downsize: the unAmerican art exhibit
Americans, we're all about Big this and Huge that. Just take a look at our
homes, automobiles, consumer packaging, wholesale food clubs, and super-sizeable
fast food menus. In contrast, South Florida artists responded this July with
downsize (all lowercase), “a brief exhibition of diminutive
works,” which included painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and
one-night show of miniature art drew a small and tightly knit community of Palm
Beach County artists and enthusiasts to a tiny, single room, guesthouse in Lake
Worth. Some works were so small (like Sibel Kocabasi’s painted grains of rice)
that attendees were provided magnifying glasses and reading glasses to
appreciate the works’ details.
Walker-Tomé, who regularly organizes art exhibits on creative concepts in
alternative spaces, gave the 19 artists involved a challenge: “What’s the
smallest artwork you can make and still get what you want in there?” The idea
was for artists to make “tiny discreet objects,” nothing bigger than 4x6
inches. Most artists went smaller.
Knudtson, who teaches summer camp at the Armory Art Center, met the challenge
with portraits of children’s teeth. Captivated by the shapes of the mouths of
her young campers whose mouths were shedding teeth and growing new ones,
Knudtson created dental portraits on playing cards, both standard and miniature
sized, and displayed them in the mirrored medicine cabinet and around the sink
of the Tomé guesthouse bathroom.
Martha Stewart paint chips (the color samples you’d get at a paint store) as his
canvas, Sam Perry created works of the same density, colors, and material that
he normally does on six to eight foot canvases. This time the paint, wax, and
glitter were applied to a smaller scale. When the works were installed with
pins to the walls of the small stucco structure, the wet paint from one drooled
down the narrow wall between two closets.
a New York/South Florida artist, produced a series of four 2x3 inch paintings of
minute but mythological proportions rendering the Garden of the Eden and Romulus
and Remus stories.
were included in the exhibit: Peggy Jean Dodson’s seven page “The Restless
Breast,” a 2x2 inch illustrated bedtime story, hung in a closet from a copper
wire, which also “bound” the book at its corner. As small as Dodson’s work was,
it dwarfed the “Dirty Little Book” displayed on a pink tissue on the toilet
tank. Cheri Marie’s itty-bitty bathroom reader held a one word on each of its
pages to create a single pornographic sentence between its naked-lady cover,
which when opened was barely an inch wide.
office supplies alone—printer, photocopier, colored liquid paper, and ink on
Manila cardstock—Miss Agatha hyper-reduced printouts of computer code and worked
into the patterns to create dynamic, geometric works smaller than 2 square
inches each. Appropriately, the series was Scotch-taped to the wall.
tried her hand at her own assignment. Using color slides from her collection of
other people’s cast-off memories, she obscured all but a pea-sized portion of
each with a silver Sharpie marker. In one, for instance, matching sailor
dresses are all that remains of a mother and daughter photo. In a 1949 slide
labeled by its original owner “Mrs. Lamb,” only the woman’s arm can be seen.
Walker-Tomé leaves only essential elements and calls into question “what makes
each image special and why they were ever thrown away.”
wanted this show to be different than those she’s become known for. This
exhibit, inspired by her empty guesthouse while it was between tenants, was
object-based rather than site-specific like her annual Showtel, an installation
art show at Hotel Biba.
scale required more work than many attendees were accustomed to. Instead of
confronting their viewers, the works’ subtlety begged for intimacy. Granted,
not all viewers (myself included) were comfortable with their noses nearly up
against the artwork. But art isn’t about comfort, is it?
Ironically, the refreshments offered to guests were all purchased from the
giant warehouse wholesale club Costco.
information on future exhibits, contact Kara Walker-Tomé at email@example.com.