Small is large at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art. Almost 800 works, mostly paintings, comprise the Miniature Art Society's annual show, which makes it gigantic.
The subjects tend to be conventional: portraits of people and animals, landscapes, interiors and still lifes that require no deep analysis or conceptual thinking. The pleasure of miniature art is in the details we see only with magnification. They ask us to lean in and take a close look — magnifying glasses are provided — to study the techniques. In general, they never measure bigger than five inches, some even less.
Luann Houser, for example won Best of Show for A Woman's Touch, which portrays an elderly American Indian being helped into his ceremonial finery by a young woman, presumably a daughter. It's sweet and sentimental. Its bravura lies in the beautiful treatment of the feathers and beading in his headdress and the blue trim on her dress, in the facial expressions and subtly mottled background.
Four portraits of children by Ewa Buksa-Klinowska are charming personality studies. Krzys, a little boy with tousled blond hair and a dress shirt collar that refuses to be tamed by a tie, won Best Work by a First Time Entrant for the exquisite pointillism she employs with enamels.
A note here about the categories: There are a lot of them and they can be confusing, sometimes suggesting an arbitrary generosity in the desire to reward good work. Most juried shows divide art by medium — oil, mixed media, print, for example. This one does, too, but it also give awards based on subject matter such as Historical or Mythical, Human Figure and Marine. There is also a category called Birds and Animals.
And then, one just for cats? Brenda Morgan took first place for her cat, a depiction of Nala from The Lion King with fur so finely rendered one wants to stroke it.
Wood Lasts, Janet Laird-Lagassee's first-place winner for transparent watercolor, is one of the more psychologically interesting works in the show. It has a dreamlike quality we associate with surrealism (though another work, A Mystical Night by Demaris L. Olson, took the top honor in the Abstract and Surrealism category). In it, a varied trove of wooden objects is arranged in wooden boxes set against a darkening landscape of sky, field and leafless trees.
The Miniature Art Society of Florida, which organizes the exhibition, has scheduled artists to create works and chat with visitors during museum hours except on Thursday when the museum stays open late, from 5 to 8 p.m. I was there with a group of elementary school students who were enthralled watching the artists, hearing about their materials while they worked.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.