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Celebrating Southern Indiana’s artistic spirit

Celebrating Southern Indiana’s artistic spirit
Celebrating Southern Indiana’s artistic spirit
Rita Koerber, foreground, talks to a visitor at the Harrison County Arts gallery about a piece in her joint exhibit with Leah Porter titled “Color and Form: A Duet.” Submitted photo
By Judy Cato, Special Writer

Harrison County Arts welcomed more than 100 visitors Aug. 19 to the opening reception for two new exhibits.

“Contemporary Wonderland Way,” in the Invitational Gallery, is a group exhibit featuring the work of 18 contemporary regional artists. The exhibit is named for the historic Wonderland Way Art Club started by New Albany artist James L. Russell (1872-1937). This art club gathered at Russell’s framing shop in downtown New Albany from 1906 until approximately 1937. Some members, including Russell and his son, also gathered and painted at a cabin along Blue River in Harrison County, according to the cabin’s current owner, Missi Bush Sawtelle.

At one time, the club consisted of more than 300 artists, including prominent members such as Laconia artist Sidney D. Crosier (1858-1930).

“This exhibit is named for that historic art club because our exhibiting artists — each in their own way — are carrying forward the rich artistic tradition handed down from that former time,” said Julie Schweitzer, director of Harrison County Arts. “This is the first of what will become a biennial juried show of contemporary regional artists who perpetuate and celebrate this heritage.”

Art that champions the natural world was at the forefront in the exhibit.

Corydon photographer Lorraine Hughes captured Blue River rippling and reflecting a canopy of trees in her work “Blue River Turns Green,” while “Gathering,” by Georgetown artist Joyce Ogden celebrates working the land through the seasons.

The largest and most prominently placed work in the show, Debra Clem’s “Transgressions” (94- by 48-inch), depicts two deer merging into a landscape overrun by trash, mangled chain link fence and other metal.

“The animals’ loss of habitat has an effect on them,” Clem said.

In the Members’ Gallery, the works of two Harrison County artists — Rita Koerber and Leah Porter — were featured in “Color and Form: A Duet.”

Koerber is a fabric artist who formerly lived in Indonesia.

“In the Minangkabau Mountain village of Panda Sikat,” Koerber wrote in her leaflet for the show, “Indonesian members of the women’s weaving cooperative use shaft looms for intricate gold and silvery songket cloths.”

The songket cloths that Koerber purchased while living in Indonesia are the featured fabric of her three table runners on exhibit. She also has nine quilts on exhibit whose trademark is 75 to 100 different fabrics in a single quilt.

Porter is known for the exacting detail of her “plants,” sculptures made from copper wire, beads, glass, rocks, yarn and curious pieces of wood. Her 15 works for the show range from whimsical to simply elegant. Details such as dirt pods made of wire, yarn and beads, and placed in the bottom of the container of her “potted plants,” add to the charm of her surprising sculptures.

Both exhibits are on view at Harrison County Arts until Sept. 30.

Harrison County Arts is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.