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Turning 30 and Other Apocalyptic Events 

For many, turning 30 is a large pill to swallow. Local artist Kyle Herrington, who has two shows coming up this month, is no exception. But unlike most 30 year-olds, he is not coping by buying an engagement ring or a plane ticket to the other side of the globe. He is taking a brush to the beast at hand for most in their late 20's: What comes next? When will this feeling of hesitance and 'fake it until you make it' go away?

click to enlarge EMILY TAYLOR
  • Emily Taylor

"I was realizing as I was getting ready to turn 30- and a lot of my friends are as well- people were freaking out about it," says Herrington. This was around the time when many of us were hearing rumors of the 2012 Mayan-predicted end of the world. "I began seeing a lot of parallels to turning 30 and people freaking out about the apocalypse. So I started making work that was mirroring catastrophic situations."

Looking around Herrington's studio, there are 'meteors' laying around and on the wall is a large canvas featuring a house with a beam of light around it and a word bubble saying "NOOOOOOOOOO!" These may not immediately scream 'this is how I deal with growing up,' but Herrington continues to explain, starting with the apprehension that arises from his recent house purchase.

"That was nerve racking for me," says Herrington laughing. "I tend to put a lot of those anxieties into art forms. [For example] I am worried about my plumbing going bad. So what is the worse thing that can happen? My house could get beamed up by aliens." And suddenly the art makes sense.  

"[The current work] is a really good narrative to describe what myself and all of my peers are going through," says Herrington.

The show is called Backyard Phenomena, opening on Friday at the Harrison Center for the Arts, and is littered with suburban and apocalyptic imagery, yielding visualization to shed light on being in your twenties and thirties, especially in the Midwest. A serious subject taken with a not-so serious approach.

click to enlarge EMILY TAYLOR
  • Emily Taylor

 "If doesn't make me laugh then I don't like it," says Herrington, who cannot even imagine taking on life without a light-hearted ease. "I think I am one of the only artists who hopes that people will laugh at my work," says Herrington. "Humor is a very important entry point into bigger issues."

Herrington's other show this month, Catcalls, at the Indianapolis Art Center will go head-to-head with insecurities using humor. Many of the pieces are text based, reading things like "You ain't no Beyoncé" to bring to light how overly serious we can take ourselves. Herrington refers to them as his motivational posters.

click to enlarge EMILY TAYLOR
  • Emily Taylor

"Some of these cultural phrases that go out into the universe are very interesting to me," says Herrington. "So I started thinking about language."

The dialect of this language holds a sexual undertone to some of the pieces. During the time that Herrington will be showing at the Arts Center, the Kinsey Institute will be showing as well. Just the introduction he needed to feel more confident in pieces that some may consider vulgar, for lack of a better term.

"It is a good compliment to the other show," says Herrington. "The [Harrison] show is about feeling very catastrophic and not really knowing where you are going. This show is the voice in the back of your head telling you really vile things about yourself."

"It is sort of silly to me. [These pieces] have allowed me to step back and look at these things that people say and realize that you can't take that stuff seriously. Both shows seem to be demonstrating this cacophonous chorus of pop culture where everyone thinks they are being so unique."

The space themes suddenly were making sense. Our concerns and worries are small compared to vastness of everything around us. In the grand scheme, worrying about what flooring to buy or what business card to have is rather trivial when a falling meteor could theoretically destroy it all. In short, it is only by first recognizing that we are insignificant that we can begin to find meaning.

click to enlarge EMILY TAYLOR
  • Emily Taylor

"People are calling out trying to get some guidance from space, a void," says Herrington. "I guess my work is trying to bring something back to them. Even if it is not what they want to hear."

He smiled and continued to joke about the irony of sending your thoughts out into the universe when pop culture--supposedly a snap shot of our age--holds very few elements of substance.

"Space for me is a symbol of growing up because it is unknown and vast," says Herrington. "That is what life is, we don't know what is going to happen. I think it is a really good symbol for feeling lost, overwhelmed or insignificant."

Herrington has been gaining momentum as an artist since 2008 and has been supported with an emerging artist grant from the Arts Council. Herrington is unquestionably one of Indianapolis' rising artists to watch and proof of good things to come. After all, few of us turning 30 can boast of making a professional career in Indiana solely out of our art.

Growing up in Indiana has its stigmas. Corn fed, Hoosier, Sunday hospitality are some of the better ones. But staying brings a whole new line up of questions from out of state friends and family. Why would you stay there? How can you pursue a career as an artist somewhere when you know more opportunities are just a few hours away? One of the most daunting questions for young professionals in Indianapolis is whether to fall prey to the idea that no one of culture can thrive in the fiscally sound but perhaps progressively slow Midwest. After all, if you want to work in the arts, New York City is the place to be right?


Herrington is taking a stand for art and the untapped cultural goldmine that lies within the belt of 465.

"If you would have asked me when I was 24, where I would be, I would not have said Indianapolis," says Herrington. "The longer I have stayed here, the more I have fallen in love with the city." Herrington, a national traveler, has found his way home and is happy to call it so.

"There is a stigma to living in Indiana and being a professional artist," says Herrington. "Something that really bothers me is what I like to call 'greener pasture syndrome.' It is when a lot of young people move to other big cities. It takes talented, important people to stay here. A lot of people in the city are challenging that idea that [Indianapolis] is a conservative, tame city as far the arts." Just chatting with him makes you proud to be living in the Heartland.

Herrington's shows are a break from the ritualistic worry of everything-to-come and what-could-happen. His ironic images and humor make you take a step back and see facing life from an aerial perspective. You honestly cannot help but smile. He is right; having your house beamed up by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen. The small things start to seem, well, small. Growing up does not have to be a fearless transition, but we do need to know: maybe we don't have to be quite so serious about it.

click to enlarge EMILY TAYLOR
  • Emily Taylor
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About The Author

Emily Taylor  /  IUPUI

Emily Taylor / IUPUI

Emily Taylor is currently in her last year at IUPUI where she is studying Journalism, Philosophy and Political Science. She is a freelance writer in the Indianapolis metro area where she lives surrounded by her books, far too much coffee and a mangy mutt named Blissful.

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