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Locals Join International Artists in Drawing Exhibit at Carnegie

What’s exciting Matt Distel, exhibitions director at The Carnegie, about The Nothing That Is: A Drawing Show in 5 Parts, is its breadth and depth. Be ready to view more than 120 international artists, more than 150 works - and featuring four artists from Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati.

The “number of drawing strategies,” Distel says, “feels too many to count.”

“We get to see all of that hanging together. We love to believe that artists from around Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati are creating compelling and vital work.

“This show tests that theory to some extent, but more importantly puts all of these ideas about art-making in the same rooms. That is the conversation I am interested in and hope fosters some collaboration and dialogue across regions.”

Co-curator Bill Thelen explains the enigmatic title: “Most people tend to think that drawing is probably the lowest on the totem pole in terms of fine art. For me it is the opposite, and the most immediate consummation of the urge to make a mark.”

His title is tongue-in-cheek, suggesting that “drawing” is de-valued to nothing.

Thelen, based in Raleigh, N.C., created an exhibit with the same concept, exploring the practice of drawing from the very traditional to conceptual practices to community-based activity, at CAM Raleigh. (Distel saw the exhibit and says, “It stuck with me long after.”)

Work by Ryan Travis Christian

Thelen defines the five sections:

Chapter 1 - DDDRRRAAAWWWIIINNNGGG. Curated by Thelen, Jason Polan and Distel features a “do it yourself” approach to drawing with an emphasis on emerging artists, illustration, zines, economy, and building community through drawing.

The artists’ works all utilize drawing as a prime strategy in their art-making process. “This is a big, expansive view of drawing and will be hung salon style throughout the big walls of the first floor gallery.”

Chapter 2 - Conceptual Approaches.  Throughout the upper galleries, artists employ contemporary drawing strategies with nods to conceptualism, feminism, queer theory, formalism, video, performance, photography and art history, featuring artists from around the country and also borrowing from local contemporary art collections.

Chapter 3 – Movement. The Hutson Gallery will show video that reflects the principles of drawing. Videos will all be based on drawing and range from animation to performance.

Chapter 4 -- Locals Only. Larger amounts of space are given over to installations and larger bodies of work to Matthew Dayler (Dayton, Ky.), Tracy Featherstone (Hamilton), Mark Harris (Cincinnati), and Greg Swiger (Covington).

Swiger’s installation has colorful, child-like paintings, drawings and poems grouped on the wall in clusters.  

He explains, “Autobiography and anxiety have always been primary ingredients as far as the content goes, but this new work is an attempt to respond to the specific anxiety many of us have been feeling since the election.”

Dayler will be exhibiting selections from his "Coaches" series.  “These works, deal with ideas of fantasy, power, and role reversal.  I cultivate the images from online sources, edit, collage and reprint them via silk screen and painting.”

Work by Tracy Featherstone

Chapter 5 - Open Source.  It explores social engagement by featuring projects that utilize collaborative art strategies that extend beyond the museum’s walls. These activities are still being organized.

Distel says the more he thought about the CAM-Raleigh exhibition, “the more I realized how well it would fit in The Carnegie. The trick was that the show that I saw featured no one from Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati.

“I asked Bill if he was willing to re-imagine the project and include artists from this area. He was more than willing and was excited to meet new groups of artists.

“I brought him up here and over about four days we visited 12 studios and four collections, the latter in search of what Distel calls “works of international stature -- and some historical significance” to borrow from local contemporary art collectors.

Those studio visits and introductions are another level of the regional dialogues (mentioned above) and hope to see more of.

Distel says Thelen’s goal is “to reconnect viewers with the essential impulse that he prefers to call ‘mark-making’ and ‘gesture.’  The tools are not nearly as important as the impulse to make a mark.”

The Nothing That Is: A Drawing Show in 5 Parts, March 10-April 15. The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington. Gallery hours: 12-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Free. For more information call 859-491-2030 or visit

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
Top image: Work by Mark Harris