19 Stars of Indiana Art: A Bicentennial Celebration

19 Stars of Indiana Art is a current exhibit at the Indianapolis Art Museum, focusing on 19 artists who were born, raised, or lived in Indiana. At the start of the exhibit, the artists are listed by the era in which they lived and worked: 1816-1879 (frontier times), 1920-1959 (golden age), 1960-1969 (uncertain times), 1970-2016 (road to now).

The artists are showcased in different rooms, which are divided by category, not time period: pioneers and innovators, entrepreneurs, nature lovers, teachers and trainers, or visionaries and dreamers.

Pioneers and innovators
Halston (1932-1990)
Hoosier connection: Evansville native
Art medium: fashion designer

Janet Payne Bowles (1862/3-1948)
Hoosier connection: native to Indianapolis, spent time on East Coast, moved back to Indianapolis
Art medium: gold and silver metal design
Bowles was part of the American Arts and Crafts movement, which valued craftsmanship. JP Morgan commissioned her to do some work for him.

Felrath Hines (1913-1993)
Hoosier connection: Indianapolis native
Art medium: abstract art, painting
Hines started out as an art conservator, trusted by Georgia O’Keefe to work on her artwork. He attended the John Herron Art Institute while still in high school. He originally started in African-American art and moved into abstract art. He refused to be a part of Africa American art exhibits, believing that art transcends race.

Jacob Cox (1815-1892)
Hoosier connection: born in New England, but moved to Indianapolis where he was the first professional artist in Indiana
Art medium: paintings of the people and landscape of Indiana
He nurtured Chase (also in the exhibit), who went on to become an important teacher and portrait painter.

Robert Indiana (born 1928)
Hoosier connection: native to New Castle
Art medium: two-dimensional art that he made into sculpture
Robert née Clark legally changed his name to Indiana in the tradition of artists in the Renaissance whose names associated them with a location. Indiana is known for his pop art sculpture such as the Love sculpture on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He graduated from the same high school as Garo Antreasian (also in the exhibit).

Michael Graves (1934-2015)
Hoosier connection: Indianapolis native
Art medium: functional and beautiful design of everyday objects
Originally an architect, Graves is best known for the well-designed functional objects that he created for stores like Target. He firmly believed that good design belongs everywhere.

Bill Blass (1922-2002)
Hoosier connection: born and raised in Fort Wayne
Art medium: fashion designer
Blass is a household name, probably best known for being Nancy Reagan’s designer.

Overbeck Sisters (studio active 1911-1955)
Hoosier connection: born, raised, and lived in Cambridge City
Art medium: pottery, painting
The sisters sketched images such as people, shapes, and animals and then transferred this images to the pottery they made. They also made whimsical animal and human figurines.

Nature lovers
Frank Hohenberger (1876-1963)
Hoosier connection: lived in Nashville
Art medium: photography
Hohenberger was one of many artists making up the early Nashville art community. He was friends with another long-term Nashville resident, T.C. Steele.

T.C. Steele (1847-1926)
Hoosier connection: lived in Nashville, part of The Hoosier Group
Art medium: oil painting
Steele was a long-term resident of Nashville and befriended many artists that called Nashville home for brief or extended periods of time. He is well-known for his landscape paintings of the Hoosier countryside. An art critic dubbed him, William Forsythe (also in the exhibit), plus three others who showed paintings in Chicago in 1894 The Hoosier Group.

David Smith (1906-1965)
Hoosier connection: born in Decatur
Art medium: abstract sculpture
Smith worked for a time in the Studebaker automotive factory where he learned metalworking. Unsurprisingly, he created his sculptures not from stone or clay but from metal. He moved to upstate New York where he often displayed his sculptures outside.

George Winter (1809-1876)
Hoosier connection: lived in Logansport
Art medium: oil painting
Winter was born in England but moved to central Indiana. At the time, the Potowatomi people were still active in the Wabash Valley area. Both the Potowatomi and the Wabash Valley were subjects for his paintings. His Nocturnal Landscape, a painting of the moon reflected in the water and framed by trees, is stunning.

Teachers and trainers
William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)
Hoosier connection: native of Williamsberg (now called Ninevah)
Art medium: oil painting
Chase apprenticed under Cox (also in the exhibit) and painted portraits and still life. He was best known as a teacher, sharing his knowledge of art with others,, including Georgia O’Keefe.

William Forsyth (1854-1935)
Hoosier connection: Indianapolis native
Art medium: drawing and painting
Forsyth was part of The Hoosier Group. He was a beloved instructor, spending 25 years teaching at the John Herron Art Institute.

Garo Antreasian (born 1922)
Hoosier connection: Indianapolis native
Art medium: printmaking
Antreasian was instrumental of reviving interest in the printmaking technique of lithography, elevating it to an art form. He taught Vija Celmins (also in the exhibit) and William Major (also in the exhibit) at the John Herron Art Institute.

Wilhemina Seegmiller (1866-1913)
Hoosier connection: lived in Indianapolis
Art medium: prints
Canadian-born Seegmiller became the head of art education in the Indianapolis public schools, creating instructional books for students. She firmly believed that fine arts should be accessible to all and devoted her life to art in the public schools. Reflecting the beliefs of the Arts and Crafts movement, she felt that lives were improved through beauty. Art was not for art’s sake but for humanity’s sake.

Visionaries and dreamers
Vija Celmins (born 1938)
Hoosier connection: raised in Indianapolis
Art medium: painting, graphic art, printmaking
Celmins is a native of Latvia but grew up in Indianapolis and was trained at the John Herron Art Institute under Antreasian. In 1997, she received the MacArthur Fellowship (“genius grant”).

George Rickey (1907-2002)
Hoosier connection: born in South Bend
Art medium: kinetic sculpture
Rickey was on the art faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington. He was known for his movable metal sculpture.

William Majors (1930-1982)
Hoosier connection: Indianapolis native
Art medium: paintings, printmaking
Majors was known for his abstract art that used religious themes and was inspired by calligraphy. He was a student of Antreasian (also in the exhibit) at the John Herron Art Institute.

These 19 artists were chosen for the far-reaching influence they have had on artists and arts both in and outside of Indiana. The connections among them as colleagues or as teachers and students are striking. Some I knew before the exhibit. Others I learned about for the first time.

I was struck by how many of them are from the past. Who are the current Hoosier artists influencing the art scene in Indiana and beyond? Where are the artistic communities of today? And who is The Hoosier Group of the 21st century?

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