Nov. 23-Dec. 24; opening reception 6-8 p.m. Nov. 23
4107 Hillsboro Circle
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.
For information, call 297-0296
Retail businesses may be bustling with shoppers this time of year, but commercial art galleries aren’t traditionally busy during the holidays. Eight years ago, however, Cumberland Gallery owner Carol Stein introduced “Small Packages,” a concept show that turned her art space into a popular holiday shopping stop. The show offers what Stein calls “small but not insignificant works”specifically, works with an image area no larger than 15 inches in any direction, created by the gallery’s top artists. “Many of my clients love these artists’ work but can’t afford them,” Stein says. “And while smaller art doesn’t always mean less expensive, in the case of some of my artists who usually work much bigger, it can.” Works in the show are priced from $100 to $4,000, with many in the $400 to $600 range.
This year’s show offers art lovers a chance to see 300 new works by 60 artists, including Nashville painter Marilyn Murphy, who has participated in every “Small Packages” show since the beginning. “All of us artists get pretty excited about the show each year because it gives us a chance to stretch, to try out an idea or work in a new format,” says Murphy, whose drawings and paintings will be the subject of a major retrospective at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in 2004. Though Murphy is best known for her large oil paintings and colored pencil drawings, for the “Small Packages” show she has created a series of sepia-toned paintings of shoes. Her “Dancing Feet” series has the same nostalgic flavor of her larger works, however.
“There are women’s feet in spectator pumps, men in cuffed pants and black-and-white shoes,” Murphy says. “They all have that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers feel that I love.” The works also have a lighter, more upbeat sense to them than Murphy’s larger works, which in their surreal clash of imagery can convey an almost ominous aura of mystery and behind-the-scenes forces at work. “After the year we’ve all been through, I didn’t want to do dark work with fires or explosions,” she says, referring to some of the imagery that has been prevalent in her recent paintings. “I wanted to do something upbeat that would make people feel good.”
Murphy isn’t the only artist offering art in a series format, according to Stein. “A lot of the artists are doing a series for this year’s show,” the gallery owner explains. “Tom Pfannerstill is doing an 'American Snack’ series of mixed-media sculptures of double-decker hamburgers, lemon meringue pies and pizza. John Baeder has done a series of sepia-toned watercolors of old planes, and Jack Spencer has a series of 5-by-5-inch photographs of sand dunes in Death Valley.” Other artists returning for this year’s show include Tennessee sculptors Sylvia Hyman and Jim Gibson, New Mexico painter Carol Anthony and Nashville painters Kit Reuther and Carol Mode.
Ten new artists also make their gallery debut in the “Small Packages” show. Notable among the new crop are the exquisite paintings of Valerie Hammond, a New York artist who traditionally works in a scaled-down format. Her paintings, which fuse trees, jellyfish and other organic imagery into intricate compositions that pulse with an inner light, are rarely larger than 9 by 10 inches. Other newcomers include Dan Gamble, Barbara Fisher and Sue Johnson.
The show is labor-intensive for Stein and her staff, but the buzz it generates makes it all worthwhile. “Clients start asking me about who is going to be in this show during the summer,” she says with a laugh. “It’s taken on a life of its own, and I couldn’t stop doing it even if I wanted to.”
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Thanks so much for the fun read! Have a great summer.
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