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Posted on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 5:10 a.m.

Riverside Arts Center exhibit displays the power of 'Small'

By John Carlos Cantu


“The Gift” by Karen Gallup

courtesy of Riverside Arts Center

The regional artists on display in Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center Gallery's “Great Lakes ‘Small Works’ 2D-3D Juried Exhibit” may vary in their style and execution, but they all agree that being undersized is an artful thing to be.

Each of the 112 works by 73 artists — representing five of the eight Great Lakes states — is a foot in size (or smaller).

It’s therefore a good thing the exhibit’s being held in the spacious Riverside gallery because it’s one of our few local galleries large enough to host such an event. The diminutive works’ quality comes to the fore in the Riverside’s handsome oversized setting, and what might have been a novelty in another location becomes a decided strength.

Among notable area talents selected for display are Cathy Barry, Sandra Difazio, Karen Gallup, Barb Goodsitt, Carol Hanna, Christy Kelly-Bentgen, Vicki Peterson Michalak and C. Malcolm Powers. The show’s two-dimensional juror is David Tammany, professor of art at Eastern Michigan University, and the show’s three-dimensional juror is Robert Bielat, instructor at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.

Tammany’s choice for 2-D First Place went to Jason Nichols of Milan for his digital photo on canvas “Forks.” Second place went to Rich Manalis of Fort Wayne, Ind. for his photograph “Screen Door.” Third place went to Wendy Benson of Ferndale for her encaustic “One, Two, Three.” Honorable mentions were given to Katie Latona of Champaign, Ill. for her graphite on paper “12 June 1994 (Nicole & Ron)” and William Blanchard of Lansing for his acrylic “Mallory Square Sunset.”

Bielat’s choice for 3-D first place went to Justin Kellner of Grand Rapids for his bronze, plexi/wood, and canvas “Due to Expansion.” Second place went to Julia Ashcom of Ypsilanti for her cast bronze “Castle of Cells.” Third place went to Barbara Melnik Carson of Ann Arbor for her clay collaged box mixed-media “No Exit.” Honorable mentions were given to Richard Elaver of Fort Wayne for his selective laser sintering nylon “Drips” and C. Malcolm Powers of Ann Arbor for his bronze “Intercession II.”

The jurors chose “Dinosaur in the Grass” by Douglas Lowe of Saugatuck as their Best of Show. The whimsical mixed-media is an inspired choice because it’s just about everything the display is meant to be. For starters: It’s really small — the opposite of what we usually think of when we think of dinosaurs. So Lowe definitely has his work cut out for him.

He’s thoroughly up to the challenge, as his mixed-media elements include three green plastic pocket combs for grass; a couple of overlaid yellow mini-metal gears with outwardly radiating spokes for a sun; and a tiny green metal abstracted dinosaur that may (or may not) be found — but which, either way, has certainly been modified enough with minute strokes of black acrylic paint to render him loveable. What stands out most in “Dinosaur in the Grass” is Lowe’s puckish sense of humor. His pocket-sized dino has just enough articulation to make it playful, and his placement in this miniature mixed-media savannah focuses attention on the principle that sometimes smaller is indeed bigger in art.


"Scarlet" by Eric Simmons

courtesy of Riverside Arts Center

My favorite work on display is Eric Simmons’ framed paper-based sculpture “Scarlet.” The Detroit-based artist is working in the intersection of two-dimensional and three-dimensonal aesthetics with this spirited portrayal of an auburn-haired model that’s as fastidious an application of paper materials as it is an inspired sculptural portrait.

Constructed out of at least 30 patches of colored papers, “Scarlet” is all attitude, with her left should thrust forward while she calmly directs her calculating gaze at her viewer. Surprisingly detailed, the work contrasts its sculpted model with a curvilinear floral motif background that accents her elegance. “Scarlet” has the appearance of being a formidable young lady accustomed to engaging in soliloquies, not conversations. It’s the measure of Simmons’ talent as both an artist and a sculptor to have captured her between breaths.

“Great Lakes ‘Small Works’ 2D-3D Juried Exhibit” will continue through Sept. 25 at the Riverside Arts Center Gallery, 76 N. Huron St., Ypsilanti. Gallery hours are 3 to 9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; and 1:30 to 4 p.m., Sunday. For information, call 734-480-ARTS.