The annual small-image exhibit at the Atkinson Gallery is one of the oldest competitions on the West Coast, dating back 22 years. Gallery director Dane Goodman has himself juried the show in the past, and this year’s juror is Alison Saar, whose works are in the permanent collections of some of the most prestigious museums in the country, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Of the 297 entries, Saar selected 58 to be exhibited. They reflect an impressive diversity of vision and approach among Santa Barbara’s artists. There are abstracts, sculptures, portraits, landscapes, conceptual pieces, and works such as Myrina Tunberg’s “(Sculpture) in Disguise”-in which flour has apparently been baked onto canvas-that push the range of artistic mediums. The size limitation for all entries is 18Ê° in any direction. Taken together, these small images (or objects-sculptures are included) provide a glimpse inside the heart of the creative community they represent.
Response to the conflict in the Middle East is a recurrent theme. Ab Bornfeld’s “Nightmare” is a hazy, grey portrait of Saddam Hussein on the gallows. In Chas Christian’s “Experience the Thrill of Hunting with the V.P.,” which received an honorable mention, a duck decoy is transformed into a miniature warship, shotgun shells protruding from its flanks like cannons. By no means, though, do these works define the exhibit as a whole. Rather, it is reverence for the creative act that provides the unifying dynamic. Doug Uyesaka’s “Guided by Voices” creates a visual enigma by fusing a giant light bulb to a garden rake. Carlos Cordova’s “The Mark of St. Paul’s Conversion,” which took First Place in the two-dimensional category, is a sensitive graphite rendering of a hand bearing a tattoo of Aramaic script. Virginia McCracken’s tiny box assemblage, the second-place recipient in the three-dimensional category, combines nail heads, a small washer, and a minuscule carved dog to evoke a microcosmos reminiscent of the works of Joseph Cornell. The quality of work throughout the exhibit is very high. It is well worth a visit to SBCC for a view of Santa Barbara’s creative spirit from an intimate perspective.