‘Small Wonders’ a holiday hit at Aspen Chapel Gallery | AspenTimes.com

‘Small Wonders’ a holiday hit at Aspen Chapel Gallery

The closest thing Aspen has to a Black Friday shopping rush may be a little annual art show at the Aspen Chapel Gallery.

Now in its ninth year, "Small Wonders," which opens today, has become a local holiday tradition for shoppers and artists. It exhibits literally small work (none larger than 12-by-12 inches) by local artists, up for sale at affordable prices (none higher than $250, most much lower) in the weeks before Christmas.

But it's more than a holiday season arts and crafts show. It showcases the diverse creative output of local artists — 31 in all this year — who work across the spectrum of media and styles.

"It's not Christmas tchotchkes — it's a really interesting show," said gallery co-director Tom Ward.

The quality, affordability and local touch of the work has made the "Small Wonders" opening something of a phenomenon — locals line up early to get the first look at the work, artists keep extra work boxed up to refill their wall space as the exhibition sells out.

Artists are invited to participate in the show by the gallery's stable of rotating curators, with one of them — this year, it's Ada Christiansen — curating it.

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On Monday afternoon, the gallery was abuzz — and a bit of a mess — as artists and organizers worked together to hang the show. They began by laying out work on the floor, in alphabetical order by artist name, around the gallery. From there, Ward and his team moved pieces about the room, placing them where they best complemented one another in size and style. Pedestals and shelves were slid into place to hold the abundant ceramics, sculptures and kitchenware.

"Putting this show together is one of my favorite puzzles," said Ward.

The gallery asks each artist to make eight pieces each, totaling more than 250 works. They hang four at a time, and replenish the artists' wall space as pieces sell.

This year, reused materials — including recycled paint used by one artist — emerge in some interesting works. Sam Louras, for her debut in "Small Wonders," has made totem-like sculptures from found material and various ski town detritus — a pair of mangled eyeglasses and an animal bone, for instance.

"I just found all this stuff on the ground," she said with a smile, looking over her eccentric creations.

The youngest artist in the show, 16-year-old Serena Blake, 16, has contributed mixed media pieces. Cornelia Carpenter has made wood-cuts of barns and winter scenes. Ceramicist Michael Bonds has made piggy banks, dog bowls and snowflake plates and bowls. Brian Colley has made engraved prints in black, white and red that offer a twist on Christmas slogans, with dinosaurs and "Where the Wild Things Are" styled animals.

Sheila Babbie has contributed some surreal, eye-catching digital photo collages and pop culture pastiches: John Denver riding a tandem bike with Kermit the Frog; Wonder Woman hitchhiking, with Superman approaching on a motorcycle; Pee-Wee Herman tied to train tracks by Tony the Tiger, Cap'n Crunch and friends.

Along with some unique, budget-friendly holiday shopping, tonight's opening includes refreshments and the chance to meet local artists.

"It's a fun event," said Ward. "You'll see a lot of your friends and a lot of nice work."

The show will remain in the gallery through Jan. 4.

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If You Go …

What: ‘Small Wonders’

Where: Aspen Chapel Gallery, 77 Meadowood Dr.

When: Through Jan. 4; opening reception Dec. 3, 5-7 p.m.

More info: http://www.aspenchapelgallery.com

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