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New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, University of Southern Indiana is proud to present Climb In and Back Out Again featuring sculpture, installation, and drawings by Indiana artist Melanie Cooper Pennington. Climb In and Back Out Again will be on view from January 21 through February 25, 2023, opening with a public reception on Saturday, January 21 from 4 – 6 pm CT. An artist’s talk will be held at at the beginning of the reception. New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art’s open hours are Tuesday – Saturdays, 10 am – 5 pm CT.

In Climb In and Back Out Again, Melanie Cooper Pennington utilizes materials, methods, and symbols to examine gendered issues around power, grief, and desire. In her works, Pennington melds human and anthropomorphic bodies into abstract forms that evoke physical sensations such as intimidation, awkwardness, and ecstasy. Embracing the tension between what is familiar and what is unknown, Pennington blazes a trail for deep communion with oneself and others.

Having descended from Arizona cowboys, Melanie Cooper Pennington formally references art histories rooted in masculine symbols and practices such as Western American Art, mid-century modernist sculpture, and traditional craftsman-like techniques. Yet she confronts these tropes and utilizes “the feminine”—an adjective that has historically been used to denigrate the work of women artists—in compositions such as an imposing soft sculpture taking up space and balancing precariously on stilts; a Remington-esque stampede of abstracted hoofed figures, genitals exposed, tumbling down a mountainside; and loose line drawings of unsteady leg-shapes seeking to find their footing. As an exploration of the body and its psychological states, Pennington asserts traits that have historically been considered “weak”—fragility, sexuality, desire—as elemental to human fulfillment.

*Climb In and Back Out Again contains sexual content and may be sensitive for some audiences. Please use discretion when attending.

Melanie Cooper Pennington is an interdisciplinary artist living in Bloomington, Indiana. Pennington recently presented the solo exhibition Humanimals in Precarious Positions at Artlink Contemporary (Fort Wayne, IN) and was featured in group shows at sUgAr Gallery at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR), The In Art Gallery (Fayetteville, AR), Indiana University East (Richmond, IN), ACRE Projects (Chicago, IL), and Manifest Gallery (Cincinnati, OH). She has presented public art projects at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), Chicago Park District (Chicago, IL), and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis, IN). She has participated in residencies at the Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, VT), ACRE Residency (Steuben, WI), Haystack Mountain School of Craft (Deer Island, ME), and Anderson Ranch Arts Center (Snowmass Village, CO). Pennington teaches as a Lecturer in Sculpture at Indiana University Bloomington.

New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art at University of Southern Indiana promotes discourse about and access to contemporary art in the southern Indiana region. New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art is a proud outreach partner of the University of Southern Indiana.

Photo Credits: Melanie Cooper Pennington Asleep in the Boat, 2019. Mixed Media 4.5' x 5' x 9'

This exhibition is made possible in part by the Efroymson Family Fund, Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, and the Indiana Arts Commission, which receives support from the State of Indiana and the National Endowment for the Arts.