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A chance discovery in 1978 was the beginning of Wyrick’s fascination in exploring and developing a wide range of drawings that she named “Needle Drawings .” 1978 was also the year that Wyrick’s sculpture Eighth Continent was being installed, the first showing of Parameters.Perimeters. took place, and when, on a UI Presidents Club tour in Italy, she “met” Donatello.

Wyrick was experimenting with paper reliefs when she tried using an unconventional drawing tool—a sewing machine’s unthreaded needle--to perforate multiple layers of papers leaving selected areas to be removed. A piece of Canson vellum nearby was laid over the first group of “drawn” paper reliefs and she was intrigued by what she saw as its potential. The vellum overlay tantalizingly seems to “deny” the relief, yet made the viewer wonder about its construction.


A number of layers of paper were added in subsequent drawings to make each drawing more three-dimensional and when that was done, even more possibilities were revealed. Most later Needle Drawings were made using 24 sheets of Domestic Etch paper, working with them in four groups of 6 sheets each.

The chance selection of Domestic Etch paper provided a soft edge rather than a hard edge that allowed Wyrick to explore the depth of the reliefs, the shadowing created by the perforated edges of the paper along with the different whites of the paper and the vellum, all of which serve to create some of the subtle effects. Wyrick was also later able to explore color diffusion by coloring the perforated edges with color pastels, color pencil and charcoal.

Using the sewing machine limited the ultimate size of the drawings to about a maximum size of 20” x 26,” although Wyrick attempted a few larger drawings at the outset. That began her use of side-by-side drawings that followed a theme and expanded the statement’s size.

The difficulty of presenting Needle Drawings in Electronic Media...


Much of the Needle Drawings ’ dreamlike, soft and ethereal effect depends upon light sources where the drawings are displayed. When the drawings are placed where ambient light sources change throughout the day, there are subtle changes that can’t be captured in a single photograph or scan. In addition, as the viewer’s viewpoint changes such as when walking by the drawing, a different aspect of the drawing often presents itself. Digital translation cannot fully capture the in-person view of Needle Drawings.

The artist owes great thanks to Anne Wyrick who devoted hours and hours during the Pandemic to translate each Needle Drawing as closely as possible from the photographic scanned images to the images found on this website. We invite you to see them in person if at all possible!

Making a series of Needle Drawings...  


Wyrick made several series such as …river without banks that allowed her to expand on a theme or to explore a particular concept further. The first five …river without banks drawings were shown together at her UI Theater show and purchased for a residence where they were very effectively shown on a long entryway wall.

The series of …river without banks, pictured at the top of this Needle Drawings section, show how this series is linked together. Smaller groupings of the series were rapidly purchased, but…river without banks was never shown together in its entirety.



Diffusion by adding color and/or charcoal accents...  


By selectively coloring the edges of the paper with soft or oil pastels, color pencil or charcoal, Wyrick found yet another way to explore these drawings as there was diffusion of the color. Doing this made it even harder to translate into electronic media, but in-person viewing was made even more interesting. 



Framing Needle Drawings..


Advice from frame shops and other artists recommended including a spacer between the “glazing” or front glass and the artwork to maintain its “look.” Disaster struck as the first framed Needle Drawings encountered a season of high humidity (not unusual for Iowa) and the vellum face sheet that was held under the spacer became badly wrinkled.

Ulfert Wilke, the first director of the new UI Museum of Art, had been the resource person on the Wyricks’ 1978 Presidents Club European tour. He was also a friend and an internationally known artist and his enthusiasm for art was unlimited. When the artist showed him her drawings, along with what had happened to them, he was excited about the concept and he recommended that the Chicago conservator, Louis Pomerantz, who was at that time working in the Museum on a large Robert Motherwell painting, be consulted to see if there was any way to salvage the drawings.

Surprised and complimented by Ulfert’s enthusiasm for the drawings, but at the same time afraid of being unable to afford to pay a conservator’s fee, Wyrick delayed asking Mr. Pomerantz for a meeting. But when the drawings were eventually shown to him, he too became intrigued and was challenged to think of a way to preserve them.



Rescuing the Needle Drawing concept... 


Louis Pomerantz spent almost a whole afternoon discussing the drawing with Wyrick and he drew on his knowledge of Asian art done on fragile papers to arrive at the solution that worked: The vellum overlay was to be cut so it lay inside the spacer, rather than under it.

Then silk threads were to be glued to the backside of each of the vellum’s four corners. The vellum was then to be turned over and the silk threads glued to the first sheet of the multi-layered drawing. The vellum then is not held down by the spacer and is allowed to float free inside the spacer. Doing this, the vellum face sheet is allowed to adjust during humid weather.

Even though framing in this way increased the time necessary to complete each drawing, it allowed the explorations you see here. As a thank you to Mr. Pomerantz, Wyrick sent him a framed Needle Drawings and he was delighted, not having been rewarded for his work by many other artists in that way.




Wyrick’s First Needle Drawing...  


Jack Pine Woods was Wyrick's first Needle Drawing. On a family trip to the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota, she was struck by the dense Jack Pine forests along the way that are often overlooked because they are so ordinary in the area. Jack Pine imagery appears throughout her Needle Drawing, as it transforms from being in the natural world into ladders with more abstract human allusions.  


Although a few needle drawings were larger, the largest were about 20” x 26” that could be handled in the sewing machine. But in order to expand a concept, Wyrick often made diptychs or even series of three to five to be hung side-by-side. 


Jack Pine Woods - 1978

 Jack Pine Woods - 1978_edited.jpg

How the Needle Drawings were named...


In a meeting of friends interested in the arts at the artist’s studio (an old farmhouse she rented in the country east of Iowa City), someone asked what the drawings were called. The group was intrigued by the drawings and “paper relief” was not considered adequate. Nancy Seiberling, a close friend knowledgeable about the Arts, immediately dubbed them Needle Drawings because they were “drawn” by using a sewing machine needle to perforate the papers.  

First Review of Needle Drawings...


One of the first reviews of Wyrick’s artwork was by Nick Baldwin, Des Moines Register’s Art Critic. It appeared on March 18, 1979, during her show at Percival Galleries in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Baldwin was especially impressed by her Needle Drawings.

Nick Baldwin Review DM Register 03-17-79.jpg

The artist’s concepts...  


Paddy Blackman wrote in Lifework: Portraits of Iowa Women Arts, that Wyrick could be described as a ‘lateral thinker,’ a person who sees connections between unlikely sources, and she has always been especially drawn to “connectedness” in her works of art.  


From the beginning of her career in the visual arts in the early 1970s, she has also been fascinated by the interplay between language and the visual arts.  For instance, most of her artworks’ titles, especially in Needle Drawings, overlay, rather than encompass the work, yet they direct the viewer to possible new interpretations of each work.   


It has been of prime importance to Wyrick to provide other viewers ways to attach their own additional meaning to her works of art. 


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