Visual Arts

Making a big impact with small art: Almost 700 vied for a spot in this exhibit

In art, size matters. The impact of certain works by artists from Michelangelo to Banksy often depends, at least in part, on their being really, really big. It’s hard to imagine Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” say, or Picasso’s “Guernica,” as miniatures.

But small has its own charms. Artworks constrained by space limitations — as they are in notBIG(5), the latest installment in a series of juried exhibits of small-scale art at the M.S. Rezny Studio/Gallery in Lexington’s Distillery District — can turn that seeming liability (no bigger than than 12 by 12 inches, including the frame) into an opportunity.

The opportunity is both artistic — a chance to compress and/or simplify, to achieve concision and elegance — and practical, for artists and collectors alike.

“Most artists have small art, which is easy to ship,” gallery owner Mary Rezny said. “It also has a nice price point, so most people find that even if they have lots of art, they always have room for something smaller.”

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Gallery owner Mary Rezny saw a need a decade ago for an exhibition focused on small, portable, inexpensive works of art. Kevin nance

The notBIG series, which grew out of a conversation a decade ago between Rezny and Lexington artist Marco Logsdon, has become an every-other-year staple of the gallery’s programming. The growing popularity of the show has made it tough to break into. This year’s edition, selected by juror Becky Alley, drew 697 submissions from artists from 34 states; the gallery had room for only 45 pieces.

“The judging was difficult because there were so many wonderful pieces submitted,” says Alley, an artist and director of the Bolivar Gallery at the University of Kentucky. “Among those, there was such a diversity that at times it was challenging to say one work was better than another. In the end, I’m really happy with the pieces I chose, but there were some wonderful pieces not included simply because of space limitations.”

About half of the artists represented in notBIG(5) — including Lexington artists Arturo Alonzo Sandoval and Lawrence Tarpey — are from Kentucky and surrounding states, while the rest are from outside the region.

Several of the pieces, such as Sandoval’s fascinating “Magnolia Combine,” which features an image of the blossom overlaid with microfiche, incorporate mixed media. Others — like Tarpey’s “The Excavators,” which includes about a dozen strange figures populating a surrealist landscape that may or may not be a graveyard — use traditional media to suggest whole worlds in pieces the size of a dinner plate.

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“The Excavators” by Lawrence Tarpey, a Lexington artist, is one of 45 small works in the notBIG(5) exhibit. It runs through Aug. 31. Photo provided

“There’s so much going on in a small space,” Rezny says.

The show continues through Aug. 31. At an artists’ reception on July 19 , a $500 best-of-show award and four $100 honorable mentions, all chosen by Alley, will be announced. There will also be a People’s Choice award; the winner will receive $100 plus a pot of $1 votes that Rezny will sell to gallery visitors.

“The award winners are all pieces in which the small scale enhanced my experiences with them,” Alley says. “They feel like they need to be small.”

If you go: notBIG(5)

When: Now through Aug. 31. Artists’ reception and awards presentation 5-9 p.m. July 19.

Where: M.S. Rezny Studio/Gallery, 903 Manchester St., Suite 170, Lexington

Tickets: Admission free