When a work of art no larger than a jellybean sells for $120, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow.
It’s even harder to see.
Artist John Chwekun, a Southwestern College art instructor, creates art on a small scale. Some of his pieces are so small that they are hardly visible.
One piece could easily be mistaken for a chunk of drywall or Styrofoam pinned to a wall, yet it hangs proudly next to an even smaller red sticker indicating its sale.
Small art is what visitors will see at Helmuth Projects, a gallery in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego that, according to its website, “is held together with spit, duct tape and thifted yarn.” Chwekun’s tiny piece is one of 85 in the exhibition “Object Object!! A Selection of Smaller Works,” co-curated by artist John Oliver Lewis, a SWC professor of art, and his wife, Jessica McCambly.
On display are an assortment of compact paintings, photos and sculptures. There is also fabric, digital, woodworking, glass, conceptual and abstract art. Even a mini-installation found space in the exhibition – though not very much.
Lewis said he and McCambly asked artists to submit work that did not exceed 10 inches in any direction. Prices ranged from $100 to $300.
“That makes the work a little more collectable, more accessible to a larger audience of people that are looking to collect,” Lewis said.
At the exhibition’s opening, Lewis said, 63 pieces sold. More have sold since, he said.
In preparation for this exhibition, Lewis said he and McCambly scoured the Internet for nearly a year, searching websites and following links, looking for artists they hoped would contribute. Eventually they found several national and international artists who fit the bill.
Artists from as far away as Canada and New York mailed their art. San Diego-based artists and educators, however, created the majority of the pieces in “Object Object.” Six are current members of SWC’s art department, four are past members.
Artist Anya Gallaccio contributed “Hold on to Yourself,” a lacquered pink lady apple from 1999. It looked fascinating, but overwhelming unappetizing compared to a sherbet-colored ceramic piece by Lewis, titled “Diamond Dandy,” which was absolute eye candy.
Joshua West Smith presented a dirt-covered piece with a bright orange stripe. Former SWC gallery director Bob Matheny hung “$300,” a square piece of wood with fake and authentic $50 bills hanging from a metal clip. Printed in red on the front bill was the word “ReaL.”
“Prayers for Rain (for Wilhelm Reich)” by Mathew Hebert produced sound and it played songs about the weather. One song was the modern-day rap classic “Hot in Herre” by Nelly.
SWC Professor of Art Marisol Rendon exhibited a cracked vase (“External Fixation for a Very Stressed Vessel”) and said the exhibition was “beautiful.”
“I think it was an excellent opportunity to be able to purchase somebody else’s work,” said Rendon, who bought the mini-installation.
Helmuth Project facilities resident and artist Josh Pavlick contributed “Boadwee Bear,” a white ceramic bear he bought at a thrift store and kiln fired black glaze onto its rear. The glaze spells the word “practice.”
Pavlick has run Helmuth Projects for three years. He said that if he was not running it his day job as a contractor would suck his soul dry.
“I need a better way of saying this, a more eloquent way,” he said. “We just like doing rad shit!”
Pavlick said he lives in the gallery, pays the rent and keeps the walls white.
This was the second annual “Object Object” co-curated by Lewis and McCambly.
Lewis said that as of now he and McCambly have no plans for a third “Object Object,” but have not ruled it out.
“Object Object!!” is on view through Dec. 6. Gallery hours are on Wednesdays and Thursdays 6-9 p.m., and Saturdays 1-4 p.m.
Lewis guaranteed any person who visits “Object Object!!” would at least like something.
“It’s a great opportunity for students and the community to see a wide variety of different styles of artwork that are being made throughout the country.”