Tag Archives: Colleen Buzzard

From The Director: The Complexity of Drawing

Colleen Buzzard, drawing on the wall

Colleen Buzzard, drawing on the wall to complete one of her pieces in the exhibition

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.

Installation view of exhibition

Installation view of exhibition

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.

Looking at drawings by Faithanne Carapella in her studio in Syracuse, NY

Looking at drawings by Faithanne Carapella in her studio in Syracuse, NY

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's mixed media drawings, prior to framing

Three of Kathy Farrell’s mixed media drawings, prior to framing

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.

Colleen Buzzard, Untitled wall drawing with graphite and wire

Colleen Buzzard, untitled wall drawing with graphite and wire

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.

Installation shot of Bill's drawings

Installation view of Bill Stephens’ pen and ink drawings

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.

detail of "Disconnect 4", colored pencil on panel by Mandi Antonucci

detail of “Disconnect 4″, colored pencil on panel by Mandi Antonucci

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.

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Installation view of “Fragments 2 and 3″, two charcoal drawings by Tricia Butski

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.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Colleen Buzzard

I’ve been making art since the 1980’s.  I began at Reed College in the ceramics studio in my spare time and eventually took some art courses at Boston University and Mass College of Art. When I moved to London, England I was making large scale ceramic installations but with the birth of my second child I made a sharp turn to drawing. I loved the immediacy of work on paper and a process that seemed to have a more direct connection to my thinking.

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One day walking into the studio I had the sensation of walking into my mind. That experience gave rise to a small immersive room I call the Language Lab. A collection of found objects, art works, and drawings create a mix of order and disorder, a place where I look for classification systems and explore the rules and rule-breaking that make language so malleable and expressive.

Language Lab detail

Language Lab detail

Language Lab detail

Language Lab detail

Thinking about language led to musings about how the mind works, about the nature of thinking itself. If we could visualize a train of thought, what would it look like?  Would it be an orderly pattern like a map or a series of tangles? As I worked on these questions by drawing on paper and walls, I felt an urgent need to bring my experiments off flat planes and into the architectural space of the studio. The mysterious threshold between 2D and 3D became an important and enduring focus in my work.

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I use a wide range of materials from ink and graphite to wire, tape, and steel wool. Where possible I like the supporting mechanisms for hanging the work to function also as part of the content of the pieces. Drawn lines morph into scaffolding and reach out toward us. I think of shadows, extant or drawn, as an important element (sometimes the major element) of many pieces. Drawing in space animates the work for me, making it responsive to changing light and air currents rather than capturing a frozen moment.

in the studio

While I work I often wonder what terms like “order,” “information,” and “random” really mean. It is surprising to me that systems are often a wild mix of order and disorder. It turns out that systems that lie on the edge between chaos and order are better able to incorporate diversity and evolve, and are therefore more robust.

studio table with notebook

A touchstone for me is an artwork by Luis Camnitzer called “Two Parallel Lines 1976-2010.” The textual part begins with: “Two parallel lines. The materialization of an abstraction. Line covering the horizon. A shadow of the horizon. Fragment of the curvature of the Earth. Axis of a corner. Narrative…” and ends with: “The slices’s slice. The superstition of territory. Instant defining a victim. Victim. The beginning of a self-portrait.”  (The full text and images can be found here.)

Origin of Matter

Origin of Matter

I like to think of grids, as well as knots, tangles, and scribbles as both mental and physical architecture. In the study of knot theory mathematicians have uncovered clues to the nature of DNA folding and other complex phenomena.

Untitled (dash line)

Untitled (dash line)

My work often circles back to the difference between matter and information.  Are they really two different things or is the distinction just an intellectual convenience?

Colleen Portrail 2017

You can see more of my work on my website at www.colleenbuzzard.com and on Instagram at colleenbuzzardart.


Colleen Buzzard is one of six artists featured in the Upstate New York Drawing Invitational at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s Artsy page. The Upstate New York Drawing Invitational runs through September 28, 2018.