Small Art, Big Inspiration

Frame of Reference in Whitefish hosts Holiday Miniature Show, offering small, original works of art from local artists

By Molly Priddy
Jeanette Rahahn's miniatures on display at Frame of Reference Fine Art in Whitefish on Nov. 29, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

When it comes to visual artists, the Flathead Valley is a haven of professionals, creatives who find inspiration living in the Crown of the Continent and share their perspectives through paintings, sketches, and sculptures.

And while the valley’s many galleries and several museums showcase these works, ownership of original pieces can feel financially intimidating, especially if the artist is well known and demand for their work is high.

Derek Vandeberg, president of Frame of Reference Fine Art in Whitefish, knows the urge to be so taken by an artist’s work that one must have it on their own walls; he’s made a business of it for the last 25 years.

With that in mind, all month through Dec. 30, Frame of Reference will offer its first annual Holiday Miniature Show, featuring more than 60 small works of art from local artists priced at what Vandeberg called more of a gifting price.

“It’s sort of a way to be more gift-sized and gift-priced,” he said last week before the show’s gala reception on Dec. 1.

Each piece had to be 144 square inches or smaller, Vandeberg said, and most are priced between $200 and $400, as compared to the thousands of dollars some of the artists involved receive for their larger works.

Some of the locally known artists in the show include Richie Carter of Kalispell; Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey of Whitefish; Julie T. Chapman of Missoula; Dennis Johnson of Polson; K. Bonnema Leslie of Bigfork; Jeff Manion of Kalispell; Tabby Ivy of Bigfork; Lee Proctor of Bigfork; Jeanette Rehahn of Bigfork; Gini Ogle of Kalispell; Nancy Seiler of Missoula; Robin Sorg of Kalispell; Laurie A. Stevens of Great Falls; Roger Rink of East Glacier; Echo Ukrainetz and Ron Ukrainetz of Great Falls; Linda Tippetts of Augusta; and Kenneth Yarus of Kalispell.

Out-of-state artists include Carole Cooke of Arizona; Kat Houseman of Washington; Stacey Peterson of Colorado; and Michele Usibelli of Seattle.

Vandeberg said anyone looking to own a piece from these artists would be challenged to find a better opportunity to own an original. For example, the miniature show features four pieces from Bigfork artist Jeanette Rehahn, whose landscape pastels are typically priced between $1,400 and $6,000.

“I’ve got four from her that are $385 and beautifully framed,” Vandeberg said.

It’s the first time Frame of Reference has offered a miniatures show, he said, but such events are traditions in bigger galleries. One of the artists featured in Frame of Reference, Cascade-based R. Tom Gilleon, is so popular that his paintings of tipis can fetch $55,000 in a gallery and much more at auction.

Vandeberg managed to get a miniature from Gilleon, priced at $4,500.

“We’re everywhere from emerging artists to established artists,” Vandeberg said.

Frame of Reference opened up in Whitefish in February, moving from its established home in Bigfork to its current location on Central Avenue where there was five times the wall space to show artwork and framing.

A miniature show for the holidays is about opportunity and availability, he said, a time when more folks have a chance to own original work from local artists who draw inspiration from the place we all call home.

“This is a way for someone to have a cool, original piece,” Vandeberg said.

The Holiday Miniature Show at Frame of Reference is up until Dec. 30. For more information, visit www.frameref.com or call (406) 730-8855.

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