On Sunday I went to The Power Plant in Toronto to catch the Ydessa Hendeles show ‘The Milliner’s Daughter’ before it closed a day later. I went because an artist friend of mine, Victoria Cowan, pointed out its connection to what I do.
There were many rooms of work, each with a different story to tell. What struck me most strongly at first was how extraordinary the objects were, gathered by Hendeles over many years – a lifetime even.
Some items such as the numerous vitrines and two pairs of oversized pince-nez, were exquisitely crafted, as were the focus of my visit: the truly amazing collection of mannequins.
'Containment' is a sculpture installation, featuring photo-digital figures in light boxes, that grew out of my 'Boxed In' series, pictured below. Click here to see more.
Some were tiny miniatures some life sized or larger; some mechanical toys, but most the kind used by artists to this day.
The combinations, poses, containment or not, scale contrasts whether between figures or between a figure and the furniture it was placed on, they all set up narrative possibilities, which were hard for the brain to resist.
The uncanny feeling of these articulated dolls comes from the conflict between our cognitive understanding that yes, of course these are inanimate, often very stylized mannequins, but on the other hand how life-like their presence was.
It was very interesting to me as someone who teaches figure and portrait to note how little our brains need to register something as a human being, much like the instances of well-known, often religious figures' faces being found on pieces of toast or a stain on a wall.
As for the connection to my work, some of which is pictured here, I think I’ll let it speak for itself except to say these ‘Boxed In’ figure works formed the basis for a broader range of work and media concerned with barriers, boundaries and constraints, both physical and not.
That formed the basis for my Chains Unlinked show at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, the mural portion is pictured here. It was also the origin of my 'Containment' installation at In Situ in 2016, particularly the drawers-turned-to-lightboxes, with solitary figures and faces inside, like the one shown here.
What do you think, what connections do you see? Did you see either show? Please let me know in the comments below.
Examples of my Boxed In figures above and below.
Whether you have a long-dormant love of model railroads or can't resist dollhouses and their tiny furnishings, you're far from alone in loving miniatures. I grew up with my own dollhouse made of printed steel, but rather jealous of my cousin who had a big table in his basement devoted to his model railroad, set in a landscape he'd made and populated by exquisitely detailed buildings and street scenes.
A couple of years ago in pursuit of materials for some miniature projects (still on the drawing board) I visited, on my friend Fred's recommendation, The Credit Valley Railway Company, a truly amazing place with aisle upon aisle of trains, other vehicles, and buildings of different eras, human figures, street furniture, vegetation – even different kinds of grasses! Investigating those aisles was such an engrossing way to spend a couple of afternoons.
Plenty of artists love miniatures, miniature painting is quite a tradition, particularly in south Asia and Iran to my knowledge, but some artists either create dimensional miniatures or use the kind I drooled over at the store as their raw material.
Sculptor Kim Adams, 2014 winner of a Governor General's Award in Visual Art (click to view his award page), is one such artist whose work I particularly admire. His elaborate installations a few years ago at the Art Gallery of Ontario (click to view a slideshow from that work) were fascinating.
What got me thinking about this topic recently was an article in The Guardian about sculptor/miniature artist Randy Hage who has done a whole series in which he has re-created old New York City storefronts with amazing detail, right down to the litter, the papered-over windows and the inevitable graffiti.
On his site (click to link to it) you can see side-by-side comparison photos of the shot he took of the actual storefront and his 1/12 scale miniature. Beautiful work! Below is a time-lapse as he makes one storefront “Ideal Hosiery”.
Finally there's an epic miniature museum project in Mississauga/Oakville called Our Home & Miniature Land where they are painstakingly re-creating Canada in miniature, starting with Toronto and Hamilton. Click here or on their name to check out their site. The project is not complete yet, though they have had a public open house, but the videos of their progress are amazing! Below are a couple of samples to whet your appetite. I can't wait to see it all in person!
How about you? Are you a miniatures geek whether secretly or proudly? Did you have a dollhouse or model railroad when you were growing up, or make other kinds of models?
If so, please tell me about them in the comments below!
I will be updating my In Situ album on Flickr with more photographs soon, so check it out next week!
Kim Lee Kho
As a visual artist I like nothing more than getting up to my elbows in paint or little plastic toys, or wading in at the deep end in pursuit of an idea. When I am not teaching others in a similar vein, you can find me researching, writing and noodling around in my studio, seeing where my latest lines of inquiry lead me.
All images and content on this website © Kim-Lee Kho 2005–2018 except as indicated. All rights reserved. No reproduction without express, written permission.