How cute is this little guy? Wonder how long it will take him to grow into his new digs.
Artsy-fartsy back-lit photo of my Haworthia attenuata, with a part of my Bucarnea recurvata (ponytail palm) behind it and my other haworthia to the side.
Out of This World
Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities (at the Museum of Art and Design through September 18) offers intimate peeks into other, fantastical societies in miniature. The show briefly chronicles the history of the diorama—introduced in 1822 by Daguerre, who devised inhabitable panoramas and moving scrims that changed before one’s eyes—but primarily focuses on contemporary artists working with the medium. Inside this modest midtown museum, tiny versions of the outdoors become vibrant and vivid.
Some of the artists explore versions of the natural environment. Kim Keever’s West 104k is a photograph of a plaster landscape submerged in a water-filled aquarium. The large C-print, which Keever snapped immediately after pouring white paint into the water, conjures a wispy aerial view of a grand mountain ridge dotted with pines. The accompanying video provides a glimpse into the artist’s studio, and gives cause to reflect on how easily viewers become complicit in constructing a narrative that is familiar even when presented with evidence to the contrary.
Other artists experiment with adaptations of the man-made world. Peter Feigenbaum’s Trainset Ghetto (2009) is a tiny model of a post-apocalyptic cityscape that feels both familiar and foreign. His landscape is littered with burned-out carcasses of building, scattered debris, and miniature graffiti scribbles. It’s fascinating to think about how painstakingly meticulous he was in scattering elements to connote the feel of urban sprawl that accumulates accidentally over time. The pieces of metal tinfoil recalling discarded trash and the small white rocks piled to look like rubble from a building’s demolition are examples of Feigenbaum’s precise disarray. There are no human figures in this landscape. We recognize life only by its remnants; we intuit people only by what they left behind.
Since many of the works reveal a preoccupation with dramatic entropy, impending doom, or eerie stillness, the tongue-in-cheek pieces by partners Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz provide much-needed comic relief. The duo’s Snowglobe Traveler Series (2009–11) references the saccharine souvenirs, but these scenes are anything but. Trees devouring torsos and mega-sized spiders scuttling towards cavorting hikers memorialize a hijinks-heavy vacation that no one would want to remember.
Head indoors to check out these tiny, man-made worlds, and then let me know what you think! Do the dioramas feel familiar, foreign, or something in between? Do they illuminate something about the world around us, or transport us to somewhere else?
[Image: Peter Feigenbaum, Trainset Ghetto, 2008]
Despite my obsession with everything Coney Island—the greasy food, the seedy sideshows, and the immeasurable kitsch—I just made my first trip to the New York Aquarium at Brighton Beach. There’s lots to love, from playful seals and walruses to prowling sharks (and free admission Fridays after 3 p.m.!). But to me, the best part was the mini sea anemone farm, which reminds me of the cacti I’m growing in my apartment. Sea anemones: cacti of the sea!
My baby cacti have a new home after my morning at the Brooklyn Flea. I scored this adorable bowl for $4. I loved how many of the jewelry peddlers displayed their wares in lentils, rice, or beans, and decided that some legumes would be a good way to channel the rocky soil of the Southwest. These guys are nestled in some red lentils, which provide some nice texture and a pop of color. The burnt sienna shade reminds me of Colorado’s Mesa Verde, which I can’t wait to explore some day.
I made these moss terrariums out of a mason jar and apothecary-inspired jar from Target. These were simple, but check out the whimsical creations by the crafty chicks at Twig. Love how the little figurines make the self-contained creation feel like a tiny world. You can also visit them at the Brooklyn Flea. The Flea is a great place to hunt for creative receptacles for your plants! I’m on the lookout. Stay tuned to see my haul.
Too-cute tiny cacti from the plant sale at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Precious and prickly.