PeepShow: Don't Tell
I have always seen miniatures as a form of virtual reality: as an invitation to step into an alternative world and share the stories and sensations generated there.
While studying early forms of virtual reality, I came upon the history of peepshows, boxes that had scenes inside from both nature and culture that could be experienced through viewing holes. There were itinerant showmen who would drag the peepshows from town to town and provide 18th and 19th century viewers with a glimpse of the worlds beyond their current lives.
For me, this is what miniatures have always done so I decided to use the peepshow format to present critiques of the worlds we often choose to ignore.
One series of peepshows I am working on addresses the art gallery scene, utilizing small cigar boxes and miniature figures and frames to call attention to the way galleries and museum often ignore the art by political activists (especially women) in favor of merely collectible works. The peepshow titled “La Leche de Madre” shows mother’s milk exuding from silver-plated breasts while male gallery visitors ignore it and stare at blank white frames.
For Badass Miniatures, I am entering a piece from the series #MeToo. In this peepshow, three miniature women are standing around an enlarged dirty hand that has been bound, Gulliver’s Travels style, with miniature ropes and stakes. The hands glows from lights inside it. One woman turns her head away, one holds a stake ready to put it into the ground, another takes a picture of the scene with a cell phone. The ropes are woven through beads that are the type young girls use to make bracelets. The beads spell “Don’t Tell.” All the women are carry bags and baggage.
While I often have trouble using symbolic elements in my miniature work (or explaining them), this peepshow has an abundance of symbolism that was so easy to layer on. The box is an old cigar box that easily attaches itself to a form of male culture; the “Don’t Tell” order is often given to young girls who have been sexually molested; the ropes and stakes tie the work to historical miniatures; and the beads remind us that very young children need a way to spell out their experiences. And finally the peepshow itself, once it entered the 20th century, became a place to see “dirty” pictures, usually sexually illicit (for the times).
In order for miniatures to be useful as a medium for addressing important issues, they need to break out of the traditional dollhouse mode. The dollhouse mode is so overwhelming in terms of the uniform and instantaneous reactions it elicits. It’s “Wow!” if the work has spectacular realism and perfectly scaled artifacts; it’s “How Cute” if it takes the route of the more imaginative use of scale and content. But what many artists have long recognized is that working with scaled miniatures draws the viewer into a world they cannot normally experience and it is up to us as artists to utilize that feature of miniature presentations.
The peepshow is especially effective at doing this because not only are all aspects of it small, but it requires the viewer to get close and look at the scene through a restrictive view. It requires attention, focus, and engagement. When miniatures do that, they are accomplishing the goal of all art: to help the audience pay attention in ways they had not imagined before.
Title: “Peepshow: Don’t Tell”
Size: 9”deep x 5.5” wide x 3.5” high
Materials: Wood, plastic
About BadAss Miniatures
Over 30 artists cause a little trouble by creating tiny art without boundaries. Defiant, quirky, and slightly uncomfortable. Welcome to the disobedient dollhouse.
BadAss Miniatures presents emerging perspectives in the miniature arts: an exhibition of original works in the miniature form contributed by artists from across the United States and abroad. Featured works represent a novel movement that challenges the status quo in the miniature art form through the presentation of unconventional ideas and concepts and the quirky, outlandish, surprising use of miniatures. “BadAss” aims to push the envelope on the traditional (rethink the dollhouse!) with an edgy and bold attitude showcasing the most jaw-dropping, surprising—maybe even shocking—miniature badassery to hit the 21st century.
BadAss was developed through the ongoing collaboration of Darren Scala and Kate Ünver, founder of dailymini, to push the boundaries of our traditional use of miniatures by spotlighting the edgy and bold attitudes of today’s artists.
BadAss Miniatures is on view through July 22, 2018 at YoHo Studios, 540-578 Nepperhan Avenue, Studio #566 in Yonkers, NY. Gallery hours are by appointment on Wednesday and Thursday 3-7pm and Saturday 11am-7pm. Hours are subject to change - visitors should call ahead.
For more information about BadAss Miniatures, please contact Darren T. Scala at D. Thomas Miniatures or visit dthomasfineminiatures.com/badass. For the latest innovations and news in miniature art, please visit thedailymini.com.
Exhibition Director: Donald Morcone
ABOUT D. THOMAS MINIATURES
D. Thomas Miniatures is a retail and gallery destination featuring top quality collectibles including 1/12th scale structure, furniture and accessories. The concept, designed to appeal to collectors, crafters and enthusiasts was created, in part, to raise awareness of miniatures as a decorative art form and to introduce the discipline not only to a new generation but to those who may just be discovering it! The gallery space showcases work in miniature by well-known artists from all over the world.