Ways of Seeing: An Exploration of Line

We see lines everywhere in daily life: in cracks on the sidewalk, on our notebook paper, and as we stand in lines buying groceries, just to name a few. We may learn in school that a line is created by connecting two points in space. How is line defined in visual arts? How do artists use line to create meaningful works of art?

This exhibition will begin by answering these questions. Part One will create a vocabulary of line, giving viewers the tools to see, understand, and talk about line in the visual arts. Part Two explores invisible lines that we experience instead of see. Each artwork in this section employs line to communicate about invisible lines drawn by social constructs such as race, gender, and borders, giving the viewer the opportunity to use the knowledge they gained in the first section to undercover meaning in the second.

While the first part of this exhibition is meant to encourage close-looking and answer questions about line as a formal element in visual art, the second half is intended to generate more thinking, questioning, and conversation about what divides, what unites, and the space between the two.

Merritt Johnson, Native American
2009
oil and alkyd on canvas
Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of the artist
AFI.463.2012, © Merritt Johnson

Ways of Seeing is an ongoing series of exhibitions located in the Bohorfoush Gallery in the First Floor hallway that explores themes, perspectives, and ideas from across the museum’s global art collections.