With no piece larger than 8 by 8 inches, the latest Sager Braudis Gallery exhibit produces small wonders

Aarik Danielsen
Columbia Daily Tribune
"Valley View (28 day exposure)" by Scott McMahon and Ahmed Salvador

Artists and artworks don't have to loom large to overwhelm or envelope viewers. The works in Sager Braudis Gallery's current Small Works Exhibit underline this truth. 

The exhibit thrives because of its limitations — no piece is larger than 8 inches by 8 inches or costs more than $500. That price point challenges notions about the accessibility of art, while the span of each piece requires creators to distill significant emotions and narrative details without margin for error or excess. 

The works they share burrow into the lives of viewers precisely because of their size, then expand to reveal depths and small wonders.

Astute Columbia art-lovers will appreciate the opportunity to consider the rich shades and shapes of Matt Ballou's mixed-media pieces at this scale, or reacquaint themselves with the delirious details in Mike Sleadd's twisted black-and-white parables.

Columbia artist Katie Barnes' small house sculptures form a natural foundation for the show, and gallery director Hannah Reeves contributes a remarkable, textured offering that shows her distinct hand. 

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Local touches

Other area artists make large impacts in little ways. Catherine Armbrust's "Pressing" series uses elements such as ink, spray paint, acrylic and gold pigment to create images that feel both like impressions and representations. The figures in her work resemble flora and fauna, but of a fantastic, even foreboding, variety. 

Scott McMahon teams with Ahmed Salvador, bending the picture plane — and the mind — through their use of pinhole cameras. These images are masterworks of light, composition and overlay. 

"lakeside / line" by Kristen Martincic

Lisa Franko's "Little Studio" collages represent welcoming, well-loved places that invite the viewer into the life of an artist. Painter Gloria Gaus also draws the viewer into space — this time, Missouri's wide-open landscapes; Gaus' work beautifully captures the soul of a storm or sunrise, showing nature in conversation with itself. 

Kristen Martincic's woodcuts explore properties of water which might not be immediately apparent from a beachfront or poolside chair. These pieces baptize the beholder into the geometry which undergirds currents of cool relief and and oft-overlooked power. 

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In the mood

"Untitled No. 3" by Stephen Gammell

Several exhibiting artists create indelible moods through exquisite use of color and space and the mere suggestion of structure or story. Renowned illustrator Stephen Gammell, for one, leans toward the abstract in a series of gorgeous works that accentuate atmosphere and mystery. 

Paris-born artist Kerstin Paillard creates a spare, serene series of "Solitudes," enveloping the viewer in glorious fog and fugue, hinting toward something firm and fixed in the distance. In his moments of "Zen," Jeffrey Leder chases the power of color and simple divisions, delivering works that could be flags for unknown countries, geographic or emotional.

The spirit or mood of a place comes through in more representational, though still suggestive, works. Iowa artist Craig Albright faithfully conveys the clean lines and sweet greens of "Baseball Field No. 10." Josh George doesn't sacrifice a single detail of a bustling metropolis in compositions that present themselves high and narrow, yet run deep and wide.

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"Taxi Medallion Crisis" by Josh George

Elsewhere, Luca Cruzat's woodcuts portray intricate insect bodies, magnifying the already small-of-stature. And Laura Moriarty's magnificent encaustic works free the viewer to think about parts-whole relationships, appearing like colorful cross-sections of the brain. 

The Small Works Exhibit is on display through July 31. Visit https://sagerbraudisgallery.com/ for more details. 

Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at adanielsen@columbiatribune.com or by calling 573-815-1731.