A Closer Look at The Big & the Small of It

By Meghan E. Gattignolo 

The Customs House Museum & Cultural Center is a place to discover new artists and get inspired by new and dexterous exhibits. The Big & the Small of It by the artist collective Women. Artists. Masters. is no exception.  

This amazing traveling exhibit features three different artists who have come together to deliver a wonderful show designed to inspire visitors. Here are three reasons to come experience the beautiful and versatile works that artists Debra Kierce, Maria Bennett Hock and Carrie Waller have created together, and why you shouldn’t miss your chance to see it while it’s here. 

Ballerina Dreams
Maria Bennett Hock
Oil on panel

Collaborative Spirit 

For many artists, creating beautiful works can be a lonely pursuit. Picking up a paintbrush or pencil is often a solitary activity, and to work with other artists is a rare treat that takes extra effort to accomplish. And yet, Debra, Maria and Carrie found each other. These women have traveled the world and have found inspiration in each other’s work, though their approaches are uniquely distinct. Maria loves faces and uses portraits to communicate her themes and ideas. Carrie finds beauty and nostalgia in everyday objects, and Debra loves painting in the tiniest detail. The different scales in which they work also make this exhibit interesting. Debra’s tiny paintings are a dramatic contrast to many of Maria’s large canvases.  

The artists challenge each other to improve or try something new, and help each other solve technical problems – that collaborative spirit raises the bar for all three artists. Their different styles working together make the exhibit a special journey for the eye. The differences in the work complement each other and draw in the viewer. 

Debra Keirce
Oil on panel

Aspiring Goals 

One thing that makes this exhibit so special is not only the sense of teamwork and collaboration, but the intention behind the cooperative project. One of the reasons for putting together this exhibit was to encourage other artists to also try working together and encouraging mindful collaboration. Since all three of these artists have exhibited and traveled the world, they each have a global mindset. They realize that while one person can’t always single-handedly make lasting changes on their own, using their art to inspire people at a local level can create ripple effects throughout the world. Art speaks to people in a truly unique way that sticks with them long term. These women hope to inspire other artists and creative people to look for ways to work together and to reach more people. 

Tea with Friends
Carrie Waller

Dazzling Art  

Of course, the most important thing that makes an exhibit memorable is the art. Debra, Maria and Carrie are each accomplished artists in their own right. They have all won accolades and have exhibited around the country and beyond. Debra’s urban landscapes and miniature still lifes are award-winning, and her work is held in private collections on three continents. Maria’s work is in private collections all over the world and she was featured in People Magazine in 2021 for her “45 portraits in 45 days” project. She painted portraits of health workers during the pandemic to highlight their struggle. Carrie has won countless awards for her art over the last decade and has exhibited her work in Greece, Italy and Japan. But you don’t need to know their resume to know these artists are special. Carrie creates a sense of nostalgia with her watercolors of glass light bulbs and Ball jars, playing with light and transparency. Maria’s paintings are dreamlike with their story-telling properties. Debra’s are curiosities that have the visitor looking twice. Even the casual observer will find something to love in this exhibit. 

Don’t miss it! The Big & the Small of It: Women. Artists. Masters. is only on view at the Customs House Museum for a few more weeks. Take a friend or two to enjoy this amazing exhibit in the Museum’s Kimbrough Gallery before it leaves on September 24.  

Featured Photo: May Contain Pits | Carrie Waller | Watercolor

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts. Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two daughters. 

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