Posted by: Wes and Rachelle Siegrist | December 4, 2011


Modern Masters of Miniature Art in America book

Foreword by Kay Petryszak

Miniature Artists of America (MAA), founded in Clearwater, Florida in 1985, is the first organization in the United States established to honor outstanding practitioners in the field of American miniaturism. Signature Members are elected each year into a lifetime membership and may signify this honor by placing ‘MAA’ following their names. At the early MAA founding meetings, most persons attending assumed that all of the elected Signature Members would reside in the United States. Within three years it became apparent that many skilled, professional miniature artists were entering the USA miniature art society exhibitions and met qualifications to become MAA Signature Members. Many of our artist friends, from foreign lands, would attend the shows. They began to demonstrate, give helpful suggestions to the artists, lecture and provide educational information on the history of miniature art. At this time very few American miniaturists were educated on this genre of ‘art in little’. Who better to learn from than the artists from the countries that, for centuries, have already lived through it, written books about it and their artists knew how to paint in a traditional miniature technique! Some of these foreign artist friends were teaching miniature art and were encouraging their students to enter the miniature society shows in the USA.

2010 marked the 25th Anniversary of MAA. It would seem that the organization is still in its infancy. The society has been fortunate to have had numerous extremely gifted miniature artists, visionaries and supporters from its fruition. Charles W. (Wally) Curtis chaired a task force to establish this organization and was the MAA founder. Wally was one of the first visionaries to start the society forward at a rapid pace. He was not an artist but devoted a quarter of a century of his time and energy to MAA and the resurgence of miniature art in America. Margaret Hicks, past President of the Miniature Painters, Sculptors, & Gravers Society of Washington, DC, was often heard saying: “If every society had a Wally Curtis, everyone in the world would know about miniature art”.

Lewis Hoyer Rabbage was the MAA Archivist for ten years. He died, in 1995, at the age of sixty-three. He had an avid interest in researching and collecting miniature art, but his focus was mainly on the revival period of miniaturism, ca. 1890-1940, particularly since little research had been published about this period. His research papers were given to the Worcester Art Museum and he was acknowledged by the Museum for his contributions to the body of knowledge in regard to the revival period. The question arose – who will carry on this torch of knowledge, research and provide the continuity that is needed for the progression of this important genre?

Wes Siegrist, MAA, another visionary and miniature artist, enters the scene with eagerness, enthusiasm and youth on his side. He started to read historical documents and books on miniature art and have discussions with other miniature artists to try and understand what everyone thought on the subject. His research took him to places that many before him had not gone because they did not have these resources. Wes, being an intelligent and resourceful person, used the computer to access books that are no longer in print, but can now be read online. He soon came to learn that there were many conflicting ideas, definitions and thoughts on this interesting art.

Thoughts about producing a book featuring current living MAA miniature artists and their works had been discussed for the past several years. Wes suggested combining this artist segment with his research to produce one book encompassing past historical facts with artists currently practicing the genre. The MAA Board agreed that this would be a wonderful project to commemorate MAA’s 25th anniversary and provide the continuity needed for the progression of miniature art. Wes, a talented artist and great scholar, wanted to clarify and understand some past meanings, or thoughts, of scholars and artists. He set about to explore, face and suggest possible solutions to problems that have plagued miniaturists throughout the centuries. Wes has sought out, and listened to, both sides of many controversial topics on miniature art, involving size, scale, techniques and definition. He never shied from these discussions and chose, rather, to meet them head on seeking conversations which presented opposite views. Along the way he worked with others and founded the Association of Miniature Artists (AMA). Throughout the inquiries, he kept an open mind and tried to gather facts and information. He listened, contemplated, reasoned – and concluded. His wisdom seems beyond his years, his methods are professional and he sets a high standard of excellence for his own visions and goals. Thank goodness for all the numerous handwritten letters and typed documents, from the antiquated typewriter, to record the past history. And now, we thank Wes that much of this history has been digitally preserved in the MAA archives.The countless hours and thought that Wes has spent on the topical section of this book, demonstrates his passion for telling the whole story.

Wes was smitten by miniatures relatively early in his artistic career and youth has worked to his advantage. The world has been propelled through an unbelievable amount of advanced, high technology of communication. This era of electronic education has produced the iGeneration with information available immediately and interconnected to everyone around the world. It is not unusual today to open your email on one day and find messages regarding miniature art from five different countries. Surely, it is a small world and getting smaller. It’s like a tsunami of technology which has suddenly swept us away. Wes has embraced these modern changes and enjoyed the benefits of this technology. His scholarly approach and research is of the highest merit and should be seen as an important step to understanding this genre and the need to preserve it for posterity. Many learned people believed that when the internet became prevalent in the mid 1990’s, it would result in less reading and less books. The desire for reading books has not disappeared but how we obtain and read books has changed. The thirst for knowledge remains alive and active today. The MAA hopes this book will quench the thirst for present day and future miniaturists, collectors and scholars. Being a practicing miniature artist has also helped Wes to better understand this art form. It is apparent that Wes has undeniably reached his goal to inform, educate and introduce new thoughts and advancement to the miniature world, and has established himself as a significant historian.

Rachelle Siegrist, MAA, wife of Wes, is an excellent, practicing miniature artist and has served well as his sounding board. Speaking of visionaries and lofty dreams, this couple has boldly stepped out with making their livelihood by painting miniatures and becoming part of miniature history. It is remarkable, with their relatively young ages of thirty-nine and forty-four; they have a one man/one woman tour of their miniatures traveling to many museums throughout the United States. I liken Wes and Rachelle to one of the most fascinating, glamorous and successful couples of the late 18th and early 19th century, Richard and Maria Cosway. According to history, Maria had great charisma as well as great talent. Rachelle shares the same attributes of being charming, and talented. Both Wes and Rachelle are also successful, humble and extremely interested in preserving wildlife, their habitat and our natural environment. They are the young visionary team that is needed today to pass on the love and passion of miniature art.

Another excellent miniature artist and contributor, working on this book, is Janet Laird-Lagassee, MAA. Janet has a great insight into all aspects of miniature art as well as a great gift and talent to edit, keeping the main thought in place. Janet’s main task has been to communicate and coordinate information from the artists on his/her page in this book. Electronic technology has enabled Janet to immediately provide information to artists.

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” Sarah Ban Breathnach states this in her book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. As previously stated, MAA has had many dreamers and visionaries. Some have been listed but others made significant contributions of time, ideas and energy. Many we have lost but still love and remember. We are indebted to these early pioneers and active participants. They have provided strength, inspiration, encouragement and visions which are carried forth by today’s visionaries: as evident within the pages of this book.

Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” This book has been an enormous project for MAA and has developed into a project beyond our original aspirations. Are we in the ‘Running’ stage now and our ‘Marathon’ yet ahead? We certainly hope this to be true. What an enormous privilege it has been, over the past three decades, to have worked with hundreds of miniature artists, numerous miniature societies and art supporters around the world.

It is also important to acknowledge the support of the many non-artists, and spouses, who have contributed to the success of this society by their encouragement and sacrifices. Without the love and support of my husband, Mike Petryszak, many things would not have been possible: his assistance with computer tasks, photographic skills, mailing hundreds of MAA entries to the World Federation of Miniaturists’ exhibitions, and hand carrying the MAA traveling exhibition, consisting of six panels, to Australia for a three-week viewing at the Florida Pavilion during the Summer Olympics at Sydney, Australia. There are so many other things too numerous to list. I have so appreciated that he has continually been by my side with all my endeavors and encouraged me to reach and obtain many of my aspirations, dreams and goals for miniature art.

Optimism abounds for the future of miniature art. Advanced electronic technology is at the fingertips of the youth of today who are accustomed to viewing art on a monitor rather than in person. We hope that this book will have stirred up enough interest that people will begin to search for places to see real, actual exhibitions. The MAA Traveling Exhibit schedule is posted on its website and perhaps some of the locations will be close for many newcomers to visit. Once an artist or art supporter sees a physical show the ‘wow’ factor sets in. Questions abound like: How do they do that? Are these photographs? What kind of brushes are they using? Visitors leave saying that this is an amazing, unbelievable form of art and it beckons them to return year after year.

It is the hope, desire and vision of MAA that this book will be introduced and used as a reference for high school art classes and art history classes at the colleges. Through this book, MAA has left a legacy and challenge to youth to review and remember the heritage of miniature art and to remain true to the foundations of the art form. They have the ability and talent to continue this miniature revival period with their vitality and energy. The duty of MAA is to encourage and provide the amateur artist with enough information, interest and stimulus to become a skilled professional, in order to propagate this valuable genre.

Kay Petryszak, President, Miniature Artists of America


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: