Carol Prusa's silverpoints / by Jeannine Cook

A fellow silverpoint artist, Carol Prusa, Professor at Florida Atlantic University, currently has an exhibition, Silver Linings: Delicate Drawings, at the Polk Museum in Lakeland, Florida. She has been in two exhibitions with me at museums and I have been more and more fascinated and impressed with her work.

Silverpoint is a drawing medium which basically had its beginnings in the 12th century with the monks in monasteries working on illuminated manuscripts, but Carol has achieved the most perfect update of this medium for the 21st century. Using the same marks made with a silver stylus, she has evolved from the flat surface of vellum, parchment, paper or board to spherical acrylic surfaces on which she draws. She also shows herself to be fully of our technological times, sometimes combining the domed drawings with fiber optics or video. The drawings she conceives are the most hypnotically compelling amalgam of delicate patterning and abstract intellectual concepts, alluding to biology, philosophy, theology or physics. Yet as you are drawn into their delicacy and beauty, the underpinnings of this deep and informed thinking that led to their creation become the background music. Knowing how slow the medium of silverpoint can be to develop, I cannot but marvel at the amount of detail, and thus time, that characterise Carol's work. Layer upon layer, pattern after pattern, the drawings are built up to an incredibly satisfying and sensuous harmony. As Daniel Stetson, Executive Director of the Polk Museum wrote in the elegant catalogue for the exhibition, "... it is through countless tiny details working in unison that beauty of both form and function are created. "

Silverpoint is a medium that lends itself to the clear rendering of such "tiny details". Historically, silverpoint has been the medium of choice for scientific drawings, such as botanical studies, with even such artists as Judith Leyster, using it. ( Incidentally, it is the 400th anniversary of Leyster's birthday, celebrated with a wonderful exhibition currently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.) Leyster did a study of a tulip in silverpoint and watercolour in 1643; she was one of the last to use silverpoint for many a long year after that, because everyone forgot about the medium until the early 19th century. When silverpoint was "rediscovered" - because Cennini Cennini's manuscript of his 1390 how-to art book, Il Libro dell'arte, was found in the Laurentian Library in Italy and artists began to learn about this drawing medium - most of the artists promptly used it for drawings requiring fine lines and delicate details. Carol is the most perfect heir to this heritage. Her drawings provide insights into the world in an elegantly rigorous fashion that bridges science, art and pure visual pleasure.

Rush off and see this exhibition if you are in the Lakeland area of Florida. You will be rewarded.