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Rockaway Artists Alliance features diminutive artwork in latest exhibit

The Rockaway Artists Alliance has done something entirely different with its latest exhibit, Small, Smaller and Smallest, now at sTudio 6 through April 25.

The works featured are smaller than usual, though not freakishly so — there are no landscapes painted on pinheads that must be viewed through a microscope. There are, however, pleasant surprises, beginning with Esther Grillo’s “Seated Woman on Rug,” of Mexiclay and ceramic tile. The work surprises because it’s only eight inches high and Grillo is known for pieces that are so towering and complex that they’re best placed outdoors.

Yet her little, voluptuous, unclothed woman rests easily in a little chair, with her eyes closed and legs crossed. The work is as intimate as one can get. The surprise is that, if you look, the back of her chair isn’t attached to the seat and only comes down to the middle of her back. Grillo was so entranced with the woman’s plump behind that she couldn’t bear to cover it up.

Christina Jorge’s “21”, in clay with acrylic wash, is just as intimate. A large-bosomed young woman lolls on a chaise lounge holding an empty champagne bottle. She’s another of Jorge’s celebrations of sensual womanhood.

Jen Connell’s acrylic painting “Going’s Diner” is a grouping of condiments on a table and makes you realize that one of the reasons some artists like to paint ketchup bottles and salt shakers is because they have nice shapes and catch the light wonderfully.

Maria S. Lambasa’s “Mini sTudio 6 Gallery,” as well as being an homage to RAA, is a diorama dominated by two tiny oriental rugs. When I asked the artist admitted she didn’t weave them herself. They’re from Turkey and are miniatures given to the buyer so they could see what the life-size rugs look like, which is intriguing in and of itself.

Madeline Braisted’s watercolors, “Surf II” and “Surf III,” are seascapes evocative of Long Island but, according to the artist, pulled entirely out of her head.

Renee Lee Rosenberg’s “Rallus Elegance,” “Spizella Posilla,” “A Safe Place” and “Limosa Fedora” are smashing pieces of jewelry made of brass, nickel, silver,copper and mixed metal that look like they’ve been made of bent and hammered keys, coins and buckles.

Ellen Miffit’s “Waiting for Lunch,” “Enso, The Way” and “Caught” are something I’ve never seen at the gallery before. “Waiting for Lunch” and “Caught” are sumi-e, or Japanese brush paintings, while the other painting is mixed media. In “Waiting For Lunch,” a frog squats with its hugely open mouth as an unsuspecting a bug flies above it. In “Caught,” a cat has just snagged the tail of a fleeing mouse.

Christian Le Gars presents with “Windows” and “Le Panteon” both tiny (four-by-six-inch) watercolors. The first is the front of a New York restaurant, the second is a view of the Pantheon in Paris viewed from a brightly lit street. The Pantheon is unlit and looms against a deep blue sky like something mysterious and somewhat threatening.

Christina Sarquiz’s “Next Phase,” “Perimeter,” “In Turn,” “Procession,” “Balanced” and “Apex,” all oil pastels on card stock or bristol board, are small abstract expressionist gems whose bold colors are brought out by the pale wood of their frames.

Dave Taft, who is also a ranger at Gateway National Park, presents “The Bright Idea,” “Summer So Far” and “15 Days Last Winter,” all oil on panel works. The last one is a glossary of three rows of five dead bumblebees, killed, I suppose, by the cold. One would never guess that dead bumblebees could take on such interesting shapes.

I recognized the unique watercolor style and subject matter of Martha Elliot Killian’s paintings even before I saw the name beside them. They are “Rocks,” “Path to Ocean” and “Sand Fencing,” and continue her study of local beaches.

Another very happy surprise was to finally see RAA Publicity Director Susan Hartenstein’s works in the exhibit. She had “Bittersweet” and “Porcelain Lady.” In the first a few wands of bittersweet, a shrub that produces red and gold berries in the fall stands in a clear jar of water flanked by two ceramic pots. The wands gently arch into a completely blank area of the paper.

“I was intrigued by the idea of going beyond the space into, I don’t know, a void,” she said.

“Porcelain Lady” is a figure Hartenstein’s mother had since before her daughter was born. “It’s like my mother: graceful, elegant, beautiful,” she said. After Hartenstein’s mother died she did a whole series about the figurine. In this painting the lady is slightly bent over, because that reminded the artist of her mother in her last years.

Janet Dever has “Looking up on Santorini” and “Jerome, AZ” both watercolors. In the first, the viewer looks up at a tower and beyond it into a deeply blue Grecian sky. In the other, Devor captures the esthetically pleasing shabbiness of the facades of some old buildings that line an Arizona street.

Denis Macrae carved his “Dollar Spears” on a block of acacia wood while he was in the Phillipines. Acacia wood is hard to carve, and while he was resting his hands his teacher came and carved spears where the two lines would be in the $ symbol. The spears symbolized his tribe.

I almost overlooked a couple of pieces — they were right beside the bathroom door. Jae Hi Ahn’s “White Fungus Series No. 6” and “White Fungus Series No. 12” made of rice flour and glue don’t look like fungi as much as they evoke the petals of pure white roses or camellias.

Maria S. Lambasa’s “Colorado Landscape” is a fun piece of mixed media (rocks, foam, plastic). It’s a diorama made up of those tiny elements — trees, rocks, people, cows — that architects use on their scale models. In this one a herd of Holsteins grazes in a pasture across a road, or something, from a group of people bathing at the foot of a waterfall.

Norma Allende’s pristine “Revolving,” made of white clay, is a fluid, Brancusi/Thomas Moore sculpture that’s only about a 1 1/2 feet high.

Rockaway Artists Alliance has once again put on a gorgeous, imaginative, wholly satisfying show.

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