ASPEN - Last month, Tom Ward showed his touch with the grand scale. Ward's sets for the Aspen Community Theatre production of "Crazy for You" were big and logistically complex, filling the stage and impossible to ignore.
Now Ward's eye for art and design gets a different sort of challenge. Ward gets the task of hanging "Small Wonders," an exhibition of small-scale - in some cases, tiny-scale - works that opens Wednesday with a 5 p.m. reception at the Aspen Chapel Gallery. Geared toward holiday shoppers, the pieces in "Small Wonders" have not only a price ceiling ($300, though none of the works in this year's show even reaches that mark) but also a size limit: 12 by 12 inches. The smallness presents a unique set of challenges in assembling the show.
"Tom Ward has the most amazing eye for placing things, knowing what goes beside what, how to balance the room," said Sandy Johnson, who has curated the show since its inception five years ago. "He knows when to put things closer together, when one artist will complement another. How frames go together, colors, mediums. He's a genius with all that."
This year's show features 27 artists, and the work ranges from Michael Bonds' series of Raku clay piggy banks (which come with adoption papers) to Sunni McBride's landscapes, all of 3 inches square, and from Alan Roberts' handsome, handmade blank journal books to Tori Mitas Campisi's paintings in her signature uplifting colors and designs. There are also photographs, functional pottery, humorous drawings and more.
Johnson noted that the "Small Wonders" show typically draws the gallery's biggest opening crowds; she expects in the neighborhood of 300 viewers and buyers to attend tonight's reception. Part of that is because the show features 27 artists instead of the customary eight or so, and part of it is the shopping frenzy - pieces from "Small Wonders" tend to fly off the walls, thanks to the policy of allowing buyers to take the works home right away. (Not to worry: There's plenty of backstock on hand, so empty wall space gets refilled quickly.)
But Johnson also believes that "Small Wonders" presents a unique experience on the purely visual side.
"There's a certain intimacy about small works," she said. "You need to look at it a little closer. It's not going to take over a room when you walk in. As opposed to a big, bold piece that speaks to you in a big, bold way, these make a different kind of connection."