Defining drawing

Soo VAC explores boundaries of drawing

THE WEDGE — In Kurtis Skaife’s portrait of the starship Enterprise’s Mr. Spock, “Untitled (Spock Shooting),” the contours of the iconic alien’s stoic expression are executed in yarn glued to canvas.

Strands of peach-colored yarn trace Spock’s pointy ears and blue yarn delineates his sleek uniform. For a phaser blast, Skaife applies orange yarn in jagged patches of tight, parallel lines.

It’s a technique we might call hatching if Skaife were using a pen and paper. But he’s not using the traditional tools of drawing, and neither are many of the other artists in “Draw Too” at Soo Visual Arts Center.

It’s that playful approach to drawing that makes “Draw Too” so engaging. Here are paintings, sculpture and even digitally manipulated photographs that all have elements of drawing — not to mention several examples of really stellar draftsmanship.

Soo VAC owner Suzy Greenberg, who curated the show, asked the 14 artists in “Draw Too” to work with different meanings of the word “draw”: to draw a gun; to draw a breath; a draw in sports; and the act of drawing.

“What was nice to find was, of course, how differently each person interpreted the project,” Greenberg said. “… It’s turned into one of those shows that has a little something for everyone.”

The exhibition’s definition of drawing is broad enough to include both works in pencil and ink by Megan Vossler on the one hand and John Largaespada’s digital prints on the other.

“His work doesn’t really fall into any specific category in the art world because they’re photographs but they look like paintings,” Greenberg said of Largaespada.

The scene in “Stag at Sharkey’s” is of two boxers going blow-for-blow in the ring surrounded by a frenzied crowd. Largaespada’s digital manipulation places the plastic figures in the hyper-realistic setting of a grimy arena.

Vossler presents a series of six small pencil-on-paper studies inspired by Goya which show a bit of the old master’s knack for capturing human emotion. She sketches people pleading and holding their heads in grief or shock.

In another series of six small pieces, “Things That Happened in Iraq,” Vossler’s gestural ink lines depict a hooded figure sitting on the ground. A splotch of ink and a few loose lines make a recognizable American soldier.

What Vossler is doing is drawing in the most traditional sense, but Largaespada is drawing, too — with a mouse and computer screen, presumably. They use different tools and different techniques, but there is in both artists’ works a focus on the line, which is what makes all of it drawing, Greenberg said.

Elaborating on that point, Greenberg referred back to Skaife’s yarn drawings, adding, “Yarn itself, you could say, is the equivalent of a pencil line.”

Scott Stulen draws his line with pipe cleaners, twisting them into ambiguous phrases like “still waiting for my teenage angst to pay off” or “take my breath away” written in loopy cursive.

There is certainly a linear quality to a dozen cartoon heads sculpted from Masonite by Robb McBroom. McBroom borrows some minor characters from G.I. Joe and constructs their portraits from a collage of professional sports team logos, Native American totem animals, car company emblems and corporate mascots — and then glues on some glitter and rhinestones for good measure.

Several of the artists take on Greenberg’s challenge to explore the different meanings of the word draw, like Caleb Coppock. Coppock only gets to two of the four definitions of draw, but the quality of both pieces makes up for it.

“A Draw” is maybe the show’s best example of the pure act of drawing, a piece of paper covered in flowing pencil lines of varied weight and thickness. It’s a jumble of limbs and cleats and soccer balls referencing a “draw” in sports, but it’s the quality of Coppock’s line work, not necessarily the way he plays with the show’s theme, that is so stunning.

In “Huff,” another work in pencil, Coppock works his delicate pencil lines to create subtle shading and texture, and again is very
impressive.

Like Greenberg said, there’s a little something for everyone in “Draw Too,” from Craig Hill’s shiny Pop Art reflections on male identity to Isaac Arvold’s paintings of ghost children with that sweet-creepy aesthetic exemplified in the pages of Juxtapose magazine. Walk by Soo VAC, and you might just be drawn in, too.

Go see it

“Draw Too: A Drawing Show in Four Acts” runs through Aug. 16 at Soo Visual Arts Center, 2640 Lyndale Ave. S. 871-2263. www.soovac.org.