The Small Works! art exhibition at the Carriage Barn Arts Center runs through December 21 and highlights small scale art. The work on view by 50 artists, mainly from Connecticut and New York, range from delicate drawings, paintings, and photographs to finely crafted sculpture and ceramics. The juror of the exhibition is Lee Findlay Potter, Director of the David Findlay Jr. Gallery in New York, which specializes American painting and sculpture from the late 19th century to the present. Lee is the fifth generation of art dealers in her family and her father David Findlay is a long-time resident of New Canaan.
Miniature works for the show were thoughtfully selected to provide a a historical and educational context for some of the contemporary art in the show. The history of miniature art goes back to the earliest periods of artistic production. The exhibition includes miniature manuscripts and Old Master prints, thereby tracing the evolution of such intimate gem-like works that require close examination. An early illuminated manuscript leaf exemplifies the painstaking attention to detail in medieval and early Renaissance devotional works. Two later examples of the highly sophisticated art of printmaking from the 1600s are Wenceslaus Hollar’s masterful etchings. Hollar, a leading 17th century Bohemian printmaker, made a notable series of tiny etchings after the Renaissance sketches in the renowned collection of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, who intended to catalogue his drawings.
These early examples of miniature art are juxtaposed with contemporary works to provide a deeper understanding of their changing functions and meanings over time. The painting on an antique book cover by New York artist Holland Cunningham is contrasted with an early printed mathematical manuscript dated 1734 that has tiny decorative illustrations. Italian Renaissance paintings provide the inspiration for David Barnett’s assemblages in shadow boxes, notably the Madonna whose head with a golden halo is placed on a body made up of mechanical parts. Another re-interpretation of a Renaissance painting is Isadora Machado’s intricate pen drawing of the Mona Lisa. Machado’s elaborate and patterned drawings of moths and birds have the luminescent and decorative quality of early stained glass windows. Robbii Wessen’s assemblages of found organic and mechanical elements recall the imaginative objects from Renaissance cabinets of curiosity. Other such fanciful creations include the ceramic Pot Heads by Connie Nichols, literally tiny pots with whimsical heads on top.
The exhibition transitions to a group of abstract works, beginning with some examples of the recently deceased Sal Sirugo (1920-2013), who has been called “a hidden treasure of the Abstract Expressionist movement”. Sirugo began creating highly original works in the late 1940s, but while many of his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries worked on huge canvases, he preferred to work in more modest dimensions. His miniature ink drawings on paper have a mysterious, meditative quality that draw the viewer into his unique way of seeing.
To accompany this show, there will be a Children’s Art Workshop led by Nancy Scranton on December 7 and 14. The Gallery hours are Wed.-Sat., 10 am – 3 pm; Sunday, 1 – 5 pm. The gallery is located in Waveny Park, New Canaan. For more information, visit www.carriagebarn.org.
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