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Rena Small

Rena Small: M.F.A 1977 and B.F.A. 1975 from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA

Permanent Art Collections : The San Francisco Civic Center, The California State Art Collection in the Hiram Johnson Courthouse: George Eastman House, International Center of Photography, Fisher Museum at USC, Laguna Art Museum, Peabody Essex Museum of Art in Salem, MA, Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, Norton Museum is West Palm Beach Florida, California Museum of Photography at the University of Riverside, CA, Creative Center of Photography in Tucson Arizona, Special Collections at the University of Colorado, Denver; Contemporary Museum of Art in Houston, TX, West light Museum of Photography in Austria, Vienna, the Polaroid Collection, Eli Broad Family and Sun America, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Boca Rotan Museum of Art, the Daum Museum in Montana, Carnation /Nestle Company,; and in many private collections.

One Person Exhibits at the: Craig Krull Gallery, Robert Berman Gallery, Jancar Gallery Daniel Wolf, Inc. Gallery on 57th street, Popular Photography Gallery, Young and Rubicam on Madison Avenue in NYC and the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY: Orange Coast College, Cypress College, The Platt Gallery Univ. Of Judaism in Beverly Hills, CA, The Jewish Federation of American on Wilshire Blvd and group exhibition “Mysterious Objects The Joan Quinn Collection, soon to open at the John Wayne Airport in June 2013, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the New Museum of Art in NYC, The Dublin Museum of Art, the Rhode Island Museum of Art, and her drawings and personal photographs from that period were also exhibited at the Albright Knox Gallery and Museum, Buffalo, in 2010, reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and Flash Art Magazine in 2010; When Benglis was quoted—“ Rena Small was one of the artists to watch in the future” in her interview with senior curator Alma Ruiz, from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Dec. 2011. MOCA’s auctions 2010, 2009, 2008, 2005, 2003, 2000; and Incognito at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008; Small regularly donates her art to raise money to help others 2011, at the Skirball Museum of Art in Los Angeles-- Windows of the World, Visual Aids at Cheim Read in NYC 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2013 ADL scheduled for July. Shoshanna Wayne Gallery, Track 13, Craig Krull, and in NYC, Light Gallery, Deborah Sharpe Gallery, Washington Square East Gallery at NY, Leo Castelli Gallery, The Kitchen, White Columns, Franklin Furnace, International Center of Photography; and exhibited in Paris, at the George Pompidou Museum of Art and Creatis Gallery, Venice, Italy; The Exploration of a Medium.

She began her life work Artists’ Hands in 1984 in New York City and Los Angeles. Her photographs have been published in Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine 1985 “Modern Masters Artists’ Hands” Visionaire MAN edited by Mario Testino in 2001 Roy Lichtenstein’s hands; LIFE Magazine 1996, Los Angeles Times Magazine 1989, Camera Arts Premiere Issue 1980, Los Angeles Magazine 1994, Petersen’s Photographic: Her exhibitions have been reviewed in Art Forum Magazine, Flash Art Magazine in Western Europe, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times 2010, 1996, and was a part of the first exhibits at the Woman’s’ Building reviewed by William Wilson in 1974. Her photographs have been published in books by Stemmle’s Wish You Were Here, Artpark, Emerging Bodies: The Polaroid Collection, The Guggenheim Museum of Art Speaking With Hands the Buhl Collection where her portrait of Andy Warhol’s hands was featured in the introduction SX-70 Art by Lustrum Press Ralph Gibson in NYC; Taschen’s The Polaroid Book in 2005;

Small taught photography and art from 1978-1985 at the School of Visual Arts, in NYC and t Univ. of Calif. Irvine from 1986-1990, Calif. State Long Beach 1988-1991, El Camino College, 1999-2005, Calif. State Dominguez Hills, 2000-2008, and Marymount College Palos Verdes in 2008-2009. Also part time at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California Institute of the Arts, Cerritos College, Calif. State Univ. Northridge, Harbor college, Goldenwest College, Renaissance High School at Rolling Hills Prep, Palos Verdes Art Center, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Arts America, in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary in 1981 behind the Iron Curtain when she spoke to the Photographer’s Union along with an interpreter: University of Southern California Fisher Museum, The Jewish Federation of America on Wilshire Blvd.

She has completed private commission and advertising visual assignments for Elle Décor, Warner Books, Departure Magazine, Domus, Village Voice, Architectura, Univ. of Penn. Architecture School, Joan Thorne’s One Woman Shows At Sideshow Gallery Catalogue 2011 and 2013, Still Photographer for John Carpenter first feature Attack on Precinct 13; Star Wars Main Magazine with John Van Hammersveld; Gerald Casale and designed playing cards for Devo, licensed by Gerald Casale to be released with all of their artists’ hands and countless other private special assignments.

She continues to produce her life work Artists’ Hands Grid Continuum installation that she intends to leave the world to pay tribute to her fellow colleagues—each print is 20 x 16 inches-- the grid expands over time-- at this point approximately 14 x 100 feet. Also, she constructs handmade letterpress books, with original silver gelatin prints tipped in and letterpress text of text optionally contributed by the artists; Artists Hands I was acquired by the Paul Getty Museum of Art in 2009 and includes the first 41 artists hands who collaborated including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Baldessari, Ruscha, Alexis Smith, Nam June Paik, Elizabeth Murray, Robert Longo, Peter Alexander, Mike Kelley, Bruce Nauman, Susan Rothenberg, Chris Burden, Nancy Rubens, Laurence Weiner, Lynda Benglis, among others; Her second Volume II will include: Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Vija Celmins, Grace Falkenstein, John Outterbridge, George Herms, Larry Bell, Ned Evans, Chuck Close, Billy Al Bengston, Laddie John Dill, Shephard Fairy, Devo, David Byrne, Andy Summers and many other prominent artists she admires. Her current work also concentrates the re-appropriation of herself, included reconstructions of her hundreds of SX-70 and 20 x 24 inch Self-Polaroid’s rare prints re-configured, along with the major press she has generated over the years in newspapers and magazines; in addition, as a performance artist, she will appear in a film directed by Eileen Cowin and in her second episode in “Whole Day Down” produced by Tai Fauci--her new art puppet and life work “Joy Quite Frankly plays the character Raven” --Small has been developing and studying improvisational skills with Alan Arkin in 2012 and 2007; Dan Fauci, beginning in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Edgemar Theatre studying Comedy with Jeff Richards, and Michelle Danner, director. Joy, will never grow old as Rena will have her on her lap…and the two will converse the truth before the audience, and she will express her true feelings about growing older, for example: “Joy says to the audience, Rena refuses to get Botox!” And Rena says, hey, Joy, shut up! Why would I want to do that, as if it will last? The Truth Hurts.

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Donated Art Piece


Jean-Michel Basquiat Hands
An excerpt and collaboration from a life work “Artists’ Hands Grid Continuum,” Copyright Rena Small 1985

This piece is a silver gelatin handmade photographic print (aslo known as black and white).

Art making has always been a stimulating learning cultural experience for me. Over a period of decades I work on one idea in a series, as a part of the raw material of the art motivated by an inner curiosity based in self-portraiture. Although born an artist I was not raised by fellow parent artists and struggled to comprehend who I was and why did I feel different and had this extraordinary talent in drawing faces at age 10.

Why photograph artists’ hands? We are taught to look at the face first and then reach out for a hand to shake in friendship. Although not the focus of standard portraiture human beings do not prejudge hands and hands generally don’t worry about how they are appearing to others. Hands point toward accomplishment. Begun in 1984 as a tribute to my fellow “Artists’ Hands” classical silver gelatin commonly known as black and white photographs, is a deeper expression of self-portraiture by photographing a community I felt most akin to. Each photography session strengthens my artistic identity and placement in contemporary living art history. The feelings of joint admiration, understanding and a shared belief system affirm our endeavor. The portrait is a document; response and collaboration of the moment and a result of years of practice in performance art self-portraiture of my bare back or face, somehow concealed or deadpan towards the audience. Similar to the back, the hands are a body part that is carry behaviors not identified by speech or facial clues. Both body parts simply express whatever they are privately feeling. The hands are naked; the back is covered as a social rule. We clap our hands in unison to show appreciation. We turn out back when we say good-bye, or in anger. The messages are clear and contradictory.

During the late 1960’s I was a flower child when it was a common idea among peers that you could tell a lot about a person by looking into their eyes. “Love Ins” at Griffith Park in Hollywood attracted large groups of young people together to listen to The Iron Butterfly, push love, not war, while everyone fearlessly listened, played and loved each other. There was no paranoia. Now it is the year 2002 and the world has changed taking a dark turn on September 11, 2001 when freedom was definitively attacked by the hands of evil. Thoughts have shifted from looking good to staying alive and safe perhaps more now. Strangers are everywhere and may use their hands to hurt others. People do not know who anyone is anymore. We have to watch hands more carefully and hold onto what we hold dear each waking moment, our freedoms to learn, create and feel as we as individuals see fit for our communities. The idealistic artist will continue to want to help make the world a better and peaceful place to live.

As a child I watched the movie “The Beast With Five Fingers” starring Peter Lorre. The film scared me out of my wits. For several years after I needed my mother to check under my bed to be sure that the hand was not waiting to crawl up to the surface and reach out to strangle me! Here I am more than thirty years older and unafraid of hands, embracing their very essence, concentrating on artists’ hands as a major part of my artistic fascination. Life is full of opposite expectations and strange coincidences.

Considering the possible impact and engagement the art object can have on its’ audience is paramount to my process. “Artists’ Hands” shakes hands with all audiences by using a familiar idea, body part without their usual partner, the face, to share an emotional relationship between the subject, audience and artist with surprising results.

-Rena Small