Firing for Effect by Thomas Doyle

Doyle made his first diorama at 3, but came back to the art form as an adult after unsatisfying stints as a painter and a print-maker. This piece is 44" in diameter.

A Corrective by Thomas Doyle

As Doyle writes, "Creation of the works is a meditative process, and one that I often lose myself in. When the works are successful, the viewer is able to do the same."

West 104k by Kim Keever

Keever also tracks his interest in making miniatures to a formative childhood experience: In particular, wandering around on a beach in Virginia as a toddler, and seeing fiddler crabs scouring the sand for invisible motes of food…

Kim Keever's studio

…as he writes, "I was peering into a world you know you can’t physically fit into but can’t help being mesmerized by the change in scale." Keever builds his works in a 200-gallon aquarium, which lends his photographs a misty surreality. Some of the clouds are created by pouring paint into the water.

Dark Corner by Jonah Samson

Unlike many miniature artists, Samson focuses on the world’s underbelly of death and mischief. As he writes, "I am fascinated by our culture’s attraction to sex and violence as entertainment…and I can find beauty in scenes that might otherwise be considered disturbing."

Flasher by Jonah Samson

But as Samson points out, his use of toy figures always makes the miniatures playful--for example, rendering a scene like this one, which might ordinarily reek of sexual exploitation, as something almost cute. As he writes, "I think this may be one of the biggest impacts of the pictures."

A New Life #2 by Matthew Albanese

Albanese crafts each of his pieces from household materials…

A New Life #2 by Matthew Albanese

…in a process that takes about a month for each photographic model.

Hypochondriac by Amy Bennett

The smallest object from the entire show. The image you see is actually far largest than the real thing, which measures 2.25"x2".

Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #8 by James Casebere

Casebere spent two years working on his model of this pastoral pocket of update New York, and was first inspired by a chance stop during a road trip. Casebere points out that the model was being built during the peak of the credit crisis, and so can been as a comment on the emptying out of the American dream. Note the absence of people.

Consolidated Life by David Lawrey and Jaki Middleton (detail)

Lawrey and Middleton used optical illusions to render familiar scenes slightly strange, as they did here, using mirrors.

Consolidated Life by David Lawrey and Jaki Middleton

Viewers gaze into an open window, like Godzilla.


7 Artists Who Create Magical, Miniature Worlds

For as long as there’s been art, there’s also been really, really tiny art. Yet miniatures are usually relegated to a tiny corner in a museum (pun intended). Which is exactly what makes Otherworldly, a current exhibition at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, so wondrous: This just might be the largest exhibition of miniature contemporary art ever assembled, featuring 37 artists. In every corner, another tiny world.

One of the strangest facets of seeing the show is how durable the appeal of miniatures really is. You might think that they’d be passe in an age where digital worlds can be so infinitely complex. But the reverse is probably true. Miniatures are simply more interesting now, because their obsessive, painstaking detail seems so foreign.

And you have to see these in person, because a weird thing happens when you look at something familiar that’s also really, really small. For one, you’d assume the experience would make you feel utterly ginormous. But that’s not quite the appeal, not to me, anyway. Rather, when you see your own world reduced to minuscule size, you actually feel smaller. To see yourself represented that way is to realize that there’s so much out there which is bigger than you.

Maybe you’ll feel the same? Otherworldly runs for just two more weeks at the Museum of Arts and Design. To whet your appetite, here’s seven of our favorite artists in the show.

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  • Thartman

    Michael McMillen, an artist in Santa Monica represented by LA LOUVER gallery has been producing works for 30 years that are in collections nation-wide. I am shocked the Museum of Art & Design did not research the early [and superior] works by Michael. I am sure these works are interesting but nothing compares to McMillen's work. See it now at the Oakland Museum where he has 15 works on view.