LOU'S VIEWS: At Eiteljorg show, honesty is the ‘West’ policy

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Lou Harry

It would be foolish to go to the Eiteljorg Museum’s “Quest for the West” show (through Oct. 6) looking for surprises. This is, after all, an invitational show focused on pleasing collectors of conservative western art who, in Indy for the show’s opening, purchase most of what’s shown.

ae-fawcett-cowboy-chatter-15col.jpg “Cowboy Chatter” is among the new works on display—and for sale— at the Eiteljorg’s “Quest for the West” show. (Images courtesy of Eiteljorg Museum)

As such, it’s best to approach this annual exhibition knowing that most of the work will be variations on the familiar. It’s not primarily about innovation, and it’s not about engaging scholars or challenging critics. It’s about finding that sweet spot where talent and commercial viability overlap.

Thankfully, for those of us not in the collection class, there are also plenty of pleasures…and a few surprises. And commercial work, as shown here, need not be dishonest or pandering.

Weathered faces are as iconic at western art shows as headdresses and Stetsons, for instance, but Scott Tallman Powers finds a smart balance of strength and sadness in the accordion player he depicts in the earth-toned “Hidden Memories.”

ae-powers-hidden-melodies-1col.jpg “Hidden Memories”

And Blair Buswell manages to find a way to make his “How Many More…” sculpture both specific and general, giving his subject penetrating, ultra-realistic eyes and an inner tension in which you can find a barely suppressed rage, a deep wound, a plan for revenge, or all three.

Implied stories helped pull me into John Fawcett’s “Cowboy Chatter,” which smartly lets a pair of dogs pull focus from the two riders. Robert Griffing captures a bustling meal prep time for a group of Native Americans in “Family.” And George Hallmark raises intriguing plot questions in the worn walls of his “Sanctuary,” approached by a lone figure and his burros.

Howard Post opts to partly mask his pair of horses by fence posts in “Corrals in the Country,” giving some new life to the commonplace. And a bird on the wing looks different—but familiar—when seen from below, invigorating Tim Cherry’s “Joy of Flight” sculpture.

Among the unexpected images: Michael Godfrey’s “The Song of the Sea, Big Sur” reminds us via crashing waves that “the West” extends to the Pacific Ocean, Heide Presse’s “Seeking” depicts a young girl with


a cryptically dispassionate stare, and Josh Elliott celebrates an unexceptional landscape with his “In Between.”

For a more focused look at a single “Best of the West” artist, venture upstairs at the Eiteljorg for this year’s Artist of Distinction exhibition “Honored Life: The Art of John Coleman” (through Nov. 17).

Coleman’s work, a staple in “Quest for the West,” here is showcased in a very different way. Packed into a tight space, the pieces are difficult to consider individually. Rather than a negative, though, it becomes a strength with Coleman’s “1876, Gall—Sitting Bull—Crazy Horse” at the center of a makeshift tribe of other compelling personalities. The child in “Bringing the Buds to Life,” rather than standing on her own, becomes tied creatively and spiritually to the “Mystic Smoke and Sacred Arrows” archer, the aged chief of “Glories Past” and the proud top-hat-sporting “Mr. Delegate.”•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.


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  1. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.