Creighton Michael Collaborates With Students in Interactive Artwork

Annie McKay

On Wednesday, October 23, Creighton Michael presented his project, “Pattern Play” as part of Colgate’s Art and Art History lecture series. Michael received his B.F.A from the University of Tennessee in painting and his M.A. from Vanderbilt University in Art History. His exhibit is currently in Picker Gallery in Little Hall and was installed by Colgate studio art students. “Pattern Play” is an exploration of drawing as having the potential to become a three- and four-dimensional work.

In introducing his process, Michael discussed the importance of what he called the “marking episode,” which is the exact time and space when the marking activity occurs, or, more simply, a doodle. His first series to explore this idea of mark creation is called “GRID,” which is currently on display in Picker Gallery.

“GRID translates the repetitive hand function associated with drawing into tangible units or marks before constructing ‘a drawing,'” Michael said. “These marks, composed of wire and individually shaped by hand, are combined with glue, plastic or rubber tubing. The units are inserted into predrilled holes in the wall. Their shadows enhance their dimensionality and replicate the movement of a gesture. GRID combines the activity and process of drawing with the physical and spatial concerns of sculpture. I wanted to investigate a body of work that could be made from simple materials, could be installed by someone else and be easily transported.

“GRID” was instrumental to Michael’s process as an artist because it was the first of his projects to be displayed in a three-dimensional form. These drawings were placed on pedestals, and were therefore able to be experienced in time and space. This exploration of moving drawing into a three-dimensional space continued in his works like “Squiggle,” “TUCK,” “RHAPSODY” and “Trace.”

Following his exploration of three-dimensional space, Michael began to make videos about drawing. His work “Shadow’s Speak,” on display in Picker Gallery, is an example of his ability to transform the ideas of drawing into video.

“‘Shadow’s Speak’ is a transdimensional drawing that deals with the issue of isolation created by failed communication,” Michael explained. “The shadow is of someone signing ‘can you understand what I am saying?’ which is repeated with intensity and frustration, while the soundtrack parallels a similar attempt, typing the phrase, ‘can you see what I am saying?'”

One of the most special parts of Michael’s “Pattern Play” is the ability for students to be able to interact with his art. Studio art students found this to be a valuable and exciting opportunity.

“Physically interacting with the art helped me understand it better because I didn’t have to discern its message from observation only,” said senior Evan Tomlinson-Weintraub. “I was able to create the marks on the wall and in space using my own creativity and aesthetic.”

Michael emphasized the importance of this physical interaction.

“In two-dimensional formats, the viewer can explore emotionally, mentally within the framework, so the time relationship and time viewing experience can go for as long as you’re engaged with the work,” Michael said. “Sculpture, on the other hand, is in your space. You have to address it because it’s there.”

Contact Annie McKay at [email protected]