It’s the little things – The Provincetown Independent
There is an undeniable amount of art that fills a wall, an entire room, or even an entire landscape with its presence. But there’s also something captivating about a painting that fits in the palm of your hand.
Just in time for the holiday season, when ideas for stockings and things to put in them start to take over to-do lists, galleries in Provincetown and elsewhere in the Outer Cape are hosting exhibitions of small scale art. Most of the works are paintings or multimedia pieces that take up minimal wall space. Almost all punch well above their weight in terms of artistic expression.
At the Berta Walker Gallery (208 Bradford St., Provincetown), “Mini Masters” features works by two dozen artists. (The title refers to the size of the works in the exhibition and not, alas, to the paintings of child prodigies or small-scale creators.) There’s plenty to enjoy here, including Lucy Clark’s shimmering abstract studies. over tidal pools and postcard-sized panoramic views of the Provincetown sky. Some artists play with the scale of the works they usually create: Deb Mell transforms her large totem-like sculptures into small, playful and surreal figurative paintings, while Elspeth Halvorsen’s multimedia assemblage Only condenses a three-dimensional metaphysical landscape into a folding triptych the size of an iPad. And Robert Henry applies thick ribbons of paint to tiny square canvases to create entire worlds of explosive texture and color.
Landscapes aren’t the only ones to benefit from the miniature treatment. At the Schoolhouse Gallery (494 Commercial St., Provincetown), Stephen Wells exhibits pocket paintings of objects that could literally be in an actual pocket: mostly keys, but also pocket knives and manicure scissors and hand tools like pliers and leather hole punches. Wells came to painting via a decade-old framing business, and there’s something about the way the objects in his paintings are depicted – stripped down, unadorned and neatly compartmentalized – that speaks to his other career.
Likewise, the subjects of Felipe Ortiz’s paintings at The Captain’s Daughters (384 Commercial St., Provincetown) are objects we see every day without really looking at them: streetlights, which Ortiz depicts in silhouette on irregular patches of bright colors. The poles and the threads that connect them become compositional elements that divide the amorphous backgrounds into distinct forms. But poles still remain recognizable as the ubiquitous objects that they are, which in turn makes us consider familiar objects and the built environments in which they appear with renewed attention.
The Provincetown Art Association and Museum (460 Commercial St.) is also getting into the spirit of smallness with its members’ Small Works exhibition, the latest in its annual series of exhibitions featuring works by PAAM members. . Submissions are limited to paintings under 20 inches long or wide. PAAM explicitly ties the exhibit to holiday shopping by allowing art buyers to take their acquisitions home immediately instead of having to wait until the exhibit closes on January 8.
In Wellfleet, Jeff Soderbergh Gallery (11 West Main St.) will be exhibiting small works by artists using salvaged materials (including wood and butter boxes) over Black Friday weekend. And further up in Cape Town, the “Small Works” exhibit at Garvey Rita Art & Antiques (213 Main St., Orleans) is also looking to fill art-related gaps in your gift list. Measuring just eight inches square, Rick Fleury’s exquisite oil on copper The Race: Race Point, Provincetown captures something very large – the infinitely subtle range of tones and light in the sky and the sea – more evocatively than many works several times its size.
There’s an obvious reason galleries are showing works like this this month: it’s art that’s easy to pack up, relatively inexpensive, and perfectly sized to fit in a stocking (depending, of course). course, the size of the bottom).
But perhaps there is also a more existential reason. In a world where so many huge things – war, political strife, economic uncertainty, pandemics – seem beyond our control, there’s something reassuring about something beautiful you can hold in your hand.
Or maybe it’s just because there’s something inherently appealing about Tiny Beautiful Things. It’s also the title of a play by Cheryl Strayed which opens at the Provincetown Theater next week. But this is another story.