Little Art

The Sizey Awards are flyin' at the 15th annual 'Small Works Invitational'

Welcome to Year Three of the Sizey Awards.

The Sizeys don't quite have the cachet of the picks in the recent Venice Biennale, which takes in art big and small from all over the word. No, the Sizeys are small in scale, limited to tiny works by Tucson artists in the annual Small Works Invitational at Davis Dominguez. And the judging is small-scale, too. I made the contest up all by myself; I invent the categories as I go; and I'm the only judge. Unscientific, I know, but offered in the spirit of summer fun.

This year's exhibition displays 68 works, with the petite paintings coming in at 12 inches square or less, and the sculptures usually somewhat larger. No points are taken off for violating the rules: I like artists who break the rules.

Now in its 15th year, the exhibition is so well known that callers telephone year-round looking for the "gallery of miniatures," co-owner Mike Dominguez says. But Davis Dominguez is not just the domain of the diminutive. The big warehouse gallery exhibits plenty of big work most of the time, and some of it's on view right now in a gallery mix show that counterbalances the tiny.

And now, in no particular order, the Sizeys.

Best Baby: Monika Rossa, an old hand at painting small children, swaddles a wee one in "Wrapped in a Blanket," an acrylic on canvas. It's Old Worldish, on the dark side, with the child propped up in a murky interior, with walls closing in. But the baby is sweet.

Best Body Builder: Turner Davis' oil "Body Builder" deserves a nod for this most unexpected category. Who would have anticipated his nicely painted muscle man, assuming a manly pose in green underpants? He stands against a glistening gold background, with glints of red underneath, straight out of a medieval painting.

Best Boat That's Almost Invisible: Joanne Kerrihard, a two-year winner in the visible boat category, returns for a third victory with a boat you can see only if you squint really hard. Her "Siren," a minuscule oil on canvas, reduces the sea to a mere idea, a silvery gray-all-over color field tinged with blue-green. A barely distinguishable rowboat, tinged purple red, floats on the unseen horizon.

Best Use of Natural Materials: Selina Littler's charming but headless "Desert Angel" is a rough-hewn affair in bark, sticks and woven plant fibers. Doubtless Littler gleaned these fine-art materials in the desert around her Rancho Linda Vista home.

Most Realistic: Julia Andres' "Ode al Chile de Neruda" is a startling vegetable still-life in patina on bronze. A long, dark-red chile abuts a small green one, as well as five fat yellow-orange chiles in the round.

Most Lyrical Abstraction: In her oil "Dervishly," Emilia Arana has ventured into organic-looking swirls and biomorphs. They're soft-edged and delicately colored, in pinks, yellow, white, peach. Runner-Up: Perennial winner Nancy Tokar Miller is neck-and-neck with her "Study for Riparian Oasis." An acrylic and collage, it's a deft evocation of floaty greens and solid browns that merely hints at landscape.

Best Water: Good old Bruce McGrew, dead now nearly eight years, can still gladden the heart with the watercolors that he left behind. The untitled piece here, a narrow vertical, evokes a chilly northern sea, with richly colored blue water flowing below even deeper blue cliffs. The scene is topped off by a sky lovely in pink, baby blue and yellow.

Best Underwater Work, Painting Division: Matthias Duwel's "Reef" has the same format as his much larger painting in the TMA Biennial. But here, his usual decaying forms take on the cheery colors of aquatic plants. Strange oval shapes in yellow, blue and pink lie on his ocean floor, while vertical elements, colored orange and pale green, lead up to the light.

Best Underwater Work, Encaustic Division: "Primordial Meeting" by Miles Conrad is a strange waxy work in green on panel, with three 3-D dimpled spheres--like corals or primitive submarines--thrusting out into the sea.

Most Purples: Mike Stack's "Table Mountain," an oil on linen, is a vision in violet: rows of teensy-weensy stripes in every possible shade of the royal color, from lilac to lavender to amethyst.

Best Mirror: Following up on John McNulty's mirrored triumph of last year, Judith Stewart takes the mirror as far as it can go. Literally. Her "Vanitas" is an ingenious contraption of infinity mirrors. A mirrored cube houses a tiny female nude made of smooth, white clay. She's a classic Vanitas figure, proud of her beauty, but the skull at her feet warns of the fleetingness of youth and life itself. Captured in the facing mirrors, she and the skull are reflected again and again, with each successive image tinier than the last. But to see these multiple mujeres, you must peer into the box yourself, and there see reflected your own face, multiplied into eternity.

Best Father-Son Duo: Who will win the Oedipal struggle? Realistic bronze sculptor Mark Rossi and his out-there painter son, Thomas Rossi, here trying out Dad's bronze for size? Or will it be the Davises, painters extraordinaire, dad James G. and son Turner, already a winner for Best Body Builder? Mark Rossi has long made beautifully rendered bronzes of desert animals, and this one, "Magpie," is a lifelike (and life-sized) standing bird patina'd a nice gray-green. Son Thomas, who usually does abstract paintings scattered with letters and symbols, has made a little bronze, "Horsepower," that treads in his father's field. But the odd equine head is earless and, in a piece of anatomical incorrectness, this horse has a leg thrusting out of its shoulder. But the Davises are no slouches. James' "Woman Sleeping" is an oil on canvas picturing a sleeping female nude, watched over by a couple of cats. I'll give the nod to them, but designate the Rossis as close runner-ups.

Dueling Flowers, or the Battle of the Blooms: Three women have painted seasonally appropriate posies. Diane Meyer's watercolor "Globe Mallow" has an all-over sprinkling of swirling green stems and red flowers. DeAnn Melton dips into creamy oils for her glossy "Buttercup," with leaves in various shades of cooling green and a thick gob of yellow for the buttercup. Betina Fink tries still a third medium, the increasingly popular encaustic, in an entry from her "Botanical Series." She traces pretty tendrils of branches and leaves across a white, waxy background and paints a single purple iris. Let's declare it a tie, with each flowery painter mistress of her own medium.

Most Political: Juan Enriquez daringly merges the political and the religious in a painted crucifix swathed in the stars and stripes. The Jesus in his "Hyper Deconstruction," an oil on paper, is blindfolded so he can't see, I guess, the horrors sometimes wrought in his name. Runner-up: Jerre Johnson's scary "#456307" is a vision of unsavory shenanigans in oil and wax, obscured behind a real-life screen. A man in a lab coat at right seems to be doing something untoward to the beings in his control--are they carcasses in a meat factory? Or unnamed "enemy combatants?"

Artwork I'd Most Like to Jump in Right Now to Escape Such Political Disasters: Landscape painter Duncan Martin's "Dark Hill" is a shiny little oil on panel, a remote mountain landscape dashed off in lively brushstrokes. A sunny meadow unfurls below a cascade of brown mountains, and the sky is a poet's dream, blue with white clouds, where, like Wordsworth, I could wander lonely as I pleased.