‘Artists in Our Midst,’ not Thomas Kinkade

Dec 6, 2017 at 10:53 am
'Shrills-Acudos' by Marie-Elena Ottman.
'Shrills-Acudos' by Marie-Elena Ottman.

If asked to name an artist — any artist — most people would rattle off dead, white male name brands, such as Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci or, god forbid, Thomas Kinkade. They’re usually stumped to name a contemporary artist (Thomas Kinkade comes up again if they do not know he died in 2012).

Exhibitions such as “Artists in Our Midst” are here to remind us that many talented artists are living right here, right now. The 26 artists in the juried show, meaning the art must meet certain standards, were selected from Jefferson County or the contiguous counties of Bullitt, Shelby, Oldham, Spencer, Hardin, Clark, Harrison and Floyd.

What catches my eye constantly varies. One day, it must be abstract paintings; another day, I’m all about glass. For this show, the recurring theme of fascination was a group — women artists. Ask a non-art person to name a female artist, and you might get a blank stare. I didn’t arrive at the gallery to focus on works by only females, but they are the ones that grabbed my attention.

Per the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 51 percent of visual artists are female and have earned half of the Master of Fine Arts, or MFA, degrees in America. While that looks like gender equality in art, pay and representation are another story. But we are focusing on the good news here.

The high quality in this juried exhibition is illustrated by the inclusion of Amy Chase and Ann Stewart Anderson, two 2017 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship recipients, one of the top creative awards in Kentucky.

You can spot Chase’s ceramics from across the room. They usually consist of spherical blobs interacting with each other, forming a relationship or conversation, as in “Seclusion.”

Anderson, a long-time local treasure, is well known for her cut paper mosaics. “Nicole” is part of her “WOW” series of Wonderful Old Women.

LEO Weekly recently interviewed multi-disciplinary artist Marie-Elena Ottman (in an online-only piece), so I was happy to see “Shrills-Acudos,” one of her better known dual-headed earthenware pieces. Although she comes from a ceramics background, she now has added glass, printmaking and textiles since graduating from UofL with a MFA.

This show introduced me to the glass art of Erin Hoffman. I walked across the room to see what I thought were fragile porcelain vessels but turned out to be blown glass. The largely white “Untitled (vases),” seemingly delicate and small, are commanding when seen up close. The skill level is apparent.

American for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch recently spoke in Louisville. Here are some fun art facts from his presentation as well as a report produced by Imagine Greater Louisville 2020: seven out of ten people go to an art event. We have over 1,800 artists in our community. $326 million was generated by our arts and cultural sector in 2016.

So, if someone asks you to name an artist, say of a local one. Exhibitions like “Artists in Our Midst” have plenty of suggestions.