THERE’S AN old adage that goes, "Half the fun is getting there." Watching an artist’s process can be just as interesting, perhaps even more so, than seeing the finished product.
Katie Glusica and Deborah First’s show at the Drawing Room Gallery at Starland Studios, “Drawing Connections,” is a process-oriented show that doesn’t come off as instructional.
Glusica, a former student of First’s in the fibers program, graduated from SCAD in 2010 and kept in touch with her professor ever since.
As the two tell it, coming up with the idea for the show was a bit of a process itself.
“We kind of knew we would do the show, and we weren’t overly worried about the theme,” says First. “We were really working independently on our own, and we were pretty compatible, it turns out. But some of our friends seemed to be really worried, like, ‘What’s the theme? What’s the show about?’”
The artists came up with the title of the show first, allowing the words to direct their work.
“Having a title helped us hone in that we were both interested in the process we used and the connection that happens from this work into the actual work,” says Glusica.
“It’s pretty open-ended, but we’re both using drawing work in different ways,” says First. “In the show, we really wanted to show our processes, so that’s what we decided we would do with the front room.”
The Drawing Room Gallery is divided into two major sections. The front room First mentions is a spacious room with lots of windows, which is where the artists put their process on display. Glusica, who’s a weaver, includes her sketches of how she’d like the weaving to look. First, who creates sculpture out of foraged natural items, includes sketches as well as material she’s thinking of using in the work.
“I think it’s true for both of us, less specifically for me, that the drawings in the room literally do end up being the point of origination for the weaving,” says Glusica. “These pieces are a little more about technical exploration and challenges and working out three-dimensional forms through line work, which is essentially what weaving is—particular lines that come together.”
“For me, in the drawings, some of them are pretty directly connected to those, and then others are sort of a departure,” joins First.
For both artists, their process of creating is not always so linear.
“I think, for me, I’m really attracted to work where there’s a certain amount of mystery, where everything isn’t immediately obvious; you have to do a little work,” says First. “I think we can’t always articulate those things in words, and I don’t necessarily want to. It’s not that I’m withholding information, I just don’t know, and I find out more later. It’s not all this preconceived huge idea that I’m just manufacturing. Katie and I both really believe in the idea of thinking through making and through your hands.”
“In weaving, there’s a lot of pre-planning, but there are a lot of moments that you can’t predict,” adds Glusica. “There are too many variables. But you get these a-ha moments, and you have iterations where you wake up and go, ‘I got it!’ And then, ‘This is horrible—trash!’”
In walking through the show, the passion both artists have for their work, as well as each other’s, is clear. Glusica begins to share a story behind a particular drawing, and First jumps in to clarify.
“Katie did a really amazing thesis and adapted it for Leonardo Magazine, which is published by MIT,” she shares. “It’s pretty incredible! It’s a really big honor.”
Glusica’s modesty and First’s enthusiasm for her friend make the exhibition feel even more special, like a true collaboration. Glusica explains that the journal she was published in focuses on the overlap between science and art, which is also a major theme of the show, evident in both artists’ work. “I was thinking about physics, but specifically wave particle duality, which my interest in weaving has a lot to do with the space weaving has for metaphor and to think about non-dualities,” says Glusica. “You can move through thinking about energies, like a particle or a wave, depending on how you look at it, but it’s really both at the same time. And that’s weaving. It’s a set of warps vertically and wefts horizontally, and when they come together it’s all still parts of the whole.”
“My mother isn’t gardening now because she’s 93, but she was always an incredible gardener,” says First. “I studied the history of gardens in graduate school and the idea of bringing nature inside. I also really love collecting these natural objects, which I do almost every day. I’m a huge accumulator of them. I’ve made many photographs of pairs of natural objects—I’m interested in the interaction of them.”
The connections in this show are so numerous, they keep popping up through the course of our talk.
“I think one of the most powerful things about art is how it can bring people together,” muses Glusica. “It’s not going to stop war or anything, I’m pretty sure, but it can bring people together from disparate places.”