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Archives    Marya Summers art news Marya Summers is the former editor of Pandemonium art and literary magazine and  also the former art and theater writer for Free Press, Palm Beach County's alternative source for art and news.  Now, she's a freelance arts writer, a poetry and theater artist-in-residence in the public schools, an English instructor at PBCC, and the host of a weekly poetry slam in Delray Beach. www.delrayslam.com .





downsize: the unAmerican art exhibit

by Marya Summers

 As 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 mixed-media. 

The 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. 

Host Kara 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. 

Sarah 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. 

Using 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. 

Ryan Toth, 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.

Two books 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. 

From 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.

 Walker-Tomé 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.” 

 Walker-Tomé 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. 

The art’s 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.

 For information on future exhibits, contact Kara Walker-Tomé at karawt@aol.com.









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Palm Beach Art
220 North G street
Lake Worth, Florida 33460