design

Mixed Media

Feature: The Value of Being Knocked Off Your Axis

Panoramic shot of the Pairellels exhibit. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Panoramic shot of the Pairellels exhibit. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Complacency is the enemy of creativity. The very real and honest expression that authentic artists require of themselves demands challenge and occasionally it is important to upset the apple cart a little bit in order to rediscover the muse.

Curator & Artist, Stacey Reason

Curator & Artist, Stacey Reason

A 2013 exhibit at The Patio Gallery in the Jewish Community Center illustrated the idea in pointed fashion. As curated by Stacey Reason, the show, which was titled Pairallels, was described as a “collaborative exchange” in its prospectus materials, a sharing of work in the form of a hand-off from one artist to another, with virtually no restriction on what the second artist would bring to the effort. The prospectus used the word “subtract” to suggest what might be allowable for one artist to do with another artist’s unfinished work, and what resulted in some instances was a complete deconstruction of the original piece, as well as a sharp lesson in how two different generations of artists tend to define the word collaboration.

Artists who contributed to Pairallels were Brandon Bass, Andy Cozzens, Sarah Duncan, Mallorie Embry, Linda Erzinger, Meghan Greenwell, Brandon Harder, Phillip High, Mary Dennis Kannapell, Shohei Katayama, Keith Kleespies, Sally Labaugh, Kathy Loomis, Kacie Miller, Karisssa Moll, Jacque Parsley, CJ Pressma, Kelly Rains, Lelia Rechtin, Alli Wiles, Jenny Zeller and Suzi Zimmerer.

Ms. Reason is a founding member of The Louisville Artist’s Syndicate, an ad hoc group of young and primarily visual artists whose mission is to inspire and promote networking between what they felt was a disparate collection of painters, sculptors, filmmakers, musicians and writers, all working in the Louisville area but lacking the connectivity necessary to accomplish greater things. The group, active at the time, has become dormant in the years since.

Dead Machine, Jenny Zeller & Mallorie Embry, digital photography printed on mulberry paper dipped in encaustic wax, vellum, sewing patterns, thread, canvas, nails, paper, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Dead Machine, Jenny Zeller & Mallorie Embry, digital photography printed on mulberry paper dipped in encaustic wax, vellum, sewing patterns, thread, canvas, nails, paper, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

By contrast, an older generation of Louisville artists, many of them members of the informal “Artists’ Breakfast Group”, had for many years enjoyed a camaradarie and interconnectivity that might be a model of what the Syndicate hoped to foster among its core constituency: a flow of energy and understanding that makes it easier for creative individuals to support each other. The Patio Gallery’s director at the time, Bette Levy, had been a long-standing member of this group and invited Reason to mount her exhibit there.

In today’s creative culture, it is more difficult than ever to characterize any group of artists collectively as having a shared sensibility, but the more prominent members of the Syndicate were preoccupied with art that is of the moment: ephemeral, fluid, and at times limited in its concern for archival survival. Another exhibit that year at Spalding University’s Huff Gallery featured two Syndicate members, Andrew Cozzens and Brandon Harder, whose bold sculptural forms relied on the effect of the elements and the passage of time for their full impact. Some of the pieces, for all intensive purposes, existed only during the duration of the opening reception. A delicate assemblage of wires frozen in pieces of ice and suspended on string, for example, were allowed to slowly descend off of the string while they melted. What remained for the subsequent run of the exhibit were the underwhelming remnants of wire and string that lighted onto the gallery shelf beneath. What interests these artists is the specific process of change and deterioration, not a final, marketable, objet d' art. The approach is fascinating but it risks occupying the same place in the cultural memory as a good joke badly-retold: I guess you had to be there.

C.J. Pressma & Kelly Rains discuss the project in front of their piece. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

C.J. Pressma & Kelly Rains discuss the project in front of their piece. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Whereas the breakfast group, for the most part, makes art in a more traditional context, paintings, prints, and sculptures created, at least in part, with an eye on the marketplace. Most have been doing this for many years, and their body of work can often define them in very specific terms, a signature style that might be immediately recognizable when you enter a gallery. Jacque Parsley's assemblages and C.J. Pressma’s photographic quilts are but two examples of art that is sought after by collectors and marketed at premium prices, reflecting the quality of the work and the esteem in which these artists are held.

Both are valid perspectives, but once artists from both pools were drawn into the Pairallels project, perhaps it was inevitable that some level of disagreement would follow. "My idea was to let the art speak for itself," explains Reason. "It was supposed to be about the object, but it wound up being entirely about the artist."  By design, there was no input between the individuals sharing the work, and apparently none of the artists saw the final results before the opening reception in June.

Grocery Store Mandala II, Kathy Loomis & Kelly Rains, grocery packaging, paper, chili peppers, found objects, fabric, wire, panel, paper, ink, acrylic, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Grocery Store Mandala II, Kathy Loomis & Kelly Rains, grocery packaging, paper, chili peppers, found objects, fabric, wire, panel, paper, ink, acrylic, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Among the breakfast group there were mixed reactions, including shock and outrage from a small number at what must have seemed a violation of their personal artistic integrity. In a few instances the piece from the first stage was physically deconstructed and enough parts discarded to render the source nearly unrecognizable. Elements were identifiable but the hand of the receiving artist might be said to have obliterated the original creative intent. Some tempers flared and some heads were scratched, mostly from within the breakfast group.

When, a few weeks later, there was an opportunity to sit down and talk it out, what was interesting was how much the conflict had turned into an opportunity for most of the participants. Creative types often like to indulge in a certain amount of denial that there is any gap between artists owing to generational differences, yet the reality of two distinct mind-sets about how visual artists approach their careers was obvious. During a meeting at one of the artist’s studios, the outrage was absent, replaced by an admission of recalcitrance from some, an expansion of perspective from others, and, arguably, enlightment all around. Some of the younger members spoke of the lack of attachment to the objects that they had fashioned and how they were sometimes excited to see the drastic alterations that had been employed once they passed off their work, while some in the breakfast group emphasized how they had chosen to dive into the project because, “...doing the same thing I had been doing”, wasn't good enough.

Synthesized Fang, Shohei Katayama & Alli Wiles, enamel, snake skin, beer cans, hot glue, wood, black primer, polyurethane, tracing paper, ink, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Synthesized Fang, Shohei Katayama & Alli Wiles, enamel, snake skin, beer cans, hot glue, wood, black primer, polyurethane, tracing paper, ink, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Coming away from the experience, the lessons may be as varied as the individual sensibilities that populate both groups of artists. Breakfast members had come together out of an attraction to build a social context for like-minded artists who were rarely critical but always supportive of each other, while the Syndicate reinforced an aesthetic that embraces the notion that being knocked a little bit off your axis is sometimes a healthy thing.

Four years later, Reason reflects back on Pairallels: “The project was a great learning experience for everyone involved, myself included. I had no idea what kinds of outcomes to expect, and what happened was far more than what I could have anticipated. The dialog that was created surrounding the project was very productive - it gave a fresh look at individual studio practices, reminded us all of our potentials, and pushed everyone out of their comfort zone, which invariably made us all more comfortable in our individual practices. It was very rewarding to serve as the catalyst of this conversation that I think is still being carried out today in some form or another. If nothing else, it brought together two important groups/generations of artists in Louisville that hadn't intersected before.”

Pairallels was on display June 16 through July 16, 2013, in The Patio Gallery at the Jewish Community Center, Louisville, KY.

Stacey Reason is now the Director of the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky.

"Localized Cosmic Reactions (snapshots of the universe)" by Karissa Moll & Philip High. Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

"Localized Cosmic Reactions (snapshots of the universe)" by Karissa Moll & Philip High. Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Time and Space, Sarah Duncan & Jacque Parsley, photography, fabric, lace, trim, found objects, clock, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

Time and Space, Sarah Duncan & Jacque Parsley, photography, fabric, lace, trim, found objects, clock, Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Rains.)

"Orbit" by Mallorie Embry & Shohei Katayama. Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Philip High)

"Orbit" by Mallorie Embry & Shohei Katayama. Price not available. (Photo courtesy of Philip High)

"Untitled", 12x20in, collage and gold paint on acrylic plastic. Price not available (Photo courtesy Kelly Rains)

"Untitled", 12x20in, collage and gold paint on acrylic plastic. Price not available (Photo courtesy Kelly Rains)


This Feature article was written by Keith Waits.
In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website, www.Arts-Louisville.com, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.


Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Keith Waits. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Mixed Media, Sculpture

Vignette: Miranda Becht

"The sweet nostalgic sadness of something lovely and lost. (Order)" by Miranda Becht, 13x68x5in, tinted cast resin, flocking, lace, shelves (2016)

"The sweet nostalgic sadness of something lovely and lost. (Order)" by Miranda Becht, 13x68x5in, tinted cast resin, flocking, lace, shelves (2016)


“An imagination is a powerful tool. It can tint memories of the past, shade perceptions of the present, or paint a future so vivid that it can entice… or terrify, all depending on how we conduct ourselves today.”– Jim Davis, from Garfield “Alone,” October 23, 1989


Artist, Miranda Becht

Artist, Miranda Becht

Miranda Becht is having a moment. One of only three students in the University of Louisville’s MFA program at the Hite Institute of Art, she is taking her three degrees and wasting no time positioning herself to have a positive impact in the Louisville and Southern Indiana arts community. This fall, she will be teaching foundation art courses as an Adjunct Professor at Bellarmine University, and be working as a instructor in LVA’s Academy program for high school students. She also has recently been offered an adjunct position at IUS. At the same time, she will a part of the St. James Court Art Show Emerging Artist Program and has been commissioned to create public art through the Jeffersonville Public Art Committee, Powering Creativity.

Becht’s work has largely been installation based, exploring how memory and nostalgia form our idea of the past: “I have always seemed to long for some sort of metaphorical home located somewhere in the past. Homesickness is defined as the longing for a particular home, nostalgia as a longing for a lost time. Nostalgia may carry with it a yearning for home, but it is a home faraway in time rather than space. Nostalgia, oftentimes used to refer to something sweet and pleasant, is bittersweet. It is the longing for something that is unattainable.”

"I can feel your sweet decay." by Miranda Becht, 38x73x73in, wood, sticker paper, acrylic paint, cast resiin, linoleum, found objects (2017)

"I can feel your sweet decay." by Miranda Becht, 38x73x73in, wood, sticker paper, acrylic paint, cast resiin, linoleum, found objects (2017)

“As a society we tend to idealize our vision of the past, particularly our vision of home. Our idealized notion of home presents itself as a supposedly traditional form of domestic life, but bears little relation to the way people actually lived. This concept of a cozy home full of family love is an invented tradition. Inevitable in our linear understanding of time, we are constantly being uprooted from home and from the past. Because of the fallibility of our memory, the past and home as we remember them, no longer exist. I mourn for a home that perhaps I never had.”

"The sweet nostalgic sadness of something lovely and lost. (Order) (detail)" by Miranda Becht

"The sweet nostalgic sadness of something lovely and lost. (Order) (detail)" by Miranda Becht

Becht cites “The pleasant, nostalgic sadness of something lovely and lost. I would sit and play with an odd, white vessel, full of wonder about its use and its origin. This vessel seemed so big, so white and pure, so curious. My grandmother told me it was a bedpan, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I realized just what a bedpan was. My most cherished childhood memory is soiled with urine and feces. Lost innocence often takes the guise of idealized memories. My work is a vehicle for my fetishized, fragile memories. I am pressured to be the object of desire… this untrue illusion, the ideal.”

Becht’s work is filled with mid-20th century design layered with a cotton-candy colors (she seems especially fond of pink), which adroitly captures the unique collective memory of what is arguably the most idealized period in modern American history, the 1950’s. The artist reminds us that what seems too good to have been true, often is.

Age: 31
Education: MFA Sculpture, University of Louisville, 2017; BFA Ceramics, Indiana University Southeast, 2012; BA Printmaking, Indiana University Southeast Minor Psychology, 2012
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/Miranda.indiana/

"I can feel your sweet decay (detail)" by Miranda Becht

"I can feel your sweet decay (detail)" by Miranda Becht

"In Hiding" by Miranda Becht, 119x64x24in, wood, cast resin, acrylic paint, shag carpet, embroidery floss, light fixture (2017)

"In Hiding" by Miranda Becht, 119x64x24in, wood, cast resin, acrylic paint, shag carpet, embroidery floss, light fixture (2017)

"Underside" by Miranda Becht, 96x96x66in, wood, screenprint, cast resin, rug, embroidery floss (2016)

"Underside" by Miranda Becht, 96x96x66in, wood, screenprint, cast resin, rug, embroidery floss (2016)

"What’s a dream and what is real? (Entropy)" by Miranda Becht, 84x54x6in, wood, cast resin, hydrocal, embroidery floss, lace (2016)

"What’s a dream and what is real? (Entropy)" by Miranda Becht, 84x54x6in, wood, cast resin, hydrocal, embroidery floss, lace (2016)

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Drawing, Painting

Vignette: Joshua Jenkins

"Three Kings No. 2" by Joshua Jenkins, 52 x 41 x 1 in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016)

"Three Kings No. 2" by Joshua Jenkins, 52 x 41 x 1 in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016)

Jenkins at his home studio (2017)

Jenkins at his home studio (2017)

For his upcoming show at Kore Gallery in Louisville, painter Joshua Jenkins has been creating a body of work that shows him shifting from the energetic, bold color and mark making that has long characterized his work. A softer approach to outlining form and a comparatively muted color palette rendered in broad washes of acrylic paint has dominated his technique since the end of summer 2016.

“Seeing a muted color pallet can seem calming to the viewer,” explains Jenkins, “but once you look closer at the surface, you can see a juxtaposition of more complex emotions with anxious line work subtly radiating through each canvas. The subject matter of each work focuses on the abstraction of the sorrowful human form in contrast with a slight homage to nature…”

"Drawing #18" by Joshua Jenkins, 9.5 × 7.5 in, graphite and watercolor on paper (2016)

"Drawing #18" by Joshua Jenkins, 9.5 × 7.5 in, graphite and watercolor on paper (2016)

It is in that balance that Jenkins finds contentment, a location that inspired the title of the new exhibit: Somewhere In Between Anxiety and Serenity. “Joys and upsets always seem to come hand in hand. Keeping in mind the current political climate of our country and the world as a whole, along with my own personal life experiences, I wanted to explore the contrasting feelings of fear and happiness. It seems as though neither emotion can shine without the other lingering in the background.”

The artist is featured in the January 2017 issue of Kentucky Homes & Gardens (Louisville). The article is about Carriage House Interiors and their 2016 Homearama design that prominently featured two of Jenkins’ paintings.

The Great Meadows Foundation recently awarded an Artist Professional Development Grant to Jenkins. He will be using the grant money to visit Los Angeles for the first time.

Jenkins has also been accepted to showcase his work at Mellwood Art Center's March Art Show on March 4th & 5th. 

Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY
Age: 29
Education: BA in Digital Media with a Minor in Studio Art, Marist College (Poughkeepsie, New York)
Website: http://www.joshuajenkinsart.com
Gallery Representative: Joshua is self-represented locally, but is represented by New Editions Gallery in the Lexington area

"Birds Flying High" by Joshua Jenkins, 40 x 40 x 1.5in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016)

"Birds Flying High" by Joshua Jenkins, 40 x 40 x 1.5in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016)

"A Moment of Disbelief" by Joshua Jenkins, 40 x 36 x 1in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016)

"A Moment of Disbelief" by Joshua Jenkins, 40 x 36 x 1in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016)

A detail of an untitled work by Jenkins.

A detail of an untitled work by Jenkins.

"Wondering What Just Happened" by Joshua Jenkins, 24 x 18 x 1.5in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016) $750

"Wondering What Just Happened" by Joshua Jenkins, 24 x 18 x 1.5in, acrylic and mixed media on canvas (2016) $750

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Painting, Illustration, Mixed Media

Feature: Michael John Braaksma


“What I’m doing 25 or 30 years later is an echo of what I did as a four year old…”
– Michael John Braaksma


Michael John Braaksma in his studio.  Photo by Sarah Katherine Davis for LVA.

Michael John Braaksma in his studio. Photo by Sarah Katherine Davis for LVA.

Michael John Braaksma is a sculptor, puppeteer, and a scenic and costume designer for theatre. In a curatorial statement, Braaksma described his practice; “His multidisciplinary approach to art-making blends drawing, painting, sculpture, illustration, puppetry, mask-making, theatrical design and art direction together to create spectacular visual narratives. Folk tales, oral narratives, and mythologies linking inhabitants with their land and culture are of particular importance to Michael’s work.”

Still from 'Unicorn Xing' Tyler McDAniel cinematographer. Puppets and Set by Michael John Braaksma.

Still from 'Unicorn Xing' Tyler McDAniel cinematographer. Puppets and Set by Michael John Braaksma.

He recently wrapped his first short film based around his puppetry, and is beginning to work on a children’s book. 

“I’m a visual story teller. That’s a description that fits the all encompassing approach to my work,” said Braaksma. 

In his studio, there are characters hanging from the walls; some are fully formed, some are just heads or faces. Many actually are puppets, but others are stand-alone art objects, some sized to be affordable at art fairs and events like the Flea Off Market.  Regardless of the artistic purpose of each character, they all seem ready to spring to life at any moment. “All my work has a strong sense of narrative,” said Braaksma. “They are all named, with rich back stories, and complex rationales as to why my little entities are here.”

The artist was born in Wisconsin, and comes to Louisville by way of Chicago, and time spent at Hope College in Michigan for a BA in scenic and costume design. In between Braaksma’s story takes a bit of a turn. “It’s essentially Mean Girls,” joked Braaksma, citing the popular film about a young American girl who grows up in Africa. 

"Memories of places I've never been" by Michael John Braaksma, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $400 |  BUY NOW

"Memories of places I've never been" by Michael John Braaksma, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $400 | BUY NOW

“When I was two, my parents decided they loved Jesus a lot, and became missionaries. They move the family to the Kenya-Somalia border, with no electricity or running water.” Braaksma lived in Kenya from age two to age nine and he says the time affected him greatly. “I’m doing some clay sculpture right now and it ties me back, there was a seasonal river where all the local children would sculpt animals, so what I’m doing 25 or 30 years later is an echo of what I did as a four year old kid in remote Africa.”

Braaksma believes in free sculpting each piece rather than casting his work. “I do everything free sculpting. Especially for the work I do, and the voice of the characters I’m drawing out, the idea of each form having its own shape and angle,” said Braaksma as he worked on a series of small unicorns he was preparing.  “Even though the work I’m doing now is related, it’s unique in a way, and I think there is a movement to those precious things.”

"Celestial Nymph" by Michael John Braaksma, 12x10x6in, paper mache, fur, found objects, $300 |  BUY NOW

"Celestial Nymph" by Michael John Braaksma, 12x10x6in, paper mache, fur, found objects, $300 | BUY NOW

Braaksma says “precious things,” and one can almost hear the capital letters; his ideas about precious things key into his belief that there is a reaction to large corporation and the “Big Box” lives of many Americans. They want smaller hand made items - Precious Things. 

In addition to informing his practice of sculpture, Braaksma says his time in Kenya changed the way he imagined. “Being so young and having such totally different extreme experiences of reality, it sort of shapes the imagination and what you see as possible. Reality and your existence seems more fluid when you’re used to stretching your brain at an early age, being bilingual and all that.”

"Wilbur the octopus" by Michael John Braaksma, 16x20in, mixed media on canvas, NFS

"Wilbur the octopus" by Michael John Braaksma, 16x20in, mixed media on canvas, NFS

For his recently wrapped short film, Braaksma, worked with local filmmaker Tyler McDaniel. Braaksma says the film reflects his own inner life. “It’s funny, but there’s some cynicism, as makers, people interested in our own narratives and our own sense of value, do we lose the context of seeing our selves as directional, are we missing the boat on where we’re going? I feel that way.” He added, “Sometimes my world become small and isolated.”

Braaksma believes that strong images, such as the handmade creatures and characters of his work, are necessary to reach modern audiences. “Strong visuals are so critical for pounding through this facade, the sarcasm or cynicism, or dismissive nature of story telling that has erupted because of our over exposure to constant media.” 

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Age: 32
Education: BA in Theatre, emphasis in costume & design, Hope College, MI
Website: https://lamaland.carbonmade.com/

"Terrence the Turtle" by Michael John Braaksma, 5x7in, acrylic on paper, $100 |  BUY NOW

"Terrence the Turtle" by Michael John Braaksma, 5x7in, acrylic on paper, $100 | BUY NOW


Eli-Keel.jpg

This Feature was written by Eli Keel.
Eli Keel is a Louisville based freelance journalist focused on arts and culture. Nationally he’s written Salon.com, The MarySue.com, Howlround.com, and Pointe Magazine out of New York. Locally he’s written for Louisville Public Radio’s news division, both the radio and the web (wfpl.com), Insiderlouisville.com, LEO Weekly and Leoweekly.com. He’s also contributed to Louisville Magazine, The Voice Tribune, Modern Louisville, Churchill Downs Magazine, arts-louisville.com, and thecoffeecompass.comHe also writes plays.


Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Photography

Vignette: Violet Herrmann

"Faces" (set of 2) by Violet Herrmann, 10x16in, photograph (2014)

"Faces" (set of 2) by Violet Herrmann, 10x16in, photograph (2014)

As a photographer and a designer, Violet Herrmann states she is, “…a firm believer in simplicity with a bold hint.” In “Mellwood,” her photograph reads at first glance as a captured ‘snapshot’ – a random glimpse of a passing moment, yet the cool, evening shades of blue are seductive, and there is tantalizing mystery in the dramatic depth found in the contrasting channels of space. It would all be a solid, albeit academic composition except for the hesitant figure on the right, leading us further into the scene but arresting that momentum by turning on their heel. It is the key to lifting the image beyond the ordinary.

All of which reflects the idea that good composition and design is a series of relationships, most of which might never register fully with the viewer, but will have undeniable impact on how a piece is read. Herrmann explains, “I believe that the best designs appear to have their components distributed randomly throughout the page; but one finds that every element is aligned to another found in the piece.”

"Mellwood" by Violet Herrmann, 17x11in, photograph (2016)

"Mellwood" by Violet Herrmann, 17x11in, photograph (2016)

“My work describes me as an artist as well as a person. As a stubborn perfectionist, my designs reflect my personality by carefully placing components in relation to one another while maintaining an edginess that makes them unique. I believe that a design must ultimately speak for itself to be considered truly successful. If I have done a good job on my work, my personality should be able to shine through and reflect me as a designer.”

Herrmann has worked as a Graphic Design Intern for Simon Signs in Louisville Kentucky and her work has been displayed in the Kentucky College of Art and Design (KyCAD) Gala in the 849 Gallery, Louisville Kentucky. While at KyCAD she was awarded the Presidential Scholarship.

Hometown: Charlestown, Indiana
Age: 21
Education: BFA candidate, General Fine Arts, Kentucky College of Art + Design at Spalding University, Louisville Kentucky

"Louisville Door Series" (1 of 12) by Violet Herrmann, 10x10in, photograph (2014)

"Louisville Door Series" (1 of 12) by Violet Herrmann, 10x10in, photograph (2014)

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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