Here are some suggestions for art of the right size for Santa to tuck under his arm, and be affordable, too. (Note: You can often find "gift-priced" works of art available in backrooms of galleries, even when major shows are upfront.)
* A veritable Santa's workshop is the Charlotte Foust Studio, where several talented artists show their work, among them Linda LaCroix, a monotype and monoprint artist who has a smaller series of clever, pleasantly quirky, hand-colored photocopied images of teapots that typically run $20, and some attractive larger framed prints which range from $100 to $250.
Another Foust artist, Tyler Strouth, also produces some compelling color photocopied works in an inexpensive price range. Francisco Gonzales does lino-cuts as well as other kinds of reasonably priced prints. This prize-winning artist just keeps getting better. He's due to have a show at The Blue Pony soon. In fact, both Gonzales and LaCroix are students of Charlotte's best printmaker, Mary Lou Sussman, proprietor of the Blue Pony, whose influence can be clearly seen in their work.
Charlotte Foust's own work features very affordable and attractive collages from $50 to $150. These are indeed sized and priced for gift-giving.
Two weekends, November 30-December 1 and December 7-8, remain for the Charlotte Foust Studio's "Holiday on Park." (The store is located at 5200 Park Road, off the street in a 70s-style business park just south of the new Harris-Teeter grocery store.) Call 704-525-7989 for hours, which vary, or check out www.fouststudio.com.
* Elsewhere, the aforementioned Blue Pony's "Gift Size Works of Art" opens the first weekend of December -- the last Gallery Crawl of 2001. Stoneware and wall pieces with cobalt blue designs by raku artist Tomoo Kitamura -- and handsome monotypes by Sussman in the $300 to $400 range -- are but a few examples of what you can see. For more info, call the Blue Pony at 704-334-9390.
* Like the Blue Pony, the Center of the Earth Gallery participates in Gallery Crawl. Some gift-priced glass and other gorgeous art and artifacts are on display, such as colorful glass vases by Wes Harding, some with millefiore adornment from $40-$195. Paul Sires' $200 woodblock of a burning house and Brad Thomas' $400 mixed media Floating Woman are priced -- and "sized" -- right for gift-giving. Elizabeth Marin's oil on canvas 2001 Heads and Tales Series, "Studies from Italy #4," is priced to sell at $270, and makes one want to see the whole series. Call Center of the Earth at 704-375-5756 and visit their web site at www.centeroftheearth.com.
* In NoDa, beautiful miniature photographs featuring scenes from the Greek Isles in saturated color by Jim Nilson inhabit the window of Art Preserve. These little masterpieces sell for only $35 framed.
* Pomegranate Gallery is a small spot off the beaten track in the North Davidson Street neighborhood often filled with surprises in the world of art. If you hurry, you can just catch Nine Nudes by Anna Dlougolenskaia, well-painted original oils for under $300. If you miss that, the next show features painter Raed Al-Rawi. Call 704-442-9013 to learn more.
* Shops with "arty" gifts or collectibles (rather than "art") can also be found on N. Davidson Street. If you have a hankering for an antique hankie or other miscellaneous attic treasures, you can find gifts with personality priced as low as five or six dollars at Fried Green Tomatoes, on the corner of North Davidson and 35th. It's fitting, somehow, that Fried Green Tomatoes is next door to a place whose former name was Rococo Fish and across the street from a shop called New Waves of Joy.
* Besides having $8 costume jewelry, $10 plastic sunglasses, and other nostalgic goodies, Waves carries a selection of intriguing new stuff and bad art mixed in with the 50s memorabilia. Always fun.
* If you're looking for artistic stocking stuffers, small pieces by Michelle Snipes for coffee lovers, dog lovers, cat lovers and folks of other persuasions can be seen about town in non-art gallery domains such as Dilworth Coffee House and Phat Burrito, or call the artist at 704-393-0684.
* Some of Charlotte's highest caliber "crafts" are consistently on view at Gallery W.D.O., where prices are pricier, and the quality is topnotch. For the holiday season, W.D.O. carries small and charming "balsam Pillows" with an "everlasting scent" by Amish artisan William Leinback of Myerstown, PA, for $26.
* W.D.O. always has handsome hand-loomed scarves and neckties, from $60 and up for silk, cotton and wool blends. Glass baubles and balls by Valerie and Rick Beck are $26; other such ornaments, by Mary Mullaney and Ralph Mossman, with millefiore designs run from $44 to $70. The Becks also show some striking $70 painted glass paperweights.
There's a lot of fine jewelry here, too, as well as handmade beeswax candles by "Greentree" for $20, and even some very classy soap. Beautiful polished wood boxes by Chris Kann run from $46 to $225, depending on size. Hand-crafted wooden spoons add a touch of class to your table. These handsome objects are priced from $8 to $48; a nice pair of salad utensils is about $32.
For a really impressive gift, you can spend several hundred dollars for a unique, crystal glazed vase by Hideaki S. Miyamura. Miyamura was apprenticed by Japanese ceramist Yohen Tenmokuto to create special iridescent glazes. These absolutely gorgeous vases and jars with gold and blue-black iridescent crystal glazes are examples of what Miyamura came up with after years of experimentation. Prices range from $450-$950.
Gallery W.D.O. will host an "Atherton Mill wake" for the December 7 Gallery Crawl. The shop will be moving to a new location next year, appropriately adjacent to the Mint Museum of Craft + Design. (The gift shop in the Mint Museum of Craft + Design is itself another good place to find smart things for gifts.)
* And of course the American Craft Council is coming to town. This blockbuster is a great showcase for artists and artisans from across the nation, and runs from Friday, December 7 through Sunday, December 9. Tickets are $6, or $10 for a two-day pass. Call for information at 704-331-8187.
I'd caution art gift seekers not to be so wowed by the ACC craft show that you neglect to support your local artists. In many, many cases, they're just as good, and there's no admission charge to Charlotte galleries and studios.
These are only a few suggestions for holiday gift-giving in the "affordable" category of artwork available at favorite local galleries. Cool, original works of art -- sized right for holiday presents -- abound in Charlotte these weeks before the holidays.
And, of course, there's always Paper Skyscraper... *