A few blossoming Indiana painters are making their mark on the artistic community with their striking new works. Indiana, a place perhaps better known for cornfields and the Indy 500 than for art, has slowly grown over the years into a prominent hotbed for artistic talent. Indiana University and a few of its satellite campuses, such as IUPUI, boast some of the best studio arts programs in the nation.
Rachel Kremidas is from Indiana and went to Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. She quickly rose to the top of her class with her fresh approach to painting. The figures in her early paintings were jagged at the edges and sometimes intentionally clunky in appearance. The art usually focused on animals and their often dark, hazy relationship with humans. One painting, featured in Bloomington’s Canvas Magazine in 2008, shows three bears wandering around on the grass. Above the bears is a little girl, hanging from a rope that is tied to a tree.
Thus is Rachel’s approach to painting; she is not here to paint pretty pictures or even to get the dimensions or depth of an image quite right. She paints to unsettle her audience. After hosting a few galleries in Bloomington and graduating with her Bachelor?s in Fine Arts from Indiana University?s program, she moved to New York to try to earn a living off of her craft. Her paintings have evolved over the years. In 2009 the animals remain in the paintings; in fact, her focus became even darker, as some of the paintings include animals placed on the surgery table, surrounded by human doctors, their sharp tools in hand.
Next, her works took a turn to the purely human. In 2010 and 2011, her paintings start to depict groups of people against starkly colored backgrounds. The people (or figures, more accurately) are roughly outlined; all of their shadows are heavy, dark, and elongated. In 2012 the paintings have taken even more interesting turn; now, many of her paintings simply feature clusters of blocks. The humans rarely appear, and when they do, they are nearly unrecognizable.
The progression of Rachel’s paintings has intrigued the artistic community in both Indiana and New York. Her paintings have been purchased in the Midwest and recently featured in various galleries in Brooklyn, New York.
Another Indiana artist, Joel Haffner, moved to New York several years ago with similar ambitions as Rachel. He grew up in Indiana, mostly in Fort Wayne, and then moved to New York to attend the formidable studio arts program at NYU. Afterward, he began working for a man named Toby, a well established artist in the area, for his day to day living money. He gained credibility as an artist when his painting, The Mountain Queen, was accepted into a book that collected and displayed the best fantasy art available today; the painting can also be viewed on Art Gallery Enc?s website.
Joel?s early works were frequently realistically painted but based on fantasy worlds. He expertly depicted knights in battle, dragons outside of castles, and other beasts. The Mountain Queen is a gorgeous painting that features a crowned woman, her expression tired but ambitious, sitting on an elegant white throne. Behind her, the mountain she is perched atop drops off into a valley, and the clear, blue sky opens up above her. Intricately detailed shrubs and flowers surround the throne, putting the viewer right into the world of the mountain queen.
While in New York, Joel also worked briefly on an MTV show called “Downtown” as the background paint key painter. As an expert woodworker as well, Joel carved the throne for a model of The Lion of the Punjab, a sculpture constructed in 2011 by various artists. Around the same time, he also used his woodworking talents to help build a model of the Israeli Parliament building to be housed in a government facility in Israel.
Today, Joel lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife. While he still does work for Toby even today, he concentrates now on his paintings of the beautiful Oregon countryside. He has also fallen in love with photography. He now frequently uses high-powered cameras when traveling and hiking around the state so that he can paint based on his photographs. Recently, one of Joel’s large paintings of the Oregon shore sold at a Eugene gallery for over one thousand dollars.