Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lili Maya: Drawing with Edges

Artist Lili Maya writes about her series of three works, i hold this-in my hand, in collaboration with Davy Lauterbach. More can be seen on Maya's work at

these days i am working with fragments, with the edges of things and what they suggest about systems (psychological or physical / natural or constructed) -edges bring the work closer to gaps where binaries collapse/blur/integrate/oscillate -where ambiguity may reveal truth.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Leah Cooper: Drawing in Space

Leah Cooper writes about drawing in real space. More can be seen about her work at

As we move through the physical world we are in an unremitting state of receiving observable facts via the five senses. Yet do these objective facts, recorded by the brain, lead directly to knowledge of our surroundings? Or is knowledge of the physical world a construct of human experience and perception? If all facts are recorded but much of what we ‘see’ goes unnoticed, does this mean we are extremely efficient editing machines? My work asks the question, is what we ‘see’ more a result of how we have edited reality? And if so, how does additional or alternative information alter our perception or knowledge of the world?

I am fascinated by the extraordinary world that exists within the smallest detail of the ordinary. In ­The Poetics of Space Gaston Bachelard submits that “The man with the magnifying glass-quite simply- bars the everyday world. He is a fresh eye before a new object”. The discovery and subsequent exploration of inherent, often unnoticed properties of the everyday is the source of my investigation.

My work employs drawing as a strategy to investigate the influence of visual information on a viewer’s subjective perception of object and place. I work outside the traditional notion of drawing as a 2-dimensional representation of the 3-dimensional world; using drawing as a means to iterate rather than illustrate a variable framework of information. If drawing is separated from its assumed role of descriptor, illustration is no longer synonymous with drawing, but rather illustration is just one tactic to be employed to make ideas visible. Subscribing to the notion that visual art is a concrete demonstration of idea; drawing in this context becomes a means towards that end. Drawing is a strategy, whose tactics could include illustration, nomination, or notation and whose materials could extend beyond standard mark makers and paper.

In site-responsive drawings, I respond to a space as-is, drawing throughout the space in order to bring attention to the ordinary and the overlooked. Materials which can include, but are not limited to: tape, graphite, string, objects, t-squares, and rulers are brought onto a site much the same way a carpenter brings tools to a site. Once on site these outside materials become no more or less important than the existing elements of the space; walls, ceiling, fixtures, shadows, and cracks are all employed as materials in site-responsive drawings. Drawings are of the space and the space simultaneously. These iterations, both of object and place, are not static, fixed end-products; possible combinations are vast. Elements iterated begin to show the undrawn as clearly as the drawn; offering a fresh eye to the undiscovered extraordinary world of the ordinary.
Images: Thesis show At Maryland Institute College of Art. Baltimore, MD.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Zachory Mory: Drawing as Process

Sketch Pages gets behind the markmaking of Zachory Mory.
About the Artist
Zach Mory was born in Madison, WI and attended undergraduate and graduate school at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. His focus has been on drawing as long as he can remember, beginning with copying his favorite comic book characters as a kid. He currently teaches a life drawing class at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, draws, and lives with his new wife in Wheaton, IL.

Can you talk about how you use systems to create your drawing.
When I am working on a piece, I try to keep all elements involved very, very simple. I usually use one media, such as pencil or markers, and I usually create very simple marks that I can repeat fairly easily. I also have an idea of where I will begin on a piece and where I will end, though this is certainly not the case for all of my drawings. Maybe a better way of describing this is that I have a vague feeling of what the drawing might be when it's finished. So the word system might be a bit deceiving. Basically, when I begin a drawing I have rules about what mark I am going to use, what media will be employed, and what general direction I want the drawing to develop in. Along the way though, I allow for new decisions and paths to be discovered and followed so that the drawing is not a dogmatic, preconceived sort of thing.

You write that your drawings are like a life. Can you talk about their evolution over time.
That last question is a great segue into this one. The system and rules that I create when I begin a drawing allow me to more easily access the work. It provides for me a tangible starting point. Once I feel comfortable with how a drawing functions and is progressing, everything changes. Unlike someone like Sol LeWitt, whose drawings were really predetermined, visual executions of certain rules and ideas, I want my drawings to take on other qualities that could only be discovered through the process of creation. I want them to grow and change just like a life. Sometimes I feel like a parent who has all of these aspirations for my kid only to see him or her follow their own muse. Cheap metaphors aside, my drawings have a tendency to follow a very different course than I originally intend for them. That is not to say I am a passive observer to this. On the contrary, say I'm working on a drawing for a few months and in the middle of the second month I notice something in the composition that I never anticipated and it's really visually exciting to me. I'll let that change become a part of the work and the drawing then becomes something completely different.

Can you reflect more on the significance of marks in your work.
The marks I use usually don't have that much significance initially, but as I work with a mark more and more it does begin to stand for something larger than its initial intent. Growing up I spent a lot of time doodling in my notebook, as a lot of kids do. I never considered it high art or even good art. They were just little drawings and doodles. I don't think that this mentality has ever really left me. I still doodle and remember old marks I used to make. The difference now is that when I make a small mark or doodle I can sense the possibility of what it could be if I pushed it to an obsessive degree. For instance, I've been using a small cube shape in some of my recent work. This cube is basically the same cube I remember drawing in grade school when I learned how to draw things in a box. Except now when I use that shape, it builds up into this complex sort of architectural structure that reminds me of Atari video games and Star Wars. There is nostalgia in the shape for me and a strange sort of beauty in it as well.
Other times the marks exist as a sort of documentation of time. In another series of mine, I make lines very close to one another and as I make more and more lines, it appears that the drawing is rippling like water. By using a simple nondescript line, I'm able to create a means of conveying time onto paper. You can literally see the drawing progress. All in all, the marks I use exist in a sort of micro/macro duality where they work with one another to create a larger whole.

What role does chance play in your drawings. How do they factor into the life of a drawing.
Chance plays a large role in my drawings. Since I strive for my drawings to develop on their own, I'm constantly on the watch for a mistakeor something out of the ordinary to occur that might enliven the piece. I believe that it is easy to get comfortable with a certain way of working. By this I mean knowing exactly how a drawing will begin and end. This seems very dangerous to me because repeating yourself can be very suffocating. And unfortunately with my tightly controlled means of working, it is something I have to be careful for. So I'm constantly watching out for the slight slip of the hand that makes an interesting mark to help my work along. I've found that by simply paying careful attention to my process and not discounting the unintended as unworthy, that my work constantly changes and evolves. I've often found to that mistakes or slipups in one drawing deserve their own exploration and I'll use that in my next drawing.

Despite using very small marks to build your drawings, your works are large scale. Can you talk about the tension between the micro and macro and their implications.
I really want my drawings to grow, so by working small on a larger scale, the drawing has sufficient time to develop many different paths. I revel in the discoveries and comfort that comes from working on one piece for a long, long time (sometimes upward of 800 hours for one drawing). I believe that there is an excitement in seeing a work that has been worked and labored to obsessive degrees. This tension between micro and macro invites contemplation I believe. It begs the viewer to stay with the drawing for a bit. I hate to admit this, but it is difficult nowadays to get people to really stay and look at a work of art for more than thirty seconds, so maybe somewhere deep down I'm trying to overcome that in some way, but this is getting a bit off-track. Going back to the question of micro and macro, I've noticed a trend in my work. I try to create individuals within larger, complexly organized wholes. The individuals in and of themselves are relatively uninteresting, yet within the whole they become something beyond themselves. Within that whole they become important and even crucial. Beyond that, they become a testament to the time spent in creating the larger picture. You can literally see the time spent in the creation of the drawing. By working on a large scale with tiny marks, that dichotomy becomes very apparent.

What role does patience play as you draw?

Patience is just as important as the pencil or the paper in my work. People seem to talk about patience slightly in the negative or as something to strive for that is difficult to achieve. You have to have patience to endure bad things or you have to show patience with difficult people. I like to think about patience as simply a means to a desired end. You can only get from A to B by actually doing the work, so it is merely a given that if I want to fill a page with 10,000 tiny marks that I'll need to show some patience. So it just is, I guess. There are definitely times when I want to hang up a drawing because I'm sick of making a certain mark or because my hand really hurts. The thought of a drawing in its finished state is quite an inspiration for me. It's what keeps me going actually. Well, not completely. Beer and coffee really help me in this regard too.

Can you talk about what you are working on now.
The big drawing that I've been working on is based on a grid. The grid has become important to me lately as a starting point. I've been filling in the different squares of the grid with different values creating a sort of fuzzy, pixilated, abstract composition. Each square is shaded in a different direction which creates a very strange sort of texture. It's an interesting subplot to the larger story. Beyond that I have about twenty other drawings ready to go in my head that only need time before I can get started on them. The beauty and curse of spending a long time on drawings is that I get a lot of ideas for new drawings, but can't start them for a few years later it seems. Oh well.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Andrea Loefke: Materials mix with Imagination

...........once upon a time there was a world: whimsical, humorous, credulous, synthetic, intimate, alien, glittering, soft, innocent, humming and obscure.......... Miniature foam houses, with red staring eyes accumulate on a glittering swathe of land, and communicate to us through a speech balloon on the wall. Fluffy clouds are made of blue styrofoam and are “gasp” raining red string and nearby radiant barrier foil moulds into a mountain range, fenced in with an enormous neon-orange safety mesh and traffic cones.
In my work, fictional narratives, dream worlds with anchors in the real, occupy a space between familiarity and fantasy. The environments are systems – overlapping worlds, groups and subgroups that are juxtaposed and united through scale, color palette, sound, form, space, and material. With the continuous pushing and pulling among the elements of this vocabulary.

I am creating hierarchies of events and narratives, which compete and communicate, while these multiform assemblages often contain a strong sense of quiet foreboding – the primary narrative holds a secondary within. The groupings of objects and their placement within a particular space result in playful, mysterious landscapes, enticing the viewer into visual narrative journeys.

I develop pathways for the viewer to travel. I link micro with macro worlds, encourage a sense of irritation, and implied movement of the objects, and ask the viewer to relate oneself to the objects and the situations they present. I am interested to create a place, with the capacity to crack open a well of associations and allow the viewer to feel, to dream, to fantasize, be irrational, subjective and intuitive. Specific or vague personal memories are awakened. The viewer is asked to weave his or her own story and sensations, to believe and to wonder.

There are no words for what I am going to do. Things come together – one stone goes on top of the next - it feels like building. Materials, found, everyday objects and colorful, decorative supplies overflow the categorized shelves and bins in my studio. In fabricating these fairy-like worlds, I knit, cut, glue, sew, find, draw, construct, select, saw, paint, decorate, carve, combine and mold. Very often I start with a material, a feeling, a color, or a vague image. Obscure, intangible thoughts and sensations collect within my head and my body and step-by-step the work evolves, develops while making. In my work I am going on a journey, seeking to surprise myself.

About the artist

Andrea Loefke was born in Heidelberg, Germany. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Leipzig, Germany. She has had numerous solo and group exhibitions, including (solo in 2008) “Folding an orange fish out of newspaper”, Downtown Gallery, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN; and “Folding an orange fish out of newspaper”, Kasia Kay Art Projects, Chicago, Illinois.
In 2007, Loefke had solo shows at the Michael Steinberg Gallery, New York, NY, and the Islip Art Museum, East Islip, New York. For more on her work and experience, check out her website at

Images from top to bottom:
1-2. The squirrels, hedgehogs, and rabbits are indeed harmless. November 2007
3-4. I hope you don't mind me talking about the best of both? February 2007.
5-6. Deerstand Series. March-Spetember 2007.
7-8. Folding an orange fish out of newspaper. April 2008.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jacque Liu: Drawing and Place

Treppanhaus. (Staircase.) Graphite. Berlin, Germany.

Vertical Siding No. 1. Mylar, Paper. 24" x 24" x1".

Zugang. (access). Graphite. Berlin, Germany.

What is a Carriage House. Wood, paint, plastic. Detroit, MI. 2007.

Jacque Liu writes about the relationship between drawing and place.

Travel has played an important role in my life. Much of my work - whether site-specific installation or graphite lines on paper or constructing lines with paper itself - stems from a desire to understand the notion of place. This seems rooted in the ever-evolving condition of having relocated around the globe (born in Taipei, Taiwan; raised in St. Louis; two years of adulthood in Germany; four years in Detroit; now living in Philadelphia, et al).

To understand place, my eye gravitates to a more microcosmic scale, often focusing on architectural elements, such as windows, doors, vents, staircases, chairs and abandoned houses in the vastness of a cityscape. My work, following my eye, becomes an abstraction of details within my encountered landscapes.

The process is personal. I recast the imprints of my history of places, but I also re-contextualize a history (whether real or imagined) of the object or site at hand. The idea is to begin with the mundane and to give some new form of engagement to these objects and sites.
More can be seen on his work at

Ismet Jonuzi: Thoughts on Drawing

My drawing sometimes are part of my sculpture and sometimes are as a sketch of my sculpture projects but not necessary.

I try to express my feeling through line and form.

My artistic way is drawing as a start point.

Through drawing I try to materialize my confrontation in the space where I live and move as person, as artist, as a human.

Drawing, sculpture, line, form, and shapes I try to create my vision and my idea.

About the Artist:
Ismet Jonuzi lives in KOSOVA west Balkan and tries to express the how "we" live and die in this part of Europe.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Travis LeRoy Southworth: Transitory Explorations

(Above: Images 1a. and 1b.)

Travis LeRoy Southworth writes about the transitory nature of his work and related processes.

Primarily using materials of corporal quality, my work explores the transitory nature of existence. Sculptures slowly disintegrate and require replenishing to “live” on. Videos capture the transformation of individuals into a mob collective. Drawings are collections of fragments and stray marks that are taken from, but show little reference to, the original photographs. Conceptually driven, my work has a minimalist bent to it as I tend to use a limited amount of materials. I want my work to exist in a new geography, one that redefines the distance between ritual and routine, original source and final work. My recent series of work, Detouched, is a collection of abstract portraits. They are created from the physical “flaws” that define us—wrinkles, moles, blemishes, and stray hairs—which are often removed from commercial portraits. The new work shows little reference to the original photographs and instead become minimalist abstract drawings that play with the definition of portraiture. When printed on digital photo paper, the tiny markings retain their photographic quality upon close inspection. This new configuration no longer implies any facial resemblance. Instead it suggests a nebula, revealing connections between our own physical markings and those of the cosmos.

(Above: Images 2, 3a. and 3b.)

About the Artist
Born 1979 in Honolulu, Hawaii; I currently live and work in Brooklyn, New York. I received a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007 and a BFA from the University of Arizona in 2004. My work has been exhibited at the Artist in the Marketplace 29, the Bronx Museum of the Arts; the Center for Curatorial Studies at the Hessel Museum of Art, NY; the Chicago Cultural Center and the SCOPE Art Fair in Miami. In 2008 my work was accepted into the Drawing Center Viewing Program and I was a participant of the TV show ‘ARTSTAR: Season Two’. Currently I'm working on a video based on the Detouched series through the BRIC Rotunda Gallery Video Program in Brooklyn, NY. In November of 2009 I will be presenting a window installation titled "Where I End and You Begin # 3" at the Mixed Greens Gallery in NYC.

Detouched catalog

Drawing Center portfolio

(Above: Images 4 and 5.)

Descriptions of Works

I Re-touch Myself is a self-portrait where my entire face is digitally erased except for those minor imperfections. Other preexisting images are found through online searches and radically changed through the erasure of data, such as BB Head Shot # 2. This sort of "re-sourcing" was used so I could work with a widespread selection of photographs. In these works all the marks are still in their original location in regards to the original portrait. Other works are combinations of multiple related portraits; Official Portraits is a composite of the four most recent U.S. presidents as of 2007. I took the remnants of each official presidential portrait and then combined them, creating an anti-facial map of the four men who have presided over the country for the last twenty six-years. Where I End and You Begin # 2 is part of a yearly series of all the portraits I “detouch”, this one contains twenty portraits. The markings remain in proportion to the original image but are placed in relation to the others according to the size of the digital file. Study for an Aggregate # 4 is a conglomeration of stray hairs from the portraits of the six artists (including myself) who participated on the TV show ARTSTAR Season Two. In Study for an Aggregate # 9, I start to organize marks by size and shape.

Image 6a.
Image Details
1a. I Re-touch Myself, archival pigment print, 60 x 40 in, 2007

1b. Detail of I Re-touch Myself

2. BB Head Shot # 2 (Homage to Mr. Exploding Head), archival pigment print, 14 x 11 in, 2007

3a. Official Portraits (Last Four Presidents), archival pigment print, 24 x 20 in, 2007

3b. Detail of Official Portraits (Last Four Presidents)

4. Where I End and You Begin # 2, archival pigment print, 40 x 30, 2008

5. Study for an Aggregate # 1, archival pigment print, 14 x 11, 2007
6a. Study for an Aggregate # 4, archival pigment print, 14 x 11, 2007
6b. Detail of Study for an Aggregate # 4

Image 6b.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ajean Lee Ryan: Drawing with Materials

Ajean Lee Ryan writes about the dialogue between materials and meanings. More can be seen on her work @

My work has always been about the every day epiphanies and challenges of my life. Much of it deals with misconceptions of femininity and the role of the domesticated woman. I use materials found in domestic handicrafts in my drawings simply because I am drawn to them. I love words such as "trims" and "notions"; "bits" and "baubles". There is rich material in the skeins of yarn that is able to be merged within the lines of a drawing pencil. The combination of frilly materials with traditional drawing materials allows for a conversation of sorts on the surface of the paper. This dialogue of materials and meanings is what I love the most about the work. I am currently working on a series of large scale drawings and installations based loosely on botanical books and Godey's Lady's Book from the 1850s.
My most recent body of work involves notions of instability and structure within the framework of a home. Taking into consideration the economic struggles of our current global economy and more specifically the drastic fall of the housing market, I felt compelled to address these issues in my recent body of work. Having built my home in Santa Fe that I am no longer living in and yet am not able to sell, I feel first hand and very poignantly the complexities and dramas associated with the home and what it means to us as individuals as well as its larger collective meaning.
The building of a home, the construction of layers of papers and the meticulousness of the thread-work all inspire me right now.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heather Boaz: Marking in the Moment

Sketch Pages unravels Heather Boaz's markmaking.

How and why did drawing become a focus in your work?
My first experiences with drawing were at the University of Kansas, I took a studio drawing course almost every semester, in addition I did some printmaking, esp. lithography. I loved litho because it’s an intensely physical, sensual experience. The heft of the stone, the smell of the mineral spirits, and the viscosity of the gum Arabic activate all of your senses. The visceral nature of this process was almost more important to me than the prints were, which lead me to more performative, process oriented drawing activities. One of my instructors took our class to draw at the Med school where an anatomy class was dissecting cadavers. Exploring the secret interior of the human body in a way similar to early anatomy drawings made during the Renaissance by DaVinci and Antonio Pollaiuolo, was profound for me. Moving out of the studio, into an entirely foreign situation, the smell was astounding and the whole experience was one of revulsion and fascination. I have always been interested in the body, but seeing uncanny lifelessness in it’s gory glory, albeit with wary med students eyeballing me, touched upon some vital part of my work. If there is any consistency throughout all of my various bodies of work- that is it- the body and it’s ephemeral counterpart (or lack thereof). Drawing functions for me as the line or seam between body and spirit.

What is the significance of the mark making activity in your work? What other artists (who focus on marks) have influenced you.
It depends on what I’m working on, For this particular series, sometimes it’s a process of transcribing the body, sometimes it’s related to writing text but it goes in the opposite direction than we are used to, normally communication begins with the body and then transforms into words, instead I’m going from words back into body, but my body as a filter through which information enters and becomes decoded or rearranged and then pours back out. I want to use drawing, the act of transcribing movement as a way of finding hidden meanings, a more direct communication straight from the body, a secret undecipherable primal language. The marks themselves are usually repetitive or drawn out somehow, with some sort of imposed direction in terms of how many marks, or how long to make them. I try to reduce the marks to the most minimal that I can, so that it’s formation is dictated as much by the movement alone as possible. However, depending on what I’m working on, the mark really becomes something different- at times I draw from life or from images and obviously those have a very different intention. I don’t have one preferred style or method of mark-making, from one series of drawings to the next I will use marks that feel appropriate for the ideas that I’m working with.
When I began making these drawings I was more directly influenced by Rebecca Horn: Drawing Mask and Ana Mendieta: Body Tracks, but now I find a lot of connections to artists I wasn’t consciously thinking about or aware of like Dennis Oppenheim, Mel Bochner, and Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint works. I have recently become acquainted with the works of William Anastasi, which I love.

In your videos, you write of taking the physical actions of communication and transcribing your body in the act with video. (These actions or gestures become the drawing.) Can you discuss your interest temporality.
I don’t know how conscious I am of dealing with temporality in the language works, I can see how the presentation of performance (past) with the drawing itself in the present might create a schism of sorts, or the way in which a very fast movement or gesture becomes permanent, but I don’t think I’m dealing with it consciously. To me the disappearing ink drawings are dealing much more directly with temporality. You have these ink drawings or stills, moments which are frozen in time, forever suspended, coupled with the hand drawing this living, moving, changing element, contradicting this suspension of time. The disappearing ink itself is so fleeting, constantly in the process of disappearing, much like time, we try to hang onto it, but it’s futile. Using the disappearing ink itself is an exercise in allowing the drawing to move and be more like life, constantly moving into the next moment, there is no erasing because what you just did is already gone, and it all happens in one shot, there are no cuts, and then it is sped up to an inhuman pace. To me these conflicts of time, the artificiality of time as we have devised and organized it is often irrational. I use subject matter like fire and water which are ephemeral, unfixed, and reflective of time’s constant flow, while stopping it simultaneously, the use of the loop also plays with a sort of eternity, forever looping, but never really going forward,

Describe the role that absurdity and humor play in your work.
My work frequently revolves around language, and very often I employ puns or one-liners, to me these are humorous and often reflect the paradoxical nature of reality. I tend to lean toward contradiction or sharp contrast in my work in terms of high vs. low culture, I think this juxtaposition usually equals humor. The use of everyday banal activities in contrast with a somewhat minimal stoic aesthetic creates a fairly absurd situation. There is also a sense of futility in my work, combined a kind of impracticality which I think is funny. I also think that most things in life, when taken out of their context and really looked at, can be interpreted as completely absurd.

Is you idea of (de)coding with Morse code (and your email password) a metaphor for absurdity?
Not intentionally, but it is pretty absurd to decode a code into something even more cryptic.

In many of your videos, I sense a generic person making marks without a face. This person could be living now or in the past. However, when I see your face in others, the marks get assigned a gender, age, etc. What is your take on these two approaches to your videos?
Interesting question, I think the sort of “everyperson” approach references the modern/minimal tactic of eliminating specific references to my identity, trying to create a more universal interpretation of marks being the sum total of their making- which the accompanying text then deflates. And the ones which I can be seen in are more specific to me and my body, many consider talent something you are born with, so I was trying to discover what innate abilities I might have, where does my “specialness” lie, perhaps it is dexterous feet or extra special lung capacity, or maybe my lung capacity is only average.

Can you talk about the importance of video camera’s presence as you work.
While making drawings I almost see the camera as an extra set of my own eyes, I tend to watch myself drawing in the LCD screen. Almost like I am out of my body, objectively watching and in my body going through the experience at the same time. Sometimes I feel like the videos are redundant, that the drawing itself is often the only documentation of the experience that is necessary, however due to the various unusual methods I employ to make the drawings, I felt that wall text describing the process wasn’t enough and many people asked me if I “really” did things the way I said I did- so I started to videotape the process- I keep the footage usually raw and unedited (unless there is a time constraint) . However I do find the frame to be very useful, I feel like the frame is a stage of sorts within which certain things can happen that just couldn’t happen live due to the way in which it’s cropped or zoomed in or sped up. The camera is also at times simply a way to document and loop activities.

How do you see technology pushing the boundaries of your drawing further in the future?
I’m not sure. I do expect to continue using video and projection, but still in a frankly simple manner. In terms of technology itself, I’m interested in what our obsession with technology and the need to be connected, communicating, and in touch at all times through technology, and what that has done to our bodies and our collective memories. It’s almost like we are extending out toward each other like electrical wires all strung together in a tangle, reaching out from one pole or person to the next criss-crossing, sparks and bursts of communication and information flow through one body and into the next like the flow of electricity. If I used any sort of technology it would probably be one of a very pedestrian variety, like texting or something very commonplace and fused in the body. I’m more interested in how adaptable we are to new technologies and how before we even realize it our bodies form these instinctive bonds with our tech. and movements which reflect the absorption of technology into our beings. There is a very specific way in which we hold a mouse, we all curve our hands similarly, move them at a similar speed, if we were to mime or mimic holding a cell phone to our ear we would all do approximately the same gesture, and it would be an intimately familiar gesture. However, depending on various cultural factors there might be some differences. The movement of our bodies in reference to technology is like a vernacular, it’s fascinating to me.

What is in the works?
In terms of new drawing, I’m working on some site-specific drawings using overhead projectors and video. I’m also drawing a lot of ropes, braids, tangles, knots and other twisted things. I am always adding to various bodies of work, I have a couple more disappearing ink works I’m doing and a few more body drawings as well to add to my collection.

Kate Joranson: Drawing with the Everyday

Above Images: Kate Joranson's Table Top and Column Drawing

Kate Joranson's work acknowledges the residual effects of everyday activities, such as running one's hand along a wall, or sweeping the floor, as a source for mark-making and a record of one's experience. Her work has been exhibited at the Drawing Center, the Mattress Factory, and galleries in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia. She works as a reference librarian and adjunct art faculty and lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband Steve Stelling.

Sketch Pages talks to Kate about the ideas behind her process.

Can you describe your drawing process.
For one kind of rubbing/drawing, I cover a table (or other object) with paper and then burnish it with a spoon or other burnishing tool, and then take a rubbing of it with graphite. Beginning with burnishing helps the paper form to the surface of the table and creates another layer to the rubbing. I’m transferring the table’s surface in all its irregularities and history to the paper.

Other drawings are made by using a power-sander. I use the sander to take a “rubbing” of the table, removing areas of the paper that are covering the lumps and bumps on the table. I go back and forth between sanding and adding graphite. I used this process to take a rubbing of a column as well.

I also work with various powders, such as powdered concrete or powdered graphite, to make temporary drawings on walls and floors.
Column Drawing

What is the relationship between your art and everyday life? How did you become interested in the intertwining of the two?
There are so many sensations we experience everyday that we might not think to acknowledge, or take time to describe. Many of these have a visual residue or leave a mark that I want to attend to. As mentioned earlier in my bio, examples are running your hand along a wall and sweeping the floor. I want to pause and extend these activities, and find their mark-making potential. I think that doing this will help me to imagine mark-making (and art in general) as something that happens as a result of how I take in the world around me.

I’ve also been thinking about how much I like doing everyday things! Gardening has become really important to me, as well as cooking, walking/hiking, and learning about ecosystems. I’ve been finding that the further I get from the insular MFA-world, the more I’m compelled to enjoy activities like these, without the feeling that I’m neglecting my studio practice. These kinds of things don’t need to be in competition with studio practice, but can function alongside it, or even replace it for periods of time. I’m remembering that there are a lot of ways to be engaged with the world.

I would like the objects I make and the things I do to be companions with:

- well-used tables, especially work-tables
- sloppily-repaired (or sometimes precisely-repaired) cracked sidewalks
- salt stains on the roads
- intricate winter tree shadows interlaced with tar-filled cracks on the road
- snowdrifts
- leaf-dust on a dry fall day
- seeds and dirt and moisture
- sanding wood
- pouring concrete
- sweeping and vacuuming the floor

What do marks signify in your work?
I’ve been trying to find ways to make marks that are as unself-conscious as those that might result from rearranging furniture in a carpeted room. I look to marks that happen when we’re not paying attention, or might result from work or other activities that occupy our attention. I also look to images and objects that occur, or even grow, in response to their surroundings. I document the salt stains that emerge from heavily salted streets after much freezing and melting and re-freezing.

Snowdrifts are a sculptural example. I have been documenting snowdrifts. I love how a delicate, geometric form, such as a snowflake, becomes heavy and laborious, shoveled and plowed in a huge mass into a purely functional form as a snowdrift. It then melts and re-freezes, becomes discolored and gray, gets coated again with layers of snow, suspends gravel and trash, and develops grotesque appendages as it responds to the late winter weather. The forms are joined to the forces that made them, and to their environment.

Related to this is what I’ve been learning about
Convergent Evolution. This is when two species (independently of one another, often in different areas of the world) end up with similar traits because they have been evolving in response to similar environmental challenges.

Can you talk about the role that non-permanence and temporality have in your work?
It’s great for solving storage problems! It’s helped me keep my process flexible and transportable. And since most of what anyone makes is temporary anyway, it’s just a matter of degree.

It’s helped me to stay focused on the making part, and staying responsive to my surroundings.

Observation and improvisation (seem to) play significant roles in your process. Can you talk about what you are looking to happen for a piece to evolve?

Improvisation seems to be a really practical way of taking my surroundings into account as I’m working. It’s also a way of cultivating an attitude towards the materials. I want to find ways of using materials and tools that are related more to turning the dirt in my garden, tending to a houseplant, and shoveling snow. I want the marks that emerge to be joined to their surroundings, and to their tool. I look for a certain kind of independence as a piece is evolving, hoping to see it take on the qualities of the room or object to which it is related, yet be able to stand firmly on its own.
Cinder Block Drag Drawing

How far will you allow yourself to intervene when carrying out a piece?
This is a great question I am always working on. It varies. When I am beginning a piece, I make a set of initial decisions, which often come directly from the room or site. I want to have the piece operate in a universe, or ecosystem, that is governed/guided by its immediate surroundings. My response to the particularities of the room or object is what initiates the drawing. Sometimes these are air vents, wall or floor measurements, paint texture on the wall, or architectural elements, such as a column (see column-drawing image). I also decide on a material and set of tools, and once the process is in motion, I allow myself to become absorbed in the actions and make changes as I go. Those initial decisions provide a constant tug, and give me something to push against as I work. Sometimes crossing the initial boundaries is just what I need to finish a piece.

Can you talk to a greater extent about how you work with diverse materials and on different surfaces.
Tabletops are a surface I return to often, as are walls, floors, and architectural elements such as columns. Materials I use include paper, graphite, and various dusts and powders. My tools are pencils, spoons, bone folders, power sanders, and other pressure-providing devices as I come across them. I’m working on a piece now, where my hands and a pair of gloves are the tools and materials. I am touching everything in the piece, Garden (ongoing), by Winifred Lutz which is part of the permanent collection at the Mattress Factory. I’ve spent a lot of time in her piece over the past several years, and I’ve always wanted to find a way to respond to it.

How do you decide to document your works? Are the photos more as documentary or do you see them as works of art, too?
I ask myself this all the time. I take photos to document installations, such as cinder-block-drag. I also take a lot of photos as a part of my process. This is in part to document marks that happen around me, but also to just become aware of how the things I notice is always changing. The photos are a physical reminder of (and even a way to measure) that. I have not exhibited my photos at this point. I tend to see them as an ongoing project, documenting marks that I would like to emulate. But my thoughts on this are changing these days and I’m reconsidering this.

What have you been noticing these days?
- torn scraps of shingles in grass
- how much one of my ferns sheds onto the floor
- long elaborate robin songs
- what a cactus looks like when it turns white and dies
- repairs made to retaining walls (Pittsburgh is full of retaining walls)
- how different humidity levels in the air feel in different light
- how woodpeckers twist their heads to dig into/behind tree bark
- crumbling mortar worn away by rainwater
- how I hold water glasses
- the pads of my feet

Sunday, March 22, 2009

In Between Mediums: Karen Doten

Sketch Pages navigates through the atmospheres of Karen Doten.

Who and what philosophies and/or artists are your influences?
I am influenced by landscape painters such as Caspar David Friedrich, as well as pieces from the Nocturne series by James Whistler. But I'm also influenced by contemporary artists such as the painter Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, video artist Graham Gussin, and site specific artist Robert Irwin. These artists are connected philosophically and visually by an interest in how we change the landscape and how the landscape changes us. Their images make me want to express the landscape in a way that I've never been seen before.

How does your process inform your content? What is revealed to you along the way of making a peice?
For me and like many artists the process is essential. Sometimes this process is interrupted by an artists lifestyle such as constrains on studio space or an artists time. In my case the constrains are on my time. When you are a mother of a young child or toddler as is my case, your "own" time becomes non existent and so that "own" time is fought for. When that time has been won it is used with purpose and necessity. This process has created a sense of necessity in my work that I think would never have been there otherwise. It also has made me think more about a piece before I enter the studio - to plan my process. I am starting to love the idea of lingering, and having ideas and images 'linger' in my mind over a very long period of time. Maybe this will come into play someday in the work also.

Can you talk more about the philosophical implications of the white space that surround your "landscapes"?
The white space is a space that forces constraint and condensing of the visual space. I'm interested in created areas within a piece that read as an interpreted notion of space. In previous works this space was solid black, in these pieces they are white.

Why are you drawing the "landscapes", as opposed to painting or photography.
I work in all mediums, I am currently also working in painting and photography. But at the moment the drawings are the more interesting. To me its also a matter of my process and drawing is the easiest and fastest way at the moment. Although, I have always felt that there is something very democratic about drawing. In drawing you don't need any video equipment, software, expensive printers or a press, anyone can do it with limited means.

How important is the tension between illusionist image and abstraction in your work. Can you expand on this?
Very important, the work I am most interested in is work that plays between being something specific and becoming something visual. The shape of a form or the layering of forms can determine the visual depth within a space. This creates a location for the viewer which impacts everything about how a work is read.

What are your goals from one work to another?
I've been out of graduate school for more than ten years now. Its very hard for me to see or find work that really gets inside of my head and soul. But I do try and find that excitement in my work but its always a struggle.

What is in the works now?
I've been interested in old military camouflage patterns from around the world. I would like to somehow incorporated these patterns into the ridgeline forms that have been in my drawings for the past three years. I've also been invited to go with a group of students from Calvin College to visit The Lightning Fields, a site specific work by Walter De Maria. I'm really looking forward to seeing this piece in the flesh and hearing the students perspective on these kinds of works and their role or influence on contemporary art.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Spacial Drawings of Renee Vander Stelt

About the Artist
Renee Van der Stelt lives and works in Baltimore, MD. She is currently an artist in residence at Roswell in New Mexico. More on her work can be on and the following links:

Sketch Pages talks to Renee about how spaces influence her drawing.

What is the relationship between creating a drawing and time in your work?
Well, I want to put in the studio time and avoid a life of distraction as much as possible. My practice really changed when my daughter was born because it was necessary to be able to pick up and let go of the work quickly without much mental engagement.
Since quitting a day job and being on the RIAR residency, the problem of finding time has deceased so the drawings have changed.
Going slowly from one piece and idea to the next is important because when the work is made at a different pace, it looks radically different. This is an obvious statement but it is important because new ideas arrive while a drawing is in it’s rather labor-intensive progress of being made. I listen to the radio and podcasts when working, and the news has an insidious way of seeping into the work. Helen Molesworth once asked in a studio visit what is contemporary about my work and her question has stuck with me.

Taking the time to understand what is going on in the practice of making the drawing while also analyzing the ideas inherent in the drawing is important to me. This analytic impulse seems normal after growing up in a Dutch immigrant, Calvinist home. Questioning assumptions is what we were taught to do in all areas of life. We were also taught to be civically engaged, and mindful of community, not only of individual rights. The way I was raised seems evident in the work somehow. There is also evident in this tradition, a very strong work ethic, and I have annoyingly found at times a rather high tolerance for mundane work. This is seen in the rather obsessive, repetitive actions behind the current work of pin pricked drawings. There is a meditative aspect in making these recent drawings. In contrast, some of the drawings made in New Mexico – such as the grass drawings created by grass tips moving in the wind took no longer than ten minutes. The quick drawings are just as interesting as the labor-intensive pieces which take over a month to complete. Both practices are engaging in different ways because in the end it helps to keep a balance.

What is a drawing to you?
Drawing is the exploration of line in space. That space can be a sheet of paper if considered in the traditional sense, but what else can that may mean? How does line move into space? This is the central question to the work. It allows the work to appear radically different at times, and yet I feel the connection of all my pieces through this question. I have a goal to keep this question wide open and to persist in looking anew at the question throughout life. There is a clear desire to take this question apart, and look for new avenues of thought through the work whether they are drawings or sculptures. Perhaps this is why the work is so white at the moment – I see it as a stripping down to the basics of paper and line and light and what these elements can do. Sometimes the work is pictorial but this is only a vehicle for a larger theme, which is the way space, line and light work together.

Can you talk about your interest in drawing and space?
Is space the area around us, or local geography, or global space, or outer space, or microscopic or universal space? All these ways to engage the question of space can seem overwhelming. How does line move into a selected/focused space in a way that will create meaning for us? What kind of line is made, and what is the quality of that line? What and how does it describe, or what does it determine as it sits in that space. How does it affect the way we think about the space we inhabit? These are all very interesting questions, and are only a few and rather generalized in nature. They propel the work in a way – and are the backdrop for the drawings or sculptures.

How does a drawing get shaped by a space (and visa versa)?
This is a complex question because it changes with each work. We’d need to see the piece to start with a vantage point. You can talk about this conceptually, in terms of the inherent ideas within the work, or you can talk about how the drawing (or sculpture) literally sits in the space.

How does working in different spaces change your perceptions of drawing?
This is interesting because new spaces raise new questions about how to draw within that particular space. Understanding how space affects the work comes after several months and sometimes years of being in that place. For example, the space in SW New Mexico this year is vast and spare – it allows for more sky and a larger sense of place. It is much like the landscape in NW Iowa where I grew up. Both NM and IA are radically different from Baltimore’s urban space. Living in New Mexico has caused a greater awareness of how space (and quality of light) directly affects thought and this has allowed me to ask rather obvious questions concerning the size of the drawings and how they interact with area as well as the quality of light they emit. But to counter that rather romantic notion of living in this vast space for those people living in urban centers, I was also equally affected by the university campus space while working eight years at UMBC. The campus is very ordered and more intimate in comparison to NM’s deserts. Watching the science faculty work diligently in their labs, and on their research projects, I altered the practice of thinking about how to research and build the drawings. I began to use the library and other resources such as the NASA images. Important friendships were formed so that conversations with instructors in the sciences were used as resources behind the work. Being around science professors, and in a technology driven environment, I became more aware of the weight of the ideas behind the work.

You mentioned that the process of creating a drawing is more important than the final result. Can you expand upon that?
The final result is important, but what I was trying to say is the process of making something is incredibly satisfying because of the research needed before the pieces are begun and as they are made. Expanding the mind in such a way makes me realize how much there is to learn in life, and it is healthy or humbling. Then there is also the great pleasure of working with my hands, and building things. The pieces start to talk back and then adjustments are made, and further research is made, and the whole process is fascinating – over a lifetime – this is more important in the end than the final result (the drawing) shared with others. The development of the mind and an openess to the world is the greater goal.

Can you discuss you interest in topography, mapping, and NASA and how they relate to your work?
About five years ago I decided to return to some of the same questions I had asked years ago about drawing and space, and the process by which drawings are made. Over the course of the summer, I read a book on Eva Hesse, and another on Richard Serra, then finally a book called “What is Drawing” published by Cambridge Press. That fall, Gary Katchadourian asked some Baltimore artists to make 10 copies of handmade books for a book exchange at the Contemporary Museum. I made a rather abstract book with a set of action drawings that included these verbs: fold, hold rolled, prick, lick stick, smoke, stroke, poke. I decided to examine one action – prick (or poke) - carefully to see what would happen. When pricking a paper, a black hole was created. I started reading about black holes and thinking about vast concepts of space, and then slowly the work moved from thinking about outer space to more global and now local space. And the drawings moved into looking at maps because it seemed like such a logical next step. Since that time, the use of the maps has changed, and transformed. I am a bit wary of using them so literally, because so many other artists are working with this topic recently. I suspect it is because of GoogleEarth and new mapping technologies. Still, since I got myself into this, I must work some way out of it step by visual step.

What are you working on for your residency?
Recently, I have been thinking about the maps that show human interaction with land. They examine particular ways in which we think about space, revealing biases and assumptions. They are inherently fictional, so I take liberties in telling the truth. Since being at RAIR, I have worked on layering maps to encourage different perceptions of space. One of the pieces portrays oil and gas pipelines in SW New Mexico and NE Texas from 1987. When driving through this area, the landscape appears to be a vast desert, but when looking at the drawing of pipelines the area appears to be an urban center revealing a great amount of human activity. It leaves the viewer with the thought that there is no space untouched by humans. This map or drawing is juxtaposed with another of the waterways and rivers in New Mexico. Another drawing shows the major electric lines spread throughout the state. All show natural resources with heavy human demand. The news of rising and falling oil prices prompted consideration of these topics with the goal of understanding how local space related to the larger earth. It seemed important to make works that directly relate to people in Roswell.

A solo show of the work just opened at the Roswell Museum. The work moved in three distinct directions. Several of the map-like drawings focused on resources available in the geographic region as outlines above. The desire to understand complex systems of local and global human interaction with natural resources is what lies behind the abstracted drawings. A second direction for the work included a group of large drawings that explore abstracted forms inherent in global projections developed by cartographers. These drawings suggest the globe and use lights to extend their forms into space. Finally, a group of ink drawings reflect a more intimate response to the immediate landscape by ‘mapping’ the overlooked movement of varied grasses in the wind. The grasses, when dipped into ink create the drawings themselves through idiosyncratic movements.

There is a nature preserve outside of Roswell called Bitter Lake and it is the winter home for Sandhill Cranes. The cranes basically make drawings in the sky soI am working with bird migration patterns from the sky. If time permits, I will work with clouds images and think more about perception – a topic I was thinking about a year ago, and left alone as New Mexico took over in my mind. I hope to take lots of pictures before leaving in the summer of ’09. Space has a way of staying in the mind for a while.

Checklist of works:

1 - Installation View (from left to right):
-Longitude/Latitude & Global Continent Lines, 2008, graphite on paper, 64 x 24 x 13”
-Longitude/Latitude & Northern Continent Lines, 2008, graphite on paper, 51 x 42 x 10”
-Moon Craters with Northern/Southern Sky, 2008, ink on hand cut paper, 25 x 27”

2 - Rolled Globe: North of Equator, 2008, paper & halogen light, 7 x 53 x 7”

3 - Black Hole / Iceberg, 2007, Paper, light, shelf, 52 x 62 x 13”

4 – Installation View (from left to right)
-Untitled, 2008, paper, 62 x 82”
-The New Oil: New Mexico Water, 2008, paper, 59 x 50”
-Desert City: New Mexico/Texas Natural Gas & Liquids Pipelines in 1987, 2008, paper, 52 x 45”

5 – The New Oil: New Mexico Water, 2008, paper, 59 x 50”

6 - Hidden Globe, 2008, paper, vellum and graphite, 49 x 57 x 16”