Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How Small Can You Go? Visiting the 40th Annual Miniature Show

When my friend Maggie made her plans to visit, I put on my tour guide hat and searched for fun things to do while she was here.  We had plans to visit the Dali Museum in St. Pete to see the Picasso-Dali, Dali-Picasso show, so a stop at the 40th Annual International Miniature Art Exhibition in Tarpon Springs seemed like a good add-on.  It's a wonderful--and slightly mind boggling--show.

Kathy Pollak at work
Our first stop was a chat with Kathy Pollak, one of the demo artists that day.  Pollak used to do "normal painting," but turned to miniatures when she and and her husband moved to Florida and downsized.  (We heard this from some other artists we spoke with as well.  Everyone can find a space in their home for a miniature!)  In order to qualify as a miniature, the work itself can be no more than 25 square inches; the maximum framed size is 64 square inches.  Also, as a rule of thumb, the miniature should be no larger than 1/6 the size of the actual object. (Just for kicks, I got out a measuring tape and measured my head, which is approximately 9 inches tall.  This means my face in a miniature portrait should be no larger than 1 1/2 inches.)  

Pollak starts her process with a picture of what she wants to paint loaded up on several devices (plus a hard copy).  The version on her iPhone (not the gargantuan iPhone 6 plus) was the actual size of the painting she was working on the day we chatted with her.  She begins either by tracing the picture onto her canvas (which she called the "cheaters' method") or by drawing the image with the use of calipers to measure the distances.  Either way, the artist then has to paint the detail of the miniature, which requires an inordinate amount of skill and patience.

"Cottage at the Cape" by
Polly Berlin (oil)
With this background, we began to explore the lighted cases filled with miniatures.  A magnifying glass hangs by each case so visitors can take a closer look at the detail of works that catch their eyes.  Maggie almost immediately gravitated to this painting by Polly Berlin entitled "Cottage at the Cape."  The texture and detail of the flowers are incredible. In a happy coincidence, Maggie's mother collected miniatures that are housed in a family home on Cape Cod.  It was an easy decision for her to add this work to the collection.

"The Colors of Robin Williams"
by Rebecca Kessel (acrylic)
The exhibit contains a wide variety of styles and mediums. Essentially, any type of work done in "regular" size can be done in miniature.  There were watercolors and sculptures and multi-media works and drawings. The subject matters were equally varied, from portraits to landscapes to animals.  Abstract works are specifically permitted under the prospectus for the show, but both Maggie and I felt they don't translate particularly well into the miniature format.

"Gypsy Horse, Cherokee
Rose" by Denise
Submissions have to be juried into the show.  If I understood correctly, there is a panel of five jurors and majority rules.  A judge then selects the winners.  Prizes are awarded in each medium and in a number of subject-matter specific categories.  First prize for opaque watercolor went to the Visual Arts Center's own Denise Horne-Kaplan for "Gypsy Horse, Cherokee Rose."  The work measures 2 1/2" by 4 1/2".  Even in my picture, you can see the amount of detail.

"The Road to Coomenole Beach,
Dingle" by Joan Cart (opaque watercolor)
The exhibition is an annual event and is held at the Leepa-Rattner Museum in St. Petersburg.  This year's show runs through February 15.  It's really a must-see for any art lover (and, in my opinion, much more interesting than the Picasso-Dali, Dali-Picasso show).  I am already looking forward to next year's show.

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