Making Memory exhibit on display at New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art


The University of Southern Indiana’s New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art (NHGCA) is proud to present Making Memory, an exhibition by Sara Christiansen Blair, Professor and the Chair of the Art and Design at USI, and Janine Polak, Assistant Professor of Art and Design at Purchase College, and curated by Audra Verona Lambert, Curator of NHGCA. The exhibit will run Saturday, June 8 through Saturday, July 20. An opening reception will be held from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, June 8 at the Gallery and is open to the public at no charge.

An additional event, in dialogue with exhibition themes and incorporating psychology and gender roles, will take place via Zoom at 2 p.m. June 20 with Dr. Aimee Mark, USI Director of Undergraduate Advising, Assessment, Curriculum and Research and Associate Professor of Psychology.

Both artists create work in dialogue with labor, featuring tasks such as sewing, darning and knitting—work which has historically been done by women. Polak speaks to the duality of persistence and erasure, fragility and strength. The artist preserves found garments into porcelain and glass sculptures that slow the eye of the viewer, prompting a reconsideration of the object itself. What at first glance appears as everyday objects reveal themselves upon closer inspection to be sculptural forms that embrace unusual and hybrid materiality and processes.

Blair tackles the persistence of certain traditions with historical gender roles in her installation and sculpture. The artist uses found objects as an integral part of her artistic practice, working with both everyday objects and remnants of family heirlooms and craft.

In the practices of both artists, visitors can find reclaimed fragments of personal cultural memory subsumed into tactile narratives that shift from materiality to personal dialogue: a visual and psychological mirage hovering and present in the physical realm.

Blair is a Professor and the Chair of the Art and Design Department at USI. She received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by a MFA in mixed media from the University of North Dakota with an emphasis in fibers, painting and metals.

The artist holds a doctorate in visual arts: aesthetics, art theory and philosophy from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. As a mixed-media artist, she contends with labor, craft and the roles these both play in contemporary culture. She has exhibited with the University of Minnesota, Truman State University, CraftHouse 40, The Torpedo Art Center and the Pelham Art Center.

Born in Nebraska, Polak grew up primarily in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She received a bachelor’s degree in studio art, sculpture and photography and economics from the University of Virginia (UVA) in 2005 and was awarded an Aunspaugh Fellowship at UVA the following year. In 2008, she earned a MFA from the Yale University School of Art, Department of Sculpture. Her work has been exhibited in solo shows at Essex Flowers, Lorimoto, Ernestine and Sardine in New York City, and group exhibitions, including Brennan & Griffin, Equity Gallery, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Sculpture Space and more. She’s exhibited internationally in Iceland, China and Australia. The artist is Assistant Professor of Art+Design and the Chair of the Art Foundations (first year) Department at Purchase College (SUNY) and is based in Ridgewood, Queens, New York.

Lambert is Curator of NHGCA. She has worked as a curator for institutions and independently for 12 years. She has curated exhibitions for New York City Parks & Recreation, TransBorder Art at Governor’s Island, The Factory: LIC, Yeshiva University Museum, The Yard: Williamsburg, and more, and her writing has been commissioned by Texte zur Kunst, Whitehot Magazine for Contemporary Art, Americans for the Arts and more. Audra holds a bachelor’s degree in art history/Asian studies from St. Peter’s University and a master’s degree in art history and visual culture from Lindenwood University.

The NHGCA at University of Southern Indiana promotes discourse about and access to contemporary art in the southern Indiana region. The NHGCA is a proud outreach partner of USI. The gallery is located at 506 Main Street in New Harmony, Indiana. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit the NHGCA website or call 812-682-3156.   

This exhibition is made possible in part by the Efroymson Family Fund, Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, and the Indiana Arts Commission, which receives support from the State of Indiana and the National Endowment for the Arts.