January 23, 2016 – April 17, 2016
Recreating the world in exact detail to create an illusion of reality is certainly an awesome challenge for miniature artisans and an amazing feat to behold; but it isn’t simply the technical prowess that makes miniatures fascinating. Because miniatures are small believable renditions of the world observed from an omnipotent perspective, they place a psychological hold on viewers and awaken a range of emotional responses from nostalgia to critical analysis of the world. Twelve artists explore the psychological impact of recreating the world in tiny proportion and offer viewers an opportunity to Feel Big, Live Small in this multi-media exhibition. This display includes more than twenty works of art comprised of three-dimensional miniatures as well as photographs, digital images and video created with miniature sets.
This exhibit is included with museum admission or free for museum members.
Feel Big, Live Small was originally organized by Elan Smithee for apexart, NYC.
Matthew Albanese, Alice Bartlett, Dante Brebner, Citizen Brick, Thomas Doyle, Idan Levin, Kendal Murray, Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber, Serial Cut, Tracey Snelling and Daisy Tainton.
Featured image: Redoubt, redux, Thomas Doyle. Images below represent a selection from the exhibit. Images may not be used or reproduced without permission.
About the Artists and Their Work:
Matthew Albanese artwork grew out of a childhood fascination with film, special effects and movie magic. His photographs appear to be landscape images of the natural world but in reality, they are images of miniature landscapes built by Albanese from a variety of materials including spices, cotton, tile grout and polymer clay among other items. To achieve dramatic light effects and atmosphere in the photographed images of the miniature scenes, Albanese plays with reflective surfaces while photographing his dioramas adding illusions such as rainbows and fire to his scenes.
As a child Albanese reveled in creating imaginary worlds using household objects and his extensive collection of action figures. After earning a BFA at the State University of New York, Purchase, he began a career doing “table top photography” (fashion photography of small objects such as handbags, designer shoes and the like). In 2008, a spilled canister of paprika inspired Albanese to create a mini Mars landscape. Albanese photographs of miniature worlds have since been exhibited nationally and internationally. His work is represented at Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York.
London-based computer coder and nail artist Alice Bartlett was visiting a hobby story when she ended up in the model train section. The tiny figures and landscape materials sparked an idea. She imagined tiny landscapes atop her fingernails would make very interesting photographs, and so she purchased some supplies and designed a series of nail art pieces. With vignettes on the nails of one hand and a camera in the other she photographed the miniature scenes.
Dante Brebner’s miniature landscapes are enclosed inside simple white boxes. In order to see the scenes, viewers must peer through matchbox-size windows cut into the sides of the containers. Tenacity is required of viewers because the scenes cannot be read all at once since Brebner places objects at far angles and in odd spots within a compresses layered space. The restriction of scale coupled with limited access to the scene are conscious design choices meant to slow viewers down and prompt them to be careful observers of the miniature worlds inside Brebner’s containers.
Each miniature setting includes a variety of enigmatic objects which arouse the curiosity of the viewer and invite scrutiny. In this way the miniature interiors and landscape settings are reminiscent of stage sets in which a story is about to play out and the audience is waiting in rapt anticipation. Unlike theater, Brebner doesn’t have a script and he isn’t trying to tell a story. What he hopes his scenes will do is insight those viewing of his miniature settings to explore the depths of their own subconscious and imagine their own scenario while visually exploring the landscapes he designs.
Citizen Brick was founded in 2010 with a simple purpose, to make far out versions of the iconic LEGO minifig using the best methods and materials available. The piece Super Lab Playset is one example of the wide range of subject matter Citizen Brick produces.
“For us at Citizen Brick the question of ‘why the miniature,’ never really existed. Our personal artistic practices had been pockmarked by work in miniatures and hyper detailed or specialized cultural ephemera, but the epiphany came when Joe Trupia figured out how Lego was printing on their product and that we could too. Custom Lego became the perfect medium to blend our interests in ephemera, printmaking, pop culture, toys, complicating preexisting cultures and signs, etc., and we could do it in a way that would access and delight an audience outside your typical gallery going public. It became a way to side step elements of an artworld conversation and see a different kind of artistic impact. Also, we love Lego and it’s small.”
“My work mines the debris of memory through the creation of intricate worlds sculpted in 1:43 scale and smaller. Often sealed under glass, the works depict the remnants of things past—whether major, transformational experiences, or the quieter moments that resonate loudly throughout a life. In much the way the mind recalls events through the fog of time, the works distort reality through a warped and dreamlike lens.
The pieces’ radically reduced scales evoke feelings of omnipotence—as well as the visceral sensation of unbidden memory recall. Hovering above the glass, the viewer approaches these worlds as an all-seeing eye, looking down upon landscapes that dwarf and threaten the figures within.
Conversely, the private intensity of moments rendered in such a small scale draws the viewer in, allowing for the intimacy one might feel peering into a museum display case or dollhouse. Though surrounded by chaos, hazard, and longing, the figures’ faces betray little emotion, inviting viewers to lose themselves in these crucibles—and in the jumble of feelings and memories they elicit.
The glass itself contains and compresses the world within it, seeming to suspend time itself—with all its accompanying anguish, fear, and bliss. By sealing the works in this fashion, I hope to distill the debris of human experience down to single, fragile moments. Like black boxes bobbing in the flotsam, these works wait for discovery, each an indelible record of human memory.”
“The idea of creating these miniature works came from dream states and how we are able to play with our own identity, to play with different roles we take on in our dream state. So the miniature works serve as a metaphor for intuitive thoughts.”
Kendal Murray lives and works in Sydney. She has exhibited her artwork regularly in solo exhibitions since 1995, whilst participating in both international and national group exhibitions. Her work is represented in public and private collections in Australia, and private collections in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and New York. Kendal Murray is currently lecturing in Design at the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, Western Sydney University.
Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber have collaborated on dioramas and miniatures for over fourteen years; their work has primarily been the subject matter for Nix’s fine art photography. Her images of faux landscapes and gritty urban interiors have gained wide acclaim in both the U.S. and Europe, and she is a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow in photography.
Commercially, their photos of miniature dioramas have graced numerous book covers including those of Dave Eggers, and album covers by The Digg and Fountains of Wayne. The duo has illustrated stories for numerous magazines including Field and Stream, O Magazine, and New York Magazine and created the photo for the July 7/July 14 2014 cover for Time magazine.
They have built miniature sets and props for a recruitment video for Tumblr and the ClickClean web campaign for Greenpeace. They have also provided models for a video short for BBC America’s Coppers. Lori and Kathleen got their start set building with an advertorial video for the first sustainable sushi restaurant, Bamboo Sushi in Portland, Oregon, called “The Story of Sushi”. They continue to make large things small in the wilds of their Brooklyn apartment.
Serial Cut describes itself as follows: “We are not designers, nor typographers, neither artists. We are just “image-makers”. We have been creating images since 1999. Both direct clients and ad agencies all over the world count on our team of talented professionals in order to enhance their brands with ad campaigns which are art directed and often produced by our team.”
“Driving down the street at night, I look at the lit windows of the houses that I pass, and I wonder who lives there. What is taking place behind that drawn window shade? A tired motel sign along the side of the highway still buzzes and beckons travelers to come stay in one of the faded rooms. An old furniture store on a street in a forgotten downtown is dark and the sofas are covered with dust. I want to know the stories of the people who once inhabited these areas.
My work derives from voyeurism, film noir, and geographical and architectural location. Within this idea of location, themes develop of a particular locale’s inhabitants: Who are these people? What do they do and why do they do it? These questions transport observation into the realm of storytelling, and as my work evolves, I continue to explore place, people, and culture through the use of scale and repetition of a theme; I create new realities that change with the viewer’s perception. Through video, sound, and manipulation of size, I am not trying to replicate a place; rather I give my impression of a place, its people and their experience, and allow the viewer to extrapolate his or her own meaning.
When visiting different cultures, countries, and neighborhoods, I am fascinated by the possibility of unfamiliarity. To be square in the middle of a culture so foreign, one almost feels invisible. To walk down these alien streets, trying to dress and assimilate as though I belong, I am able to observe subtly the daily interactions and goings-on of the people who live and work there. Sometimes I will give up the idea of being inconspicuous and travel as “the tourist,” camera and sound recorder in hand, which offers yet another perspective and offers a completely different take.”
At the core of my work resides the intersection of place and experience. I try to do this with as much respect as possible to foreign cultures and tradition, while staying true to the call of the artist by shining a light on the little seen corners. Ultimately, my personal views and ideas come into play, and I believe it is this melding, the known with the unknown, and the foreign with the familiar, that fuels my work and creates such a rich experience for the viewer.”
Entomologist Daisy Tainton has always been interested in dollhouse miniatures. As an Insect Preparator at the American Museum of Natural History she has learned the art of small-scale insect preservation which triggered the idea of anthropomorphizing bugs and placing them in dollhouse settings. For her whimsical miniature scenes, Tainton poses the bodies of insects, sometimes even dressing them in human attire, and then inserts them into a variety of settings from Victorian parlors to a dentist’s office.
This exhibit is supported in part by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.