Mothers might want to cover your eyes as your youngsters do the unthinkable and draw all over the walls of the Mobile Museum of Art (MMoA). Nothing could please the facility more.
It’s all part of The Big Draw, a global initiative to spark creative energies by getting those who love to draw as well as those who can’t actively engaged in putting pencil to paper and “taking a line for a walk,” to paraphrase artist Paul Klee. Little coincidence it’s sponsored by pencil manufacturer Faber-Castell.
While it traces its activities across international lines through early November, the Mobile incarnation made its debut now thanks to a little collaboration between downtown and west Mobile. Apparently heads from the Mobile Arts Council rubbed against those from MMoA to spark this special exhibit to life, which stays in place through Oct. 5.
Not only is a wall open for visitors indulge their creative tendencies – with colored pencils on hand for use – but a trio of regional artists have led the way with their own contributions to the indoor graffiti. The University of South Alabama’s Jason Guynes and the University of Mobile’s Phillip Counselman have teamed with Atlanta artist Frank “Paper Frank” Dunson to decorate a gallery wall with pencil and ink that will all disappear when the exhibit’s run expires.
Guynes’ work is closest to the door and perhaps the most overwhelming because of scale. The subject scrutinizes a bird as the attendees get the bird’s eye view thanks to the sheer size and proximity of the human countenance.
It’s hard to tell whether the person is intent on eating, aiding or inspecting but it’s mesmerizing at any rate.
When Artifice encountered the piece, the word “Florentine” shot to mind as its style is highly evocative of Da Vinci and Michelangelo studies. Guynes, who was on hand for the opening readily admitted his admiration for Renaissance masters and didn’t shirk the influence.
Further down the wall, Counselman’s more abstract works employ a playful bent, mutating organic and biological elements into something recognizable yet innovative. One work branches off from seeming vertebrae into more geometric explorations. Another evokes Escher with avian shapes in possible homage to Langan Park’s once plentiful but now slain Canada geese.
Dunson’s wall is dominated by a tiger whose latent ferocity is temporarily distracted by the floral bouquet beside him. The artist’s conservation of line and precise implication of form belies his success with tattoo art.
Appropriately, the Big Draw is accompanied by Paper, an exhibit featuring this ancient and invaluable material that has lined humanity’s journey from field to civilization. Curated by Stan Hackney, the exhibit features a roster of close to 15 artists utilizing paper in myriad ways.
What stood out? Raine Bedsole’s “Ripple Effect” utilizing assorted notebook pages that looked as if they could were gathered from a puddle was tantalizing.
Robert Lansden’s “The Shape of Time” pair were elegant in their delicate implication. Speaking of delicate, Nikki Rosato’s painstaking pair of hand-cut road maps were a fascinatingly compulsive realization.
Michael Pajohn’s collage “All Day He Dreams of Birds of Prey” is evocative and intriguing, its color making it jump in a show that utilized a lot of subdued tones. Much the same could be said of Pinkney Herbert’s “Zen Time Lightened Up,” an abstract wash matched well with Counselman’s forms beside it.
Literally standing out were Hannah Chalew’s relief works, “Castaway” and “Vacant Lot,” which built layers of paper and wood that reached out to viewers from their wall.
Guynes also had smaller works – “There was a Crooked Man” and “Bella” – just as tantalizing as his larger piece in a style that seemed more contemporary. They worked well beside Keith Perelli’s “Immortales” duo, complementing Perelli’s layered effect with their own subdued texture.
There’s something here for both passive and active attendees, those who want to be enthralled and those who want to leave their mark. The invitation to become part of the exhibit fits with director Deborah Velders’ general theme of drawing the community in to a more complete symbiosis and it’s something Mobile needs to ensure the survival of cultural pursuits.
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