American Art Collector - - Contents - DAVID MOR­RI­SON

Or­di­nary Icons

David Mor­ri­son teaches the art of look­ing and see­ing to his stu­dents at Her­ron School of Art and De­sign at In­di­ana Univer­sity. “They think they al­ready know how to look and how to see,” he says. “But I tell them we’re go­ing to re­ally look. I ask them to de­scribe every lit­tle part of an ob­ject, not to gen­er­al­ize. We spend two weeks look­ing and ob­serv­ing. I want them to see how in­cred­i­ble the ob­jects are. I have them draw their fin­ger­nail, look­ing at the ridges and colors and pat­terns, and how it grows. They’re al­ways amazed at how much they haven’t seen. Once they’ve im­proved their vi­sion and learned how even in draw­ing re­al­is­ti­cally there is ges­ture and ab­strac­tion, I en­cour­age them to dis­cover their own artis­tic ex­pres­sion— what makes them click.”

He com­ments that he hopes peo­ple look­ing at his draw­ings will be­come more cu­ri­ous about look­ing at things in na­ture more closely and re­al­ize the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing it. He re­calls be­ing at the Banff Cen­tre for the Arts in Al­berta and hav­ing peo­ple ask him what his work was like. “I told them, ‘I draw sticks.’ They looked puz­zled. The next day there was a re­cep­tion where I showed some of my draw­ings and they un­der­stood,” he says. “The next morn­ing when I ar­rived at the stu­dio I found a pile of sticks out­side the door. They had gone out and

found beau­ti­ful sticks that they thought I’d like to draw.”

Mor­ri­son and his wife live on a lot of over an acre, “so it’s nat­u­ral to look at ob­jects in na­ture and to see how they change over time and in dif­fer­ent weather.” He used to run over the abun­dant sycamore bark with his rid­ing mower un­til one day he stopped, got off and took a real look at the bark.

His Pris­ma­color draw­ings of “sticks” and bark and the nests of pa­per wasps are iso­lated in a plain white field to re­move any dis­trac­tions and to in­vite the viewer to get up close. He says, “I want to take the or­di­nary and give it iconic sta­tus. The viewer dis­cov­ers not only the in­tri­cate de­tail (only a small por­tion of the de­tail in the ac­tual ob­ject) as well as the ab­stract qual­ity of that de­tail.”

His draw­ings dif­fer from botan­i­cal draw­ings. “I’m not into the ideal spec­i­men,” he ex­plains. “I draw or­di­nary things, branches and leaves that have fallen to the ground, with their scar­i­fi­ca­tion left by dis­eases, in­fes­ta­tion, de­com­po­si­tion and storm dam­age…My draw­ings cap­ture the degeneration cy­cle of plant ma­te­ri­als and how they echo the liv­ing con­di­tions of man and na­ture. I am in­ter­ested in cap­tur­ing the re­al­ity of their ex­is­tence, with all the im­per­fec­tions, echo­ing their frag­ile ex­is­tence in na­ture.”

Mor­ri­son’s lat­est draw­ings will be shown at Gar­vey|Si­mon Gallery in New York, Novem­ber 15 through De­cem­ber 22.


1Pa­per Wasp Se­ries No. 2,col­ored pen­cil on pa­per, 20½ x 16½"2Fire­wood Se­ries No. 3, col­ored pen­cil on pa­per, 12 x 28"2



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