Annual exhibit forces artists to create ‘Small Wonders’

Detroit News GO! – July 9, 2015
by Patrick Dunn

Kelli Tilton - Haplorhynchites Aeneus

Kelli Tilton – Haplorhynchites Aeneus

Most wedding receptions are one-and-done events. But for two Detroit artists, their post-nuptial celebration has spawned an annual tradition of miniature proportions.

Photographer DVS and model Dekilah tied the knot in 2013. Both organize art shows on a regular basis, so it was only natural to turn their reception into an exhibition. The couple came up with the unusual twist of requiring all entrants to create pieces measuring 5 inches or smaller, titling the show “Small Wonders.”

The concept proved popular and the show will return Saturday at the Atomic Café in Hamtramck for its third year.

“In a sense, it’s like our wedding anniversary exhibition,” DVS says. “We don’t promote it as such, but that’s what it is.”

Marta Papierowska - Heart I - Love In Full Bloom

Marta Papierowska – Heart I – Love In Full Bloom

The exhibit will feature 107 pieces from artists working with a variety of media, including painting, sculpting, photography and needlework. Konrad Lee, the lounge singer alter ego of Detroit performance artist Satori Circus, will return to perform a variety of songs related to diminutive proportions. And for the first time, this year’s show will also include a looping presentation of 12 very short films, all under five minutes.

“Everything is about tiny and small,” DVS says. “We even have a chef that’s going to be creating food on the spot, but it’s tiny little bites.”

DVS says the main appeal of the exhibit is seeing the way size limitations push many artists out of their usual comfort zones. For instance, for his own entry in this year’s show, DVS abandoned his usual photographic pursuits to try his hand at painting for the first time in his career.

Hanna Krzysztofiak - Souvenir

Hanna Krzysztofiak – Souvenir

Detroit artist Jack O. Summers showed in last year’s Small Wonders and will exhibit a tiny collage piece this year. He says he often works at a small scale by choice, but he relishes art shows that mandate diminutive dimensions.

“I’ve never seen a show in which they’ve given you a size limit that was not good,” Summers says. “It forces the artists. We’re all going to be on the same level field, all the same size. What did all these artists do with that limit? That’s always very interesting to see.”

Royal Oak artist Mary Fortuna says she embraces the “discipline” of limitations in her work. In her first showing at Small Wonders, she will exhibit a set of two-inch square paintings. However, she found a challenge in the shape, rather than the size, she was working with.

“My own self-imposed limitation to work with a square format was almost more challenging than the size restriction,” she says. “It’s not easy to compose an interesting design for a square.”

Kia Ix Arriaga - Little Red One

Kia Ix Arriaga – Little Red One

Organizers opened this year’s show to international submissions for the first time and received nearly 350 entries. The resulting works hail mostly from Michigan, but also include pieces from Poland, Greece and Ukraine. Besides the size requirement they hold in common, DVS says the works share a sense of playfulness. He emphasizes that children are welcome at the all-ages event.

“A lot of the other events that we produce are a little more serious in nature, or there’s a deeper, more introspective nature,” he says. “This is something that’s just more fun.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

Small Wonders