Main Street will come to life today as local gallery owners host the First Friday Art Walk in conjunction with Autumn on Main, organized by the newly-named nonprofit Downtown Vincennes Association.

Art Space Vincennes LLC, 521 Main St., will open this month a new exhibit by a Syrian-born artist, Soulaf Abas. Born and raised in Damascus, she later moved to the states where she earned advanced degrees in art from Indiana State University.

Gallery owner and former Vincennes University art professor Andy Jendrzejewski called the exhibit the result of a “real human story.”

“It's the story of loss, loss of a homeland,” he said, his eyes drifting from one haunting painting to the next. “She can't go back. She can't send aid to people she still knows there.

“It's just one of those very sobering kinds of things.”

Abas returned to Syria to visit her family in 2012, a year after the Arab Spring revolution began. What she found, via her artist statement, was that a former playground “had been reduced to a pile of rubble with bloodstains everywhere.”

“The visit completely changed my perspective and my sense of what home means,” she said. “I started creating images in painting and printmaking that depicted what I experienced.

“My ‘Syria’ work honors those who have lost everything in war — (people) who still give though everything was taken away from them, and to those who love, no matter what.”

The paintings depict everything from the blood-stained faces of Syrian people to landscapes and buildings torn apart by war, all with a hint of an abstract style.

“Her art is beautiful in one way yet horrible in another,” Jendrzejewski said. “And I think this is good for Americans to see, especially given the (current climate) surrounding immigration.”

Abas will be present at the exhibit's opening, set for 5-8 p.m., to speak to the public about her work.

Also as part of the First Friday Art Walk, members of the Northwest Territory Art Guild, 316 Main St., will host a show by local artist Shirley Wilkes. Visitors to the gallery will get to peruse an exhibit of her hand-painted ceramics.

Fall-themed artwork and craft items from various guild artists, too, will be on display and for sale.

And the Open Gallery, 329 Main St., owned by retired VU English instructors Rebecca and Michael Mullen, will host, once again, an exhibit of work from fellow university math professor and painter Guillaume Jaubert.

His most recent work “explores the kind of profound changes that come in midlife,” according to a press release sent out by gallery owners. Jaubert continues to use vibrant colors and thick 3D impasto effects with acrylic paint, although, as the title suggests, he's sharing his experiences now in taking on a “new calling” in “his life's work.”

Jaubert, too, was inspired by Peyton Whittington, who was diagnosed with, and later died from, an aggressive form of childhood cancerous tumor that forms in the brain stem.

Jaubert will donate 40% from the sales of any paintings from this exhibition to the Indiana chapter of Cure Starts Now.

And several blocks of Main Street will be closed to traffic as the Downtown Vincennes Association, formerly INVin, once again hosts Autumn on Main.

Main Street will be lined with classic cars from the Hoosiers Cruisers as well as a variety of food vendors, a beer and wine tasting tent, live music from local acts Jared and Luke and Just 1 More, kids activities, pumpkin painting and an adult canvas painting class, to name a few.

Downtown restaurants, including The Cafe Moonlight, Procopio's Pizza and Pasta, Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom, Pub 'N' Grub, Graze 1885, Jenna's Bakehouse and Old Thyme Diner — as well as a few Main Street shops — will also have extended hours.

The Vincennes city firefighters, too, will be on hand handing out free smoke detectors.

The Art Walk will be from 5-8 p.m. with Autumn on Main from 6-10 p.m.

ARTIST TALK, RECEPTION, AT SHIRCLIFF POSTPONED

An artist talk and reception for Katharine Kuharic originally scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon today at Vincennes University’s Shircliff Gallery of Art has been postponed due to an illness.

A new date is forthcoming.

An exhibition of Kuharic’s work runs through Sept. 20 at the gallery, 130 E. Harrison St. The gallery will be open for the First Friday Downtown Art Walk from 5-7 p.m.

Her work is a twisted synthesis of old-fashion American kitsch and contemporary concerns of gender, race, celebrity, and the status quo. Her images present simultaneously nostalgia and cynicism; a reanimation, equipped with disembodied limbs and organs, of what it means to be part of American culture. Her use of traditional patriotic symbols such as the American flag, cowboy hats and cornfields coupled with the carnival of unusual figures of tattooed nudes, giddy children and bizarre conglomerations of viscera distinguishes her works from other artists trying to capture America on canvas, if only by the sheer innovation of what they compound. Overall, Kuharic’s work marches a pack of strange curios across a jingoist stage, marrying effortlessly impressions of conventional and counter-culture.

The Shircliff Gallery of Art is located in Room A103 of the Shircliff Humanities Center. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, contact Professor Arthur Fields at 812-888-4316 or via email at artgallery@vinu.edu.

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