Bloomington’s By Hand Gallery will display an “In Celebration of Limestone: Quarries and Carvers” exhibit in partnership with the Indiana Limestone Symposium from June 4-July 31. The gallery features work from 12 artists who are supporters of the ILS, according to the gallery’s press release.
Bloomington recognizes the month of June as Limestone Month, coinciding with ILS’s 25 year anniversary, according to the press release.
This exhibit is the first collaboration between By Hand Gallery and ILS. During June and July, By Hand Gallery will donate a portion of the gallery’s commission on sold pieces from the “In Celebration of Limestone: Quarries and Carvers” exhibit to the ILS. The money will support ILS’ educational outreach programming, gallery curator and ILS Board President Michal Ann Carley said.
The exhibit will also raise awareness about the three week limestone symposium in July by representing people who have worked with ILS for years, By Hand Gallery owner member and ILS carving instructor Sidney Bolam said.
“We have pieces represented from people who are instructors, the event founder has a piece, local established limestone artists and also previous students and board members from our area,” Bolam said.
The exhibit displays the talents of a variety of local limestone artists, including 11 limestone carvers invited to participate by Carley on behalf of the By Hand Gallery and ILS.
Two pieces in the exhibit are abstract, while the rest depict figures and nature. Carley said the subject matter of the carvings range from animals to humans to objects. Carver Sharon Fullingim sculpted a resting foal, while Master Carver John Fisher’s piece titled “Father’s Day” depicts a father and son, Carley said.
While art galleries typically want people to refrain from touching the displayed art, the By Hand Gallery and the featured carvers encourage visitors to touch the sculptures, Carley said.
Along with the limestone carvings, the By Hand Gallery exhibit is also celebrating the quarries where limestone is found by featuring about 10 collages by artist Meg Lagodzki.
“They are dramatically altered, you could say defiled, but they are also strangely beautiful,” Lagodzki explains about the quarries.
Bolam and ILS co-founder Amy Brier said that limestone needs to be appreciated because it holds historical significance for Bloomington, Indiana and the U.S. as a whole.
“It drives home how versatile limestone is as a material and as our sort of regional industry,” Bolam said about the exhibit. “It is just a fascinating stone, I feel like people see it and maybe they don’t realize that this a big part of our Bloomington story and Southern Indiana, in general.”
“So many of our monuments, important buildings, landmarks are made of limestone, it is really the fabric of our national memory,” Brier said.
According to Carley and Brier, Indiana is home to the largest U.S. strain of limestone, which is one of the most important materials in American architecture. The Pentagon, the Empire State Building and multiple buildings on the IU Bloomington campus incorporate limestone.
Indiana limestone is solid, soft and pure, making it easy to slice into large slabs for construction and to carve for artists, according to Carley.
“Limestone became, no pun intended, the bedrock of economic development of the area,” Carley said.
Carley said the exhibit is meant to show the public that limestone is a wonderful, local natural resource that not only makes buildings, but also art.
“I want them to see what a magnificent resource that we have right here in our community,” Carley said. “As a material itself, not only are we able to use it to build magnificent structures or just simple utilitarian structures, but it also is a wonderful material for making beautiful works of art.”