Nancy Aronie in Miniature

If there's a theme, it might be People caught having a good time. Small people. Nancy calls this piece Me, Also. —Valerie Sonnenthal

Nancy Aronie does everything in her life with heart and soul — whether it’s volunteering to drive an elder for weekly errands, teaching writing workshops, or the generosity she shows her friends and family. 

She recently reminded me that we met at the Mansion House swimming pool when I first moved here. About a year later I took my first writing workshop; I couldn’t help but notice the outsider art adorning her property, all of course made by Nancy: silver spray-painted objects including typewriters, telephones, dolls, and more. You may have been to Nancy’s studio, familiar to any writing attendees, or to the people who come for “dancing, drumming, or dinner parties.” What you may not have noticed tucked to one side of the front door landing is Nancy’s desk, piled with pieces she’s working on, small bags of tiny people, broken jewelry, beads, religious mementos, Scrabble dice, typewriter pieces, wire, pliers, heat gun, glue sticks, contact cement, an electric drill, a soldering iron, and so on, but it’s all contained on, in, under and around a solitary desk.

Some works are planned out, and some take shape as she works on them. This piece is Skateboarding with Buddha. —Valerie Sonnenthal

Nancy started making collages forty-five years ago during her first winter on the Island. There was lots of scrap wood after their studio burned down. When her husband, Joel Aronie, got into the Lucite business, she had him cut her specific sizes for her work; a few of those larger box pieces adorn her home. When Joel got out of the Lucite business, she began working on roof shingles and other scrap wood pieces she transformed into comforting small works — some funny, some reflective, all brilliant in their own miniature ways. Most works usually have one or two people, who’d been produced for HO-scale model railroad train scenes, glued onto a finger-painted acrylic and/or oil background. The German railroad figures (approximately one inch tall) range from cops to nude sunbathers. Some works are planned, in that Nancy orders miniature telephones, typewriters, laptops, benches, or other objects for a specific occasion, like a birthday or an anniversary, or when someone just needs a little extra support, so planned — yes, but not planned out. Someone mentioned to Nancy her work resembled Joseph Cornell’s boxes, an artist she wasn’t familiar with at the time. After seeing his work, she felt “validated.”

Nancy first finger-paints a background and then adds other elements. I have always been drawn to miniature artwork, and the more I saw of Nancy’s work, the more I loved it. She entered a piece at the Ag Fair and won an honorable mention, and has had exhibits at Bananas and A Gallery, but mostly she makes work for her friends and loved ones. She celebrated her seventy-eighth birthday on May 1, and decided a week later to continue celebrating, and invited a group of ladies she likes for lunch. Each place setting included a piece made for that guest — this from the hostess who said, “Bring nothing.” As a child, Nancy wanted to be an artist, but her sister was an artist, so she became a writer.

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat it, Too. Aronie takes things she nds around the house, or from her husband Joel’s work materials, and creates miniature worlds. The piece below is entitled Gobsmacked. —Valerie Sonnenthal

One of Nancy’s favorite pieces has two cops and a rhinestone peace sign. As she shows me more work, Nancy remembers two outdoor cabinets attached to their shed, which hold only older miniature works. Outside, I am awed by the gallery of her small works, mostly undated. 

Nancy is passing on her love of small works to her grandson Eli, who has learned to use her tools and works alongside her. Her miniature works are timeless and create worlds unto themselves. Quirky, humorous, edgy, profound, you can immediately spot one of Nancy’s pieces in anyone’s home, and enjoy yet another miniature world that was created from one artist’s heart and soul.

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