Jewelry Boxes Encase Curtis Talwst Santiago’s Elaborately Constructed Narratives of Nostalgia and Identity
Within the confines of a tiny jewelry box, Canadian-Trinidadian artist Curtis Talwst Santiago (previously) nestles miniature scenes imbued with in-depth narratives of home and intimacy, diasporic identity, and memory. The elaborately built dioramas are part of Santiago’s ongoing Infinity Series, which he began in 2008 and has since expanded to include dozens of pieces replete with lush foliage, architectural features, and minuscule figures preserved in time.
In recent years, the artist has referenced his childhood and family life in the mixed-media works, including in the “Soca in the Suburbs” collection that incorporates replicas of his parents’ basement complete with thick shag carpeting and a distinctly ’70s aesthetic. These environments, Santiago explains in a statement, reflect on the necessity of private gatherings in 2020 and the importance of sharing histories across generations:
This theme of ‘Soca in the Suburbs’ emerged during Covid with the closure of clubs in the contemporary sense, dancing at home, and quarantine discos at home started popping up, and I started thinking of the family members I couldn’t see, and the parties from my memory… I’m also thinking about what I want to pass forward to my son when photographs fail. I want him to have an archive of his family history, of his cultural heritage. I want him to know where his family came from, not just ancient ancestors but his grandparents, and see the clothing they wore, and those polaroids that a lot of Caribbean people have from their rumpus room adult activities.
Some of Santiago’s works are on view as part of the Atlantic World Art Fair through May 5. You can follow his practice that spans painting, sculpture, and drawing and see more of his process on Instagram.
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Delightful Nighttime Landscapes Nestle into Stacked Wooden Boxes in Allison May Kiphuth’s Dioramas
Allison May Kiphuth (previously) shrinks the expansive landscapes found throughout the eastern United States into picturesque dioramas brimming with natural life. Through layered watercolor and ink renderings, the Maine-based artist creates a mix of quiet forest scenes and ocean habitats often under a dark, nighttime sky. She then stacks the outfitted wooden boxes, blending the marine and land-based pieces in varying positions that create new ecosystems with every combination.
Although Kiphuth derives much of her subject matter from the area around her home, she shares that experiencing new scenes is essential to her practice. “I haven’t been outside of Maine in over a year, and while this landscape is usually so expansively beautiful to me, without the contrast of other landscapes for perspective, it’s been feeling incredibly small,” a feeling that’s amplified by her living and working from a tiny home that’s just 8 x 20 feet.
The artist will have work at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia in May and has a solo show slated for August at Antler Gallery in Portland. Limited edition prints of the piece above are available from Nahcotta. Get a glimpse into Kiphuth’s process and views of the scenery she references in her works on Instagram.
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Derrick Lin’s Dioramas Contrast the Bustle of Agency Life with Peaceful Office-Supply Scenes
Seattle-based photographer Derrick Lin (previously) constructs miniature worlds that serve as a direct contrast to the stacks of books and other office staples like paperclips and pencils they’re surrounded by. Often showing life’s more relaxing and sublime moments, each scene is complete with tiny figures and their possessions as they pass along a sidewalk lined with cherry blossom trees, occupy a packed airport terminal, and sit on the floor of a messy living room. Because Lin assembles his little scenarios on his tabletop, some of his shots even feature a coffee mug in the background.
The photographer tells Colossal that in recent years, he’s started to consider the more subtle emotions of his daily reality “as a single working professional living in a major city.”
In addition to humor and whimsy, I started to pay more attention to topics around loneliness, mental health, and kindness. I strive to depict and spotlight on the kind of thoughts we typically reserve for ourselves. My photography loosely reflects what I personally experience and what I see around me. What continues to amaze me is the messages I receive from my followers about how my little project resonates with them and brings them joy and calmness.
To keep up with Lin’s office supply-based dioramas, follow him on Instagram, and check out the prints he has available on Society6.
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Architectural Miniatures by Mohamad Hafez Promote Meaningful Dialogue About Conflict in Syria
Connecticut-based Syrian-born artist Mohamad Hafez (previously) uses found objects, paint, and scrap metal to create architectural dioramas of Middle Eastern urban environments. The photorealistic miniatures are packed with detail and speak to the political and social issues plaguing the artist’s war-torn homeland.
An architect by trade, Hafez imagines and builds cross-sections of streets and structures covered in grime and graffiti. Situated within suitcases and picture frames, the wall-mounted pieces are meant to be viewed and considered up close. Exposed rusty pipes, rubble, and weathered doorways of the crumbling nation are contrasted by hopeful verses from the Quran. The streetscapes, according to statement on the artist’s website, combine Hafez’s interests in street art and activism. While feeling helpless to bring about meaningful changes in Syria, his intention with the dioramas is to “expose the Middle East’s conflicts to the world in a modest, artistic approach to appeal to a wider contemporary audience.”
Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery at Cuesta College is currently hosting a Retrospective exhibition of Hafez’s work through December 20, 2019. His miniatures can also be seen at The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago as their first “interpreter-in-residence.” To dive deeper into Hafez’s miniature worlds, follow the artist on Instagram.
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Potato Chip Sand Dunes, Spiral-Bound Swimming Lanes, and More Miniature Transformations from Tatsuya Tanaka
Another year, another 365 days of miniature glory from Tatsuya Tanaka (previously). On a daily basis for the past seven years, the prolific Japanese miniature artist has shared unique images of imagined scenes created using the simple combination of everyday objects, tiny model humans, and his boundless imagination. (For anyone keeping track, that’d be over 2,500 dioramas.) Crinkle-cut potato chips become desert sand dunes, spiral-bound notebooks delineate swimmers poised to compete, and books filled with sticky notes create an urban skyscraper scene. Tanaka periodically releases books, calendars, and post card collections of his favorite photographs, which he lists on his website. You can also join over a million Tanaka fans on Instagram and Facebook, or if you’re in Japan, check out his show in Nagoya through November 25, 2018.
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Miniature Installations Built Inside Suitcases Detail the Homes That Refugees Leave Behind
Syrian-born, New Haven, Connecticut-based artist and architect Mohamad Hafez compiles found objects and scrap metal to construct miniature recreations of homes, buildings, and landscapes left by refugees in the Middle East and around the world. The dioramas for his series, UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage, are built into suitcases to pay tribute to the difficult journeys forced by the ravages of war. Miniature cars, tiny living room sets, and even fake plants adorn the open luggage—installations which each take Hafez several months to complete.
The detailed works are paired with audio recordings from refugees from Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan. The stories are recorded by Admed Badr, an Iraqi refugee and Wesleyan University student, and illuminate the struggles faced by those who have had to leave their homes. You can listen to the recordings on Hafez and Badr’s website for the project, and see more of Hafez’s suitcase dioramas on his Instagram. You can also see the work in person at DePauw University‘s group show “Baggage Claim,” on view until December 9, 2018.
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