Visual Arts

'Drawing On' experience

Forget taking a step back to admire the work. You will want to lean in and take a closer look at these drawings.

For the next month, the Tuska Center for Contemporary Art at the University of Kentucky will show the works of four artists — three from Kentucky and one from Tennessee — who have created drawings that combine fantasy with great technical execution.

The artists in Drawing On show a diverse range of work that extends the boundaries of drawing, but they share common subject: otherworldly imagery.

Elissa Morley uses layered tracing paper and intense watercolors to express her fantasy world, in which buildings are architectural dreams and people are "so vulnerable that they bear no skin," as she writes in her statement.

The larger pieces have a depth provided by the sheer layers of paper that really draw the viewer into the scene. The work has been left unframed, and Morley says that gives "the sense that the work flutters and floats visionlike upon the wall."

The other three artists also use unconventional methods they have spent years perfecting.

Lawrence Tarpey produces pieces so tightly executed that it is difficult to fully understand his process. Painstakingly scratching lines out of smooth oil layers and drawing in minute details, he said he gets lost in each piece and "kind of let the process dictate how things progress."

The finished works are modern and subtle, with forms reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. All are small-scale and use Tarpey's unique process.

Tarpey has exhibited in past group shows with another artist featured in Drawing On, Michael Goodlett.

Goodlett displays painstaking detail in his large shadowboxes filled with folded, rolled and cut bits of paper. Almost every piece of paper is decorated with sketches and writing.

The writing, he says, comes from "a stream-of-consciousness diary" that became such a habit that he began to roll up all of the papers and use them in his art.

At a distance, the paper layers, studded with beads and decorated with ink, take on a more general image. However, it's worth more serious study to find the hidden details, such as the hallway that takes shape behind a paper bloom, and other deeply nestled sketches.

Mark Hosford's work also requires careful attention to fully appreciate his smooth graphite detailing.

Kate Sprengnether, director of the Tuska Center, says she had never met Hosford, of Nashville, but knew of him, was impressed by the work on his Web site,, and decided he would be a good fit for the show.

"Just like Lawrence's work, the incredible, delicate detail really pulls the viewer in," Sprengnether says.

Hosford's drawings are unique and striking, complex at close range yet stark and simple from a distance.

Working from the 10 classic Rorschach inkblots, Hosford used a computer to fade them to a light gray, and he printed them onto drawing paper. Hosford then drew the image in graphite over the gray space, based on the forms he sees in the inkblot, "trying not to overanalyze what I'm seeing," he says.

Hosford says he hadn't seen the other artists' work yet in person, but he thought he shared with them the tendency "to have a lot of unconscious flow as to how the imagery comes about."

That, and remarkable drawing skills.

"As much as I can in this space," Sprengnether said, "I want to show the work of local artists because we have extraordinary local artists."

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