Sabrina Small’s stitchings take the sting out of aging

Small show at Alt_space documents with humor the props of ill-health

artist’s reception 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 | Alt_space Gallery, 123 Douglas St., New Smyrna Beach | 386-423-1753 | | free

At first glance, the gallery walls seem to glitter with prizes, proud trophies embroidered in scarlet and golden thread on gleaming gold and silver fields. On closer inspection, however, the grandiloquence of the tiny framed embroideries is tarnished somewhat by the realization that the subjects being ennobled are the “props” of illness and aging: pill organizers, IV bags, hospital gurneys. What sick joke is this?

Sabrina Small’s stitchings are funny, but they’re no joke. “Whether from age, disease or the medical practices observed today, the physical and mental deterioration we all experience can conjure absurd thoughts of the inner and outer self,” Small says.

The Sarasota artist produces a visual diary, documenting her dreams and daily preoccupations with a quirky but never self-conscious sense of humor. The dreams are covered in the more abstract pieces in the show, like “Mating Calls,” a large diptych of two human-animal-flower hybrids reaching out of frame toward each other like a nightmarish Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy; the preoccupations … well, who doesn’t feel the brush of mortality on the back of the neck from time to time, when filling a prescription?

Perhaps fetishizing and bedazzling these artifacts of deterioration is a form of whistling past the graveyard – to make light of one’s fears is to steal their power; to frankly celebrate death and dying is to steal its victory altogether.

Small’s work is on display at the Atlantic Center for the Arts’ downtown New Smyrna Beach gallery, Alt_space, through Dec. 14. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; admission is free.