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National, state parks inspire artwork in new show

March 8, 2017
KOKOMO, Ind. — National and state parks set the scene and inspire the artwork now on display in Indianapolis, created by Minda Douglas, faculty at Indiana University Kokomo.

A fall sabbatical by Douglas took her as close to home as the White River, and as far away as Isle Royale, in the northwestern corner of Lake Superior. The end result, Nature as Spirit, is on display through March 31 at the Harrison Center for the Arts. It incudes prints, drawings, and mixed media.

“It gave me a chance to go to some places and get inspired by the essence of the locations, to try to capture what that place is about,” said Douglas, associate professor of fine arts. “I feel like I’m just at the beginning of something, like I am on the cusp of something good. I’m interested to see the response to this work.”

While she’s been known for her printmaking, Douglas experiments with a new medium in this show, using natural objects as the focal point of a take off on the reliquary, or display of objects from or belonging to saints, common in the early Christian church.

“I’ve taken that idea and applied it to natural objects that have some significance to me, either because of the location I got it from, or the circumstances surrounding how I found it, and then I used found objects to house it, and drawings, prints, or photographs to complement it. They’re kind of found object sculptures. I’m interested in seeing where I can go with this concept.”

The Ghost Pines series, featuring silhouettes of massive dead pine trees against the sky and reflected in the water, was inspired by four days on Isle Royale, the largest natural island in Lake Superior. It is part of the state of Michigan, though it is closer to the Canadian border than its state.

There are no cars on the island, and Douglas took a boat to get there.

“It was very quiet, you can’t hear anything except the sounds of nature, because it’s so isolated,” she said. “It took more than three hours by boat to get there, and at a certain point, we couldn’t see land in any direction. I wanted to capture what that place felt to me, the emptiness and mystery surrounding it.”

She was fascinated by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and how Lake Michigan, the dunes, the swamps, and marshes all come together.

“It’s almost a crossroads of ecosystems,” she said. “You could see succession of nature in action, from the water, to the sand, to the grass, then the trees. You can see the process unfolding before your eyes. It was almost like a textbook display of succession.”

Douglas wants to show her fine arts students the possibilities of being a working artist, and continuing to grow, learn, and find new inspiration for their work.

“I hope the students are interested in coming to see the exhibit,” she said. “I hope it shows them there is inspiration beyond being a student, and they can continue to do work and love it.”

The exhibition continues through March 31 in the Speck Gallery of the Harrison Center for the Arts, 1505 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis. For more information go to harrisoncenter.org.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 03/16/2017