'Actual Size' doesn't quite hang together

March 10, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

The subtitle of "Actual Size" at Towson State indicates some of the show's problems: "An exhibition of miniatures and models from fine arts to folk arts, curated by David Bakker."

There would seem to be some rationale for putting small artworks and models together, but it doesn't wash. Models are miniature versions of full-size objects, such as ships or automobiles, and there are a few of these in "Actual Size." But the rest of the show is made up of small works of art, not objects that are supposed to be small versions of something else. Besides, models are works of craft, not fine arts. So the two types of objects don't fit comfortably in a single show.

Moreover, although none of these works is large, some better fit the term miniature than others. Cynthia Blake Sanders' tiny paintings, several only about 1-inch square, are certainly miniature works of art, as are M. S. Carlisle's nine 3-by-3-inch paintings grouped under the title "WigJuxtapositions." But Rick Cleaver's ceramic and wood sculptures don't look miniature, nor does Rick Lipscher's wood and clay sculpture "Internal Exile." Nor, really, do Thomas Dixon's constructions.

Aside from that, what is the point of this show? A show such as this ought to make a point about miniatures, such as that some types of art or subject matter lend themselves especially well to the format. This show, if anything, indicates the opposite. Sanders' paintings, for instance, prove only that the artist can create a readable painted image on an extremely small scale. That's an accomplishment, but it doesn't have any particular meaning.

Finally, these works differ widely in degree of success, both between artists and within a single artist's work. Bill Epton's "Tied Flies (Mosquitoes)" is pointless, but his "Dead Lead Soldiers" sure isn't.

In a box is a row of "toy" soldiers fashioned in the positions of actual dead soldiers as seen in photographs from the Civil War to Vietnam and El Salvador. Nobody's going to give these toy soldiers to a child for Christmas, but maybe somebody should -- if kids are going to play soldier, they ought to know what happens to many soldiers.

Despite its flaws, this show has enough works of interest to make it worth seeing. In addition to "Dead Lead Soldiers," others are the superbly realized round drawings of Susan Waters-Eller, especially "Dream V" with its room full of people who look trapped forever as if in some circle of hell.

Gary Kachadourian's carved and painted wall-hung works achieve a nice balance between painting and sculpture, especially "Escalator." And Cleaver's sculptures may be larger than miniature, but they're effective, especially the charming violinists of "Duet 1905."

Though imperfectly conceived and realized, "Actual Size" has its moments.


Where: Holtzman Gallery, Towson State Univerity's Fine Arts Building, Osler and Cross Campus drives

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through March 18

$ Call: (410) 830-2808

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