Small Potatoes, a strangely sentimental exhibit at Thunder-Sky Inc., is like a heapin’ helping of Grandma’s comfort food. It’s unapologetically lumpy, undeniably homemade and served without fancy presentation but with a whole lot of love. Even those with refined palates can appreciate the dinner-table discussion if not the actual buffet of “self-made (and repurposed) knick-knacks, tchotchkes and other curiosities.” This show isn’t so much about art collections as it is about the art of collecting, sometimes to the point of hoarding. Why is one person’s trash another’s treasure? When does a thrifty recycler need a reality check? At what point does hanging on to childhood mementoes go from cute to creepy?
The reality show Hoarders, one of the inspirations for Small Potatoes, has taught us that an obsessive-compulsive pack rat might start out with a seemingly harmless habit. Similarly, one wall of the exhibit happens to be more innocent than the opposite side, notes gallery co-founder Bill Ross.
Nearly all the art in the show is placed on or low to the floor — perfect for evoking a child’s point of view and creating anAlice in Wonderland aesthetic. Lighthearted paperboard robots and dolls by Katherine Ziff of Athens, Ohio, line shelves fashioned out of old lumber, concrete blocks and paint cans. More robots sit atop metal TV trays — black floral ones like Grandma’s, of course.
It’s fitting that Ziff found her inspiration in the art of second-graders she met as a school counselor. Food boxes, egg cartons and toilet paper rolls are minimally transformed into whimsical figures with button eyes and coifs made out of newspaper fans. Who’s to say they’re less special than a cabinet of vintage Barbies or porcelain dolls?
Matthew Waldeck’s colorful, plush action figures look like characters out of Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock! lessons. Waldeck (of Cincinnati) pairs smiling and frowning figures, re-creating the childhood world where inanimate objects become friends and enemies. An eraser, with its soothing pink color and soft corners, is good and kind. Mr. Scissors, though, is mean and hurtful.