Thinking Through Drawing: Drawing with Morgan ☆

| October 22, 2013

In anticipation of the Thinking Through Drawing art symposium hosted by Teachers College this October, the Macy Gallery is currently adorned with four prominent drawing installations. Upon entering the gallery a bold black wall draws you in, entrancing you with its intricate white squiggles that wrap around one another. This, your introduction to the exhibition, is a wall drawing by Morgan O’Hara.

A glimpse of Morgan’s wall drawing in the Macy Gallery, a statement piece commissioned for the 3rd international Thinking Through Drawing symposium

One of four artists commissioned for the drawing exhibition, Morgan began her association with Teachers College through her friendship with Andrea Kantowitz, a doctoral candidate in the Art and Arts Education department and curator for the current drawing installation. Morgan has worked with many of the instructors in the department, and has even given a class on scribbling entitled “The Un-self-conscious Pencil.” This month Ms. Kantowitz contacted Morgan to create a site-specific statement piece and the result was her black and white wall drawing.

In addition to the naturally emphatic contrast of the black and white, Morgan says her childhood in Japan inspired her to use these hues in much of her work, as she grew up surrounded by calligraphy. Morgan was given free reign to draw anything she desired for the Macy installation, and selected a subject that reflects her work with Teachers College. Morgan has recently been working with scientists such as Germano Cecere in the Grishok Lab at the Columbia University Medical Center. She draws the movement of the C. elegans worms they are researching, as well as the kinetic motions of the scientists at work with their specimens. The C. elegans are being studied because of their transparency, to better view their inner biology, but Morgan says she is interested in drawing them because “the worms are elegant,” and she finds it interesting how “their motion changes in response to the amount of food present.”

Morgan’s drawing depicts three generations of C. elegans worms, which are being studied in the CUMC Grishok Lab

Though the concept was her’s alone, the wall drawing was actually completed using the help of student volunteers and a group of the scientists from the Grishok Lab, whose names are all signed on the drawing. When asked why she would encourage the assistance of amateurs to complete her work, Morgans says that “the assistance of non-artists improves the quality of the product, as everyone handles a brush differently.” The brush lines will thus be more diverse and the final painting will be more unique.

The Macy drawing exhibition is the only Teachers College art show that will be used in conjunction with Thinking Through Drawing. This year’s symposium is partnering with the Drawing Research Network and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While the panel discussions and drawing performances will take place at Teachers College on October 24th and 26th, drawing workshops and an art plenary session will be held in the Uris Education Center of the Met on Friday, the 25th.

As drawing is her preferred medium, Morgan firmly believes that “drawing has a right to stand alone as a fine art,” instead of being subjugated as a preparatory step for painting and other media. The panel discussion at the Met and the conference at large are intended to give drawing the attention and esteem it deserves.

Morgan at work drawing the worms in the Grishok Lab.

By Alyssa Foster

Arts & Humanities Writer

Notes: All photos are property of Morgan O’Hara.

For more information about the presenters and events of the Thinking Through Drawing symposium, please visit their site: Please note that registration is currently full for the symposium, but your are encouraged to experience a piece of the conference by visiting the Macy Gallery installation!

To contact the scientists who Morgan collaborated with or to find out more about the C. elegans, please visit the CUMC Grishok website:

Morgan’s gallery is Studio 610 at The Elizabeth Foundation. All 80 studios will be open, free of charge for public viewing the same weekend as Thinking Through Drawing, October 24-26!