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March 19, 2014

Art: Shifting gears

Block Party pedals a new gallery space

Meet Ethel, the greeter at Block Party Handmade Boutique. A pug by breed and a leg-licker by design, she’s the pet of owner Mary Levinsky and just one of the delights in this cornucopia of art and crafts. The co-op, less than a year old, has recently carved out a small gallery space within the retail shop and is displaying its first exhibition, “Inertia.”

“We’re excited to move forward with an ever-changing gallery space at Block Party,” says Levinsky. “By creating a gallery space with a beginning and an end, it creates a sense of urgency to remind the buyer that the art is one of a kind and cannot be replicated. It also allows the artist to create a larger, more impressive body of work to be spotlighted.”

Mary Beth Brown is the first artist to be highlighted in the new gallery area. Her many creative outlets — paintings, photographs and calligraphy — are used to display her love of bicycle transportation. The title “Inertia” relates to Brown’s advocacy for car-free travel in Louisville, something she’s been personally involved with since 2009.

She describes inertia as “the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion. In other words, it is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant linear velocity.”

Her thematically edited art selection includes outstanding paintings of two of her biking friends. “Marife Likes Bikes!” and “Mike Likes Bikes!” are portraits with wheel hub covers added for emphasis. Also featured are five small photographs, such as “Blue Bike,” “Bike Firework” and “Gears” featuring mounds of — you guessed it — bike gears.

As enamored as I am with her oil paintings, I’m equally intrigued by her calligraphy on handmade note cards (she includes an envelope and filler paper so the recipient can resend the card — she calls this “Mail It Forward”). One card features a portion of a Susan B. Anthony quote, expressing the freedom bicycling gave the women of her day: “I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel … the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Brown, who also curated “Inertia,” brought in artwork by other artists to round out the bicycle-themed show. Beth Godshall with From the Spoke is showing paintings of “Bicycle Love” as well as inventive jewelry made from recycled bike tubes and gears. Ties by Katie McBride/Agent Umlaut Designs feature chain ring designs. And you’ll get your ’60s bike on with “Roll With It” by Jennifer Meyers of Sinisters.

Levinsky says she plans to have monthly exhibitions, with opening receptions on the First Friday Trolley Hop. “This gives us an opportunity to feature and recognize Block Party co-op artists as well as new guest artists, providing more variety than we could offer before,” she says.

Ethel will be busy.