10 Amazing Artists Working With Miniature Models

We’ve seen how artists can take life-sized landscapes and make them appear to be tiny models through the use of tilt-shift photography, so now let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum: the world of miniature art.

Balsa Wood Manhattan

Michael Chesko was a software engineer at Motorola when he started building skyscraper models in his free time with X-ACTO knives, fingernail files and balsa wood. Eventually, he became so obsessed with his miniatures that he realized they could no longer be just a hobby.

His Manhattan model was based on the pre-9/11 skyline and he relied on blueprints, photos and satellite images to guide him. He didn’t even have any first-hand knowledge of the city because he didn’t visit until his project was completed –a task that took over 2000 hours of work.

When the dust settled, his model was 36” by 30” and used a 1:3200 scale. For those interested in viewing Chesko’s work of art, it’s now on display at the Skyscraper Museum in midtown New York.

Sweetness

Meshac Gaba’s contribution to “Port City” is even sweeter than Chesko’s model and that’s not a subjective claim –Gaba’s work is made entirely of sugar. His work, included in a larger model show in Liverpool that was dedicated to the imaginary Port City, features some of the most famous buildings on earth, including the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House and more. No word on if it survived after the show ended in 2008, but if it did get destroyed, let’s hope it was by an army of giant (looking) ants.

Image courtesy of Chrys Omori’s Flickr stream.

Urban Sculptures

New York native Alan Wolfson is a big fan of his home town, such a big fan that he bases his main body of work on creating miniature street scenes that look like they’ve been sliced right out of the Big Apple. Interestingly, Wolfson almost never depicts buildings and businesses the way they actually looked. Instead, he combines real buildings and company signs he sees in photos with imaginary ones to help tell a story about the street scene he has created.

For example, “Follies Burlesk” was based on the real Follies Burlesk on 46th and Broadway, but that real business stood on top of a Howard Johnson’s restaurant, and both companies looked decidedly 50’s. Wolfson decided to make the scene look like it existed much later in time and added a classic New York hot dog place, an adult book store and a movie theater screening The Terminator.

What’s truly amazing about his work though is the level of detail he puts into his scenes. For example, in “Canal St. Cross-Section,” you can not only view the subway underground, but explore the buildings and the subway through windows in the side of the creation.

Miniature Manhattan

New York certainly has a lot of fans in the model-making community. What makes Randy Hage’s creations stand apart though is just how amazingly accurate his vintage building faces actually are.

While Wolfson likes to create imaginary scenes from the big city, Hage uses photos of real New York businesses and then sculpts them at 1/12 their size, in an effort to preserve these landmark structures that are becoming increasingly replaced by national chains. His works are so accurate that without a caption, sometimes it can be difficult to tell which photo shows a real building and which shows his model.

Elgin Park

While most model city artists focus on the buildings, Michael Paul Smith seems to be fascinated with the vehicles. In fact, his intricate city scenes, set inside his imaginary town of Elgin Park, serve more as a background to his fantastic die cast car collection. His lovely retro scenes portray an idealized small-town America that is based on the Pennsylvania town Smith grew up in and the backgrounds and vehicles even range throughout the decades.

The Elgin Park series became so popular on Flickr that Smith has since published an entire book of photos showing the beauty of the non-existent town.

The City

From Mad Max to the Fall Out game series to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, humans are obsessed with the idea of life after the apocalypse. Contributing to the many visions of this disastrous world is photographer Lori Nix.

In her quest to show what a world without humans might look like, Nix has taken up the art of model-making. The resulting creations could easily be used as source material for any number of post-apocalyptic movies, games or TV shows.

Distillation

Thomas Doyle’s Distillation series features a variety of sweet family scenes that have been twisted into something darker: a family’s home is destroyed with a huge crater; beautiful parks are enclosed in glass domes revealing destroyed houses below; a family stares in wonder as their home is now upside down and mostly under ground. The result is a series of beautiful, sad and surreal stories that the viewer must create for themself.

Little People

Street artist Slinkachu has made quite a name for himself over the years by creating striking and fascinating scenes right on the city streets with nothing more than tiny figurines placed in strategic locations.

The art installations have become so popular that Slinkachu has even been able to publish four books of his work and maintain a widely-read blog on the creations.

Pothole Gardens

Steve Wheen’s work is similar to that of Slinkachu in that they both place tiny details outside in the huge real world, but Wheen’s focus is on tiny pothole gardens complete with props for tiny, invisible people.

Like many of the others on this list, Wheen has since published a book of his many projects, titled The Little Book of Little Gardens.

Mini Models

While most model artists either focus on the buildings or the people, Joe Fig is unique in that he constructs entire buildings for his tiny artists to live and work in. Here you can see his interpretation of Jackson Pollock’s massive barn-turned-studio and if you look inside the doorways and windows, you’ll see a tiny version of the master flinging paint across canvas. Interestingly, Fig has even done a self-portrait in the same style, showing him inside his home, working on a tiny version of his own house.

For a deeper look into Fig’s world, you can always take a look at his book, Inside the Painter’s Studio.

Have any of you ever worked on your own models? If so, can you give us some insight on just how much time and effort goes into creating these works of art?

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John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

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Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
60 Years Later, a Lost Stanley Kubrick Script Has Been Found
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images

A “lost” screenplay co-written by famed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been found after 60 years, Vulture reports.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret, which Vulture describes as a reverse Lolita (plot summary for those who forgot high school English class: a man enters a relationship with a woman because of his obsession with her 12-year-old daughter). In Burning Secret, a man befriends an adolescent boy in order to seduce his mother. Zweig’s other works have inspired films like Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (which the director claims he "stole" from Zweig's novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl).

Kubrick’s screenplay adaptation is co-written by novelist Calder Willingham and dated October 24, 1956. Although the screenplay bears a stamp from MGM’s screenwriting department, Nathan Abrams—the Bangor University professor who discovered the script—thinks it’s likely the studio found it too risqué for mass audiences.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams told The Guardian. It's worth noting, however, that Kubrick directed an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1962, which MGM distributed, and it was also met with a fair share of controversy.

Abrams said the screenplay for Burning Secret is complete enough that it could be created by filmmakers today. He noted that the discovery is particularly exciting because it confirms speculations Kubrick scholars have had for decades.

“Kubrick aficionados knew he wanted to do it, [but] no one ever thought it was completed,” Abrams told The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Abrams found the screenplay while researching his book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film. The screenplay is owned by the family of one of Kubrick’s colleagues.

[h/t Vulture]

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