Galleries Visual Arts

Small Scale Works at American Folk Art

Ellie Ali, artist

American Folk Art and Framing presents its annual Miniatures Show, opening Thursday, February 8, and running until Thursday, February 22, with a reception on Friday, February 9, from 5–7 p.m. Artwork for the show is limited to 9” x 7” pieces—not miniatures in the usual sense of the word but small-scale works that ask artists for a “considered approach” to their creations.

For the show, gallery owner and curator Betsey- Rose Weiss seeks paintings depicting scene and narrative on a small scale, “an engaging painting or object with all the depth and drive normally found in artists’ larger works,” she says. “Scale and compositional elements, which may be impractical to experiment with in larger formats, can be explored with less concern for exhausting copious amounts of materials.”

Ellie Ali credits painting with saving her life. She is self-taught and has been an artist all of her life, working in Chinese ink, acrylic and oils. “I work exclusively on paper,” she says. “I call paper my co-conspirator.” She is influenced in her work by New York City’s jazz and literary scenes.

She finds the challenge of creating smaller than usual pieces an enjoyable one. “When I work small, I am just telling the story with fewer words,” she says. “And in life that makes everyone happy, I think.” Karl Mullen also likens the creation of small works to short stories, citing the intimacy invoked by them. “My usual go-to large gesture and bold stroke of either line or color are banished by small scale,” he says. “It is not a shout; it is a very quiet song, almost a private whistle or hum.” Mullen normally works standing over paper on the floor to create, in a way uniquely his own, larger-scale paintings.

His friend, the poet Cassandra Cleghorn, says that his “palette is the larder: red wine, walnut oil and ink, Barry’s tea, pastes in silver tins, powders like exotic spices. To watch Mullen paint is to watch a weird amalgam of line chef, body worker, bartender and day laborer, each having sworn off the traditional tools of the trade.”

A miniatures show, Weiss says, offers a number of advantages to collectors, including the opportunity to purchase original art by established artists at an appealing price point and in smaller sizes for those whose walls are already filled with larger works. And for the artist, she adds, it is “an opportunity to create small or loose explorations to push their creativity in a new direction.”

American Folk Art and Framing is located at 64 Biltmore Avenue in Asheville. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit or call 828.281.2134.

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