Sketch artists

By GREG COOK  |  December 9, 2007

Cambridge’s Marilyn Pappas, who retired from MassArt in 1994 after teaching there for 20 years, offers two large, elaborately hand-embroidered tapestries inspired by classical Greek and Roman statuary that she’s seen during travels in Europe over the past 15 years. In History Lessons: Nike, Goddess of Victory, a headless winged sculpture of a woman, partly nude in a sheer gown, walks between a crumbling column and a vase that topples and shatters. A banner floating in the air reads, “At what cost victory.”

Worcester artist Laura Schomp also uses stitching. In Father, Daughter (2007), she sketchily embroidered black thread into a pair of white napkins. The left napkin depicts her dying father. The right is a self-portrait showing her in a hospital preparing to give birth to her first child. Lots of loose threads dangle to the floor, as if the life were draining out of the people. The imagery is clumsy, but the pieces feel a bit like holy relics.

Somerville artist and designer Dave Ortega’s Apocalypse (Quaint/Cuddly Remix) (2007) turns explosions and clouds raining fire into bright cut-out vinyl cartoons resembling Colorforms that he sticks onto the gallery windows. A fun mix of cute and dark, it lacks some of the snap of Ortega’s hot, slick, superflat graphic design. Rosanna Castrillo-Diaz of San Francisco turns transparent tape into lovely, delicate webs that resemble bubbles or cells floating across the walls.

For some, paper becomes the driving element of the work. Mia Pearlman of Brooklyn creates a floor-to-ceiling sculpture of a tornado out of cut paper. Gonzalo Fuenmayor of Miami, who graduated from Boston’s Museum School in 2004, presents 3-D cut-paper constructions with drawings of zeppelins chugging through rainstorms. Curly ribbons of white paper become wind; a crumpled-up sheet of blue paper is a storm cloud.

Mark Epstein of Maryland created a dazzling 39-second animation of a person in a parka leisurely strolling down a snowy sidewalk. The mundane action, copied from video footage and turned into some 500 black-and-white ink drawings, serves as a skeleton on which Epstein hangs nifty strobing patterns of dots, dashes, cross-hatching, and diamonds.

For another sort of drawing show, check out “Little Lulu Lives,” a tiny lobby exhibit at Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library honoring the work of a pioneering female cartoonist. Marjorie Henderson Buell created Little Lulu, a spunky rascally cartoon girl who was a precursor to the more curmudgeonly cartoon star Nancy. (Buell, who died in 1993, was also the mother of Harvard lit professor Lawrence Buell, who with a brother donated the items seen here to the library.)

You can see Buell’s talent in letters to relatives in 1919, when she was about 15. They’re illustrated with witty pen-and-watercolor caricatures and cartoons. In an illustrated diary of a 1921 trip to Europe, her style has loosened up a bit.

She went on to syndicate John Held Jr.–inspired comics about kids and relations between the sexes. These works are represented here by original drawings as well as scrapbooks of published comics. In one, a trio of flapper ladies prepare for a night out as one says, “I’m trying to make up my mind whether to be popular tonight or to act like a lady.” In another, a group of round women exercise in a gym as a woman runs in yelling for them to stop: “Girls! The plump figure is coming back again!”

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