Giertz Gallery exhibition highlights the art in drawing

“Aevum” by Susan D’Amato. Photo taken by Matt Moss

“Aevum” by Susan D’Amato. Photo taken by Matt Moss

Emma Gray

Staff Writer

The 2016 State of the Art: Drawing Invitational, put together as a challenge to conventional ideas that drawings cannot be good enough to be final drafts in and of themselves, is being held in Parkland’s Giertz Gallery through Feb. 4.

It contains works from 11 different artists. Most of the drawings are done in charcoal on paper or canvas and include discerning attention to detail.

The exhibition is based off a 2014 show titled “Shades: Contemporary Drawing” held at the University of South Dakota, which was curated by USD art instructor Phillip Michael Hook—whom his work featured at the Drawing Invitational.

“I consider this exhibition to be something of a dedication to and expansion of the underlying themes I started thinking about at that time, inspired by Hook’s vision,” said the Parkland exhibition’s curator Shelby Shadwell, associate professor of art at the University of Michigan.

The first piece when you walk into the gallery is Susan D’Amato’s “Aevum.” It is what appears to be a super zoomed in image of the palm of someone’s hand, with every subtle crease outlined.  It is made with charcoal and pastel on a digital print.

Further into the gallery, viewers can find “Reclamation” by Christopher Ganz, a charcoal drawing of an old cathedral. It exhibits high arches and large windows, with light streaming in. Moon phases are drawn over the ceiling of the building. It captures a certain elegance not often expected in charcoal drawings.

Another aspect of the pieces chosen that Shadwell admires is their ability to turn small, ordinary things into breathtaking displays.

“The artists take something as lowly and common as dirt and transcend the materials to communicate a sense of our shared humanity,” he explains.

“Pollen” by John Sabraw certainly does this. It is a very large charcoal-on-canvas image of a pollen spore.

It, along with another image, “Stem Cell” also by John Sabraw, takes the viewer into the world of microbiology and what it would be like to be the size of a single cell. Each piece shows a mastery of detail and depth, with both showing the uneven surfaces of their chosen specimens.

Shadwell states art can be measured by the experience it brings to the viewer.

“I started with an assumption that, to the extent it can be observed, quality in visual art, including drawing, consists of the creation of objects that inspire a sense of awe and wonder through their expressed form and content,” he said.

Christopher Troutman’s works provoke this sense of wonder as they transport the viewer to another place and time—a place where men sit on a stairwell before work in his piece “Business Trip,” or one where kids look out from a balcony onto an industrial age world in the piece “Tarobul View.” Both of these pieces were made with dark, thick lines of charcoal on paper.

Another notable image is a small drawing of a plastic take-out bag floating in the ether. It was done by Jeremy Plunkett in 2016 and is titled “Thank You.”

The full list of artists with pieces in the exhibit, in alphabetical order, is as follows: Tamie Beldue, Susan D’Amato, Alison Denyer, Erin Fostel, Christopher Ganz, Michael Hook, Seth Marosok, Jeremy Plunkett, John Sabraw, Christopher Troutman, and Hong Chun Zhang.

The gallery is open 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday–Thursday and 12–2 p.m. Saturday. It will be closed Dec. 12 until Jan. 16 in accordance with the winter break.

More information on the Giertz Gallery, the 2016 State of the Art: Drawing Invitational, and other past and future exhibitions can be found on the gallery’s website,