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The Scarlet & Black

“Drawing and Conversation” with Tara Shukla

Tara Shukla did a live drawing at Faulconer Gallery and engaged in conversation with gallery visitors. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.

By Zoe Fruchter

Last March 6 and 7, Canadian-Iowan artist Tara Shukla offered Grinnell community members a rare look at her artistic process by hosting “Drawing and Conversation,” a part of the events centered around Faulconer Gallery’s exhibit “Making Life Visible,” which runs through June 10.

Shukla’s drawings are intricate and life-like. The works she contributed to “Making Life Visible” depict larger-than-life bones in delicate yet forceful detail.

“My drawings are simple but they have a long process, they take a long time to do. And that’s a part of the viewing experience, understanding that someone made these by hand … this is a way of highlighting that. Even though I make things that are finished objects they imply a process, so it’s nice for people to see the process,” Shukla said, in reference to allowing visitors to observe her work.

Shukla is originally from Canada, where she earned both her bachelor and master of fine arts degrees. She has shown her work throughout Canada, including solo exhibitions in Kingston, Montreal and Toronto. She moved to the U.S. to teach at a small liberal arts school in Colorado and then came to Grinnell. In Iowa, Shukla has held solo exhibitions at the Des Moines Botanical Center and University of Iowa hospitals. Her work’s inclusion in “Making Life Visible” marks Shukla’s third show at Grinnell, following “Animas” in 2008 at the Grinnell Community Art Gallery and “Intimate Nature” in Grinnell College’s Smith Gallery.

“Making Life Visible” is the product of collaboration between Leslie Wright, director of the Faulconer Gallery, and Professor Jackie Brown, biology. The show aims to explore how the visual image functions in both fine art and biology, and the intersections between the two disciplines.

“I was asked to participate in this exhibit because my work uses the format and syntax of scientific illustration. It isn’t scientific illustration … but it asks the question: what is the role of observation in art and what is the project of observation, of trying to find truth and what does that mean,” Shukla said. 

Shukla reflected on the process of being observed as both fun and enlightening.

“I was here on community day so I had a lot of kids come in, and that was really fun because they wanted to know what all the materials were and how I used them,” Shukla said, gesturing to a container filled with charcoal pencils and smudging sticks.          

She also noted that a wide variety of community members had come to see her draw including students, retired college teachers and even her friends.

“They know I’m always drawing but they don’t know what I’m doing so that was fun,” Shukla added with a laugh.

Tara Shukla did a live drawing at Faulconer Gallery and engaged in conversation with gallery visitors. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.
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