The cabinet of curiosity
Carly Drew grew up on the red clay of South Carolina but spent her summers on a family farm in the community of Indiana, a rural borough in western Pennsylvania. A couple of years ago, after her grandparents died, Drew’s relatives began to feud over family land, she says. At the same time, energy companies were moving into the region with renewed interest, probing the bedrock for natural gas.
Drew began to see the landscape in new ways. It could still be personal and lovely, but now there was also conflict, powerful new technology, and layers of documentation: data sets and scientific symbols, lines on maps. Online, she found gas-company records that listed people by latitude and longitude, “transposing personal relationships into another, more rigid structure,” she says.
It was this counterpoint of old and new, personal and technical, that began to shape her work and open up what she calls “the cabinet of curiosity,” an allusion to eclectic Renaissance collections of artifacts, specimens from natural history, and objects of art tailored to the curator’s history and identity. She grew interested, she says, in “the topographies of ideas.”
As a child, Drew was constantly drawing on sketchpads made of leftover paper from her grandfather’s printing press. She still works mostly on paper, using watercolor washes in muted earth tones, incising them with charcoal or graphite symbols and patterns—topographic lines, blocks of terms or data, cursive quotations, snippets of code. Here and there, lines from nature converge and blend with the symbols of technology.
Drew has been influenced by her teachers and by artists such as Anselm Keefer and Walton Ford, but her father remains her first critic. An accomplished designer and craftsman, he also makes frames for her work. “If he can look at a piece and really get into it, then I kind of know that I’m on the right trail,” she says.
Carly Drew is working toward a master of fine arts degree at Clemson. Her major professor is Todd McDonald, a painter and associate professor of art. Drew has exhibited her work in the Kentucky National Juried Biennial, the McNeese National Works on Paper Exhibition in Louisiana, the annual upstate visual arts exhibition in Greenville, and at the Hub-Bub Showroom Gallery in Spartanburg, South Carolina.