No kidding! Toys can be art


There’s something different about Elisa Contemporary Art this holiday season. Since opening in 2008, the gallery has been known for showcasing abstract art from new artists from around the country.

But its new exhibit is full of what you might find in a stocking on Christmas morning: match box cars, Pez dispensers, action figures, dinosaurs and crayons.

Running through Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, the gallery, located at 5622 Mosholu Ave., is showing A Toy Story and Other Delights.

“As I was putting up this show it just made me smile. It made me feel very good,” said the gallery’s owner Lisa Cooper.

“There’s a magical quality in it.”

The art in the show is “hyper-realist,” according to Ms. Cooper. She said she was inspired by the Virginia artist Megan Marlatt’s oil paintings of toys, including monsters, Pinnochio and piles of children’s playthings.

To celebrate the holidays, she decided to round up other artists with work focusing on toys for an end-of-the year show. It includes Ms. Marlatt’s work, as well Allan Innman’s paintings of match box cars and toy soldiers, Peter and Madeline Powell’s Hello Kitty Pez dispenser and life-like crayons and James Kao’s colorful figures and mushrooms.

The Powells, an artist couple from Hawaii, take as many as 72 photos of their pieces in order to come up with the right angles on which to base their paintings.

“We enjoy taking the little things out of everyday life and giving them the prominence and importance they had when we were children. Our paintings invoke the childhood spirit that everyday life has buried deep within us,” the couple stated in a release on the show.

The show also changed shape after superstorm Sandy. Ms. Cooper said she wanted to put together a toy drive along with other local institutions to benefit children living in the affected areas. She ran into Karenbeatrice Porcher, the leader of Brownie Girl Scout Troop 1477, which was also starting a toy drive to collect donations for Sandy victims. The toy drives became combined and the girl scouts have been picking up donations at many local organizations and businesses intended for children living in evacuation shelters on Staten Island. Last week, the girl scouts picked up about 20 toys from the gallery, which added to the more than 200 toys they have collected so far. 

Through Saturday, Dec. 15, Elisa Contemporary Art is collecting toys for Sandy victims. The toys should be new and unwrapped, and should not be plush toys. The gallery is also donating a portion of sales to the American Red Cross and Save the Children.