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It's impossible not to notice "Flight of the Pigeons" at the Brink Gallery.

At 63 by 40 inches, Lindsey Meyers Carroll's drawing dominates the rear wall.

A woman juggles a bag, a parcel and two suitcases, one of which obscures her face. Her baggage is decorated with small birds, which take off into a flock of full-fledged pigeons that surround her.

All the large-scale drawings in "Undercover Operators" are rendered with precise detail in charcoal, chalk, pen and graphite.

Carroll, who in 2008 graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor's degree in both Spanish literature and fine art, said she aligns her work more with magic realism in literature than surrealism in visual art.

"Surrealism is so much about delving into the individual and getting out deep, dark secrets," she said.

Magic realism, meanwhile, is "an expression of the world the artist sees, their particular take on reality."

The pieces, many of which feature human figures with sheep or steer heads, touch on her city upbringing in a rural state and on women's roles in culture and society.

The first piece in the series was "Staring Down Fences," a massive 38-by-42-inch drawing of a crouched female form in a Hurley hoodie. The figure is topped with the head of a steer, staring back directly at the viewer.

It began late at night, when she didn't have any other figures to work from beyond herself. She took pictures in various poses, but didn't feel her facial expressions suited what she wanted to say.

"Sometimes, realism is so familiar that you don't see the things that are really important," she said.

She found the steer while looking through her collection of images, and thought it had a "powerful presence."

"That says way more than anything I could've done with just myself," she said.

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She starts with a large sheet of masonite on the wall, and tapes up a big sheet of paper from a roll.

After a wash of color has dried, she begins to block in the composition with nine or 10 different chalks.

She starts in the upper left corner and works her way to the lower right.

She has the composition in mind and adjusts as necessary – she doesn't use a grid or a projector.

"I just sort of circle out what that form will be and I'll just go for it," she said.

The drawing process, which lasts six weeks for the larger drawings at the Brink, has a meditative aspect that plays into her content.

"It kind of busies my hands, but also busies any fretting nature I have and allows my mind to just wander," she said.

In the case of "Staring Down Fences," she was considering the power plays that occur in her interactions with men.

She works with progressive men, but found that she often felt powerless in some situations.

"Men are maybe brought up in a way that they're taught to take on that role of power," she said. Women, she said, are perhaps taught to submit.

"Without even realizing we maybe fall into those roles. I had to kind of change my perspective of those situations," she said.

"As soon as I did, the nuances changed," she said.

Putting the masculine head on her body, and therefore rendering it androgynous, "ended up being powerful to me," she said.

Carroll shifted from drawing to ceramics while an undergrad, and continued in that vein.

She found it wanting though, since functional works can only deal with human relationships in an abstract fashion.

"I think a lot of things I want to talk about are relationships with other human beings," she said.

She plans to continue in this body of work, and see where it evolves from the starting point regarding content.

"Many of these drawings, I'm not sure what meaning they'll take on till I start working," she said.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment editor for the Missoulian.