Recently my grandmother got close to me and whispered in my ear something she has told me since I can remember, “The most valuable perfumes come in the tiniest bottles.” Like she did when I was young, she was trying to make me feel better after someone has poked fun of me for being 4’11 ½” tall. So I credit my grandmother some for my appreciation of all things tiny, small, little, or diminutive. In fact, like many people, I am very fascinated by small objects. Some of my most favorite material possessions are those that I can hold in one hand.
In college I found some instructors asking me, “Why are you scared to work big?” I have never been scared to do big work, nor I am incapable of creating larger pieces. I choose to work small. I really don't see why to take up more space if you can accomplish your goal on a smaller canvas. Plus, I find it more challenging to create work on a limited surface area than when the sky is the limit. Every brushstroke that you position on a tiny canvas has to be highly important. You must edit perfectly so that the art work is complete, but not crowed-no needless lines, dots, colors, etc. This also applies to symbolism/ meaning. If there is a statement that is needed to be expressed, it must be done with precision within the boundaries allowed.
Another characteristic that I enjoy about smaller scale work, whether in my work or in work by other artists, is the sense of intimacy that comes from standing inches from an art piece. This intimacy is also a result of the ability for portability provided by small objects, and the idea that we all have the space for them in our lives.
What got me thinking about the value of small art works is an e-mail I received regarding the artist Peggy Preheim. The Philbrook Museum of Art continues to exhibit work by this talented contemporary artist. Her work is small, but impacted with meaning and crucial details that require wonderfully close and extensive analysis. Her work, like many small works, at a distance appear to be quiet and delicate. Instead, they are strong in symbolism, composition and technique. I encourage you to visit Philbrook and experience the sight of 55 of Preheim’s drawings, photographs, and sculptures--up close and personal.
The challenges may be different, but work that is small in size is just as important and as valuable as larger pieces. They require talent, vision, and perfected techniques to make them successful—no different than larger works.