When the Lexington Art League's Becky Alley asked five artists to transform rooms in the group's flagship gallery, the results were diverse: tent-like structures, bold murals, astronomical paintings, felt hangings, and lots and lots of bowls.
For the Art League's newest show, SITE, an installation exhibit that continues through July at the Loudoun House, each artist was given the task of reimagining one room of the 160-year-old Gothic Revival building, with careful consideration of the space, context and meaning of each piece.
Alley, who is exhibitions and programs director at the art league, said she wasn't sure how it would work out. "But I really think each artist is in the best room for them," she said.
The first room houses a piece by Alisa Dworsky of Vermont called Inside Out: Open Form 1. Geometric shapes based on kite construction hint at Dworsky's background in architecture and her interests in form and space. The deceptively simple structure with a minimal color palette — white fabric panels on natural wood rods — becomes more complex as light fills the room.
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In the space next to Dworsky's work is New York artist Jason Paradis' Lexington Kaleidoscope, based on the night view from the gallery's window. Using an iPhone app to map the constellations visible from the window, Paradis incorporated the stars and window shapes on canvases around the space.
No two rooms at Loudoun House look alike, but its Gothic-style wooden floors and tall, diamond-paneled windows proved inspiring for the five artists asked to occupy each of the rooms for the site-specific show.
Lexington artist Blake Eames, the only Kentuckian in the show, was a perfect fit for the hallway, Alley said.
"The hallway does not have a lot of floor space, so I was imagining someone really doing something incredible with the walls," Alley said. "Blake Eames immediately came to mind."
Eames is an interior designer and owner of Blake Eames Design in Lexington. For THE GIANT LOOK BOOK OF EXPLODING DANDELIONS ( ... its all for you and now in full color), she transformed the Loudoun House's 40-foot hallway from a white tunnel into a mural of bold colors, dandelion forms and objects.
"The mood of the spring and the summer inspired the dandelions themselves. My work tends to be a bit bold and graphic. I imagined rolling hills of color with lots of movement throughout," Eames said.
"Over the past two months, I have seen these little children kind of stop in their tracks walking home after school and picking up these dandelions and blowing them and laughing, and it kept happening over and over again, and that was kind of the initial inspiration."
Joy, energy, excitement, happiness and even laughter are some of the reactions and emotions that Eames said she wants those who see her exhibit to experience.
Beyond Eames' mural of dandelions is Minnesota artist Liz Miller's Architectonic Onslaught. Inside the lavender-painted room is a structure of stiffened felt using imagery from Gothic architecture. The structure contains forms of weapons and invasive species. Miller brings into question the perception of war and peace.
The final room of the SITE exhibit holds Chee Wang Ng's The 360 Walks of Life Labyrinth. Steel and glass cases positioned to feel like a maze contain 360 rice bowls that Ng, who lives in New York, collected from shops all over the world. The rice bowl, in this piece, represents civilizations and culture in the pursuit of a "living," he said.
To capture the energy of each artist's installation, which were done last week, the gallery streamed the process live via Ustream.com, using cameras donated by the Red River Gorge Zipline. From paint to post, viewers could watch live as artists channeled their vision through their medium of choice.
"All of the artists are here at one time, working, and all of the volunteers are helping," Alley said last week. "There is a lot of activity, and it's just a really exciting energy, so we wanted to try to capture and document that as much as possible.
What you see in SITE is only the beginning of the exhibit.
What started as a staff meeting to get people excited about SITE became an idea to expand the gallery from the art league's campus to locations all over the city.
For the companion exhibit, offSITE, the group commissioned 20 Central Kentucky artists to produce surprise mini-installations in unexpected spaces.
The locations were revealed last week on the opening night of SITE, but the Art League will have two tours of the offSITE installations on Saturday.
The purpose of SITE and offSITE is to shift your way of seeing your surroundings, the Art League says. The conventional idea of art being shown in a building with white walls in a white room is thrown out the window.
"There are some unconventional approaches to thinking about art," Alley said. "And these artists both in SITE and offSITE really break the rules."
Becky Alley, exhibitions and programs director of the Lexington Art League, local artist Blake Eames and SITE volunteer Mallory Meisner talk about the SITE art exhibit.
IF YOU GO
What: Exhibitions of art by five artists who were asked to transform a room in the gallery with a site-specific installation.
When: Through July 14. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 1-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
Where: Loudoun House gallery, 209 Castlewood Dr.
Learn more: (859) 254-7024, Lexingtonartleague.org
To replay videos of the art installations: Ustream.tv/channel/lexingtonartleague
IF YOU GO
What: Miniature installations by 20 Central Kentucky artists in SITE's companion exhibit.
When: Through July 14.
Where: Various locations around Lexington (see below).
Tour and reception: Pick up a free booklet guiding you to locations at 8 a.m.-noon June 1 at Lexington Farmers Market, Cheapside Park, Main St. and Cheapside. Mingle at a happy hour 4-6 p.m. June 1 at The Village Idiot, 307 W. Short St.
■ GOOD THINGS for GOOD PEOPLE by Graham Allen. 440 Old Vine St.
■ HC SVNT DRACONES by Charlie Campbell and Scott Horn. Arcadium, 574 N. Limestone.
■ Bargain Hunt by Sarah Campbell. Lexington Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity ReStore and various Goodwill locations throughout Lexington.
■ The Keeper of the Unkept by Caper. The Green Lantern, 497 W. Third St.
■ Urban Shawl by Stacey R. Chinn. McConnell Springs, 416 Rebmann Ln.
■ Fudge Land Zero: Inflammatory Text by Ed Franklin. Upper vestibule of sQecial media building, 371 S. Limestone.
■ everything for nothing, nothing for everything by Valerie Sullivan Fuchs. Castlewood Park flagpole, 209 Castlewood Dr.
■ the other others dropped by for cake by Pat Gerhard. First large tree in parking lot of Third Street Stuff, Third St. and Limestone.
■ Lines Cast by Sarah Heller. Loudoun House, 209 Castlewood Dr.
■ Curly Spy by John Lackey. Homegrown Press, 569 N. Limestone.
■ Latitude Is Moving by Latitude. A walker that will be positioned at various places, starting at 948 Manchester St., taking a left on Oliver Lewis Way, then a right on Main St., then a left on N. Ashland and ending at 309 N. Ashland.
■ A Denial by Steven Sewell. The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 533 E. Main St.
■ Celia 101 by Kate Sprengnether. Patches of flowers that will be planted along the Legacy Trail.
■ Crib II by Zoé Strecker. 157 N. Broadway.
■ Lower 360 Arc, Tree Sweaters by Tree Sweater Gang. Triangle Park, through June 9.
■ Holding Light by Sarah Wylie A. VanMeter. 199 E. Loudon Ave.