"Hair Brain" by CK Wolfson
"Hair Brain" by CK Wolfson. Courtesy of Shaw Cramer Gallery

A fine line among artists

By Laura Wainwright - November 21, 2007

Just when our eye needs something fresh, Nancy Shaw Cramer delivers with a stunning new show of drawings. From Nov. 23 through Dec. 31, the Shaw Cramer Gallery will be presenting "Drawing Invitational: A Sense of Line." This is an unusual opportunity to see a wide range of drawings, a medium rarely shown in galleries. It is also an opportunity to see artists who do not usually show together. Here, Allen Whiting and Leslie Baker hang side by side.

Nancy Shaw Cramer's idea is simple and powerful. She invited over 20 Island and off-Island artists to submit one to three drawings of their choice.

"I wanted to do something fresh and different," she said. "Drawings are not shown often. It is a medium close to artists' hearts, but seldom exhibited."

The only constraint Nancy gave was size. Drawings could not exceed 12 inches by 12 inches. Within that framework, the choice was limitless.

"I wanted to frame the drawings exactly the same way and the same size for cohesive presentation," Nancy said. "All the drawings are on acid free paper and framed in silver 20 inch by 20 inch frames. Martha's Vineyard Framers did the framing work."

Wendy Weldon, a painter, was initially challenged by the size constraint. "I have to admit, I was quite rebellious," she says. "I don't like assignments, but it was great. It took me out of my comfort zone."

Wendy talked about a time when she felt she wasn't tapping into anything new and she used drawing as a way to change. The invitation to be part of this show brought her back to this energy. "This is a show to learn something," she explains. "I wasn't doing what I always do. I sketch quite a bit, but this was a formal drawing. Not just personal. I decided to draw what I paint and see what happens."

Wendy also changed her studio. She cleared off a table, put it by the window, pulled up a chair and focused in. For Wendy, the act

of drawing, is "Quiet, the scale is smaller. It's on a table. I stay in one spot and it's more focused, more interior." For the show Wendy has created some sensational drawings of stonewalls and embellished them with shiny copper or gold leaf. Will she do more drawing? "Yes," she says.

One of the things that excites Wendy about the Shaw Cramer Gallery drawing invitational is the opportunity for artists who don't show together to be in the same show. Ruth Kirchmeier, known for her wood cuts, is one of these artists. Ruth is very excited about the show. "A drawing show is quite unusual," she said. "It's an original idea."

Drawing is a medium close to Ruth's heart. Before her Vineyard life, when she lived in Brooklyn, she and a friend regularly drew together in the Cloisters.

"We were only allowed to use pencil because of possible damage to the art there. I took 25 soft sharpened pencils. It took me three days to complete a drawing. I pushed pencil as far as pencil could go."

For the Shaw Cramer Gallery invitational, Ruth selected figure drawings. These are sophisticated portraits of models, which, as she said, "Honor the face and reveal the character of the person." Ruth thought this work would be "a pleasant change and a good contrast to what other artists might be contributing. I submitted out in the ether."

When asked how she defines drawing, Ruth said, "Drawing is a never-never land between drawing and painting. Drawing is basically line. It can be line and color and you can shade somewhat."

If, like me, you think of a drawing as an image made with a pencil, pen or crayon, think again. Eva Gallant, a wire and paper media artist, draws with wire. Rose Abrahamson, a painter, collages with line. Kathy Newman, a photographer, saturates her drawings with color.

The range of materials used and subject matter in the show is exhilarating. There are architectural drawings, portraits, and landscapes. There is abstract work and representational drawing.

A Sense of Line is an intriguing, imaginative show that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the fine arts. Don't miss it.

Opening Reception, Friday, Nov. 23, from 5 to 7 pm, Shaw Cramer Gallery, 56 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. The Gallery is open daily from 11-5 and on Sundays from 12 noon-4 pm. For further information, call 508-696-7323.