By Marcy Stamper
The Winthrop Gallery’s new show is called “Small Works,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the art on display is diminutive. Instead, the concept behind the show was to inspire artists to provide their interpretation of what it means when they think about the sense of being small.
What results is a big range of perspectives. For some artists, working small is intentional, such as when they create an intricate piece of jewelry or finely worked weaving. But for others, small may mean a sketch or a prelude to a larger painting or pastel. Many artists fill pages with quick impressions from nature to incorporate in paintings, jewelry or weavings.
Some of the Winthrop Gallery’s artists elected to focus on small subjects — tiny wildflowers or a small opening in an otherwise vast wall of rock, and others incorporated small, ornamental elements in their artwork.
Many of the artists embraced the opportunity to take a different approach to their art. Watercolor painter Paula Christen said working small gave her a way to experiment with new concepts, color combinations or compositions because she could try them out quickly.
For acrylic painter Kathy Meyers, working on a small canvas has been a necessity as she recovers from back surgery. Meyers, who favors large, loose brushstrokes to capture a fleeting moment, typically paints standing up, applying a few strokes and then stepping back to see the effect.
But Meyers has found ways to preserve her unconstrained aesthetic while incorporating the additional detail that the smaller canvas requires. “You don’t have a lot of space for what I call the ‘slap the brush around on the canvas’ approach,” she said.
Meyers has come to like working small, particularly because it lends itself to exploring a theme from many angles. One of her series highlights the play of intense shadows in paintings of rushes at sunset, the eerie shadows cast by moonlight on snow, and the shadows made by her cat.
Photographer Pearl Cherrington is exhibiting black-and-white works with an abstract quality, while Teri Pieper has done a series of photos of emerging wildflowers that captures their small, delicate features.
Gloria Spiwak has created several intricate cloisonné pieces, which incorporate deeply hued enamel and metalwork. Spiwak is exhibiting two takes on the natural world — one from the perspective of a cat; the other, a mythological theme featuring a unicorn, which she terms “a rare species of the Northwest.”
Lauralee Northcott’s pine-needle baskets lend themselves to a small-scale presentation because of their intricate details — fine stitchery and beadwork with embellishments such as antlers or polished stones.
Woodworker Cliff Schwab has crafted a jewelry cabinet from reclaimed wood, a small gem of a piece that can hold still more small items.
The cooperative Winthrop Gallery features the work of two dozen photographers, woodworkers, painters, textile artists, ceramicists, glass artists and jewelry artists.
“Small Works” will be on view at the Winthrop Gallery from April 26 through May 29, with an opening reception on Saturday (April 29) from 5 to 7 p.m.