SMALL Really IS BIG
By Marlene Steele
When the concept is BIG, small works do not need to justify their existence against larger works because of their smaller borders. This 30 piece exhibit redefines the concept of ‘BIG’ in a number of ways and rewards the viewer with unique insights.
Any artist who undertakes the assignment of smaller works realizes immediately that every mark counts in an informational sense. Power is derived as much from what is left out as what is included. The character and design of mark-making as well as the assignment of real estate in a reduced format are all part of the ‘game’. Scale of execution is both intimate and magnified in the small format. Several of these pieces illustrate that the artist chose ‘constructing’ as opposed to rendering while working through the painting process. First case in point: works by Tim Kennedy of Indiana. In his “Judy’s House from the Alley” brush strokes become chimney, tree limb, shadow and structure with the nonchalance of a single, seemingly casual stroke. His landscape pieces convincingly portray clear, sunlit suburbia with requisite tree, house and drive or brisk lake-washed air, all conveyed with the shock of the quickly seen and instantly reported. No apologies, thank you.
Garden clutter challenges the 8″x8″ format of Ken Kewley’s “Wheelbarrows”. An indeterminate number of two-handled yard mules are abstracted into planes and slashes of slightly dirty colors. Quasi-green grays and dirty turquoise are tagged by stabs of red, fuchsia pink and muddy brick orange. Drips, smears and approximate shaping–employed profusely throughout the show– divulge a taste preferring the act of painting to an obsessive concern for finish. “Downtown Easton from Balcony” depicts the usual cityscape elements with a spare, ambiguously geometric vocabulary. Hinting at planar relationships in the foreground, a scumbling statement and re-statement approach with knife accents and occasional edge description impose a decisive conclusion to the battlefield history of this one. Color relationships are intriguing, nuanced and jarringly accented with both shape and hue.
The view from the pilot’s cockpit is the engaging viewpoint of Erwin M. Saniga’s “Planes”, approximately 12″x14″. Inhale the dusty, humid air on the smudgy pink grey strip while the hot metal sheen of a red nosed twin engine plane bakes in the sunlight. The wingtip of your plane protrudes in the pictorial space like a shark’s dorsal fin and contrasts pointedly with the knife-like shadows underlining the fuselage in the distant middle ground. Additional sparsely described details leave much to the viewer’s imagination and interpretation.
Eve Mansdorf, also of Indiana, attacks the possibilities of a copse of trees, a lake, a quarry and a cookout. I enjoyed “Portage Lake” for its characterization of lake and boating lanes with strokes both skimming and strategically placed. The colorful “Cookout” is memorable for its passage and stroke construction and unpredictable color notations of a couple relaxing over the backyard barbecue.
The lonely plight of the basement incarcerated snowman is the theme of Massachusett artist Catherine Kehoe’s “Frosty”. Poised on a box with a fun-ready hula-hoop between weather gear, coats and shovel, his carrot nosed silhouette gazes yearningly out of the ground level window. The whimsicality of this painting is the drawing card. However, the viewer enjoys the sharp execution of the variously included elements once engaged. Kehoe’s two no-nonsense self-portrait pieces, roughly 5″x7″, are sculpted in painterly fashion in warm and cool tones, accented with decisive knifed lines at plane edges. They reveal an unflattered visage in multi-faceted paint planes while a versatile brush marvelously describes the kerchief knotted over her brow. Regarding the title: “Schemata Head”, “schemata” comes from the Greek word “σχήμα” (skhēma), which means shape, or more generally, plan. This may be relevant to the discernible gridding mechanism employed on the surface of this painting. The series of knifed lines enable the precise location of pivotal plane edges, pointing to the artist’s intentional surface mapping in the self examination process.
This enjoyable show is an intimate experience revealing imagery and message to the viewer through a new sieve and establishing the potency of each concept with a fresh interpretation of medium and message.
This exhibit was also shown at the Grunwald Gallery of Art, Bloomington, Indiana Oct-Nov. 2012
Marlene Steele, works in oil, watercolor and pastel and teaches in the greater Cincinnati region.