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One of the great things about the annual "Small Works on Paper" traveling exhibition sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council is the publicity it gives to artists whose names aren't yet a household word.
Kimberly Kwee is one of those artists, though she's surely known to students she taught at Pulaski Technical College and to Chicagoans who saw her fall show at Halfmoon Gallery there. Her work in the SWOP exhibition, "Wild World," combines pencil and ink line drawings of squat figures on paper and overlain sheets of vellum, cut into shapes that have been neatly stitched to the paper. The figures are not unlike James Tisdale's stubby ceramic folk exhibited last year at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. (The name she tagged on the website image of "Wild World" is "Beasty Bush," surely in reference to one of the figures.)
Works by Kwee and 38 other artists are on exhibit at the William F. Laman Public Library in North Little Rock, the first stop on a year-long journey across Arkansas. Winning purchase awards were William Barksdale of Cotter; Ginger Grahn of Paragould; Neal Harrington of Russellville; Dennis McCann of Maumelle, Jason McCann of Maumelle and Mike Means of El Dorado.
All the winners were worthy, but "Swimming Hole/Buffalo National River," a photograph by Don House of Fayetteville (who is not among the unknowns), should have gotten some kind of award (though perhaps expense figured in; the six winners shared $2,000). In this photograph, a girl in red tights stands on the rocky bank of the river facing the blurry figure of a boy in burgundy swim trunks on a rock mid-river; he is warming himself with his arms clasped over his torso. House has emphasized the figures' pale skin and red garb and kept the river and bluff dark and in the background. Intentional or not, there are shades of Sally Mann in the subject matter of the picture; though the girl's back is to us, she's topless and just tall enough to be on the verge of puberty.
Paragould artist and art teacher Ginger Grahn was another revelation. Her illustration, "When Smelly Met Stinky," is a comic but elaborate pencil drawing of a long-nosed elfin creature patting a skunk on the head while a rabbit holds his nose. A flying squirrel and a possum watch from the branches above.
Suzanne King of Fort Smith, an arts educator whose work has been selected in several SWOP exhibitions, and Dennis McCann of North Little Rock have great pastels in the show. King's still life "Pitcher and Bowl" is in deeply saturated blues and deep yellows; McCann's "East 18th" is a finely-wrought street scene in a less complicated palette, a block of identical green-roofed houses with cars lined up at the curb.
Thank goodness for Chroma Gallery owner Robert Reep, I always say: He brings conceptual art to the show with a piece made from finely ground-up leaves and dirt. The fastidious Reep has placed on this earthy background letters (also in leaves) that spell YARD.
In a nice break from his perfect-body nudes, Victor Chalfant's "Matchstick Man" is a digital photographic print of a man spotlit in a forest with his head on fire. Benjamin Krain's iPhone photo "Boy v. 2.0" is a baby picture that the talented Krain has pixilated in places and otherwise fiddled with to make an engaging portrait.
Laman keeps SWOP until Jan. 29; next stop is the National Park Community College in Hot Springs.
This Friday is the 13th, but art trollers should shrug that off and jump on the Arkansas Times-sponsored trolley between 5 and 8 p.m. to travel to 2nd Friday Art Night venues.
The Butler Center Galleries in the Arkansas Studies Institute, 401 President Clinton Ave., will feature a new exhibition for Art Night participants: "Women to Watch," the National Museum of Women in the Arts show of work by Arkansas artists Janet Frankovic, Endia Gomez, Nikki Hemphill, Thu Nguyen, Ruth Pasquine, Deborah Warren and Emily Wood. There will be live music at the event, 5-8 p.m. Also on exhibit at the Butler Center Galleries: "Ark in the Dark: An Exhibition of Vintage Movie Posters about Arkansas," a show from the collection of Ron Robinson, and "Leon Niehues: 21st Century Basketmaker."
The Historic Arkansas Museum, 200 E. Third St., will have a wine-tasting as its 2nd Friday event; appropriately, the band "Wine and Roses" will play. In its Arkansas artist galleries: "Found-Fired-Formed: Sarah May Leflar, Donna Uptigrove and Amber Uptigrove," and "Tesseract Dancing: Brett Anderson and Emily Galusha." Amy Garland will provide music at the Old State House Museum, 300 W. Markham, where "An Enduring Union: Arkansas and the Civil War" is on exhibit. Hearne Fine Art, 1001 Wright Ave., continues its exhibit of sculpture and drawings by California artist Chukes. The ArtGroup Maumelle holds its 2nd Friday ArtNight reception in the Courtyard Marriott, 521 Clinton Ave.
The big news in the museum world is the reopening of the Museum of Discovery, 500 Clinton Ave., which has been closed since last April to allow a $9.2 million renovation funded by a Donald W. Reynolds Foundation grant. The museum is now named the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, The Donald W. Reynolds Science Center, and focuses on earth science, human biology and physical science. The opening exhibition, "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas," built by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, showcases how new technology available to paleontologists is improving their understanding of creatures that are millions of years old.
The Arkansas Arts Center opens a new exhibit Friday, "Horizons Interrupted," work by Piet Mondrian, Arthur Davies, Robert Henri, Hayley Lever, William Langson Lathrop, Frank Klepper, Johan-Barthold Jongkind and others, all from the Arts Center's permanent collection. The show was guest curated by Lepanto artist Norwood Creech, whose own work is inspired by the Delta landscape's wide horizon. Creech won the opportunity to be "Curator for a Day" at the Tabriz auction last year.
The show runs through March 11 in the Sam Strauss Sr. Gallery.