What isn’t a drawing? In the beginning of 2012, I taught a class at RIT on Tuesday nights called Experimental Drawing. On the first night, I started the course by asking this question and proceeded to take the students on a magical journey (a.k.a. “boring slideshow”) that chronicled drawing since the dawn of time according to Bradley Butler. It was of course a truncated version of the history of drawing. Within the slideshow there were typical drawings made with pencils and there were paintings and there were sculptures and other things that were more experimental (hence the name of the course). It was a way to show the students that classifications don’t always work in art. Just as in other real life examples, the definitions of things that seem so certain may end up being in more of a fluid state.
Our current exhibition, The Upstate New York Drawing Invitational is a great example of a portion of that slideshow. It has drawings, paintings, collages, sculptures but all of them fit into this exhibition as drawings.
The large-scale works by Faithanne Carapella bounce back and forth between drawing and collage as she often uses torn paper, photographs, and found objects among her marks of charcoal and ink. Her process involves making a drawing, tearing it apart and finding a way to make it whole again, often with the other materials filling in the cracks. When I was in her studio, I found myself holding torn sections up to see the full image as they hung off the wall.
Kathy Farrell also uses collage. Her mixed media work tends to walk the line between drawing and painting but her approach to making artwork is always based in drawing. Her use of line, whether made with a marker, paintbrush, or scraggly bits of press type is lyrical and improvisational and will often interact with lines or printed words found on the torn pieces of maps or other printed ephemera in the composition.
In thinking about the use of line, no one’s work in the show best exemplifies the simple beauty of a line more than Colleen Buzzard’s Untitled graphite and wire drawing (Colleen is pictured above drawing on the gallery wall). This simplicity is deceiving, however, because this piece is multilayered. The drawn portion, extending from the floor to the top of the wire, is imagined as being the same line that punches out through the wall into 3 dimensional space. This floating line of wire also makes a “drawing” all on its own, casting several shadows onto the wall, some of which are even more predominate than her own drawn pencil line.
Bill Stephens gives us another way to reimagine space as well with his intimate pen and ink drawings, which depict cubist inspired architecture and organic human/nature hybrids. Many of the drawings in his cube house series have more than one orientation, which leaves you wondering which way is up.
Mandi Antonucci’s colored pencil drawings are a consistent surprise for gallery visitors who assume they are painted in gouache or acrylic. Her ability to model the human form in this way with colored pencil is impressive. Beyond the dexterity with the medium, the composition and point of view she offers us is even more engaging. Faces interrupted by geometric patterns and flat color as well as homes being overtaken by glowing crystal formations are the basis of these surreal drawings on wood panel and paper.
Two distinct bodies of work by Buffalo artist, Tricia Butski are also included in the exhibition. Her Lapse series includes small overlapping linear outlines of faces with ink on paper, making us see many sides of a person at the same time. While the heavier, darker charcoal drawings in her Semblance series give us a single view but through veils of distortion and abstraction. Both avenues offer us a way to consider the ideas of memory and identity.
Overall, the goal for this exhibition is to show that drawing is a versatile medium. It can be done with a single pencil and sheet of paper (or wall) or it can be complex and exist somewhere between a drawing and a painting/sculpture/etc. See The Upstate New York Drawing Invitational before it closes on Friday, September 28. You can also preview many of the pieces included in the exhibition on Artsy and view photos on Flickr.