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Interest rises locally in inflatable art

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''SunRay'' is among artist Doreen McCarthy's inflatable pieces now on display at IU Center for Art and Design.
''SunRay'' is among artist Doreen McCarthy's inflatable pieces now on display at IU Center for Art and Design. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Right upfront, New York City artist Doreen McCarthy acknowledges one danger sometimes lurks with her work.

Leaks — and hardly the Watergate variety.

She means the literal kind, as in loss of air.

“Sure,” she said. “That’s why I keep a repair kit.”

‘Air Clad’ exhibit

WHEN: Through March 22.

WHERE: Indiana University Center for Art and Design, Third and Jackson streets.


Fortunately, that’s only an occasional obstacle, mostly with her outdoor inflatable art. It’s not so much an issue with the indoor variety, now on display at the Indiana University Center for Art and Design.

“Air Clad,” her exhibit of fanciful, curly inflatables of vinyl and other textures, runs until March 22 at the gallery, at Third and Jackson streets.

A few of her pieces also will be shown in Cummins’ corporate office building on Jackson Street. She sees inflatables as, well, more airy than pieces done in perhaps wood or steel.

“My work doesn’t have so much testosterone in it,” she said.

The artist has exhibited worldwide and is included in permanent collections ranging from hotels in Germany to corporations in New York City. But she claims one special fan base, one normally outside the circle of fine art.

“Children absolutely go crazy,” she said. “They’re very open to something like this and release themselves. They’re not closed off.”

The sculptor, who just closed a show in Shanghai, China, and who is working on one for Berlin, Germany, wants adult viewers to be equally open, even enough to step right up and touch her work.

“I want them to be engaged physically,” she said. “This is meant as a plethora of experience, and it’s just short of being architectural.”

Her inflatables and her designs in Plexiglas and more stand as symbols of individual creativity in an industry sometimes guided by trends.

“I don’t want to participate in what’s especially hot or what art schools say is or is not appropriate right now,” she said. “I don’t want to follow the fashion of the times.”

Yet, her artistic interpretation often rubs shoulders with her well-known peers. Her pieces are included in a current New York City show with artists such as Thomas Nozkowski and Jonathan Lasker.

IUCAD’s Kelly Wilson said the center is especially fortunate to have someone of McCarthy’s stature.

“She is delightful, and her work has great appeal,” Wilson said.

McCarthy said she “has way more ideas than I have money and time” to pursue with inflatables — a medium she embraced after painting plastics early in her career. That morphed into cardboard structures covered in shrink-wrap before the vinyl inflatables became part of her specialty.

The exhibit also will include some of McCarthy’s drawings of the inflatables in what she calls “the gestation period.”

“They evolve for me over a long period of time, sometimes a year to two years,” she said. “It’s not a matter of my just sending off a JPEG image and having those fabricated.”

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