City Stories in the Refuse

I’m sitting at my new desk, sipping Calvin Fletcher coffee, surrounded by the work of some of my favorite artists.  I’ve spent years chasing my children around the halls of the Harrison Center for the Arts on First Fridays, poking into the studios of artists I know and love, whose work I have saved for and purchased, and this place still feels like a magic box of surprises.  I keep tripping over alcoves I didn’t know existed. I follow artists I don’t know back to their studios to see what they’re working on.  This week I’ve discovered Liz Smith’s beautiful glass bead collages (showing in the HCA gallery in April), Carolyn Springer’s jewelry (I’m in love with a fabulous pressed copper cuff), and Kim Lohr’s intricately painted tables. Then, there are my old favorites with new work:  Quincy Owens’ achingly beautiful, brilliantly saturated Prometheus collection, Kyle Ragsdale’s new fairy-tale like whimsies, and Kipp Normand’s new show “Trash” which occupies my office space in the City Gallery.

I “own” one of Kipp’s fascinating pieces.  Several years ago he made beautifully quirky assemblages for the winners of a city-wide “Inspiring Places” award. My neighborhood, Bates-Hendricks, won that year and Kipp crafted a beautiful treasure of a box for us, full of little secrets about our neighborhood.   Since our neighborhood association doesn’t have an office or physical permanent space, we decided that the board members would rotate keeping the piece.  I was the second person in rotation . . . and I have had it ever since.  Please don’t tell.  It is so well integrated into my decor that I couldn’t possibly give it up.

My favorite thing about Kipp is his gift of story-telling (I relish the story behind all the little moving parts of “my” piece).  Once when my husband and I were driving downtown with Kipp, we started asking him “What’s your favorite building on this block?” Amazingly, he had a ready answer on every block and could provide us with all the iterations of the building, drawing our attention to little fascinating bits of architecture, and filling in the colorful, sometimes scandalous stories to go alongside.  We felt like we saw our city in a whole new way.


"All Weather" found object

So, I was enthralled as I came in to the office last week to see Kipp’s new show hanging . . . and even more excited when he showed up later that day to touch things up.  I couldn’t wait to ask him to tell me the story.  I followed him around like a puppy, hearing about his first piece of trash (a cardboard shooting target), his favorite piece of trash (an incredible old Goodyear advertisement “from when tires were white.”  According to Kipp, rubber is naturally white and we didn’t start dyeing it black til much later when we realized how dirty it got), the old Uptown movie theatre in Broad Ripple and the ravishing starlets showcased there, and my favorite, “Zubelda.”  Kipp drew me aside to make the personal connection, telling me how he found the piece in the walls of a house being rehabbed in my neighborhood.  The attic had been insulated with old brightly-colored cardboard advertising boxes.  The contractor saw the beautiful “trash” and thankfully knew Kipp would want to see it.  Zubelda is a Turkish belly dancer gracing the cover of a cigar box, now framed and honored in Kipp’s show.  Kipp knows my Middle Eastern connection, so he knew I’d be delighted by the story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair where belly-dancing was introduced to the American public.  After that, purveyors of suave sexiness loved to advertise the Middle Eastern belly dancer.

This show really must be experienced.  Come by, have a cup of coffee, and spend a few minutes surrounded by stories.