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First Friday Artist Feature: Michael Helsley at the Gallery 924

Arts Council of Indianapolis 924 Gallery

The Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Gallery 924

#Indianapolis –  Gray clouds loom over the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Gallery 924 on a mid-afternoon in November. The streets are deserted, the rain is steadily beating the pavement, and the wind is relentless.

But inside the gallery stands Michael Helsley, an Indianapolis artist putting together the finishing touches on his installation. 

Michael Helsley 924 Gallery Arts Council of Indianapolis

Michael Helsley Standing next to his sculpture which took some inspiration from “The Thinker”

Helsley stands in the middle of the warmly lit gallery, pencil behind his ear, peppered hair, glasses, barely visible stubble inhabiting his face, meeting with various people to nail down the final details before the opening.

His gallery, “Do you remember, the Fish? No, I remember the ice cream,” a Dr. Seuss inspired name, opens the next day as a part of the IDADA First Friday Art Tour.

It’s a gallery that contrasts the dreary Thursday with it’s whimsical, graphic novel-esque sculptures which take the form of fish, bears and astronauts.

“I was really inspired by the big windows that [the Gallery 924] offered,” Helsley said. “I wanted to create a fish bowl effect using the windows. From the outside of the gallery if someone was passing by they would look in and see all these pieces that might be in a fish bowl and hopefully be intrigued enough to come in.”

“There’s no clear path for the installation, it’s a non-linear experience, … but I wanted to block the typical paths people would take at the gallery,” Helsley said. “When people come into the gallery they naturally gravitate to the bar first, so I blocked off that path to help the experience I wanted to create.”

The experience Helsley has created is a fluid one which adheres to the two themes of the exhibit: Memories and Grief. 

The two subjects which are evoked throughout the installation.

Each person travels through memories and grief differently, the installation adheres to this concept with its non-linear experience allowing each person to have a unique experience.

Whether it be a different shadow placed on a piece depending on the time of day or a suspended sculpture facing a different way, walking into Helsly’s installation is like walking into a living exhibit which changes over time.

A sculptor, Helsley brings his fascination with billboards and the colors which inhabit their advertising to his pieces. 

Michael Helsley 924 Gallery Arts Council of Indianapolis

Michael Helsley in his “Do you remember, the Fish? No, I remember the ice cream” installation

Sculptures like  sausage muffin inside a thought bubble, an astronaut with Marathon gas station advertising encompassing its body, or ice cream illustrate Helsley’s use of recycled vinyl billboards. Throughout the gallery these pieces evoke a lighthearted aesthetic on the surface but represent deeper meanings that correlate with the installation’s themes.

An artist since his undergraduate days, the 56 year old artist went through a period of time when he didn’t feel like he had anything to say. 

Years later, after his wife had died, he felt like he had something to say, he could create pieces which had things to say and work through his struggles through his art. 

Michael Helsley 924 Gallery Arts Council of Indianapolis

“Marathon Man” displayed in the Gallery 924

“Do you remember, the Fish? No, I remember the ice cream,” tackles both how Helsley views memories and grief.   

Helsley’s installation can be viewed at the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Gallery 924 Nov. 7-28. 

Tonight is the opening reception for Helsley’s installation which is a part of the IDADA First Friday Art Tour, the reception takes place from 6-9 p.m.

To see more of Helsley’s work check out his website: angwywabbit.com.

For more information about the Arts Council of Indianapolis, an organization which aspires to support local artist and arts organizations through meaningful engagement, head to their website here

For more pictures of Helsley’s “Do you remember, the Fish? No, I remember the ice cream” installation scroll further down the article.

Michael Helsley 924 Gallery Arts Council of Indianapolis

Michael Helsley 924 Gallery Arts Council of Indianapolis

Michael Helsley 924 Gallery Arts Council of Indianapolis