In the art world, biennial is a word often associated with Paris and other major cities, and major museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Biennials are generally contemporary art exhibitions that give viewers a hint of where the art world is at the time, and Lexington is now in on that game.
"Some concentrate only on emerging artists, but I took it as a chance to look at what's going on now in the region," said Mike Deetsch, exhibitions and programs director for the Lexington Art League and co-curator for KY.7 Biennial, which runs through Dec. 21 at the Art League's Loudoun House Gallery.
One of the first jobs was to identify the art league's region. Deetsch included Kentucky and its seven contiguous states: Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. Hence KY.7.
"There's no denying we have an influence on and are influenced from the North, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the South," Deetsch says.
Qualifying artists must have lived in Kentucky or a contiguous state during the past three years.
Kate Sprengnether, co-curator of the exhibit and director of the Tuska Center for Contemporary Art at the University of Kentucky, says KY.7 is a chance "to see a lot of cutting-edge work from around the region. You'd often have to leave Lexington to see such things, but this brings it here.
"It's good to be challenged by art and your ideas of what art is."
KY.7 does have challenging pieces for people whose idea of art is traditional work, such as landscape paintings and figurative sculptures.
The pieces include several videos and installations, including St. Louis artist Cameron Fuller's skyline, which is made entirely of masking tape and goes up the back stairs of the Loudoun House.
Video pieces are as large as Lexington artist Doreen Maloney's Summer, which has a woman seemingly filmed from a swing overhead in a foreground screen and an image of a swirling tree filmed from underneath on the wall at the back of the upstairs classroom at the Loudoun House.
In the same room, on a small TV, Kristen Wilkins shows The Distinction Between Being Grounded and Airborne. It's a computer-animated story of a house that seems to have it in for its owner. The story takes a poignant turn at the end.
In the pure-fun vein, there's Cubey 1.0 by David Burns and Josh Gumiela. It's a cube-shaped projector that lets viewers manipulate a projection of the cube by interacting with the box.
Christopher Hauck's Peep Hole Show is set up at the back of the room, allowing visitors to peek through a peephole on a door to view a series of images about sexuality designed to look like advertisements.
"Appropriately enough, I believe, through a mixed media of paint, marker, and collage, I investigate the mutually non-exclusive blurring of consumer and consumption, the 'we are what we eat' materialization of identity in contemporary culture," Hauck said in a statement on the KY.7 blog, www.lexingtonartleague.blogspot.com.
Another small-scale image is Golden Oldies by Catherine Forster of Crystal Lake, Ill. It's a series of images based on classic songs, including The Drifters' Under the Boardwalk, displayed on the small screens of video iPods.
On the blog, Forster says that the piece "is a response to media overload and 'group' orchestrated experience. The iPod is the primary 'personal medium' in use today; young people, particularly, use the iPod to separate themselves: becoming one within their universe by plugging in to their iPod, and plugging everything else off. The piece is a humorous takeoff on this hypnotic entreat."
Sprengnether says she can't choose a favorite.
"I love all the pieces in this show," she says. "And we could have brought in a lot more."
The curators looked at more than 140 pieces, and Deetsch says part of the fun of it was having a lot of the artists in the Loudoun House putting up their installation pieces. He says that billing a new event as a biennial conveys an optimism that it will happen again in two years.
Two years from now is, of course, 2010, which shows a method to Deetsch's planning.
"When the World Equestrian Games are here," Deetsch says, "we want to show national and regional work on a national and international level."
Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217.