Indianapolis is preparing for what could be its biggest weekend in the art world.
As Hoosiers and more swarm the city to get a taste of BUTTER, the Recorder sat down with a few of the exhibiting artists to get an idea of what to expect from the third iteration of the Midwest’s only Black Fine Art Fair.
“Artists, you are the reason for it all,” Mali Bacon, creative director and curator for BUTTER said during the artists reception on Aug. 30. “You are why you made this. You are who we care about the most. You are for whom we drink. You are the one who gives us inspiration. You are the ones changing cities and narrating the stories of humanity.”
Created by Mali and Alan Bacon, of GANGGANG, BUTTER aims to reshape the way equity fits into the art world by highlighting local, national and international Black visual artists. The fair has drawn increasingly larger crowds each year since 2021 through its unique format — 100% of sales go right into the artists’ pockets.
Gary Gee, a member of the Eighteen Art Collective and returning exhibiting artist in BUTTER, said BUTTER has a unique vibe that cannot be found anywhere else in the city — from viewing the art, meeting artists and listening to live performances and DJs, he said BUTTER creates an experience like no other.
Gee has several ceramic pieces at BUTTER, the works reflect his interest in urban architecture, art history and travel.
“Ceramics are fragile, but sometimes the subject matter might still be a little rugged,” he said. “It’s fine art, but I still kind of keep a little hood or hip-hop element to it.”
For Black artists — both local and beyond — BUTTER offers an opportunity to “cultivate creativity” in Indianapolis by introducing artists and their art to people who otherwise might not see it, Gee said.
Such is true of D.C.-based Afro-Latina artist Amber Robles-Gordon, whose extravagant patchwork quilt art blends both spiritual and political elements of art together. Robles-Gordon is new to BUTTER this year — stepping foot in Indianapolis for the first time to showcase her work inspired by her Puerto Rican heritage.
Robles-Gordon said she hopes coming to BUTTER will help people recontextualize and formalize what GANGGANG is working to do in Indianapolis, including the importance of artists of color and the monumental things Black artists have to say about how they are being treated throughout society.
“We need to go positive towards each other because that’s the only way that we’re going to make real change,” Robles-Gordon said. “We have to deconstruct the lens of white supremacy, the lens of anti-Blackness, and that starts with us looking at each other and treating each other differently.”
Ayanna Tibbs is an emerging Indy-based contemporary artist who said being an exhibiting artist at BUTTER is a “scary and sobering experience” because BUTTER is not only showing how Black artists and art are equitable but proving to Indiana that Black art is valid. When she is not “geeking out” over meeting the other exhibiting artists of BUTTER, Tibbs is struck with the realization of what it means for her work to hang on these walls.
“You dream of things, like, I’ve been thinking of this piece over here since the pandemic,” Tibbs said. “I was in my house thinking about it, and now it’s outside my house; outside my neighborhood; in this space. It’s unreal.”
Tibbs’ work — entitled “Bright Ideas” — is inspired by the period during the pandemic when there was a heavier emphasis on hustle culture than there was on addressing the trauma and aims to encourage folks to “hang on.”
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said. “We still need to keep saying things like ‘hang on’ to each other, even if it’s by a thread.”
BUTTER takes place at The Stutz, 1060 N. Capitol Ave., Aug. 31-Sept. 3. Tickets range from $20-$175 and are available to purchase at butterartfair.com. But to everyone who plans to attend BUTTER, Gee advises you to “Put on your comfortable shoes, be yourself and wear your flyest sh*t.”
Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.