The IndiGo Art Gallary is located in the storefront formerly known as Furniture Lounge, across from the City Building in Downtown Champaign. It’s an old, beautiful space with a wall of glass on the front of the store, nicely scuffed and aged wood floors, a beautiful ceiling and a nice spiral staircase connecting the upper and lower levels. The space is small but inviting, like the room’s squeezing you just a little. I make mention of this because (1) it’s a relatively new gallery in town, and (2) the gallery setting in which you view art has a huge impact on your perception of that art. No joke – try watching a movie with 30 screaming children in the theater and see if you walk away ‘entertained’.
Both Jess Beyler and Carrie Ramig make paintings about things, not things themselves. So whereas you or I might paint a pretty sunset, they would paint how remembering a beautiful sunset makes you feel.
Looking at art of this nature can be confusing. If you watch people as they shuffle from one piece to the next, you’ll occasionally see their head cock to one side. Or they’ll scratch their neck, or maybe take too big a gulp of wine. They do this because people like Beyler and Ramig aren’t making this easy on us; the 10 pound organ we all carry around inside our heads is at its core a feisty, impatient little art critic. It likes to know what’s going on, and when you look at a 45 foot long stretch of canvas with no tangible or literal objects covering it, your brain gets confused.
When I first look at art like this, I usually stop breathing. I’m panicking, just a little, as my eyes scan the piece two or three times, trying to figure out just what in the hell I’m looking at. This is good – parts of my brain that are usually sleeping are getting slapped awake. Then I take a deep breath, take a few steps back, and just look. That’s called ‘disengaging’ or ‘letting go’. It’s kind of like looking at those old magic eye posters – you need to stop looking at it, and instead look at what it’s doing.
Jess Beyler’s work inhabits the wide-open top floor of Indi Go, and consists of swarming color on evening-lit shades of earth and sky. The best of it, in my opinion, combines a cohesive series of colors that European painters were using with great success 3 centuries years ago, giving these contemporary painting a very old, classical feel. Other pieces use a combination of old and ‘modern’ colors, and I found this juxtaposition to be pulling me in too many directions at once.
Carrie Ramig’s paintings lurk below in the basement level of the gallery. Hidden in alcoves and around dark corners, her work suffers from poor can-lighting, a problem which I’ve heard is being addressed by the gallery’s owner. Ramig’s work is smaller, quicker, and more numerous; it makes no effort to hide its nature as a series of actions and reactions; artistic decision-making laid bare. My favorite pieces look like beautiful microscope slides. Others take on qualities of chaos–architecture and assemblage, some of which made me grin with their frenzy, while others seemed too settled.
Neither artist is particularly interested in chatting your ear off with their art. Rather they’re humming a tune, hoping it might get stuck in your head. In this way, there are no right and wrong answers as to whether or not you’ll like the work. Most likely you’ll either react to it or you won’t, but the art represented in the showing is of such a quality that I guarantee a few of you reading this will find a painting there that you need to spend some serious time looking at.
Incidentally, that’s exactly why the paintings are for sale. If you look at enough art, you’ll eventually encounter something that’s shaped exactly like a hole in your life you didn’t even know you had. It’ll haunt the living hell out of you, and that’s when you pull out some cash and ask to take it home. That’s the highest praise you can give a piece of art – to say that you want to live with it for awhile. I sincerely want to take one of Jess Beyler’s pieces home that I think looks like a little dragon. I don’t even like dragons, but I think it’s the most beautiful dragon I’ve ever seen (or not seen, considering it’s really just a swirl of red paint), so I want it. Check out the show before it closes on October 17th, and let us know what you saw and felt. If enough of you like a particular piece, consider coming together and buying it, then donate it to a local library or public building so we can all enjoy it for years to come.