Handcrafted miniature scenes bring alternate realities to life.
13 Strange Miniature Worlds, Crafted by Hand
- By Liz Stinson
- Patrick Jacobs, Stump With Red Banded Brackets. Jacobs creates photo-realistic dioramas that are installed into walls. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Adrien Broom, Centered. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Adrien Broom, Left Over Things. Broom says all of her work is meant to tell a narrative and take her characters on a journey. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Adrien Broom, All That You See. The photographs evoke a sense of anxiety and isolation. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Adrien Broom, Untitled. In this piece Broom used a smoke machine to make the smoke become a character of its own. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Adrien Broom, Direction. Broom is known for crafting surreal life-size photography sets. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Beset. Doyle’s pieces are like nightmarish terrariums. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Proxy (1340 Chippewa Dr.). “Enclosing the works has the effect of bringing them to life,” he says. “When they are exposed, they feel like ordinary objects to me.” Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Proxy (15725 Dykstra Ave.). Doyle has been enclosing his works in glass since he began making them more than a decade ago. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Coming From Where We’re Going. From a distance his works looks like a miniature depiction of the American Dream, but upon further inspection, the disorder in his worlds is evident . Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Coming From Where We’re Going. Much of Doyle’s works explore the themes of fear, anxiety, isolation, and the dashing of best intentions. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Mire. In the case of this piece he started by building an armature out of wood, foam, and wire mesh. This was then covered with papier mâché, which was in turn painted in oils, landscaped, and detailed. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Double-Blind. From there he makes detailed sketches that are more technical, which help him work through any issues that might arise during construction. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Thomas Doyle, Double-Blind. All of Doyle’s works begin as sketches on paper. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- The show features the work of Patrick Jacobs, Adrien Broom and Thomas Doyle. You’re looking at Doyle’s work here. Image: the artist and Palazzo Strozzi
- Dream No Small Dreams is an exhibition at the Ronchini Gallery showcasing miniature alternative realities. Image: the artist and Palazzo Strozzi
- Patrick Jacobs, Stump With Curly Dock and Wild Carrot Weed. Looking through the lens of Jacob’s dioramas transports viewers to a lush world. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
- Patrick Jacobs, Stump With Red Banded Brackets and English Daisies. The wood used for the stumps in this series come from curbsides and parks in Brooklyn, NY. Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
Inside London’s Ronchini Gallery, miniature, lifelike worlds are scattered about the white-walled rooms. Houses, people and landscapes all looking like they could have been ripped from the pages of Alice in Wonderland after the heroine sips her shrinking potion. The tiny works of art are part of Dream No Small Dreams, a newly opened exhibition curated by Bartholomew F. Bland that features pieces from Patrick Jacobs, Thomas Doyle and Adrien Broom, three New York City-based artists who are known for aiming a microscopic lens on humanity.
Each artist works in his or her preferred medium—Jacobs in diorama, Doyle in sculpture and Broom in photography—but all are united by their ability to craft intricately detailed scenes in small scale. “When you work small, you can suggest very big things,” explains Jacobs. “Utilized in the right way, the tension created in that contradiction gives it meaning.” With their doll-sized features you could almost call the works cute, if only the scenes themselves weren’t so eerie. That contrast is most evident in Doyle’s work, with its sculpted American-dream houses that appear comforting until you realize they’re on the brink of toppling into a sinkhole or have been torn apart in the back. Enclosed inside glass domes, the mixed media pieces are meant to explore the ideas of fear, anxiety, isolation and the dashing of best intentions.”The smaller scale works well with these ideas, as you have to get close to the works to engage with them,” he explains. “Doing so forges a curious bond – you are hovering above them, far more powerful, yet when you see things at their level you can connect intimately with the situations the people in the works are enduring.”
Adrien Broom, Waltz. Broom builds the miniature sets found in her Frames of Mind series in her studio and then photographs them to capture the narrative.Image: the artist and Ronchini Gallery
Similarly, Broom’s photography feels as though you’re peeking inside the surreal dreams of a spooky doll. The photographer, who is best known for her beautifully bizarre life-size sets, constructs the mini-sets in her studio, using dirt, mirrors, malleable material or whatever she happens to have around. “In ‘Untitled’ I knew I wanted to play with shapes of smoke and have that become a character in itself,” she explains. “I had a smoke machine set up below a small set I built, with a hole in the base for light and smoke to rise from.” The resulting images are gorgeous, if full of anxiety and isolation.
Jacobs’ work is perhaps the most inviting of the exhibition, both in mood and in the way it forces viewers to fully engage by peering into a wall-installed dioramas. The artist builds each photo-realistic piece while looking through a slightly concave lens. Using fine tweezers, Jacobs arranges his materials—cat hair, aluminum foil, scraps of paper and plastic— and uses effects like foreshortening, forced perspective and LED lighting, to bring each diorama to life. Once installed in walls, the works are like little windows to a fascinating alternate reality. “I’m looking to engage the viewer directly on a kind of journey,” says Jacobs. “If I can hold your attention for even a short time, suspend disbelief and make you question where it is we’re going, I think I’ve succeeded.”
The show will be at the Ronchini Gallery until October 6.
Liz is a Brooklyn-based reporter for Wired Design. She likes talking to people about technology, innovation and pretty things.