Live transmission drawings, recording Monarch butterflies’ flight patterns, by Morgan O’Hara (USA)


I went to Michoacan to draw the movement of the migrating Monarch butterflies. Ten days before I got there, a terrible storm whose heavy rains destroyed villages and homes, took the lives of 41 people, and killed most of the butterflies. During the three weeks I was in the Michoacan area all I found was half of a monarch butterfly wing in a cow pasture. In the Guapamacataro library I found a book of contemporary Mexican poetry and made imaginary drawings of butterflies coupled with Elsa Cross’s poem Disappearances which seemed to speak to the occasion. I also made color coded drawings/accountings of how I spent my time at Guapamacataro. When I returned to Mexico City I learned that in the town of Rosario some butterflies had survived and I returned for a day to do drawings up in the mountains. The ground all the way up was covered by a six inch thick carpet of dead butterflies. I drew living butterflies mating on top of the compost as well as those flying high in the trees to strengthen their wings for the return flight. These drawings are done on the same pages as my time accounting work.


By making LIVE TRANSMISSION drawings I track, in real time, the vital movement of living beings, transcending both figuration and abstraction, executing a direct neural translation from one human action into another. Drawing methodically with multiple razor-sharp pencils and both hands, as performative drawing, I condense movement into accumulations of graphite line which combine the controlled refinement of classical drawing with the unbound sensuality of spontaneous gesture. Time-space coordinates for each drawing are described with precision in titles written across the bottom of the page. I began LIVE TRANSMISSION, drawing as timebased performance, in 1989. LIVE TRANSMISSIONS render visible normally invisible or fleeting movement patterns, through seismograph-like drawing. The theoretical base for the work – visual transmission of the principle of vitality – evolved slowly over time; the archival nature of the work as well. In 2013 there exist approximately 3000 LIVE TRANSMISSION drawings done both privately and publicly on five continents. LIVE TRANSMISSIONS communicate beyond the specificity of language.


Morgan O’Hara (Los Angeles 1941) was raised in post-war Japan. Her practice researches the vital movement of living beings through drawing. In 1989 she began working in international performance art festivals, did her first site specific wall drawings and began the practice of aikido, a Japanese martial art. O’Hara lives in New York and works internationally. Teaches master classes in drawing and the psychology of creativity in international institutions. Important residencies include MacDowell Colony, New Hampshire; Macau Museum of Art, China; Nha San Studio Hanoi, New Space Arts Foundation Hue, and Zero Space Saigon,Vietnam; Aomori Contemporary Art Center, Japan; Guapamacataro, Michoacan, Mexico. Recipient of fellowships from Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Gottleib Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, among others. Selected public collections include: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; Weatherspoon Gallery, Greensboro, North Carolina; Hood Museum of Art, New Hampshire; Czech National Gallery, Prague; Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic; Macau Art Museum, Macau, China; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Her permanent site specific wall drawings can be found in Macau, China; Kobe, Japan and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Publications include five volumes of LIVE TRANSMISSION drawings.