Thursday, December 30, 2010


I always struggle with knowing when it's time to let a project go. I'll hang onto ideas and half finished works for years before I pack, bury, or throw them away. Hannah Barnes and I have decided that we are not finishing the diorama (as an earthworks project) that we began as a collaboration [as seen here, here (we started that thing when our hair was short!), and here]. It has resided in Hannah's office for over a year and is now moving to her garage. We are currently working on other projects and this one has moved to the back burner. We are contemplating a new solution.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite objects and images from artists inspired by this subject (without referencing Hiroshi Sugimoto):

Cabinet Model Kitchen, From Devices of Wonder - "This is one of half-dozen surviving dollhouses made in the Netherlands between 1670-1760. The Dutch makers placed tiny furnishings into chests with doors like those in which they stored their linen."

John Heaviside Clark, The Portable Diorama, 1826 - Also from Devices of Wonder: "A different sense of the transforming qualities of the Diorama can be gleaned from The Portable Diorama, which was published by London bookseller Samuel Leigh in 1826. This ingenious miniature theater was created by John Heaviside Clark, a leading drawing master in London whose manuals for the amateur artist emphasized that the effect achieved was more important than the method used to achieve it. At a price of 3.3 pounds, it was designed for an upper-class audience: “An elegant present for the Families of the Nobility and Gentry.” It was packaged as a complete course in watercoloring that could be practiced on the blank calico screens for presentation in the miniature theater. A set of 12 prepainted screens was supplied with the theater, however, so that the purchaser with limited or even no artistic inclinations could, by manipulating the backlighting and trying different combinations of backgrounds and foregrounds, produce the effects of sunrise, sunset, and moonlight, and the appearance and disappearance of clouds or a rainbow over India, a triumphal gate, a classical ruin, boats, and a mountain on a lake."

Sage Sohier, From Perfectible Worlds - Man in his basement with models of North End businesses, including his barbershop, Boston, MA, 2003. "John C. is a semi-retired barber, who makes miniatures of businesses and places in the North End of Boston where he grew up. Included in the picture are his barbershop, his father’s shoe repair shop, and the beach where he learned to swim. He has also made the Union Oyster House and Pizzeria Regina. Each time he finishes a miniature, he loans it to the owner of the business, and it resides, for a time, inside the larger version of itself."

Sage Sohier, Klickety-Klack Railroad, Wolfeboro Falls, NH, 2004. "Richard P. has for 25 years owned ad run the Klickety-Klack Railroad, a model railroad club and hobby shop open to the public. The railroad, a joint endeavor involving many different club members, is notable not only for its multiple intricate layouts, but also for its humor a small plane has crashed into a hillside near the airport: King Kong stands astride a tower in a city scene that also includes the Hard Luck Hotel; Godzilla stomps down Main Street; and the Loch Ness monster lurks near a sailboat. The large mountain scene in the photograph includes Mt. Rushmore (just out of sight to the upper right), complete with a head hole above for those who secretly harbor presidential ambitions. Richard has recently tired without success to find someone to take over running the railroad. Sales are down in the shop, and fewer families and school groups come through."

Sage Sohier, Diorama, Fisher Museum, Harvard Forest, Petersham, MA, 2004

Sage Sohier, Cat in dollhouse, Sandwich, NH, 2004. "Annie P. works as a textile craftsman, makes and collects miniatures of all sorts, and runs a used bookstore with her husband. She was showing me her pre-Civil War dollhouse, when her cat jumped in. “Purrl” was very delicate, upsetting no furniture and doing no violence to the baby or miniature Corgi. Noticing that Purrl was getting all the attention, the two real-life Corgis barked wildly from the yard."

Sage Sohier, Sculptor with model of Chuck Close in his summer studio, Norwalk, CT, 2005. "Joe F. is an artist who has made a remarkable series of miniature sculptures of well-known artists in their studios. Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Eric Fischl, and Fred Tomaselli are a few of the artists he has sculpted. In miniaturizing the artists’ work, Joe duplicates their processes as much as possible. When I photographed Joe, he was working on a model (completely shingled on the outside) of Chuck Close in his summer studio, and was about to attach Close’s arms."

Joe F. is Joe Fig whose Inside the Painter's Studio features miniature recreations of artists at work as in Brancusi below:

Chris Toalson, Penguins, South Georgia Islands, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 2007

Jane Hammond, The Touch-Up, 2009

Carlo Van de Roer's series Blinded by the Light

Traer Scott's Natural History "Natural History is a series of completely candid, in-camera single exposure images which merge the living and dead, in an effort to construct allegorical narratives of our troubled co-existence with nature. Ghost-like reflections of modern visitors viewing exquisitely rendered wildlife dioramas are juxtaposed against the preserved subjects themselves, their faces molded into permanent expressions of fear, aggression or fleeting passivity. After a century of over-hunting, climate change, poaching and destruction of habitat, many of these long dead diorama specimens now represent endangered or completely extinct species." See more here.

Thomas Grunfeld's Misfits, 2001. See more here.

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