Great Chapter, oil, 12×8
By Kristin Bucher
Just a few weeks ago, I made my first trip ever to the Northern California wine country. The vineyard landscape was as verdant and leafy as I’d expected it to be, and the early fall weather was perfectly sunny and breezy. So it was a very pleasant Saturday afternoon when I happened upon Cornerstone Gardens, an outdoor “gallery” of gardens featuring changing exhibits by landscape architects from around the world. The property, which occupies 9 acres at the southern end of Sonoma Valley, is the first of its kind in the country. Wandering through the dozen or so individual garden plots, I was amazed at how each space had been transformed. One garden was partially enclosed by stark white walls and featured just a few young, leafless trees against the bare dirt floor. It felt large and expansive compared to another garden, in which I walked down an inclined path into the ground itself as walls of earth rose up around me.
These striking mini-environments got me thinking quite a bit about space, size, scale, and proportion, especially as they relate to the world of art. The acclaimed British sculptor Henry Moore once said, “There is a right physical size for every idea,” and this issue of Southwest Art proves how right he was. On the large-scale end of the spectrum are grand public installations like the oklahoma centennial land run monument, which will be 365 feet long when it’s installed in Oklahoma City in 2015. The sculpture depicts the Land Run of 1889, when settlers raced to claim a portion of the frontier to homestead. Then there’s well-known western painter John DeMott, who has lately become interested in creating works as large as 8 feet high and 5 feet wide. “With an epic idea, I want an epic canvas,” DeMott says.
On the other end of the spectrum are the figurative paintings of Nancy Chaboun; her works usually measure less than 15 inches in either direction. “I like intimate paintings,” she explains. “I want people to walk up close to them to look at them.” (The same holds true for the many small works on view this time of year in holiday miniatures shows around the West, which we’ve rounded up.) That’s the power of a diminutive piece—it compels the viewer to look closely, right down to the level of individual brush strokes, where wonderful details are revealed. To be sure, monumental works inspire awe by virtue of their sheer heroic scale. But small works promise equally big rewards.
Featured in November 2007