The last time we visited the East End Studio Gallery, the quiet, open atmosphere made it easy for us to peruse the walls and talk at length with the artist. Imagine our shock when we arrived to the opening of the "Sticky" exhibit late Sunday afternoon and found the place packed like a can of sardines, with no air-conditioning to boot. Hot and sticky, indeed. Luckily, as soon as we walked in we met gallery curator and artist Lizbeth Ortiz, who became our tour guide for the opening.
Ortiz took us around to many of the artists and art in attendance, who were lined up and wore nametags, kindergarten-style. She started by showing us her own motley collection of mini cartoon and movie characters, while also sharing how 40 artists contributed to the opening of "Sticky" that night.
"Sticky" is the culmination of a Facebook group called Sticky Note ART (or SNART for short), made up of Houston artists who enjoy the challenge of painting tiny pictures on Post-it notes. Members are required to post a 4-inch-by-4-inch painting the first day they join or risk exclusion from the group. If they make it past the first day, they are greeted with a different daily theme to paint, like monsters, movies, Muppets, flowers or, obviously the group favorite of the night, cartoon characters.
"It became a daily exercise," said Ortiz.
Lee E. Wright's collection of television and movie heroes was next to Ortiz's. The stockbroker by day and figurative realist by night joined SNART as a therapeutic antidote to his stressful day job, admitting that he would never become an artist professionally for fear of losing his creative edge. "I don't want my income to be determined by the thing I love," he said.
Next to Wright was perhaps the quirkiest artist of the night, David L. Weaver. His outlandish coat, drawn on and signed by previous purveyors of his work, and giant top hat attracted viewers to his ink-on-paper miniatures. The black-and-white cartoons were drawn as an "overexaggeration of our known world," said Weaver, and were accompaniments to three tales he had written, including The Adventure of the Walrus and the Toad, a self-published book.
Down the line we went. Lowbrow Pilgrim's female nudes shocked us, and his frank admission that he loved "big, thick women" in the midst of the family-friendly crowd shocked us even more. We were delighted, however, to learn that the artist of ten years used recyclable materials to create his art and that the naked subject of his art was actually a character in a self-written tale, similar to Weaver's, who literally begins to have skeletons in her closet. Interesting.
On the opposite side of the gallery, Julie Zarate's tiny, seductive pictures of women's faces and Anat Ronen's downsized cartoon characters were our favorite. We noticed that many of the artists, like Ronen, were used to doing bigger artwork, and found that Post-it paintings provided a welcome relief.
"I usually do murals," said Ronen, who joined SNART at the suggestion of a friend. After working hard at her first tiny painting, she wanted to do more. "It's a great challenge."
On our way out, Ortiz introduced us to 28-year-old Chasity Porter, a lifetime artist who took a rather creative approach to her sticky note art. Instead of merely painting on individual notes, she created butterfly collages with multiple, colored sticky notes.
"I just want to continue making art. I want more people to see my art and like it," said the young artist, echoing the sentiments of all the painters we spoke to that night. "I just want to do it forever."
East End Studio Gallery, 708C Telephone Road, is open by appointment. To schedule, e-mail eestudiogallery @ gmail.com.
Editor's note: 4:20 p.m. Monday, August 29: Anat Ronen and lee E. Wright are artists featured in the "Sticky" exhibit. An earlier version of this article misspelled their names.