Edith Lunt Small Retrospective at NTID Dyer Arts Center

RIT salutes one of Rochester’s longtime visionary artists who ‘still paints every day’




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A. Sue Weisler

“Edith Small’s work defies category. It is na´ve and sophisticated, free from convention,
yet deals with every day conventional subject matter.”

—Artist Wendell Castle

Nothing is off limits to Edith Lunt Small’s imagination—and what she sees, she paints. And then she throws in a few shocking details into the mix to halt any sense of realism.

“My favorite piece is called The Entry of Christ into Manhattan, based after artist James Ensor’s Entry of Christ into Brussels,” says the artist from her Pittsford home/studio. “I have Christ making his way on a donkey up Park Avenue, ignored by everyone. There are homeless people, transvestites, and because I was a vegetarian at the time, I put in some animals on their way to the slaughterhouse to feed our insatiable need for meat. Irony is very important in my work and in the work I love.”

The Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, will host the Edith Lunt Small Retrospective RIT ’52 with an opening reception and music by Margaret Explosion from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18. The show runs through Feb. 29.

Although Small graduated with a degree in Applied Art from RIT in 1952, where she was taught “three-dimensional-Michelangelo-like art,” she developed an affinity for comic books, medieval art and Japanese prints.

One of Small’s peers at RIT’s downtown campus was Wendell Castle, who says he admires artwork that doesn’t fit into a convenient historical niche.

“Edie is able to speak in the clear, uncluttered language of the folk artist, yet this work has a personal vision which allows her to comment on her own history in ways that cut right to the heart of the matter,” Castle explains.

Small says it was also a boon when she switched from oils to acrylics due to her interest in details, flatness and speed. To her credit, Small’s prolific collection ranges from primitive landscapes, a painting of a funeral procession in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral after 9/11, the Memorial Art Gallery and The White House to commissioned portraits and family dogs.

And believe it or not, Small has been known to paint clothes—coats, skirts, pants, even purses. “I have an antipathy towards the pretentious and after I saw pictures of clothes designed by Elsa Schiaparelli (1930-1940), I felt there is nothing sacred about clothes. I hate to shop, so I add my own designs—everything from butterflies to dogs.”

NTID Dyer Arts Center, located on the RIT campus in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (585) 475-6855 or email rbaker@ntid.rit.edu.

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A. Sue Weisler