A closer look at the Western Museums Association 2013 Annual Meeting host city…
By Iris Moulton
Drawing Lab, which opened May 17, 2013 at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA), is inspired by the idea that mark-making is a fundamental human impulse and that there is no wrong way to do it. Within this hands-on, interactive exhibition, museum visitors of any age or artistic ability are welcome to participate, and there are myriad means: UMFA educators have developed five drawing stations to encourage visitors’ creativity. Participants can contribute to a chalkboard drawing, do free drawing directly on a coffee table, draw from objects in the Museum’s permanent collection, create drawings with tape and paper, or contribute to a “metamorphosis” scroll drawing that will take shape over the course of the exhibition and incorporate the creativity of all participating artists. Each station will be accompanied by suggested starting points, but each visitor-artist is encouraged to pursue his or her own creative direction.
I have spent a lot of time with Drawing Lab. Some days I’m cleaning the gallery, and some days I’m watching visitors participate. Other times, although more rare, I’m drawing too.
I am not a visual artist. Anyone passing my small drawings on the chalkboard would probably smile, thinking they were the quaint efforts of a child (house with a square roof and a corkscrew of smoke emerging from a chimney, anyone?) But I haven’t drawn in so long, and each mark I make is a celebration. It’s hard to articulate: it just feels good.
Have you ever seen the cave drawings of Lascaux? These paintings were made by humans that lived an estimated 17,300 years ago.
I think about this as I watch visitors pick up a tool in Drawing Lab and begin. Drawing is a wonderful means of expression, is (as we say here at the UMFA) “a radical act,” but it is also a very intimate connection to our history.
With the help of some professors in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah, we were able to find a group of drawing students to participate in a three-day drawing marathon! They got the chance to explore this connection human connection with drawing as they created a work for the gallery entitled, “I See The Fish, Finally.”
I loved watching such a large scale drawing come into this world, and was fascinated to witness the process of collaboration among the artists—if someone put a line down, that person knew that line could be erased. I thought that would be limiting, but what I saw instead was more risk-taking, more experimentation brought on by the sense that nothing is permanent, that nothing is “right” or “wrong.”
Do you see the fish? It truly came into focus for me when I watched our time-lapse video of the drawing’s creation.
Watch the (incredible) time-lapse video:
This work embodies what I personally love about what Drawing Lab is able to highlight: drawing is an investigation, a testing out, and I hope all of our visitors feel inclined to make “mistakes.” Like I did with my best attempt at a house.
Drawing Lab is open until August 25, 2013. Come in and explore.
Iris Moulton earned a BA in English and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Utah before going on to earn an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Kansas. She currently works as the Campus Outreach Coordinator for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and is always looking for new ways to engage the University community in the museum.