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These postcards and hundreds of others will be in Studio Montclair’s fundraiser show, “Greetings from Montclair.” COURTESY STUDIO MONTCLAIR

Greetings from Montclair
An exhibition and benefit sale of postcard-sized artworks
Friday, Dec. 13, 7 to 9 p.m.
Exhibition will remain up through Tuesday, Dec. 24.
Studio Montclair Gallery, 127 Bloomfield Ave.
Refreshments. Music by Roxanna Munoz.
Postcards are one for $35, two for $60, of $25 a piece if buying three or more.
Art can be bought online, or at the auction.
Studiomontclair.org, 862-500-1447

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Go small or go home? 

It could be the motto of the many Studio Montclair Inc. artists participating in “Greetings from Montclair,” SMI’s third annual postcard-sized artwork sale on Friday, Dec. 13.

More than 100 artists participated in the exhibition of over 400 pieces. The show is a benefit sale for SMI, an artists’ support group founded in 1997. All of the artists donated their work.

Postcard-sized means 4 x 6. The art is all original, not reproduction, and the prices range from $25 to $35, depending on how many postcards one buys. 

All the artwork is displayed anonymously: only after the postcard is bought can the art-lover know whose work it is.

“But some of the artists know. I’m in a critique group at SMI, and they can recognize mine right away,” said Joan Gantz of Essex Fells with a laugh. This is the third time she will participate in the postcard show and benefit. “I feel the same with theirs: ‘I know this is you. I know your palette.’ Artists know and recognize each other.” It’s still your own self that you draw on, Gantz explained. “It’s like your signature. It doesn’t change. It’s still you. Certain things, patterns, color groupings, artists will always gravitate to. It speaks to something inside of them.”

Although Gantz usually works in a much larger format, more like 3 by 3 feet, working small was not hard for her. “I would a majority of artists do scribbles and little thumbnails all the time anyway,” she said.  

This year, she donated four pieces to the benefit, and worked to have a theme connecting them. They can be sold individually, or as a collection.  

Jeanne Brasile of Little Falls also usually works in a larger format, and enjoyed the challenge of working smaller. “It makes me think of my work differently,” she said. Brasile, a gallery director at Seton Hall University in South Orange, curated SMI’s member show Viewpoints 2019 in May. This is the first time she’s participated in a Studio Montclair show as an artist. “I saw the open call,” she said.

She works with Braille newspaper and thread, and working in a smaller size was “good to wrap my head around.” Braille is made out of six dots, with the different arrangements in a preformed size. She has just one piece in the benefit.

One way artists addressed the challenge of working so small was to make a larger piece and crop it.

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READ: ART IS INSPIRED BY QUILTS AT STUDIO MONTCLAIR EXHIBITION

READ: STATE OF THE ART 2019 COMES HOME

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That’s what Art Paxton of Montclair did, for his modified photographic prints. He has been a member of SMI since 2000, and has been on its board. 

“The challenge for me was taking a larger print, often some slight thing that is not satisfying,that I don’t regard as perfect, and picking parts. I now have a frame, a little window, 4×6, and I look for graphically complete images to fit that frame. Often just wish I could get a little more in,” he said.

Like Gantz, he has four pieces in the show. He had trouble deciding, but then realized that making choices and editing is part of a photographer’s job. “Finding something is a bit of a hunt. But being a photographer is being on the hunt for images.”

Joe LaMattina of Hackensack and Larry Sachs of Teaneck both create work just for the small size.

LaMattina said that while he usually works large, he enjoyed the challenge of creating small work and it went more smoothly than he thought it would “I’m running out of room in my house,” he said with a laugh. “I’m trying to work smaller and smaller as my career goes on. It’s not a struggle to adapt.”

LaMattina also likes that the low price-point makes it possible for people to buy art who are not ready to spend hundreds or more on a larger purchase.

When Sachs spoke to Montclair Local on Friday, he was actually on his way to a show featuring more of his small work. He just joined SMI in the past year. He is a photographer, painter and sculptor. “Believe it or not, [working small] is no challenge,” Sachs said. “I’ve been doing small works for several years. I find it a little bit easier. With digital photography, sometimes the sizes don’t match well, so it’s hard to get a complete 4×6. Sometimes it’s a little off, and I have to do a lot of post-production in Photoshop.”

For all of the postcard-makers, helping Studio Montclair is one of the main reasons they are participating.

“It’s nice to do some good for SMI,” said Gantz. “Without them, I feel like I’m out there in the wilderness. Studio Montclair is a very supportive group of local artists. It’s a nice opportunity to give something back.” 

Paxton missed an earlier fundraiser because he was watching his wife’s group, Oratorio Society of New Jersey. “I feel like this is an artistic way to support the organization,” he said. “There is so much talent in this town. Susanna [Baker, SMI executive director] and others over the years have given so much time. It should be noticed. It’s part of what makes this town great.”

People move to Montclair for restaurants, demographics, ideals and political aspirations: “but also, very importantly,” he continued, “the connections with the arts.”

Sachs agreed. “Everybody’s really nice,” he said. “I just wish there was better parking.”

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