A big deal about tiny artwork

Mansion House Art Gallery shows minature art

Mansion House Art Gallery shows minature art

May 27, 2004|by Chris Copley

Step into the North Gallery at Mansion House Art Gallery and take in the textures. On this wall is silver-gray wolf fur. Nearby is the nubbly, wet nose of a sleek hound. Here are the feathery stamens of velvet-soft blossoms. Over there is the rough-cut edge of a stone step.

The miniature art show at Mansion House Art Gallery in Hagerstown, featuring pieces by members of the Valley Artists Association, is chock full of super-realistic textures and tiny brushstrokes. On these paintings - the size of a postcard or smaller - even the loosest brushwork is small in scale.

"This is the first time our club has done a miniature show," said Beulah Hartman, director of the gallery. "I wasn't sure how our members would respond, if they'd be willing to paint small."


But the idea caught on. Twenty-four members of the Valley Artists Association submitted as many as five works of art each; 103 pieces hang in the exhibit.

At first glance, the exhibit may overwhelm visitors. Artwork hangs in "stacks" of three or four, salon style. Many pieces are jammed on little wall space. But taking in the show slowly, looking closely at each piece, allows the small images to stand individually.

Hartman said that as an artist, she likes the idea of miniature art.

"Art is expensive to do," she said. "So this is a way to get started. Instead of experimenting with a full-size, $10 piece of watercolor paper, I can try something on a little scrap. This takes the scariness away."

Eyecatching works at the show include Lucille Murray's flowers, Kent Roberts' animals, Ruth Durbin's lighthouses and a barnyard scene of chickens painted by Hartman.

Miniature art has a long history. Cameo portraits were popular in renaissance Europe. Hindu and Muslim countries in south and southwest Asia developed a tradition of miniature religious paintings.

The show at the Mansion House was inspired by the annual miniature show at Chambersburg (Pa.) Area Council of Arts, Hartman said. Anne Finucane, director of the Chambersburg gallery, said this year's autumn exhibit will be the 20th annual show.

"We do the miniature show because it's something patrons like," Finucane said. "A lot of people don't have room (for larger artwork) in their homes anymore. And there's also a fascination with small objects in general."

The Mansion House show will continue through June. Hartman said this may be the beginning of a regular feature.

"The response is so good, I guess you could call this our first annual miniature show," she said.

If you go...

Miniature art show

Paintings and one drawing, all 4 by 6 inches or smaller.

Mansion House Art Gallery

501 Highland Way, near the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in City Park, Hagerstown

Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Call 301-797-6813.

Artwork is on sale; most prices are between $50 and $100. The show continues in the North Gallery through Monday, May 31, then will be hung in other display rooms in the Mansion House.

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