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January 28, 2009 > "Smaller Than a Breadbox"

"Smaller Than a Breadbox"

By Susana Nunez

Each year, Olive Hyde Art Gallery presents seven different exhibits showcasing talented artists from around the Bay Area. It is one of just a few public fine arts galleries in the East Bay. The first exhibit of this year is entitled "Smaller Than a Breadbox," a show of miniature scale artwork. This extraordinary exhibit reflects a variety of artist influences and passions. Some of these exhibits have been shown in galleries throughout the country and even in international museums.

Janelle Schneider, a digital and mixed media and 3D texture paint artist for feature films, explores her interest in dreams, spirituality and psychology. For this exhibit, she submitted "Disappeared," a social commentary reflecting her feelings of a "broken Constitution, illegal torture and imprisonment." This 3D piece displays a small figure inside a torture chamber, a frail victim surrounded by long, threatening nails stabbing through into his cell. Schneider created this piece because she feels "there has never been a more urgent need to preserve fundamental privacy protections and our system of checks and balances than the need we face today."

Darla McKenna has dedicated her life to creating art in diverse mediums, and currently tutors art locally as well. For this exhibit, she presents small ink paintings as her "response to the natural world," inspired by mountains, flowing rivers and rocks. Her monochrome paintings are colorless to further emphasize the beauty of tone and line. McKenna finds these smaller works to be much easier than her usual five foot tall charcoal pieces, yet still as striking in their own way. These spontaneous creations are what the artist describes as 'subconscious works;' she doesn't think about the outcome or the process as she works. Starting with a large sheet of paper, her finished products are actually two inch by two inch cut-out portions of the most visually dynamic bits.

Primarily a figurative artist, Lucy Sargeant taught representational and life drawing at San Jose State for about a decade. She also served as the Assistant Art Director, Illustration for Sunset Magazine in Menlo Park. For the Breadbox exhibit, Sargeant submitted her Lipstick series featuring a lipstick tube standing in for a figure, "looking glamorous just because it is." She also uses other inanimate objects, such as a softball, as figures. "These 'things' sit still for as long as it takes me to capture their particular quality," she elaborates, "Afterward, the small paintings remain as little jewels of life around me, where the quality of color and paint brings me back to look at them again." Her current studio is at The Alameda Artworks in San Jose.

Peter Langenbach opted to create sculptures for his work, and dedicated these pencil sculptures as love poems to his artist wife, Maureen. This, he states, is why the titles are in French- reflecting that old saying that French is the language of love. He created each piece from a combination of recycled material. "The figures are carved from laminated pine bookshelves and are supported by discarded books, which in turn are being braced by letters forming perceptive words," Langenbach adds, "I like the ironic twist of humorously juxtaposing how we usually discern great literature sitting on some forlorn and forgotten shelf getting dusty." In 2008 alone, he had a show at the Museum of Los Gatos, collaborated on an installation for "The Day of The Dead" show at the Oakland Museum, and joined two shows at Olive Hyde Art Gallery.

Margaret Realica used her renowned skills in porcelain to produce creations for the event. Her sculptures are of wheel thrown and altered porcelain, meaning that each piece is thrown by hand, created one at a time; a delicate process that requires much patience and care. Realica also used acrylic and mixed media in her work for the exhibit. Her works have previously been featured in international exhibits in Canada and Italy, and published in several books pertaining to her medium of porcelain and pottery. In 2006, one of her pieces was introduced to the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy. Currently, she teaches as an artist in residence for Warwick University in Coventry, UK and for the Department of Education in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Also contributing to the exhibit is Lea Redmond, postmaster (and creator) of the World's Smallest Postal Service (WSPS). This "tiny mobile office," as Redmond describes, "is about noticing and delighting in the little things that make life wonderful. It's about speaking words from the heart and showing people that we care." The way it works is you submit a letter to Redmond, the friendly postmaster, and she transcribes it in the tiniest of script and seals it with a miniscule wax seal with the sender's initial. Because of the miniscule handwriting, she packages it with a magnifying glass in a glassine envelope, finishing with a larger wax seal. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, she visits different cafes to offer her service, and has also made it available online. This exhibit will feature the WSPS and will undoubtedly generate special requests.

Collage artist Michael Irwin states that magazine paper is his medium of choice, and doesn't follow a predictable, step by step pattern. "I believe it doesn't have to always be several pictorial images arranged to try to tell a story," he states, "but it can be abstract to evoke a feeling." The images submitted were all done on six by six tiles with National Geographic Magazines. His choice of materials influenced the direction of his piece. He adds, "because the subject matter of these are so earth based and because after I was done I was left feeling much wonder, I entitled the series 'Earthly Wonders.'"

Jonnie Russell is inspired by the mythologies of Egypt, Greece, and Asia. This "mixed species" work, as Russell calls it, not only expresses the artist's love of mythology, but speaks "to the hubris of human superiority over other species." The process creates clay "maquettes" based on poses by live models. Russell then cuts these apart, hollows them out and reassembles them. The work is then fired to harden the clay and often fired several more times to create the color and texture of the finish. Russell's work has been displayed in galleries nationwide, and can always be seen at the Hand Goods Gallery in Occidental, CA.

Although photography has been Glenn Hemanes' primary interest for the past 20 years, two years ago he branched out into wood and nut turning. His work in this exhibit is the product of his new practiced talent. The miniature bowls he created are from about three-fourths to three inches in diameter. He used wood, ebony and betel nuts to create them. "The design of the bowls is strongly influenced by the pottery of the Pueblo artists of the Southwestern United States," Hemanes commented, adding that the natural flaws in the betel nuts often influence design, as well. All pieces are polished and have no finish coatings. Hemanes first became interested in making these miniature bowls after he took a three week trip to the Four Corners of the Southwest, and his interest in collecting miniature artwork.

Smaller Than a Breadbox
Through February 21
Thursday through Sunday
Noon to 5 p.m.
Olive Hyde Art Gallery
123 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 791-4357

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