Big Art in Small Packages

Everyone's a winner with the 'Small Works Invitational'

Welcome to the Sizeys.

This is the second annual edition of the Sizey arts awards, given to the tiny pieces in the Small Works Invitational at Davis Dominguez. The size restrictions in this entertaining annual show give the contest its name. Paintings and other wall works are supposed to be no longer than 12 inches on the biggest side; sculptures get a little more leeway.

Each year, gallery owners Mike Dominguez and Candice Davis invite mostly Tucson artists to participate in the show, and it becomes, almost by accident, a survey of what the locals are up to.

But I take full responsibility for the unscientific contest. I made it up all by myself, concocted the categories as I cruised the show and unilaterally decided the winners. Call it summer art review lite.

This year, the 14th Annual Small Works exhibition has around 80 pieces, from oils on canvas to raw pine on pedestals. They take up a surprisingly small space in the gallery's alcove, lobby and salon, giving the main gallery plenty of room to offer up large-scale paintings by an assortment of gallery regulars.

But enough prologue. Let's get to the winners. Herewith, the second annual Sizeys:

Tiniest Art: Philip Melton's "Zuni, South Cliffs," a minuscule watercolor, compresses the biggest landscape into the tiniest space. The index-card-size picture comes complete with delicately rendered red cliffs, a big Western sky and a horizon that opens onto forever. Claire Campbell Park's "Covenant Light" wins in the abstract division. The winner of last's year's Best Distillation From Big to Small, this fine weaver again turns in a work beautifully crafted of colored paper strips, each measuring about 1/16 of an inch wide. Her fine plaid yellow-and-blue work should also get her honorable mention as Most Patient.

Best House: Miles Conrad's encaustic "Not to Scale" is an ingenious melding of this wax artist's perennial bee-tinged abstractions with a realistic structure. At the center of a deep wood box is a home sweet home, bungalow-style, complete with door and window details. This wax abode floats inside a hexagonal beeswax frame, and the whole thing is a delicious honey color. Runner-up: Maurice Grossman has created three houses in "Blue Village," a gorgeously pigmented clay work. The simplified houses, with iconic pointy roofs, are clustered together atop a lattice clay framework, like a dark blue village in a fairy tale, or a memory.

Best Ocean: I'm torn here. Should I go for the rough surf of James Cook's "Cape Elizabeth," a lush oil on canvas picturing crashing waves, a big rock and a threatening sky? Or Duncan Martin's soothing "Seaside," an oil on panel, and its meditative pale-green waters? I love the shore in all its moods, so I'll pick both. Make it a tie.

Best Green: Speaking of restful green, the fine colorist Tim Murphy has made a wonderful shade in "Vase With Restoration." The simplified vase in this beautifully painted oil in linen is just an excuse for Murphy's exploration of color against color. The pitcher is in creamy whites and pale yellows, thickly painted over a sage-green background; some underlying browns show through both color fields. Murphy is a two-year winner, having triumphed last year for Best Yellow.

Best Purple: Let's just say this is a really tight horse race. Maybe purple seems cool to artists sweating away in swamp-cooled studios. No fewer than three painters are contenders. Nancy Tokar Miller's "Etude No. 7" is a lovely Asian-inspired acrylic on canvas; black calligraphy dances over an abstract background in amber, white, black and violet. Jim Waid's acrylic "Barberry" unfurls abstracted flowers and berries across a charming oval canvas. Its pink-rose leaves, bright blueberries and green petals vibrate against a rich purple. And "Glow," Gail Marcus-Orlen's oil on canvas, is an amazing neon lavender. Atop this background, a radiant orange flower dangles upside down over a blue bowl with a yellow stripe. Give her the nod.

Most Lyrical Abstraction: Josh Goldberg's "Eyes Swarm Past the Narrow," an acrylic on canvas, is a sumptuous abstraction of orange, rose, cerulean, yellow and blue-black. It vaguely suggests a body of water and shoreline.

Most Prickly Abstraction: Matthias Düwel has painted a mixed-media work that hints at a collapsed cityscape, cluttered with debris. A close inspection of the tiny jumble reveals piles of abstract signs and symbols, circles and musical notes, and ladder-like assemblages.

Most Unexpected: Photographer Ann Simmons-Myers, head of the Pima Community College photography department, jumps genres here with a melancholic little sculpture that looks like a rusted candleholder on legs. A burnt offering is where the candle would go, and attached to a scorched pole sticking up out of the whole thing is a shadowy, thumbtack-sized photo of--perhaps--a young girl.

Best Boat: Joanne Kerrihard returns from last year's win to clinch the same award. Her vivid oil on canvas "Sirens" features a blood-red rose hovering above a blood-red rowboat. Both float on a shimmery, horizonless space in pale pink and green.

Best Child: Turner Davis' engaging oil on canvas, "The Trojan Horse," is nicely painted, with a glittery textured background shining in gold. A beguiling little boy holds the reins to a steed made of kids' building blocks.

Most Avant-Garde: Blake Shell's "Skin #2," an ink print on canvas, with resin, wraps an abstract print--of a green object against pale burnt sienna--around the canvas.

Best Piano: Monika Rossa's "Music Lesson" is a turbulent little painting featuring a violent orange carpet, foreboding black walls, a troubled blonde girl in pigtails and a sinister-looking man. The black baby grand anchors the drama.

Best Lettering: The appealing green-and-black spatter letters careening diagonally across the surface of "Barrio Mouth" by David Adix are actually the subject of this nice acrylic on board. They spell out only the first half of "barrio," but they give the impression that they'll keep spinning out the word in space.

Artwork That Most Reminds You of How Hot You Are in the Sweltering Tucson Summer: Peek into the mirror of John McNulty's "Mirror, Mirror ... " and you'll see for yourself the flyaway hair, sweaty forehead and desperate look you've developed in the record heat of June. At least I did. (Thanks, John.) But then you can be cooled by the sight of the deep-green ceramic leaves framing the looking glass.

Artwork That Depicts the Place You Most Want to Be Right Now: Eric Twachtman's inviting "Lost Pool," an acrylic on paper, is a loosely painted forest pond. Nice wet paint drips down soothingly onto the cool waters colored rich brown and mint green. Dive on in, at least in your imagination.

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