Small Wonders on exhibit at Aspen Chapel |

Small Wonders on exhibit at Aspen Chapel

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Sandy Johnson has been curating the Small Wonders group exhibition at the Aspen Chapel for five years, and what she has found is that the promise of smallness – small-scale works, small price tags – can have a noticeable effect on the art experience.

“It’s much more inclusive. The viewer can be more involved. It’s more attainable,” Johnson said.

The fifth annual Small Wonders exhibition opens at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Aspen Chapel, and there will be plenty that is small on display. The works themselves, including ceramics, oil paintings, photographs and more, are all 12 by 12 inches maximum, with some pieces less than half that size. None of the works is priced higher than $300, and many are less than $100.

But interest in the show, which features 27 local artists, has proved big.

“It’s kind of a frenzy,” Johnson said. “If you see things you want, you really need to go, take it off the wall and take it to the cashier’s desk. Fast.”

It’s true that works can be purchased right off the wall, but there is plenty of backup art, so that empty wall space is quickly filled with new pieces.

Johnson was on the Aspen Art Museum board some 30 years ago, when a similar type of show was organized. The concept was revived five years ago at the Aspen Chapel. The Aspen Chapel Gallery’s various curators would each select four artists from a different field to participate in the Small Wonders show, which continues through Jan. 8.

Johnson said the artists tend to find the show’s constraints a challenge to their typical way of working. “You can’t always just shrink the size of what you do,” she said. “It’s a challenge to work in a different way, a smaller way.”

Johnson, for one, generally works in much bigger dimensions than 12 by 12. But the fact that the pieces she will show in this year’s Small Wonders show are of children has nothing to do with the idea of children as miniature versions of people. The recent Roaring Fork Open exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum had a theme of “America: Now and Here,” and Johnson, who has a new grandson, was thinking in terms of the country’s youth.

“I used children not because they’re smaller but because I’ve been thinking about children,” said Johnson, who studied art and interior design at Florida State before moving to Aspen in 1971. “I was thinking about America and about what is happening to our children here.”