January 29, 2014 - Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Michelle Stuart
January 29, 2014

Michelle Stuart

Michelle Stuart, Niagara Gorge Path Relocated, 1975. Rocks, earth (red Iron Oxide) from site, Lewiston, NY, on muslin-backed rag paper, 460 x 5.2 feet. Photograph. © Michelle Stuart. Courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects.

Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature
January 26–April 20, 2014

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm,
Thursday 11am–8pm

T +1 805 963 4364  


The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) presents a major exhibition of work by internationally acclaimed artist Michelle Stuart. A focused survey of the artist’s works from the late 1960s to the present, Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature reveals the artist’s characteristically varied and unconventional range of media, underlining Stuart’s radical redefinition of the medium of drawing.

Stuart has become celebrated for a rich and diverse body of work stemming from her lifelong interest in the natural world and the cosmos. Working in drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation, and site-specific earthworks, she has pursued a subtle and responsive dialogue with nature and science. With an emphasis on organic materials and repetitive actions, Stuart’s oeuvre originates in process-based sculpture of the late 1960s and the Land Art movement. 

During the 1970s Stuart became known for her monumental drawings in which rolls of paper were smashed with rocks, stroked with earth, or rubbed with graphite until the characteristics of a given site became ingrained in its surface. These early frottage pieces capture the surface features of the site and act as indexical traces of the land. Often, works were made directly in nature. At SBMA, these wall scrolls are shown alongside Niagara Gorge Path Relocated (1975), a video documenting a 460-foot-long drawing along the original site of the Niagara Falls.

Several works in the exhibition respond to well-known mythic sites, notably the Nazca Lines, the Uffington White Horse, and New Mexican petroglyphs. The drawing Moon (1969) is meticulously rendered from photographs taken at the lunar landing that year. Also included in the survey are Stuart’s “rock books,” inculcated with earth and other materials from specific sites; “seed drawings,” grids of seeds collected from various locations which bleed into and transform their paper supports; and other site-specific works Stuart has created throughout the world. The exhibition concludes with the artist’s photographic grids. These expansive works, encapsulating the potent blend of “real history, imaginative history, and natural history,” have characterized her practice for over 40 years. 

Michelle Stuart was born in Los Angeles. After training at the Jepson Art Institute and Chouinard Art Institute, she worked as a topographical draftsperson, mapping the earth’s crust from Las Vegas to South Korea. In the 1950s, she traveled to Mexico to assist the muralist Diego Rivera and spent three years in Paris, before settling in New York City in 1958. While living and working in New York, Stuart has maintained a studio on the Pacific Coast from the 1980s to the present.

Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature was curated by Dr. Anna Lovatt, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Manchester, UK. The exhibition was organized by the Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham, UK (presented February 16–April 14, 2013). It also traveled to the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York (July 21–October 27, 2013).  Accompanying the exhibition is a 160-page hardcover catalogue with essays by Anna Lovatt, Jane McFadden, and Nancy Princenthal, as well as an interview with the artist by SBMA Curator of Contemporary Art Julie Joyce.


Michelle Stuart at Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
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