Thursday, January 15, 2015

Artist creates "ominous dioramas"

One of my favorite forms of art is the diorama.

I have no idea why. Many find such things to be dorky (like that's ever stopped me with anything else) but I just can't help but be fascinated by scale models of sweeping settings, such as cities or other locations. I could sit and stare for hours at the railroad model of the Midwest-Pacific in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. I love those miniature "Christmas towns" you see for sale in hardware stores during the holiday season. Maybe it's art, maybe it's exposure to Godzilla-style special effects at a young age, I don't know.

Artist Amy Bennett creates dioramas as both models and oil paintings. However, she typically adds one unsettling element to the tableau. This has the effect of spilling over into the overall perception of the piece, tainting the water, so to speak. But in a eerie and delightful way. Take for example the piece at the top of this post. It is ostensibly a neighborhood deep in winter, but the subtle presence of the white ambulance and the paramedics hints at something not entirely peaceful. In fact, the figures themselves suggest that they aren't moving all that fast. "No need to hurry." That's never a good sign with paramedics.

Bennett constructs her dioramas out of wood, foam, and paint, and then augments them with railroad models. In addition to lakeland landscapes, neighborhoods also seem to be a favorite of hers. Both have the addition of at least one disturbing element placed subtly into the mix, such as a single crashed car or distraught figure. Something "real" to mackle or break the suburban spell.

Maybe Bennett has stumbled upon something creepy that is inherent to all dioramas. They're just a little "off." They look real, but then they don't. They might be detailed and accurate, but their tiny size is just off-putting and not "right."  A whole living scene shouldn't be that small or so our minds tell us. Amy Bennett has captured this here, I believe.

OK, so I've always wanted to create a diorama. What should I make?
Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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