Barbara Knuckles - Everything Has A Place

Rhinos and Cargill on oil

Sights and smells and touch are most powerful in first encounters.   When moving to a new a city, everything is fresh and pops out immediately.  It's the buildings, the landscape, the streets, the bridges, the people.  After time, though, the new sights become regular interactions and then eventually blend into the background.

Barbara Knuckles understands the tendency of the familiar to become unnoticed.  Her latest work, Everything Has A Place, speaks to this topic.

Knuckles grew up in a home full of art.  She received most of her technical skills from her father, Robert Hoffman, a well known Hoosier artist.  She grew up watching him "spend every minute he could spare painting landscapes," she says.  "I associate the smell of linseed oil with him working in his basement studio." This encouraged her to pursue art.

In 1975, she made the move to Indianapolis to study art at Herron School of Art.  She received a BFA in printmaking from Herron but experimented with many mediums.  She studied graphic design with etching, and studied lithography and silkscreen as electives. For over fifteen years her arts has primarily been mixed media.

Yet, for her December show at the City Gallery she is shifting back to painting.  "It's been a challenge to find my feet again in oils," Knuckles says.  It was the fact that her daughter is currently a painting major at Herron that encouraged her to revisit painting.  "Watching her paint in oils and trying to help her, reminded me of its potential as a medium, and prompted the return." This new series of work is all in oils.

The paintings re-envision the Indianapolis landscape.  She has created a series of juxtapositions that draw the viewer's attention to places or objects once overlooked.  She says "The work is representational but re-contextualized, so it has a playful, mash-up element to it."  For instance, one of the paintings repositions the Whitetail Deer sculpture of the Eiteljorg Museum to the Citizens Energy Thermal Plant.  In another, she places the rhinos from the Indianapolis Zoo on the riverbank near the Cargill plant.

The paintings seek to break the mold or views one might have of Indianapolis. "The boundaries of neighborhoods, class, race, eras, and ethnicity have shaped the city," Knuckles says.  She goes on, "I began imagining what it would be like to break the boundaries, and move things from one place to another." Her repositioning of objects with places amplifies their respective qualities that might have been overlooked. It is the stillness of the rhinos with the giant Cargill plant overshadowing them from behind.

Knuckles, in addition, highlights the values of Indianapolis past and present. Her favorite piece of the show, "Justice", is a re-contextualization of the statue Justice from the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse downtown. She places the statue against a starry sky. Statues Justice, Agriculture, Literature, and Industry were created in 1906 by John Massey Rhind. These were a representation of the values of Indianapolis sentiments at that time, more or less the progression and boom of a society. As a result Knuckles asks, "What four foundations would we choose to represent today?" Her painting of something celebrated in the past (like the statues) causes the contemporary audience to step back to question what values are celebrated now. The re-envisioning and juxtaposition of places and objects of Indianapolis shows that each thing has a purpose in the city. They can once again pop out.

Barbara Knuckles' new exhibition, Everything Has A Place, opens next Friday, December 7th from 6:00 to 10:00pm at the City Gallery, located at 1505 N. Delaware, Indianapolis, IN 46202. The show will hang through December 28th. Come simply to experience the art or come to buy art.

Additionally, the Harrison Center for the Arts is featuring over forty artists in the exhibition, Nottingham Forest. In Gallery No. 2, Borshoff presents Homograph. This year’s show, “Homographs,” features the work of Herron School of Årt + Design painting students inspired by single words with double meanings. The Indieana Handicraft Exchange Holiday Mini takes place in the gymnasium (from 5:00pm to 10:00pm) and will include hip, handmade goods from thirty-two vendors.