy plein air painting.
My work also incorporates collage elements as well(newspaper images, images found in magazines, my own photography work, found objects etc). Most work has also some element of texture whether its with just layered paint I also like to create texture with application with a painting knife. I have also experimented recently with coffee grounds and more natural materials.

I started in oil painting with abstract landscapes. Materials and different mediums have evolved over the yrs. Adding collage element, and found objects. Also my color palette has evolved. At first I would decide the palette to not be as intense or rich. Overall my palette has become brighter, richer color, more life!

2- You make a living as a professional painting contractor. Has this impacted your artistic practice in any way? Is it something you concsioulsy incorporate into or push against when making art?

As a professionally painting contractor I make my living working on painting interior and exterior houses. I am trained to painting precise perfect lines (next to ceiling walls/ trim work etc.) in finish paint has impacted me to go against these techniques I have learned. I feel I don't need to be restricted so I can express myself more loosely and not "perfect" more openly, and expressively.

3- Who or what have been your biggest influences or inspirations?

William De Kooning, Rauschenburg, Richard Diebenkorn, Andy Warhol. Mainly I feel more inspiration in Abstract impressionist and some Pop art. My faith in God, has made me want to embrace my talent and grow them, explore them, learn more..etc.

William De Kooning- His works from the 50's and 60's are more of my inspiration.

Raushenburg was a inventor is printmaking, theater, designing combine.etc etc.. Hes and inventor of abstraction and this is inspiring. Same with Warhol. Inventor as well, although my work is not similar, he changed art as people knew it at that time.

These artist works are very large pieces/ large scale and movement attracts me. The Ocean Park and Berkeley Series Paintings. Diebenkorn

4- How would you like your work to be perceived by the general art going audience? Is there a particular impact you would like your work to have on people?

I really simply want people to stop and look at my work. Not to just pass by, to get up close, interact, want to touch it! Explore it. I want the viewer to be open and think outside the box (not everything needs to be perfect and realistic in my belief). I want the viewer to question it, maybe try and figure it out. I'm not wanting to create puzzles, or mind games..just simply an interaction. I want to create an emotional connection though color and use of imagery, maybe this triggers a memory, an emotion. These may not be good perhaps but it has allowed me to strike them, make them think about it hopefully take that feeling or thought with them.

5- Given the opportunity, time and money aside, might you have any dream projects? What would you like to do if given the opportunity?

No holds! First goal would be to paint out west, travel and to plein air paint in the national parks. It would be great to own a working studio/ gallery. To put my daytime job aside and live my passion and paint/ create every single day. If I was given this opportunity financially i would be doing it and not holding back! I would explore myself further with with art. Currently I am developing my photography, this is something I would like to cont to grow and learn about.

My biggest advise would to be keep going..keep doing. Don't Stop, no matter what criticisms lies ahead to know you believe and did your best, have faith.

Friday, July 01, 2011 by Scott Grow · 1

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Curious and Curiouser: Wayne White and Sarah Emerson

Herron Galleries in Indianapolis recently exhibited the artwork of Wayne White, Sarah Emerson and Casey Riordan Millard in an exhibition called Curious and Curiouser. Curator Paula Katz has scored another home run with this excellent and unexpected grouping of artwork. The exhibition text describes the artists as featuring "cute" elements in their art, yet using these elements "in a subversive and sometimes abject way." This post will focus on the art of White and Emerson.

Wayne White
has certainly followed an interesting and unusual path to finding his art in galleries. He grew up in northern Alabama and Chattanooga, and was inspired early on by the tourist industry of the latter, and also the bold lettering found in billboard advertisements and product design. In 1986, White got a huge break and was brought on to design sets and characters for Pee Wee's Playhouse. His designs include the iconic floors and wallpaper, which form a huge part of the distinctive visual vocabulary of Pee Wee Herman's world as well as characters such as Randy, Flooree, Mr. Kite, Countess, Roger the Monster, Billy Baloney, the Beatnick Gang, and helping with Klonky the Robot's design, along with contributing voice overs to several characters.
Wayne White and Pee Wee Herman at The Playhouse in the 1980s. Image from Wayne's website

After doing more commercial design work for television as well as creating comics and puppets, White eventually moved onto the canvas and created a body of work that began in 1999 comprised of 350-400 word paintings. White believes that the number one job of the artist is to make beauty. Regarding his artistic intentions, he states "I love humor in work. One of my goals is to bring fine art into the humorous." His word paintings certainly go a long way in achieving this objective. He starts with throwaway kitsch oil paintings that are easily and cheaply obtained, and paints sly, clever, snarky phrases on top of them in daring ways with colors and letter styles that really pop out of the painting and command attention. His wit and humor are equaled by his skilled hand, and the quality of his handiwork would make even the finest graffiti writers envious. He often incorporates two or more different original paintings into one piece, with the wording stretching across all of the canvases.

White engages art history in a clever way with this body of work, humorously slamming artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Donald Judd with his titles and content. Apt comparisons to Ed Ruscha have been made, but White insists he's more inspired by lettering he sees on barns than the work of other artists. Regarding the source paintings he uses, White does not feel that it is disrespectful to paint over the other artists' work (and it would seem audiences are certainly happy that he chose to), but rather that he is having a dialogue with the original artists. Alas, after creating so many word Paintings, White will now be moving on to making more puppets, and he has an upcoming live stage show in LA incorporating these puppets.

Sarah Emerson paints in an incredibly disorienting, eye-catching style that references the paint-by-numbers kits that were likely many people's first foray into painting as children. The themes, however, are much darker. The loss of innocence figures heavily into Emerson's work, as well as natural and unnatural disasters including mudslides and the BP oil spill. Many of her landscapes are depictions of civil war battlefields, but the focus is not as much on the events that occurred on the site as it is on the utter absence of anything living in the space that remains.

In addition to her works on canvas, Emerson enjoys creating murals, such as the stunning Pool of Tears, pictured below, that she created for the exhibition, due in part to the medium's absence of the art historical baggage that accompanies oil on canvas works. Pool of Tears commands attention upon entering the gallery. Three dimensional additions to the mural create relief, and the sprawling colors are truly incredible. The mural was inspired by the BP oil spill in the gulf. "Aside from being connected to the place that it was happening very personally, it was also very direct line with the kind of themes I like to work with anyway: darkness taking over something quite beautiful and then actually retreating and going underneath so it's camouflaged, and it's doing a lot of damage but you don't see it." The plague of locusts in the mural represents the blackness taking over the landscape.

White and Emerson are very different artists certainly, and their bright, eye-catching colors and playful styles contrast quite interestingly with some of the darker themes that exist within their work. Seeing them exhibited together in the same show is unexpected, but it works very well. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for the both of them.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Wayne White and Sarah Emerson individually. See what they had to say in the videos below:

Sarah Emerson Interview from Austin Dickson on Vimeo.

Images courtesy of Herron Galleries. Thanks to Austin Dickson for photography and video help.

Saturday, April 16, 2011 by Charles Fox · 1

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Site Under Construction

The site is currently going under some redesigning and rebranding. Please forgive the chaos over the next several days, as we work through some much needed testing and design changes. We hope to have all the testing finished asap. We believe the wait will be worth it. A newly focused On The Cusp is coming soon! Thank you!

-Scott Grow

Sunday, April 03, 2011 by Scott Grow · 1

Friday, April 01, 2011

Malcolm Mobutu Smith

We recently had the pleasure to sit down and talk with artist Malcolm Mobutu Smith while installing his show, Inner City Inspiration, at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. It's an excellent show and much worth getting out there and taking a look.

From the press release:
Inner City Inspirations: An Artist’s Evolution in Clay features the work of Malcolm Mobutu SmithCurated by Mark Ruschman, the exhibition provides an in-depth visual explanation of how Smith’s roots in the hip-hop and graffiti worlds inspired and informed his development as an educator and artist. The show will include a full-scale graffiti mural in collaboration with local graffiti writers FAB Crew, setting a visual stage for a broad sampling of three-dimensional ceramic vessels and sculptures, traversing his career as a contemporary ceramic artist.

Community partnerships include IPS School #2, Center for Inquiry grade school, located 725 N. New Jersey Street in downtown Indianapolis. Working with the art teacher, Ms. Daphne Draa, and the school’s 5th and 6th grade art club, Smith enlisted the students in the creation of the graffiti mural which will be included in the exhibition.
Malcolm Mobutu Smith is associate professor of Ceramic Art at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He earned his MFA degree from the New York College of ceramics at Alfred University in 1996. As an undergraduate, he studied at both the Kansas City Art Institute and Penn State University receiving his BFA in ceramics in 1994.

Friday, April 01, 2011 by Scott Grow · 2

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Nathan Monk In NoSpace: A Collaboration with Tré Reising

Indianapolis artists Tré Reising and Nathan Monk recently completed a collaboration resulting in the exhibition Nathan Monk In NoSpace. The exhibition, featuring all-new work, features yarn installations on gallery walls by Reising and responsive mixed media collage work by Monk. Building on the conceptual basis and momentum ofhis 2009 solo exhibition NoSpace, Reising elected to simultaneously expand upon and contract the ideas from that exhibition.

The expansion occurs by bringing in a collaborator. Monk and Reising were not acquainted before the collaboration, but Reising was familiar with Monk's collage work and approached him to see if he was interested in working on a collaborative exhibition. The contraction is due to the complete elimination of painting on Reising's part; his role here is to set forth "rules" that Monk must follow by creating a separate "space" within the gallery through the illusion of additional space that is created by geometric shapes made from yarn. Monk followed the "rules" by creating original mixed media works incorporating painting and collage media onto found wood cut to Reising's specified shapes and dimensions. The works succeed in appearing to jut out or fade away out of or into the illusionary space of Reising's confines.

Images courtesy of Tré Reising

The pairing of the two artists is certainly as odd as it is unexpected, but they pull off the collaboration with relative ease. The zany, surreal imagery of Monk's collages blends well with Reising's Sandback-esque experiments with yarn and space. Both artists share a penchant for bright colors and bold shapes, and Reising's bold lines "frame" Monk's otherwise bizarrely shaped mixed media works in a way that corresponds to the artists' unique sense of logic and space. The exhibition runs from March 4-31, 2011 at the Benjamin Franklin Gallery of Wheeler Arts Community.

The artists explain their new exhibition in the following video:

Thursday, March 03, 2011 by Charles Fox · 0

Monday, January 24, 2011

IMA Accepting Proposals for 2011 Indianapolis Island Residency

Maybe you remember our post from last year about Indianapolis Island resident artists Jessica Dunn and Michael Runge? Well, now is your chance to take their place! The Indianapolis Museum of Art is currently accepting proposals for a new artist residency on Andrea Zittel's floating, livable sculpture. The call is open to artists from everywhere, not just Indiana. What are you waiting for? The full call for proposals appears below:

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is currently holding a call for proposals to customize and reside on Indianapolis Island. Students and recent graduates of art, architecture, and design are encouraged to apply for the opportunity to participate in this six-week residency. During construction and residency, the 2011 island resident(s) will be provided with a blog on the IMA website to be used as a platform to connect with an audience on a national and international scale.

Situated on a 35-acre lake in 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, Indianapolis Island is an inhabitable structure complete with boat dock, sink, countertop, shelving, and an outdoor seating area. During its inaugural summer, the island was customized by Herron School of Art and Design (Indianapolis) students Jessica Dunn and Michael Runge who developed the conceptual basis for their own project titled Give and Take.

The summer 2011 resident(s) of Indianapolis Island will have the unique opportunity to use materials from the 2010 residency while introducing a project of their own to the island. The residency includes a $3000 materials budget and a $1500 personal stipend. Individuals, collaborative teams, and groups are encouraged to apply.

Visit for more information and to apply for the residency.

Proposals due: February 11, 2011

Please submit all questions to Amanda York at

Monday, January 24, 2011 by Charles Fox · 1

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Studio Visit and Interview - Jason Zickler

image courtesy of Kate Franzman

Jason Zickler has been an active artist in Indianapolis for years. Some of you may even know him through his dedicated work with IDADA (Indianapolis Downtown Artist and Dealers Association), which he has been a very active board member and leader for years. I have known his work and seen a good number of his exhibitions over the years but I had never got around to doing a proper studio visit until yesterday. As he is  preparating for a new show, Kate Franzman and I headed to his home studio to chat and see where it is he makes his works. Many of you may already know that I always enjoy seeing the behind the scenes of an artists work, a good studio visit can tell a lot about an artists practice and his work. I hope these images and supporting interview with him will shed some light on the man and his art.

image courtesy of Kate Franzman

What do you draw inspiration from in your work and do you feel it is important that these inspirations come through in the final product?
That's a good question, and one I am asked a lot. It's a giant concept to me that I am not sure I completely have an answer for or even understand myself. One thing I can say for sure is that painting is an Obsession to me with a capital O. It's almost like a mental process you are asking me to explain. I Obsess about unfinished paintings in my studio, comments people make about my work, music I listen to while I create the work, the famous ab-ex painters of the 50's and 60's I wish I was, the business of selling art, and the creative process demonstrated by people like Walt Disney, Dr. Suess, and Frank Loyd Wright. Somehow it all impacts when I start and when I finish a painting. I appreciate the spontaneous feeling or urge I have to start something new in my studio, as much as I appreciate the spontaneous feeling I have to stop a painting.

I don't feel it is important (or even possible) that my mental process or my inspirations come through in my final work. If a viewer feels inspired by a painting of mine or feels a connection, that's great. It intrigues and satisfies me. More than likely, this feedback will even turn into inspiration for a new painting someday.

image courtesy of Kate Franzman

Can you describe your studio practice?
It's late at night, music or art documentaries blasting, and a ton of editing works-in-progress. I remember reading a passage by Dr. Suess's wife where she commented in a interview about her husbands art practice, "he enjoyed working after midnight - seldom during the working-day hours. He did not consider painting to be "work," so it had to wait till late at night. Painting was what he did for himself and not something he felt comfortable in sharing."

This comment has always summed up the way I could justify why I work on my art so late at night. It's exactly how I work in my studio.

image courtesy of Kate Franzman

How do you juggle a career, your studio practice and being a family man?
My family, art, and career are who I am. I cannot explain how I juggle any one of these things. I don't feel like there is a separation in these aspects of my life. These three things make me who I am.

What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of the local art community?
The Indy art community is actually pretty exciting right now if you (as an artist) have your eyes open wide. It seems that artists can shape their part and place in the Indy art community due to the infancy of the marketplace. Getting press, non traditional shows, gallery experience, sales, etc., is actually pretty accessible if you are willing to put in the work (and a little brute-force here and there). Anyone and everyone is not only invited but seemingly welcomed to participate.

My least favorite aspect of the art community is the lack of opportunities due to the infancy of the marketplace. The "buying local" awareness and education of art buyers has a long way to go and is likely to become a major goal for many arts organizations in town over the next year or two. I know Indy will get there.

Artistically speaking, is there any particular advice you have been given or insights you have come upon that you would pass on to others?
Network. Network. Network. I have always been taught to connect with as many thought leaders and professionals in any market I have worked in. IDADA is a great organization to get involved in to meet fellow artists, gallery owners, and art advocates.

The other advice I have for artists who want to sell art, is to be willing to "Do a deal". I know traditional art wisdom teaches artists not to devalue their art by offering discounts or preferred pricing. From my experience, the best way in this economy to sell art is to "Do a deal!". Discount your art, throw something in, provide additional services, don't charge for delivery, frame the work, etc. The bottom line is: sell your work! From time to time, I have even offered extended payment terms which not only closed the deal, but also increased the total sale by 200%. Good, bad, and ugly, it is what it is.

Thursday, January 06, 2011 by Scott Grow · 3

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Notes To Nonself

Notes To Nonself, currently on view at Herron Galleries in Indianapolis, is an incredible journey through the passageways of self-hood by artists Diane Christiansen and Soshanna Utchenik, both originally from Chicago. They aptly describe the exhibition, which was first installed at Chicago's Hyde Park Art Center, as a "metaphoric landscape for the activity of the mind." The exhibition's immersive environment is composed of an ego forest rife with clouds, an octopus of attachment, a campsite that cannot be entered, a meditation center/clubhouse that visitors may utilize, a video installation, and strings of prayer flags to which viewers are invited to add their own flags containing positive intentions. "The areas are things you get hooked on, things your mind gets hooked on and obsesses on," Christiansen explains. The octopus, for example, represents attachment: relational, body image, and attachment to youth. Each tree in the ego forest represents a false duality such as isolation/connection and sloth/activity.

Notes To Nonself is a decidedly quirky exercise in exploring human truths, relationships, and ideas of self and ego. Navigating through the exhibition necessitates some level of interaction with all of its different parts; this is not a series of flat works on walls or 3D works on pedestals but a complete environment that must be grappled with. It is deeply personal, yet the artists have succeeded in making a personal statement that forces viewers to have their own reckonings about ego, self-hood and the human experience.

For more words, images, and a video interview with the artists, head to OUTPOSTS FROM THE MATERIAL WORLD

Thursday, October 14, 2010 by Charles Fox · 1

Thursday, October 07, 2010

It's A Thought

Put me in Coach!

Indianapolis' fairly new Wake Press & Gallery recently closed It's A Thought, a combination solo and collaborative drawing project executed entirely in Wake's space. The exhibition was born from five days of collaborative drawing by current or former Herron School of Art and Design artists Sydney Webb, Michael Nannery, Marx Shoemaker and Adam Wollenberg. The result is a very interesting exercise in exploring and pushing the the boundaries of drawing, a medium often overlooked in the fine art world. In this case it is hard not to pay attention; how do four artists mold a collaborative work through such an intensive process and still leave their individual "mark?" Done entirely in gray scale, the lack of colors draws attention to the artists' working methods, usually abstract content, and varied line structure and shading. Materials used for the work in this show include spray paint, latex paint, graphite, charcoal and even plaster. Four unique artists have come together and managed to make a cohesive offering through their solo works and the epic collaboration piece that takes up nearly an entire wall. "Even our individual drawings have an aspect of collaboration to them because we've done all the work right here in the gallery and while we're working we're just going around talking to each other about each other's drawings," explains Michael Nannery.

For a more in-depth look at the exhibition, head over to OUTPOSTS FROM THE MATERIAL WORLD

Thursday, October 07, 2010 by Charles Fox · 0

Friday, September 10, 2010

NERS: "Sparkles, Sprinklers, and Bad Seeds"

NERS recently unveiled his latest body of work at Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. Sparkles, Sprinklers, and Bad Seeds channels suburban angst and nature lust in the artist's characteristically bright and straightforward fashion. Works on colored paper with clean, simple lines and sculptures combining natural elements with unexpectedly painted areas in brilliant colors fill the Harrison Center's Gallery 2. The space was once a chapel and presents a novel and engaging if challenging environment for exhibiting contemporary art.

So what exactly is the significance or meaning of Sparkles, Sprinklers, and Bad Seeds? Sparkles reference diamonds and wealth, sprinklers reference summer, and bad seeds refers to misbehaving children. Sustainability is a recurring thread in NERS' work and is manifested in various ways. For the first time, the artist has chosen to employ pedestals in an installation and of course he could not do so in a conventional way. Rather than a standard white rectangle, NERS' pedestals are logs with the upper surface painted white. In one case, a log sculpture is situated atop a log-based pedestal, blurring lines between exhibition components and art. Painting the surface of the logs that holds the art white makes for an interesting syncretism between traditional gallery culture and the sort of nature maverick approach to art that NERS takes.

Sparkles, Sprinklers, and Bad Seeds finds NERS at an interesting point. Having weathered a personally challenging but perhaps artistically fulfilling fifteen month period after obtaining his BFA from Herron School of Art and Design, this show is one that would have taken place in the past if not for the personal upheaval that resulted in Magical Wonderfulness. The work still feels fresh in large part, and this show marks the end of logs, pinecone shapes and hand-drawn diamond shapes in the artist's iconology. Who knows what the future will hold for NERS, but indeed it will be a....bright one.

For more pictures and text and a video interview with the artist, check out Outposts From The Material World

Friday, September 10, 2010 by Charles Fox · 3

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