Drawings from another world

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“Surveil,” graphite on paper, 52 x 69″, 2010

In an era when artists are experimenting with video, computer graphics, and complex multi-media pieces, Megan Vossler contents herself with pencil and paper.

I’ve always loved the immediacy of graphite pencils. They are such simple, basic tools, but you can get a huge range of nuance with them. For this show I experimented with the powder and the liquid for the first time, and they make it much easier to get broad areas of tone to contrast with detailed parts. Graphite has a beautiful texture on paper, a slightly metallic, sandy shimmer that I really find really appealing.

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Megan Vossler in front of her piece “Scavenging”

In the case of her latest show “Sound Signals,” opening tomorrow night at Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis, Vossler’s drawings are displayed on very large pieces of paper. But for all their size, Vossler’s images only take up a fraction of their canvasses.

For me the white space has a very strong presence, so it isn’t meant to feel empty, or blank in that sense. But it is a kind of quiet field that surrounds everything. In these drawings, I was really trying to create a rhythm… a sense of an obscured, expansive landscape that is not visually described, but that is punctuated by moments of very concentrated, intense detail and activity. Kind of like how when you really look closely at one thing and scrutinize it, everything in the periphery is obscured. But you know it is still there. I was trying to work with the white of the paper in a sculptural way, as fullness.

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“Canyon,” graphite on paper, 168 x 52″, 2010

One piece, “Canyon,” dominates the room, becoming almost sculptural in the way it hangs from the wall and unfurls at the bottom, where Vosslers eraser trailings have collected. From a distance the viewer sees a dark void, but upon close inspection it reveals a tall mountainscape looming out of a canyon, with small climbers making their way out.

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Detail from “Canyon”

Back in 2006, Vossler was part of a group show focussing on images of war. Vossler painstakingly recreated photos from Iraq of soldiers waiting behind boulders, or walking through a sheep field. Since then, Vossler’s work has evolved those intense moments of waiting during wartime, to the sifting through rubble that happens in the wake of war, to what’s left behind. Several of her images depict migration – of birds, caribou or people – while others portray a deep, penetrating stillness.

I love hearing the associations that people bring to the drawings that just come from their own reflections. But I suppose a common theme, and one that I did want to evoke, is a combination of stillness and movement as two simultaneous responses to a catastrophe. There are images in which the people are very still and listening or watching and waiting, and others where the landscape seems to be uprooting itself in order to walk away. I like the idea that both of those things can exist simultaneously.

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Detail of Megan Vossler’s “Herd”

Vossler says her latest body of work was inspired in part by a novella: “The Revisionist,” by Miranda Mellis. It’s a surreal story of a post-apocalyptic landscape, and a character whose job is to observe and ‘revise’ catastrophic events from a tower. Vossler says that image stuck with her. In conjunction with the exhibition, Miranda Mellis will actually join Vossler on March 3 at Franklin Art Works for a sort of book club discussion and conversation.

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“Divining,” graphite on paper, 52 x 69″, 2010

Megan Vossler’s Sound Signals opens at Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis tomorrow night, with a reception from 7-9pm.

  • Jennifer Halstead

    I am really looking forward to seeing this show.

  • Heather

    Wonderful! So spare, and yet so powerful.