By DIANE HEILENMAN © The Courier-Journal
Lots of Kentuckians -- and would-be Kentuckians -- take their bourbon seriously, so we should not be surprised to find that an exhibition of contemporary bourbon bottles is returning again. The current show presents designs that range from -- there is no better word -- sober-sided jugs to witty decanters.
It is wit that marks this year's exhibition.
"Madame Bourbon" and her consort, "Monsieur Bourbon," by Barbara Humpage of Fairview Park, Ohio, would make a splendid pair on any sideboard or shelf.
The first "Bourbon Bottles" exhibition in 1997 was inspired by Louisville ceramist Wayne Ferguson's trip to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown. Ferguson's works on view are satires of whiskey legends, marketing excess and his own inimitable narrative, figural style.
Gallery curator Brion Clinkingbeard said the gallery would like to turn the affair, now expanded to include regional artists, into an international showcase for artist-made bottles for any kind of distilled spirits.
The hip flask is updated by Judy Miner of Prospect with derrières sketched in the clay. "Moonshine" is a personified woman in a figural bottle by Dan Selter of Lexington. Louisville potter Sarah Frederick constructs a herd of amusing "Bourbon Pigs" to hold whiskey, their tails replaced by corks.
This is not to say examples of abstract bottle design are lacking. Notable among these is the double-bodied geometric abstraction in mustard-colored glaze by Joseph Kress of Minneapolis and the study in simplicity and utility, bottles capped with usable cups as the top by Canadian Thomas Rohr of Winnepeg.
The main exhibition at the Kentucky Art and Craft Gallery is a bit less entertaining, although "Explorations in Metal" makes a solid overview of Kentucky metal workers, containing furniture, jewelry, wall works and sculpture. It does not round up the new and novel so much as it rounds out a look at the area's main metal players, from Louisville art blacksmith Craig Kaviar to Lexington's well-polished found-object metal welder Gary Bibbs.
The metal show continues through Sept. 4. The bourbon bottles are on display through Aug. 28. The gallery at 609 W. Main St., Louisville, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.