Southern Indiana artist packs journal,
sketchpad and camera on her bicycle as she travels the Ohio River, documenting her trip with a series of paintings.
By Roger McBain / Courier & Press staff writer / 464-7520 or email@example.com
TROY, Ind. - Kit Miracle is on her bike looking for Christ, but she's ready for
"You've got to be open to surprises," says the pedaling painter from
Miracle glances into the rear-view mirror sticking out from her bright-yellow bicycle
helmet, checking for approaching traffic as she pedals her 24-speed Trek hybrid bike southeast along Indiana 66 toward Tell
City, Ind. Her gaze moves from the river on her right to the road to the bluffs on her left as she scans the landscape
for Christ of the Ohio, a tall, stylized statue that, according to her guidebook, "Indiana: A New Historical Guide,"
is supposed to be easily visible from the river.
If she can find the landmark, and if she can
find the right composition, she may photography, sketch or paint it there on the spot, adding to her growing collection of
scenes found and captured in weekly treks along the Ohio River.
The statue eludes her this day,
but when she reaches Tell City,she finds alternative subjects.
Miracle stops across the street
from an old market, pulls out a sketchpad and pencils in the building's lines, the lettering of its old signs and the faded
flag buntings gathered on its white street facade.
Later, she pulls behind the old City Hall and
decides to paint a watercolor of one of the carved stone lions sitting in the shade behind the building.
She removes her helmet and the bright-orange vest she's worn over her black cycling costume. She unloads her
rolling studio from the back of her bike.
Most of her equipment fits into a set of zippered black
nylon saddlebags draped onto a welded aluminum rack over her rear wheel. The bags, or panniers, bulge with maps, photocopied
guidebook pages, a camera, bundles of brushes and pencils, a sketchpad, sheets of watercolor paper, a Masonite panel to mount
the paper on and a plastic container to hold water for her paints and brushes.
Atop the bike rack,
a hoked bungee cord secures her folding aluminum easel, stuffed into a long denim bag that Miracle made from an old pair of
jeans. A bright flash of orange - a safety flag she used on a 2002 bicycle tour she made in France - hangs from the
end of the easel bag, which extends a foot or so off the back of her rack.
Miracle got the idea
for her Ohio Valley art odyssey after pedaling through France in 2002. She took the trip to jolt herself out of an emotional
and artistic lull she'd fallen into after her mother's death, she said.
It worked. She chronicled
the experience daily in a journal, on a sketchpad and with a camera as she pedaled for 11 days through Provence. After
returning home, she created and sold a series of paintings from scenes she'd photographed and sketched in France. "I
cam back just so inspired," she said. "I thought, 'Why can't I do this where I live?'"
has been at it since spring, when she set out to pedal the entire length of the Ohio River, documenting her trip with a series
of paintings she plans to show in special exhibitions and post on a Web site she created for this project. This year,
she received an Indiana Arts Commission grant to help fund the Crawford County paintings.
project brings together two of her favorite activities, which she once thought of as mutually exclusive: pedaling and painting.
At 52, Miracle says she's been biking for more than 40 years and making art for more than 20 years. She's done
a few other things along the road, as well. The Richmond, Ind., native got a degree in elementary education, taught
for a year in Appalachian Kentucky, went to grad school and spent 11 years at Ford Motor Co. in Michigan. She and her
husband saved enough money to leave Ford together 17 years ago, moving onto a 90-acre, 1883 farm, where they're raising two
Miracle got seriously into art in Michigan when she worked for Ford. She's
worked full time as an artist for 18 years, selling her works in galleries, at major art fairs and with commissions. She's
been visual arts coordinator of the Jasper (Ind.) Arts Center's rempp Gallery since 2000.
bicycle project has re-ignited her creativity as well as her ambition, she says. The Indiana Section of the journey
covers 303 miles along the Ohio. She hopes to complete the Hoosier stretch of river by the end of 2005. Her goal
is to have 100 paintings from the Indiana portion.
But that's just the start. Miracle's
ultimte goal is to ride, sketch and paint the river's entire 981 miles, from Pittsburgh, where the river starts, to Cairo,
Ill., where it joins the Mississippi.
"Too ambitious?" she asks?
Miracle answers her own question. "I think everybody needs to do something big."