Drawing on the extraordinary

Over the course of 2008, the S.S. Drawing Club (i.e., local artists Julie Armbruster and R. Brooke Priddy) collected news stories they deemed noteworthy and created illustrations to accompany each one. Twelve of the original drawings are hanging on the walls of BoBo Gallery along with the stories they illustrate.

All the news that’s fit to draw: Local artists Julie Armbruster (left) and R. Brooke Priddy have produced a hand-bound book of their 2008 news illustrations. Photo by Jonathan Welch.

Newsworthy: A Year in Pictures is a humorous celebration of the bizarre, and teases notions of the imaginary versus reality. The S.S. Drawing Club took the 12 drawings on display plus the remaining 18 in the collection and crafted an elegantly designed, handbound book. The books are on display at BoBo and can be purchased for $65.

The objective tone of each news story takes on a fable-like quality. From the macabre to the mundane, the stories outline a peculiar portrayal of the current state of human affairs. They seem more likely to have been born of a science-fiction novel.

In their entirety, the stories echo the Dadaists, who announced, “All is Dada!” That is, on a certain level everything is nonsensical, and only our willingness to give it meaning endows it with meaning. While none of the stories in Newsworthy is overtly political, each has a striking social implication.

The illustrations are rendered austerely in pencil and marker on paper with fluid strokes of subdued colors. Many of the characters embody befuddled or lackluster expressions, which often makes for funny results.

In one piece, a man is indecently entangled with a vacuum-cleaner hose, and in another, two mice copulate in a running wheel while a third stands in a puddle of urine. Most of the drawings are overt depictions of the event at hand, but several have more poetic overtones. A stately dog sniffs a psychedelic cloud of green and pink goo, accompanied by a headline that reads: “Cancer Sniffing Dog Cloned.” Many of the drawings’ airy compositions contrast with their headlines’ stark tones, such as the graceful depiction of “Deer Penis Loses Favor.”

One of the most horrific stories found in Newsworthy is that of a woman who stabbed and killed a pregnant woman, stole the unborn baby and attempted to pass the infant off as her own. The accompanying drawing simply depicts a woman holding a crying baby while standing next to a telephone, and is probably the most understated of all of the Newsworthy drawings. The benign depiction of the woman gives no indication of the gory events that just took place. It’s as if the artists are suggesting that this story is just too bizarre, too terrible, too “Dada” to accurately illustrate, so the episode is better left to the viewer’s morbid imagination.

[Ursula Gullow is an Asheville-based writer and artist.]

who: Newsworthy: A Year in Pictures
what: Illustrated versions of 12 weird news items from 2008
where: BoBo Gallery and Wine Bar (22 S. Lexington Ave.)
when: Through Jan. 31. (Daytime hours: Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. Nighttime hours vary. Visit www.bobogallery.com or e-mail to ssdrawing@gmail.com.)

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8 thoughts on “Drawing on the extraordinary

  1. AshevilleObserver

    Some images from the book would have helped this article.

  2. Rebecca Sulock

    Check out the print edition! and we’ll see about putting a couple up here.

  3. AshevilleObserver

    Thanks for posting images. Could you ask your Web guy to take the next step for ALL images and give them the ability to right-click and zoom to a larger size. This would improve the on-line edition greatly.

  4. Gabriel Shaffer

    Ecstatic to see Ursula Gullow is writing art reviews for the Xpress, looking forward to many more and im even happier to see the article is about two of my favorite ladies in town!

  5. marie

    have to say i liked the name segment sixteen much more than ss drawing club, what with the nazi connotations and all.

  6. I’m in love with Julie Armbruster’s enigmatic work, and the name book title evokes quaint old ships for me, like the S.S. Minow.

    Wish Mountain Xpress had a post to facebook option!

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