American Art Collector
TREASURES TO BEHOLD Collector’s Focus: Small Works & Miniatures
Saint Gregory of Nyssa was a 4thcentury theologian. He wrote, “Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.” Centuries later Albert Einstein echoed Gregory when he wrote, “The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe.”
Koo Schadler quotes Gregory in her tiny, 3¼-by-2¼-inch egg tempera painting Only Wonder Grasps Any Thing. She painted his words carved into stone weathered through the ages. Above the stone is a butterfly that wonderfully transformed from a larva to a flying insect. All the material for creating the butterfly was present in the egg from which the larva emerged just as child’s joke relates, “Remember, the mighty oak was once a nut like you.”
Nearly twice as big as Schadler’s finely detailed egg tempera is Zack Zdrale’s 6-by-5-inch oil Lone Man. A master of light and shadow, Zdrale paints in a traditional manner with prominent brushstrokes—even in this small format.
His paintings are suggestive and open to interpretation. Lone Man may be a single figure in a field or he may be alone in the world, his slouched posture indicative perhaps of defeat or, more positively, resignation.
Christine Lafuente’s 9-by-12-inch still life Cherries, Old Clock, and Sea Salt illustrates a love of paint that Zdrale showed in his painting. She enjoys the fact that oil paint has a huge range of viscosity and revels in that as she paints her still lifes. She also marvels in the ability of paint to express the visual phenomenon of a seen object. The composition for Cherries, Old Clock, and
Sea Salt is arranged on a table in the natural light of her studio. The objects are abstracted in the rectilinear setting, less literal than poetic.
Randall Reid assembles salvaged and scavenged wood and metal into abstract sculptures that “reflect the process of aging, in that the chance and random circumstances involved in its creation are closely correlated with the physicality of growth and decay. The surface speaks of the passage of time; the windows, and the conundrums posed within them, address the deeper meanings of existence.”
Holes in steel plates suggest the eyes of hurricanes in Connecting Storms, a 4¾-by-4½-by-2-inch assemblage. Although he has created a narrative, the rusty surface of the steel plates and peeling paint suggest a connection to the past and to the people who carefully constructed and painted the original object. They have gone but Reid has rescued the remnants of their efforts. He gives new life to what A.B. Shepherd calls the “broken bits of what once was.”
This feature dedicated to small-scale works of art is ideal for the holiday season. As collectors look to buy gifts and fill nooks and crannies within their home, the size often matters as does the affordability of these tiny treasures.
According to artist Alex Tolstoy, “Larger is not necessarily better—there are lovely jewels of paintings which are tiny. They can shine when caught peeking out from a quiet space on the wall or on a shelf. Look at them closely—they may hide thoughts and dreams.”
Faust Gallery, which has locations in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Scottsdale, Arizona, represents Andrea Vargas, who creates pastel on paper drawings of birds and other creatures. “Living creatures are energetic forms and have an intrinsic vibrancy and life force that I hope to capture in these gestural works on paper,” she says. “I work spontaneously in order to mimic the freedom and vitality of these wonderful beings. Paper is my medium of choice because it aligns with the immediacy of my creative process and allows for honest and authentic mark making.”
Bryant Nagel Galleries in Sedona,
Arizona, sees many collectors turning toward smaller aspects of life and art. Gallery co-owner Dr. Jennifer Bryant Nagel says, “Increasingly, new generations of art lovers embrace ‘living small,’ trading square footage for more leisure time and the freedom to travel. For these collectors we recommend smaller, more intimate pieces that evoke the emotions and memories of a cherished experience or a favorite destination.”
An award-winning artist, Chella Gonsalves considers herself primarily to be a plein air oil painter. She signs her artworks as Chella—her first name only preference. She paints with spontaneity and energy from nature’s present sights and sounds.
Also turning to the world around her is Cheryl Keefer, who often paints cityscapes and interiors as well as landscapes. She says, “My impressionistic work is about the mood and atmosphere of everyday experiences. I love it when the viewer gets the story I am telling.”
California artist Clark Mitchell, too, turns to the outdoors. “When painting on location, as well as for smaller studio works, I always use soft pastel on paper for vibrant color, portability and ease of handling. For large format in the studio, I switch to oil,” he says. When collectors are looking for a landscape to add their collection, Mitchell says they should make the purchase if the work is moving or brings back a pleasant memory—regardless if they know the location or not.
Working mostly from memory, Deb Schmit is inspired by the rural figures and landscapes she finds near her home and abroad. “Having lived on a Montana ranch for the past 20 years, I’m in love with the stark contrast of people and animals thriving on the land,” Schmit says. “This both surprises and delights me.”