Touching Pictures: Thoughts on Rock Line by Max Guy

One of my first drawing instructors required his students to draw a body part in excruciating detail with the caveat that they first define for themselves the meaning of excruciating.  To define excruciating – as intensely painful, mentally agonizing, very embarrassing, awkward, or tedious – is much different than putting the word into practice within the context of an individual feature, fact or item (detail). To draw in excruciating detail is to demand an image that is in sympathy with the qualities of its subject.

Miranda Pfeiffer draws in excruciating detail.  Working in mechanical pencil on paper, she has developed a distinct approach to hatching and illusionism, through which the petrified, the aqueous and the physiological are made ambiguous.  Akin to a sculptural process, Pfeiffer “lingers with objects long enough to depict their minutest tendrils,” revealing their awkward or tedious likenesses.

In 2011, she created Solitary Stones, a series of large panoramic drawings inspired by Chinese and sixteenth century Dutch landscape paintings.  Solitary Stones constructed a world existing between an omnifarious observer and their horizon, depicted to varying degrees of generosity and austerity. The lines that delineate a stormy sky from the vast ocean below are also the axes on which they are inverted, or the gradient in which they are obscured. The world of Solitary Stones is a strange hybrid of Prehistoric and Post-Apocalyptic, where the legs of wild horses mobilize boulders, and dense glarings of cats run as wild and free as rivers amongst mountainous hills of clothing. Where the colonnades and power lines stand together in allegory – John Ford’s post-human frontier.

If Solitary Stones took influence from the Chinese and Dutch landscaping traditions, these works orbit a binary star of Zen and Brutalism – which share in common stoicism, rocks, and a penchant for minimalism. Pfeiffer continues to render situations imagined and observed, changing dimensions to smaller square drawings. She shifts attention from horizon and spatial depth in favor of the immediate, the up close, and the material.  By including the corner of one’s eye, the tip of one’s nose or finger, the drawings assume the immediate vantage point of a human body, depicting what can be understood in a moment of intense closeness. There are few differences between the wrinkles in Facing My Foot, and those of the pages in Drawing of a Crumpled Breughel. The compositions emulate instant-film photography; magnifying textures and patterns evoke a feeling of horror-vacui.  I am too close to these images to recognize what is skin, what is paper – and when I think about it – what anything is at all.  In the claustrophobia of the Rock Line drawings I do not face fantasy, but a metaphysical ambiguity. Gazing upon these drawings, dense and grey as a cinderblock wall, I experience clairvoyance and see a whole world before me.

Combining drawing with digital techniques such as gif animation and fabric printing, Pfeiffer offers alternate experiences of illusionism and observation-time. The gif animations demonstrate how observation can affect or activate certain objects.  The looped moment virtually brings to life those “minutest tendrils,” so that wood grain might behave as flowing water, suspending the biological in an uncanny, automated state. Through repetition, the textiles emphasize the materiality of her drawings over their illusionistic qualities.  Like “magic eye” pictures, the textiles are unsparing, and require work on the part of the viewer to achieve their effect. 

Rock Line is also necessarily constituted of diverse media. The drawings, which are incredibly generous in detail, often do the meditation for us.  I’m reminded of the tendencies of Paleolithic art described by Arnold Hauser in The Social History of Art:

“It was a technique without mystery, a matter-of-fact procedure, the objective application of methods, which had as little to do with mysticism and esoterism as when we set mousetraps, manure the ground, or take a drug. The pictures were part of the technical apparatus of this magic; they were the “trap” into which the game had to go, or rather they were the trap with the already captured animal – for the picture was both representation and the things represented, both wish and wish-fulfillment at one and the same time.”

Miranda’s obsession with mastery is indeed significant in an age marked by immaterial labor – a moment when images have become all encompassing, verging on tactility.  In discussing time and mastery, she isn’t exclusively speaking to repetition, but the amount of time to become intimate, sensitive, and sensuous.


Max Guy is an artist and curator living in Chicago, IL.  He has collaborated on projects such as Szechuan Best, Spiral Cinema, and Rock512Devil, a creative space for art and exhibition. In 2013, he was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Station North Grant for the film series, Spiral Cinema, of which he is a co-founder.  He is a frequent contributor to the Temporary Art Review, ACRES, and Baltimore’s What Weekly.

“Rock Line” by Miranda Pfeiffer

Ross Gallery: January 19 – March 4, 2016

Rock Line is a collection of graphite drawings, textiles and animations that evoke natural forms through excavation and touch.  In the modern era, we scroll through images on our news-feeds and snap photos before a moment has passed.  Amidst the disparate spray of a technological milieu, Miranda lingers with objects long enough to depict their minutest tendrils, building massive drawings with an everyday mechanical pencil.  Through representational drawings and hand drawn animation, a moment of present observation can last eternally, keeping a viewer from assuming prejudice and extending one’s sensory delight.

Artist Lecture: Thursday, January 28

1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m., Tate Hall (*second floor in Overcash)

Opening Reception: Thursday, January 28

5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Ross Gallery

*Animation Workshop: Friday, January 29

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Central for Arts Technology (AU 102)

*Free for students; 20 spaces available.  RSVP required to


Looking for a Unique Present?

Join us for the annual Holiday Pottery and Jewelry Sale, Thursday, December 3rd           10 a.m.- 5 p.m., Center for Arts Technology Building, Room 012—lower level (1315 East  4th Street).   Collect an original treasure for yourself or loved ones this holiday season!

2015 Friends and Family Market – Call for Art !

Calling all Faculty, Staff, and CPCC Alumni Artists…

          It’s that time again to submit artworks for the 2015 Friends and Family Market, known as one of our most popular and well-attended, and salable exhibitions!   Artists receive 50% commission, with 40% going to support CPCC Art Galleries educational programming and 10% donated to the artist’s choice of club on campus (the Visual Arts Club, Metals, or Clay Bodies).

DETAILS:                                                                                                                                  * 2015 Friends and Family Market will be located in Ross Gallery II from Oct. 14- Dec 18th

* Artists may submit between 5 – 25 individual pieces, priced at $50.00 or less.

* Due to the high volume of sales, Artists will be individually paid for all sold work in ONE CHECK, which will arrive after the holiday season in the second week of 2016.


Monday, October 5 – Wednesday, October 7, 2015 Ross Gallery                                     10:00 a.m. -2:00 p.m.

2015 FRIENDS AND FAMILY MARKET  WILL BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:                    Monday – Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.                                                                           Fridays, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.                                                                                                 Saturday, October 17,  9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.                                                                        Halloween / Holiday Reception: Thursday, October 29th  5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

We look forward to celebrating this holiday season with CPCC Friends and Family, and the extraordinary artworks you create!

Welcome brand new Visual Arts Instructor, Andrea Vail, featured in this year’s CPCC Faculty Exhibition, Opening Reception THIS Thurs 9/24 4-6:30pm!

Andrea Vail creates collaborative exchange through an investigation of contemporary American society and its objects.  She earned an MFA from the Craft/Material Studies Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a BFA in Visual Arts from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (2003).

Her recent projects include Woven Community, a citywide event supported by Culture Works Arts and Cultural District Grant Program in Richmond, VA; Gathering Clouds: A Quilting Bee with Andrea Vail at the VCU Anderson Gallery; Two Plus One: A 5 Hour Creative Interaction (co-organized with Rachel Emily Simpson) at McColl Center for Art + Innovation; and ONE HUNDRED CIRCLES with Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School; and Creating: Conversation & Community at the forthcoming Surface Design Association 2015 Conference – Made/Aware: Socially Engaged Practices.