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September 5, 2013

‘Between Heaven and Earth’: Artist takes a dramatic look at the horizon in Swope exhibit

TERRE HAUTE — The fall exhibition season at the Swope Art Museum begins with “Between Heaven and Earth,” an introspective and dramatic look at the endless horizon line of the west central Indiana plains by artist Jonathan Soard, a native of Dana.

“Between Heaven and Earth: Inspirations” runs Friday to Oct. 19 in the Swope Education Gallery and features studies for larger works in “Between Heaven and Earth: Installation,” which runs Oct. 4 to Jan. 4 in the museum’s Gallery Three. This two-part exhibition is made possible by the HSC Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Soard’s dusky prairie views reflect his musings on religion, life and mortality. Using landscape as metaphor in “Between Heaven and Earth,” Soard revisits the land where he grew up, focusing on the Indiana prairie as it is punctuated by plumes of steam from the towering power plants of Vermillion County. This landscape, coupled with a religious upbringing, had a profound influence on Soard’s outlook as a young man.

“On the prairie, my world was cleanly divided between heaven and earth. As far as my eye could see, there was a horizon line into infinity — no matter where I looked. I usually felt trapped on the wrong side of that line. The polar nature of irreconcilable opposites seemed to spill over into everything I knew,” Soard said. In Soard’s mind, the power plants’ exhaust stacks became a bridge. He uses these chimneys as a personal fulcrum “to pry the lid off of a perpetual struggle, reconciling opposites.” Recently, return trips to care for his aging parents have inspired Soard to reconsider this landscape and its symbolism. The paintings and drawings in “Between Heaven and Earth” are the result of this soul-searching exercise with paint. The divided world that he experienced as a child has been dissected, in these paintings, to reveal a dark land churning with energy balanced by a ghostly, vaporous sky.

Soard notes that the Swope Art Museum was the first museum in his life. After attending classes at Indiana State University in 1972, he received degrees from Indiana University and Columbia University. Soard lives Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Between Heaven and Earth: Inspirations” opens from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday during the museum’s free “First Friday: On the Horizon.” The evening features presentations at 6:30 and 7:30. At 6:30, Swope Executive Director Marianne Richter will give a gallery talk, “Horizons in the Swope’s Collection,” and at 7:30, attendees will watch a video presentation from Jonathan Soard about the paintings in “Between Heaven and Earth.”

Open and free to the public since 1942, the Swope Art Museum houses one of the Midwest’s premier collections of American painting, sculpture and works on paper. Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Charles Burchfield, George Bellows, George Luks, John Sloan, Mary Fairchild MacMonnies, Harriet Frishmuth, Frederick MacMonnies, Anna Hyatt Huntington and Robert Rauschenberg are all represented in the Swope’s collection, which spans the early 19th century to the present.

The Swope is at 25 S. Seventh St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. The museum is closed on Sundays, Mondays and national holidays. Admission is free. For more information, call 812-238-1676 or visit www.swope.org.

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