A survey of drawing at the Arts Center asks you to take the medium seriously. Not limited to preliminary sketches or absent-minded doodles, drawing can stand on its own as the finished work of a professional artist. For the show, curator Charles Benbow selected 25 artists throughout Florida whose primary mode of personal expression is drawing. Though he included some drawers who paint, he excluded painters who draw.
The result is a balanced show of what drawing can be in its broadest possible sense: a method of making a picture that is linear rather than painterly. There is no limitation on medium; you expect pencil, pastel or ink, but acrylic, gouache and mixed media are here as well. Thus Judith Ann Heuler of Pensacola can spread wet enamel on her surface, then draw in it with a screwdriver to create line. The works of Meme Ferre of Miami, Coqui Calderon de AuGrain of Coconut Grove and Duncan Stewart of Pensacola fit in quite comfortably, because they are constructed of strokes, even though the effect is more associated with painting.
Drawing is a wonderful medium for achieving likeness. Tony Eitharong of Orlando and Louise Cherwak of Indian Harbour Beach dazzle the viewer with their painstaking penciled photorealism.
Drawing is also a medium for exploring. Windon Newton's self-portrait is more concerned with color and technique than with likeness. It is a medium for expressiveness. Denis Gaston's strange figures suggest an intuitive way of looking at things that is at once sophisticated and naive.
Many of the works have a more subtle appeal than paintings; it takes time to get into them. Florida Blue Progress, a mixed media work by Clearwater artist Rolf Holmquist, seems unexciting until the viewer considers the artist's choices and techniques. Suppose he had painted the motel sign head-on instead of angled disturbingly away? The background is painted; the foreground is drawn. A resist, "protected" the power lines so they could be left as white space.
Sue Buck chooses to communicate clearly with a statement for animal rights activists. In Research 3, charcoal on pastel, a monkey is distanced from us by bars, tubing and devices in the foreground. Matias Longoria, the only printmaker in the show, chooses to be obscure. His etchings of nightmarish scenes with a Renaissance cast may represent some personal iconography or may be only fragments of fantasy.
Rounding out the show are Eckerd College art teacher Arthur Skinner, whose mysterious personal fragments of fantasy hint at deeper meaning, and former circus clown Bill Ballantine, who comes close to commercial art with his ink drawings of clowns, used as illustrations for books he has written.
Complementing the drawing show are ceramic works by Jan Stenhouse, winner of the John Eckert Memorial Award in Clay in the 1990 spring juried show. Stenhouse now works in low-fire white earthenware, utilizing underglazes, colored slips and lusters. Her background in graphic design comes across as she "draws" on pottery. Spring Doorway Piece, a round plate, has a contrasting off-center freehand angular design. For other works, she skews and distorts traditional wheel-thrown shapes.
AT A GLANCE
What: Drawing in Florida; Jan Stenhouse, Clayworks.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday through June 21.
Where: The Arts Center, 100 Seventh Street S, St. Petersburg.
Information: 822-7872 or 821-5623 (St. Petersburg).