The global pandemic has brought a state of flux affecting nearly every industry and person, including indoor spaces where art can be viewed. But artists have not stopped creating their art. Just as stores and restaurants have reopened with extra safety measures and social gatherings have resumed (at reduced capacities), the art world is following in cadence. Galleries, museums, and community art spaces throughout Bloomington are showing resilience in how they reopen and share their art with the public.
Dimensions Gallery, a gallery space within Artisan Alley at 222 W. 2nd St., is offering online viewing of their artists’ work and in-person viewing by appointment only. Lydia Burris, the most recent artist on exhibit, participated in this “new normal” by promoting her work via a virtual gallery show that has been shared on Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
It is no wonder Burris’s collection of mixed media and collages is titled “Fantastic Journeys.” The collection takes the viewer to a whimsical dream landscape. In her virtual gallery event, Burris urges the viewer to keep in mind the concept of dream logic: the notion of how memories fade, how lines are blurred, how our minds process data, and how that data is transfigured differently into dreams.
However, in the same way homemade cookies are much better than store bought, so is art viewed in person versus virtually. Burris’s colors are spirited and expressive. The texture of the art isn’t flat, as it may appear online, but instead uses the collages as different inflections in the same way one might while telling a story. The intricate and wondrous design is puzzled together through different media to make the piece whole, such as in a dream.
To see the exhibition in person, it is best to contact Dimensions Gallery Curator Diva Armas Luther. Luther hopes to continue showing artist exhibitions monthly, but if the gallery has no artist exhibition, Dimensions plans to transform the space for music performances via the online platform Twitch.
In a similar fashion, the I Fell, 415 W. 4th St., is presenting an art installation by Boyd W. Sturdevant Jr., who is conducting private showings at the Fell for those interested in seeing his installation, “1970 Draft Remembrance,” about the 1970 draft for the Vietnam War. Sturdevant, who had already enlisted in the military before the 1970 draft, makes it clear that his aim for the work is not to “make a statement or educate” but rather to ask questions. How does one remember, learn, and change? Or rather, how does one not?
The Fell’s high ceilings and roomy gallery suits Sturdevant’s maze-like installation with vibrant painted drop cloths and tarps that hang from the ceiling. He invites the viewer to “step right up,” draw a man’s draft number, enter, reflect, and even write a note, if you wish.
Sturdevant says that people who have visited the installation have taken anywhere from two to forty-five minutes to experience the work. Sturdevant’s son Wes produced a video of the exhibit while his granddaughter Ella took photo stills. While not an official part of Sturdevant’s exhibition, it’s a subtle nod to the evolution of his project but also to the idea of how memories and stories are passed down through generations and how we remember. (Contact Boyd Sturdevant for a private viewing. To see his son’s video, click below or here.)
After visiting the Fell (and perhaps using contactless pickup from the attached Rainbow Bakery for a coffee and a donut), one can visit Pictura Gallery across the street. Pictura is part of the FAR Center for Contemporary Arts, 202 S. Rogers St., and displays contemporary fine art photography. The gallery is free and open to the public Wednesday through Friday, 2–5 p.m. Masks are required for entry and visitors are asked to maintain six feet of distance while visiting.
The open and welcoming space with pale wood floors and white walls plays with what photographers always seek: light. The photos currently on display are from the private collection of the gallery owners, Martha and David Moore. The eclectic selection of photos portrays colored and black-and-white images collected over 20 years. For photographers wishing not only to view works but also learn how to critique photography and talk about their own, FAR offers a virtual photo review via Zoom, which meets every third Wednesday of the month. The event is hosted by FAR’s staff photographer, Chaz Mottinger.
While discussing galleries and museums, artwork such as photographs, paintings, and sculptures come to mind most readily. Yet glass has a rich 5,000-year history that involves remarkable artistry and science. The nonprofit Bloomington Creative Glass Company (BCGC) at 229 W. Grimes Ln., next to Switchyard Park, offers to the public an array of classes, such as kiln, stained glass, glass blowing, and flameworking. The BCGC Gallery, at the same location, is no different and reveals many diverse glass pieces such as blown glass, fused glass, sandblasted glass, molded glass, and more.
The gallery is open when BCGC is open, which is Wednesday through Friday, 1:30–5:30 p.m. Many different artists are presented at the gallery, highlighting the distinctive types of creative paths one can take with glass. BCGC classes are limited to six students each, and masks are required, which were worn pre-pandemic while working with glass powder or glass paint, due to the glass particles that can be dangerous to inhale. The 2,000-square-foot warehouse space with the kilns, called the “hot shop,” is 2,000 square feet. The garage door is left open when weather permits, which aids in implementing COVID safety measures. Back in March, BCGC founder and instructor Abby Gitlitz wanted to give community members the ability to work on art projects at home, so take-home kits were born. These kits will continue indefinitely because Gitlitz understands that people can still feel reluctant to participate in group classes or events. The projects vary weekly — sun catchers, DIY kaleidoscope, pictures frames, and more — that are then returned and fired in a kiln from 1250°F to 2600°F, depending on the type of glass.
After creating art, one can visit Indiana University’s Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, which reopened on August 27 with COVID-19 safety precautions. Admission is always free, and photographs, videos, sketching, and strollers are welcome. Open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Saturdays till 7 p.m., the museum also offers virtual tours and events.
The museum currently has four different exhibitions on view, which vary in media and concept:
- Facing the Revolution: Portraits of Women in France and the United States comprises portraits of prominent women who helped shaped a transformative period of political and artistic revolution from 1770 to 1830. Curated by Galina Olmsted, Assistant Curator of European and American Art.
- Living Treasures and Fabulous Follies, by Robert Baines, a renowned goldsmith from Australia. Baines is also “a specialist in the study of archaeometallurgy (ancient jewelry production) and he incorporates ancient techniques into his art and the presented narratives,” according to the museum’s website. Also on display next to Baines’s exhibition is a selection of the museum’s ancient jewelry collection, curated by Juliet Graver Istrabadi, Curator of Ancient Art.
- Cycles, by Leonard Drew, whose prints take on a powerful essence as they emerge from the page in sculptural form. Elliot Reichert, Curator of Contemporary Art, says Drew is as interested in the process of making his art as in the meaning of the work itself. Instead of titles, Drew uses a letter-and-number system to identify his work. Curated by Loretta Yarlow, Director of the University Museum of Contemporary Art, UMass, Amherst and organized by the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.
- House of the Singing Winds, by Jawshing Arthur Liou, who teaches in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture, and Design. Liou’s ambitious new work of art is a high-definition, multichannel video installation showing the changing seasons at the historic home and studio of Hoosier painter Theodore Clement Steele. The video includes a voiceover (by Yaël Ksander) inspired by the writings of Steele’s wife, Selma Neubacher Steele. Curated by Elliot Reichert, Curator of Contemporary Art.
The museum’s seven galleries allow for diverse collections and offer a variety of art from many different cultures and epochs. The assortment of Asian, European, American, ancient, and contemporary art includes delicately woven Japanese baskets, objects dating back to 30,000 BCE, and Dada’s iconic Readymades. In particular, Eskenazi’s Art of Africa, Oceania, and Indigenous Art of the Americas houses ancient art and traditional figures in addition to contemporary pieces recently acquired. The museum’s Luzetta and Del Newkirk Café and Gift Shop offers an assortment of beverages, baked treats, and other food. The lovely outdoor patio adjacent to the café and gift shop can give you a well-deserved rest after walking through the galleries.
These galleries, artists, and museums are inviting viewers — with masks, social distancing, and other precautions — to step into a dream, to ask questions in order to remember, to create your own art, and to gaze on art from around the world and different periods in history. Our town has talent, and while the world looks different and extra precautions are in place, one can still experience the incredible artists and artistry this town offers.
More Bloomington Galleries
All art galleries and museums have had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic with new practices and safety precautions. Below is a list of local galleries, with links, addresses, and phone numbers so you can find out more about their policies and availability. VisitBloomington.com has more details on each gallery. In addition, go to the Gallery Walk website for its COVID-19 Policy.
101 W. Kirkwood Avenue
222 W. 2nd Street
1133 E. 7th Street
101 W. Kirkwood Avenue
GALLERY B (inside Bloomingfoods’ Near West Side store)
316 W. 6th Street
116 N. Walnut Street
1201 E. 7th Street
415 W. 4th Street
122 S. Walnut Street
302 S. College Avenue
202 S. Rogers Street
201 S. Rogers Street
121 E. 6th Street
114 S. Grant Street
642 N. Madison Street