Explore the Moira Dryer exhibition with your family from home. Scroll down for activities and share your creations with @restonarts #ExploreMoreHomeEdition.


The Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) is pleased to present our latest exhibition entitled Moira Dryer: Yours for the Asking. This exhibition presents a selection of works by the artist Moira Dryer (b. 1957, Toronto, Ontario; d.1992, New York, New York). Dryer is known for her large-scale abstract paintings on wood panel. Abstract art is art that does not try to represent physical things as they are in reality (this is called figurative art), but rather uses shapes, colors, and textures to create a resulting work. This exhibition is very special because many of the artworks on display were given as gifts to close friends and family of the artist. 

Dryer’s work has been exhibited across the United States including in Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art; Whitney Museum of Modern Art; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Her work is also in the permanent collections of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Explore More is a self-guided program for kids and families normally taking place in our gallery. The Home Edition is designed for families to enjoy virtually! 



Moira Dryer was interested in the emotional presence or mood that art can offer. One way that she expressed emotion in her artwork was by building up layers of color. Take a look at Green #129 (1985). Your eyes will likely begin by focusing on the bright emerald green in the center of the work. However, soon you will see other colors and shapes float into view that were almost hidden at first glance! In this way, Dryer creates an air of depth and mystery with the painting.

Now it’s your turn to experiment with color. For this project, you will need two main items:

  • a panel (this could be a piece of white computer paper, cardboard, or other flat surface)
  • paint (this could be actual paint (watercolors work well), crayons, pastels, etc.)

When you are ready, choose a color. Divide your paper in two and apply a darker shade of the color to one section and a lighter shade to the other side. If using paint, allow to dry. Start to experiment by layering light shades to the dark section and darker shades to the light section. Do the new layers blend into the background, or do they “pop” out? How do these colors make you feel? Did you have an emotion in mind before starting your work, or did it come to you while you were creating? 


Do you think that a painting needs to be made with a paintbrush? Did you ever think about other materials with which to apply paint? Take a look at The Power of Suggestion (1991): bright magenta spots fill the wood in a seemingly random fashion. These dots were applied with a baster or type of dropper.  Because the paint had saturated the wood panel beneath, the edges of these spots are hazy, almost as if the spots are comets blazing through the sky. On the edges of this painting, the artist even used her own thumbprint to make a border for her piece! 

Now it’s time to make your own thumbprint picture frame! You will need the following materials:

  • pencil
  • cardstock or cardboard (cereal boxes work well for this)
  • scissors
  • paint or inkpads
  • your fingers or carrots/baby potatoes cut in half

Begin by folding your rectangular paper/cardboard in half (hotdog fold). Make sure the folded part is facing you and the open flaps are at the top. Then trace three lines around the rectangle, roughly one inch from the edge, with no marks being made on the folded side. Cut along the line and open the paper. You will now have a frame! Dip your thumb (or carrots/baby potatoes cut in half) in the paint or ink pad and begin moving around the edges to create a repeating pattern. When the frame is dry, find a photo or other artwork to tape onto the back and enjoy!


Many of Moira Dryer’s artworks are much thicker than other traditional paintings you might have seen at museums. The artist often fixed wooden frameworks on the backs of her pieces so they would “pop out” and thus create a shadow on the wall. Take a look at the circular red piece (Untitled, nd). Here, Dryer added elements to the outer edges of the work (in this case metal feathers) which produce a sunburst effect. The shadows they create on the wall look like lightning bolts! With these techniques, Dryer invites the wall to be a part of the artwork. 

Now it’s time to make your own sunburst shadow art! For this project you will need:

  • cardboard
  • glue or tape
  • materials for “sunrays” (i.e. cotton swabs, flowers, pipe cleaners, etc.)

Cut out three circles from your cardboard which are identical in shape. Glue or tape these pieces together to make a thicker “panel”. Next, take the material you’ve selected for the sunrays and tape them on the back of your piece along the edge so that they stick out from the front. Have fun manipulating the materials if they allow (for example, bend or twist pipe cleaners, or gently tug on cotton swabs to puff up the cotton). Decorate the front of your circle as you wish. 

When your work is ready, lean it against a wall or ask a parent to help you hang it. Experiment shining light on your work from different angles. What shapes have your objects projected onto the walls? Are they what you thought they would look like? How can you add other materials to change the shadow?

Photo credit: Greg Staley