international drawing annual 5 exhibition-in-print
online resource

Travis Townsend
Lexington, Kentucky

Eastern Kentucky University, Lecturer

pages 30-35


The activity of drawing

The activity of drawing first enters the creation of my work in the form of small doodles.  I consistently, and perhaps obsessively, sketch abstract shapes, dead little birdies, and designs for contraptions.  I formulate these into ideas for objects, often on odd scraps of household paper.  Sometimes these doodles evolve into finished works, and other times they merely serve to document an idea.  Sketches pervasively accumulate in my office, at home, and in the studio, and inform, but don't necessarily dictate, my making.  Many also find their way into the interior spaces and onto the surfaces of my objects.

Clamping pieces of wood together impermanently, I am able to look at the overall composition and then decide on changes.  I might shorten boards or stack together a variety of linear parts to three-dimensionally draw out objects.  This process of sculpting is similar to sketching, and like a worked-over, much erased sketch, the completed sculptures have linear elements that vary in intensity, gesture, and movement.  I consider each piece of material to be a small component to the whole, like marks making up a drawing.

Renovated Flightless Devices

My idiosyncratic sculptures play off the forms and function of tools, toys, boats, and, perhaps, military equipment. These process-oriented works take a winding path to completion, evolving from continuously redrawn sketches and traveling through many transformations before being cut apart, reassembled, and reworked. Parts are often transplanted, left behind, or recycled. Through this method of construction and reconstruction, I am able to intuitively build and then, at a later time, make necessary changes.

Embracing the unplanned, these oddly familiar, nearly useful-looking sculptures are imbued with human characteristics and gestures. Curious inspection and patient observation reveal previously unseen drawings and room-like interiors, many with small chairs and ladders "left over‰ from previous inhabitants.  These things have handles, openings, drawn symbols, and moveable parts, but like the mystery of a ritual object from a broken-down culture, the physical or metaphorical functions are left to the imagination.  In an increasingly commercialized, displaced society, I‚m attempting to build slow, somewhat clumsy, objects that reveal a layered history.

Raft for __________ (with Constellation Drawing) is the most recent permutation of a work that has been slowly transforming for eleven years and continues my experimentation with connecting the sculptures to wall drawings.  My hope is that viewers to fill in the blank and finish the narrative for themselves.  Who inhabited this craft and from what were they fleeing?  Another TANKARD (with Boarded-up Cloud Drawing) and Tankship (with Infection Drawing) are two other works that, among other associations, suggest a narrative about the society that once operated (and controlled the drawings of) these deserted vessels/ devices.



born:1973, Butler, Pennsylvania


Virginia Commonwealth University, MFA, 2000
Kutztown University, BS, 1996
Penland School of Crafts                                    

selected awards/honors

Senior Resident Artist, Oregon College of Art and Craft, Portland, OR, 2010
Sculpture Grants, The Virginia A. Groot Foundation, 2009, 2008, 2006
National Young Sculptors Competition (third place award), Miami University, OH, 2007
Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship, The Kentucky Arts Council, Frankfort, KY, 2004

selected publications

Society for Contemporary Craft; Transformation 7: The Raphael Founder's Prize Exhibition. Pittsburgh, PA: p. 60-61, 2009
New Arts Program; Travis Townsend: Sculptor/Painter. Kutztown, PA: p. 1-28, 2007
Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center; National Drawing Annual. Cincinnati, OH: Manifest Press p. 84-85, 2007
New American Paintings, No. 64. Boston, MA: The Open Studios Press p. 146-149, 2006

selected solo or two-person exhibits

Doppler PDX Gallery: New Things and Drawings, Portland, OR, 2010
The Sculpture Center: The Triumph (SmithTownsendCollaborative), Cleveland, OH, 2010
Southwest School of Art and Craft: Anxious Accumulations, San Antonio, TX, 2008-9
Weston Art Gallery: Renovated Flightless Devices, Cincinnati, OH, 2007

selected group shows

University of Hawaii Art Gallery: The 10th International Shoebox Sculpture Exhibition, Honolulu, HI, 2009 and traveling through 2011
University Art Gallery, Eastern Michigan University: Contemporary Sculpture, Ypsilanti, MI, 2009
Cedarhurst Center for the Arts: The Cedarhurst Wood Project, Mt. Vernon, IL, 2009
Lexington Art League: Wall-to-Wall: Monumental Drawings, Lexington, KY, 2008

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