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Diminutive artworks make big impression in ‘Small Wonders’

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 12, 2017


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Bigger isn’t always better. Limited to no more than 12 inches by 12 inches, artists from across Michigan expanded their creative horizons by working on tiny pieces for “Small Wonders,” the first juried art exhibition at Grosse Pointe Congregational Church.

Jack Summers, of Detroit, a retired Grosse Pointe South High School art teacher who has won awards for his work in collage and photography, was asked to jury the exhibition. Summers selected 37 works by 20 artists for the show, which opened June 25 and will be on display through Sept. 10.

“I thought there was some very strong work here,” Summers said. “It took me a while to pick the winners.”

Summers chose what he deemed were the top entries, giving Best of Show to Nobuko Yamasaki, of Grosse Pointe Shores, for her woodblock collage, “Into the Blue.” Honorable mentions went to Barbara Clay, of Mount Clemens, for the pastel, “Toward the Ridge”; Cheryl Den Boer, of Hudsonville, for the watercolor monoprint “The Watcher”; Julie Strabel, of Grosse Pointe Park, for the mixed media works “Summer in the Country” and “Global Warning”; and Lori Zurvalec, of Grosse Pointe City, for the mixed media work “Full Moon.”

“I’m looking for interesting work,” said Summers of his jurying philosophy; he has juried other exhibitions as well. “I’m looking for well-done and well-composed work. I’m looking for work that is creative and fresh.”

Summers said he was especially struck by Yamasaki’s piece, which “was so well-executed, well-designed and had a handsome quality to it.”

Yamasaki, who has two pieces in the show, said “Into the Blue” was created using pieces cut from woodblock prints, with a section of a watercolor behind them.

“I always try to use the water and scenery,” said Yamasaki, who also teaches the art of woodblock printing at the church and elsewhere.

Tamm Whitty, director of arts ministry for the church, said this was the fifth art opening the church has had since it started the arts ministry in October 2016.

“This was our first open call, which was very exciting,” she said of the exhibit. Prior shows had featured invited artists or students who take art classes at the church.

There’s a story behind each of the works.

Charmaine Kaptur, of Grosse Pointe Park, has two pen and ink drawings in the show, “Trees #One” and “Trees #Two.” While recovering recently at a medical rehabilitation facility, she said, she did a number of sketches of the trees that she saw in the yard.

Carol LaChiusa, of Grosse Pointe Farms, has two watercolors in the show, “The Hikers” — of a pair of people trekking through the woods, inspired by something the artist saw in Leelenau — and increasingly treacherous ocean waters lapping a beach in “Rough Seas.”

“Rough Seas” was completed in about 10 minutes — out of necessity. LaChiusa said she and her sister were outside in Punta Gorda, Florida, as the weather got increasingly wicked, with sand blowing into their eyes and the water roiling.

“I did this really quickly because a tornado was blowing in,” LaChiusa said. “The wind was really whipping.”

Deborah Maiale, of Grosse Pointe Woods, created a watercolor of a senior woman on a bench with the beach and water behind her. The watercolor, “Immersed,” started as a portrait of the woman, who was actually sitting indoors on a traditional Queen Anne-styled bench that Maiale gave a more rustic feel with tree branches where the polished wood structure would be. As to the beach and the water, “That was a scene in my head,” the artist explained.

The subject seems engrossed with the paper in her hands, which Maiale said inspired the title.

“It made me start thinking of the different meanings of ‘immersed,’” she said.

Maiale has a second watercolor in the show, “Alone in a Crowd.”

The show drew artists from as far away as Port Huron — Nancy Davis — and Ann Arbor — Leah Nadeau. There were also six artists from the Grand Rapids area — Den Boer; Mary Bommarito, of Lowell; Mary E. Carter, of Grand Rapids; Phyllis Guindon, of Wyoming; Charles LaRue, of Grand Rapids; and Katherine Turlington, of Wyoming. All are members of the Rivertown Artists’ Guild, Zurvalec said, noting that Carter is the group’s president.

Other local artists in “Small Wonders” include Kelly Baetz, Kathleen McNamee, Jackie Rybinski and Mary Tait, all of Grosse Pointe Farms.

Zurvalec is the steward of worship and chair of the Arts Ministry Committee at Grosse Pointe Congregational Church.

“The whole idea is to reach out in all the ways you can through art,” she said. “One of the most wonderful ways to be heard is through art. You’re conveying your story and who you are.”

The artists who’ve been featured so far have included many people who don’t belong to Grosse Pointe Congregational Church. Likewise, the exhibitions have been open to anyone who wants to see them, regardless of their religious affiliation — or lack of affiliation. Whitty, of Grosse Pointe Park — herself a fine artist as well as a choral musician — said they’re trying to create a dialogue with the community through art in “a very welcoming setting.”

Whitty said they’re trying to make the arts in general more accessible to everyone. Two of her works, the polymer clay impression “Musical Evolution” and the layered print on acrylic “Paisley Explosion — GP,” are in this show.

“I think it’s a celebration of creativity,” Whitty said of the church hosting art classes and exhibitions like “Small Wonders.” “I hope that it inspires people to find that inner creativity within themselves. And it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with artists, and for artists to engage with one another.”

Grosse Pointe Congregational Church is located at 240 Chalfonte Ave. The exhibit is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays, and by appointment. For more information, visit the Grosse Pointe Congregational Church Arts Ministry Facebook page or To schedule an appointment to see the exhibition, contact Whitty at (313) 884-3075.